The February Artist Showcase provided participants with a fully immersive experience to interact with the art being presented through the collaboration between RevArt’s artists -- Alexandra Chiou, Renée DeCarlo, and Usha Shukla -- and Phoebe Connell, owner and chef of Lois in New York City. Connell brought the culinary and fine art worlds together by developing recipes based on pieces of artwork by each of the artists. During the event, participants were encouraged to make and enjoy the recipes while listening to the artists share their stories, inspiration, and processes. The food and drink allowed for participants to interact with the pieces in a different way and on a deeper level than is typically available to viewers; in addition to viewing the pieces and hearing directly from the artists, they were able to create a unique connection with the pieces through the culinary creations of Phoebe Connell.
Each recipe Connell developed was deeply and intricately tied to its respective artwork. When asked about the process behind creating these recipes, Connell said she began her process by looking at the pieces, taking note of the thoughts and emotions she felt while looking at the piece. She also wrote down ideas pertaining to the textures, colors, and flow of each piece. Connell then read each of the artists’ statements for further inspiration and began tying all of these thoughts together to start developing her dishes. She specifically spoke about the recipe she created based on Alexandra Chiou’s piece, Across these waters. As she initially began thinking about what dish to create, her mind took her to a very complex dish based on the colors and flow of the piece. However, Connell said she had to reel in her creative spirits because she had to balance the creative aspect with the practical nature of presenting recipes people want to make on a weeknight. In the end, she presented a drink called an “Americano'' based on Chiou’s story of her parents immigrating to the United States. Across these waters speaks to the risks and faith that Chiou’s parents dealt with, but it also highlights the opportunity and new beginnings they sought when immigrating to the United States. Connell showcased this message through the ingredients of the drink; in her moving explanation during the event, she said “Everything that is American is not'' because none of the key ingredients for the drink are made in the United States. Connell also focused on creating an experience with the three recipes - settling on a drink, a salad, and a main dish. By creating a full experience, Connell was able to tie each of the artists’ pieces together and create a flow throughout the event.
The ties between the culinary and fine art worlds are undeniable because of the underlying nature of creation that is vital to both. Each art form engages and invokes deep emotional connections with those who engage with it; by blending these forms of creation, it fully immerses the participant in a multi-sensory experience. Because of this, more chefs have been collaborating with artists to create a unique and exciting way to be a part of the art. Through collaboration, artists are able to present their works in a completely different style than they are used to. Chefs are artists, which means they can not only be inspired by these artists, like Connell, but they can also interpret their creative process surrounding food in a completely unique way.
When asked about the similarities between the art and the food world, Phoebe Connell said that everybody encounters both art and food, whether they mean to or not. Even though we are constantly surrounded by both, these worlds can be daunting, uninviting, and hard to break into - especially on a professional level. Thus, Connell partnered with her friend from high school and created Lois to provide an affordable, accessible, and equitable dining experience. She said, “Lois creates an approachable space that feels special.” The wine is served on-tap, which drives the price down significantly by eliminating bottling costs, making it much more affordable compared to other restaurants. Lois was also created with the acceptance of all knowledge levels of wine in mind. Connell mentioned that there is a level of intimidation surrounding wine, but people are encouraged to come in and ask questions when they do not know what they want or what they like to drink. By making this space and world approachable, Lois allows its diners to be enriched and inspired by the culinary experience. Art and food have the power to force us to look at life and our world differently by offering new perspectives. The collaboration between art and food allows people to experience these arts in a different way by engaging more senses and creating deeper emotional connections.
Feeling inspired? Try your hand at these creations:
A bold and bittersweet cocktail, classic and refreshing.
Artist: Alexanda Chioux
Artwork: Across These Waters
The Americano is a classic cocktail that gets its characteristic sweet and bitter flavors (as well as its ruby hue) from aperitif Campari. I found inspiration from the artist’s statement about her parents’ journey to the U.S. as immigrants. Made up exclusively of ingredients that hail from outside America, the Americano expresses--perhaps more fittingly than the person who named it intended--what America is because it isn’t “American.”
1 ½ oz Campari
1 ½ oz sweet vermouth (I like the Dolan brand)
About 2 ounces seltzer or club soda
Orange or lemon rind twist to garnish
Combine Campari and vermouth and stir quickly. Fill a highball glass with ice and pour the mixture over. Top with seltzer and a twist.
To make an alcohol-free version, use equal parts cranberry, grapefruit, and orange juice and top with seltzer. Add a few drops of bitters (technically a tincture of botanicals) if you like to get a stronger bitter flavor.
Sectioned citrus with cinnamon-scented toasted pita, topped with fresh tarragon.
