Our Foodies dinner group has always enjoyed the life of the mind, reaching to literature, history, music, and the arts to inspire our culinary creations. We like to learn and share our knowledge – but as you know, eating and drinking well is Job #1 for our little group. Clever is as witty does, but if it’s not delicious it won’t make the cut. Never was this more apparent than at the recent dinner hosted by Kathleen and Karen.
The Ks treated us to an awesome theme, the kind of challenge that really gets my blood pumping. We were invited to choose from a short list of Modernist Art Movements including Dada; Futurism; Constructivism; Surrealism; De Stijl; Post-Impressionism; and Cubism. No limits and no rules other than taking inspiration from the art for our courses. We were free to color outside the lines.
His work often takes a semi-abstract form and reflects on humanity’s relationship with the environment. The mask shown at right is one of his works.
Click on the photo to visit the artist's website for more information about his life and work.
RIP James Kuiper.
- Drinks – Dan and Greg – Cubism: Cubist Cocktail featuring jelly shots in a variety of colors and flavors, cut into fancy shapes; Wines included Bordeaux, Medoc, and Roussillon (more on that later)
- Appetizers – Ann and Ilise – Surrealism: Roasted Vegetable Salad with Parmesan Mousse; Baked Lobster Tails with Clarified Butter
- Main Course: Karen and Kathleen – Constructivism: Smoked Arctic Char Burger; Tomato Aspic; Steamed Asparagus; and Arancini Pyramids with Herb Lemon-Butter Sauce
- Dessert: Ellyn – Post-Impressionism: A Multi-Media Musing on the Iconic NYC Black and White Cookie
In this post we will drink deeply from the Cubist cup with an in-depth exploration of the beverages provided by bar chefs Greg and Dan. Future posts will cover the Appetizers, Main Course, and Dessert.
But first, let’s set the scene with some music. Kathleen prepared a wonderful playlist for the actual dinner party, which will be included within the Main Course post (coming soon). A quick Google search informs me that some art and music scholars believe that Igor Stravinsky’s music reflects Cubist motifs and patterns, particularly today’s featured piece. Let’s have a listen, shall we? Learn more about music and Cubism here.
Cubism was a radical and influential art movement that began in the early 20th century. Paintings done in this style reduce everything – people, objects, landscapes – to geometric shapes.
Characteristics of Cubism include multiple views of objects within the same painting, which often appear fragmented and abstracted.
Pablo Picasso and George Braque are the best known artists of this movement. Juan Gris is another.
There were two phases of Cubism – Analytical (1908-1912, more austere, muted tones) and Synthetic (1912-1914, brighter colors, sometimes included real objects through collage).
Fun Fact: The wines that Dan and Greg served with dinner were featured in cubist paintings by Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, and George Braque. By peering closely at the shapes, lines, and cubes they were able to detect bottles or labels for Bordeaux, Medoc, and Roussillon. I was unable to show those specific paintings in the gallery above but again, I think you get the gist.
If you’ve read any of our past Foodie Group stories you know that these guys always aim high and exceed expectations with their culinary contributions. Not only are their dishes mouthwatering they're also beautifully presented, which made this evening’s foray into the visual arts so perfect for Greg and Dan.
If I had the assignment of cocktails with a Cubist theme, I might be tempted to point to ice cubes in a glass and call it a day. Not Dan and Greg! They made 7 different flavors of liqueur jelly shots, cut them into festive shapes, then floated them in a sparkling wine cocktail. Amazing – and I mean that visually, conceptually, and as a craft cocktail aficionado – this drink packs a flavorful and heady punch. Much like Cubist art itself. Let’s hear from Greg and Dan about their creative cocktail:
For the various 'jelly shot' flavors, we used either 2 or 4 ounces of liqueur or vodka to make 7 different flavors/colors/shapes.
Mix two parts wine/gelatin mixture to one part liqueur; if using a flavored vodka, add a bit of simple syrup to sweeten to taste. Conversely, syrupy liqueurs such as limoncello may need additional citrus vodka to dilute the mixture. Tint with liquid food coloring.
Spray small loaf pans with vegetable spray. Pour in gelatin/liqueur mixture and chill for two hours. Dip pan in warm water for 10 seconds to loosen; invert onto a cutting board and blot with paper towel. Cut out desired shapes using knife or small cookie cutters.
4 oz Sparkling white wine (blanc de blancs or cava)
1 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz. Nocino walnut liqueur
1/2 oz. Hendricks Gin
few dashes Fee Brothers black walnut bitters
few drops 1821 Bitters Barrel Aged Havana & Hide bitters (sold at Rogers Park Provisions)
few dashes Jack Rudy small batch tonic syrup (Binny's, Amazon or Sur La Table)
Jelly shots in a variety of colors and flavors cut into small cubes or other fancy shapes
Stir together liqueurs, gin, bitters and tonic in a champagne glass or pilsner. Add in various colored liqueur gelatin shots. Pour sparkling wine over all and stir gently. The bubbles from the sparkling wine will lift and toss the gelatin shot cubes.
Click on the photos to enlarge them and read the captions.
In the meantime, I will leave you to chew on this lovely quote from Father Thomas Merton -- "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” So true.
Want to read about past Foodie Group dinners? You may find them here.