Usually, you’re not getting near the art at Sotheby’s without anything more than a glass of wine in your hand. This week, however, the auction house bent the rules for The Art of Food, a benefit for Citymeals-on-Wheels.
The walk-around tasting featured bites from 25 Upper East Side chefs, whose challenge was to prepare a dish inspired by the paintings on Sotheby’s walls. Here are our 10 favorites, and a special shoutout to the four-piece string band who managed to make “Gold Digger” sound wistful and “Happy” into the theme song of a Halloween horror flick.
Dish:The Gerhard (mussels in a German beer broth with double-smoked bacon, Dijon mustard and a soft pretzel)
Art:Gerhard Richter’s Kerze I (Butin 64) (1988)
Inspiration:“Our dish is a play on the artist’s German ancestry.”
I don’t know if it was the generosity of beer in the broth, the double-smoked bacon or the fact that their dish was the only one served steaming hot, but everything on this plate tasted excellent. The German judges may deduct points for lack of imagination, but I had no complaints.
Dish:Beet-cured salmon with horseradish, pickled fennel, creme fraiche and crispy skin
Art:Eric Fischl’s “Beach Scenes I-IV” (1989)
Inspiration:“I was influenced by the colors and location depicted in the paintings.”
The first surprise was the finesse of the presentation from a place that sounds like a California surfer just decided to mash together his two favorite words. The second was how the beet and horseradish played off each other while the creme fraiche kept either side from dominating.
Dish:Tuna Tostada (corn tortilla, cucumber-mango pico de gallo, chile toreado aioli avocado)
Art:Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “May Milton” (1895)
Inspiration:“May Milton was the subject of several of Lautrec’s works; you will see the use of tuna throughout chef Gonzalez’s menu.”
I actually like the link here between the art and food, and the bite was a perfect hit of bright and fresh late summer sunshine.
Dish: Polynesian roast suckling pig, sesame crepe, hoisin sauce, green onion, cucumber, apple, spicy sambal and miso sauce
Art: Andy Warhol, “Piglet” (1959)
Inspiration: “As literal an interpretation as possible without roasting a pig in the auction house…”
I’m usually not a fan of a thousand things on a plate, but this was an entire island cookout in a single bite. Unless it’s been barbecued, pork needs some accompaniment to boost its flavor, and everything on this plate (but especially the dollops of sambal and miso) was working hard for that goal.
Dish:Corn-vegetable cake with apple salad and truffled almond cheese
Art:Donald Sultan, The Fruits & Flowers portfolio (1989-90)
Inspiration:“Our plant-based menu item is a celebration of fruits and vegetables.”
Fruits and vegetables should make it onto the same plate more often, and look as cute as this. Oh, and make meat seem as irrelevant while being totally satisfying. Toothsome and wholesome? This vegan spot just might be your go-to for winter comfort food.
I never know what to make of shapeless patches of color on a canvas either, but chef Joe Johnson could’ve gone with a hearty (and spicy!) hominy stew being the perfect antidote to the painting’s name, which translates to “Ice.”
Dish:Mini creme brulee
Art:Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “Jane Avril” (1893)
Both classics in their genres, and just a little bit dangerous.
Dish:Pate de Campagne (duck and pork terrine, cherries and cornichons)
Art:Pablo Picasso, “Nature morte sous la lampe” (1962)
Inspiration:“The painting is reminiscent of a country farmhouse — this is a country-style pate using preserved fruits from the farm.”
Chef Michael White was one of the event’s co-hosts, so no pressure on the team at his (very) newest restaurant. Going back to the farm is always a good place for inspiration, and the tart cherries added depth to a rustic terrine.
Fred’s at Barneys
Dish: Beef brisket braised in red wine and tomato with herbs and Rigatoni pasta
Art: Pablo Picasso, “Tete de Femme (Portrait de Jacqueline de Face. II)” (1962)
Inspiration: “When looking at the art work, it appears as if the woman pictured is flustered and something is bothering her. The dish I created is full of warmth and has a soothing power that is meant to comfort her.”
Who doesn’t love the warm, carby embrace of pasta? Check out what chef Mark Strausman has cooking next time you splurge just a little too much on a new purse.
Dish: Long Island duck confit over Yukon gold potatoes with a gold chanterelle vinaigrette
Art: Andy Warhol’s “Grace Kelly” (1984)
Inspiration: “I was inspired by the color of Grace Kelly’s hair as it reminded me of golden Yukon potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms in this dish. Her lip color is reflected within the bull’s blood microgreens.”
Not a lot of chefs would pair mushrooms with a gamey protein, but Eric Miller’s dish definitely didn’t leave me frowning. The duck was delicate instead of earthy, and the vinaigrette a light finishing note.