Artist: Renee DeCarlo
Artwork: Voices in my head
Recipe: Winter Citrus Panzanella
This savory citrus and pita salad is a winterized riff on Panzanella, the Italian tomato and bread salad. I drew inspiration from the sectioning and visual layering in the artist’s work when I was developing this recipe, which combines free-form torn bread with juicy cut citrus. Use this recipe as a guide, and feel free to improvise (see notes at the bottom for some ideas), much as the artist looks to “spontaneity and impulse” in her own creative method.
Time: 25 minutes
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for finishing
½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand, use half this amount if using Morton)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
2 pieces of pita bread
1 pomelo or grapefruit
1 navel or Cara Cara orange
2 blood oranges
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, leaves separated from the stalk
(see further note on ingredients below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together oil, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. Set aside. Separate the pita breads at their pockets so that you have four pieces of single-layered bread. Tear the pitas into rough 2”-3” pieces. Toss the olive oil mixture with the pita pieces and spread pitas in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until pitas have dried out and are beginning to brown.
While pitas are baking, section the citrus, beginning with an orange (this sounds difficult, but it is pretty quick and easy once you get the hang of it!). Use a sharp knife (the sharper it is the easier the sectioning will be) to cut off the top and bottom edges of the orange so that a small circle of fruit is visible on each end. Stand the fruit up on one of the flat ends. Place your blade where the white pith meets the flesh of the orange and carefully cut downwards following the shape of the orange. Rotate the orange slightly and repeat until the peel and the pith have been removed all the way around. Holding the orange in one hand and the knife in the other, use your blade to separate the membrane of each orange section from the fruit. Put the membrane-free fruit section aside and cut beside the next membrane. Continue until each orange section has been separated. Repeat with the other citrus, putting them all into the same bowl as you go.
Immediately before serving, toss baked pita with citrus. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and garnish with tarragon leaves.
**Note on ingredients: This salad is meant to be simple but flexible. Feel free to work with what is available to you by subbing citrus you have on hand, or that you like. Keep in mind that the smaller you go (as in, a clementine), the more difficult it can be to section the fruit. Change up the finishing herb as well--mint or basil would be great substitutions. Lastly, add on elements to the salad. Pomegranate seeds are a great seasonal addition, and toasted pistachios or pine nuts would add another texture. Trust your gut and experiment freely.
Ricotta dumplings in a lemon-butter sauce, topped with Calabrian chilis and fresh sage.
Artist: Usha Shukla
Artwork: Yarrow 04
Recipe: Malfatti with Lemon Butter and Calabrian Chili Paste
These pillowy ricotta dumplings are reminiscent of gnocchi. This impressive dish comes together in a flash (unlike most fresh pastas) and is shockingly simple. The artist’s use of light to create the sense of transition in the natural world immediately recalled this cloud-like pasta to me. Light in texture and flavor but surprisingly substantial, this dish draws inspiration from the waning days of fall elicited by the artist’s work.
Time: 40 minutes
1, 16 oz container of whole milk ricotta (2 cups)
6 oz (170g) finely grated parmesan
1 ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal, use half the salt if using Morton)
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 Tbs butter (use salted or unsalted, just be sure to adjust for taste before serving)
1 medium clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zest grated
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
7-8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp Calabrian chili paste (Trader Joe’s has a great version, but if you can’t find the paste, look for jars of Calabrian chilis in your grocery store near the canned red peppers and finely dice the chilis at home.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then sprinkle with flour. Fill a large pot with water and season with salt. Cover and set on medium heat.
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together ricotta, parmesan, egg, and salt. Sift in flour, then mix just until the flour is incorporated and the mixture comes together in a loose ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 6 vaguely equal pieces. Form each piece into a log, then use your fingertips to roll it to ¾” thickness. This dough is very delicate, so don’t worry if your coils come apart as you work--just keep going with what you have then go back and finish the other coil (I find that they’re much easier to handle when they’re short coils). When you have a ¾” thick coil, use a bench scraper or a knife to cut into ¾” dumplings. Place dumplings on a prepared baking sheet while you roll the rest of the dough.
Uncover the water and reduce heat until it is just barely boiling. Working in batches (2-3 batches usually works for me), put the dumplings in the water, making sure that they aren’t sticking together. Fold half of your floured parchment over so that you can put your finished dumplings on the unfloured half of the baking sheet. The dumplings are finished when they begin to float, after about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop them up as they float, and transfer them to your baking sheet, placing them in a single layer. Continue with the remaining dumplings until all the malfatti are cooked. Reserve ¼ cup of your cooking water.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add lemon zest and garlic, and stir until garlic becomes almost translucent for about 3 minutes. If garlic or butter begins to brown, lower the heat. Use a whisk to vigorously stir the butter while adding a few droplets of lemon juice at a time. Follow with the reserved cooking water in the same fashion. Taste and adjust seasoning. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
Add malfatti to the butter mixture and gently stir to coat the dumplings in the sauce. Serve immediately, with a few dollops of Calabrian chili paste (to taste--watch out, it is spicy!) and garnish with fresh sage.