The Making of a Charitable Food Movement: May 31 at SFMOMA

Pause your Netflix cheating ways and take in some live food/art -- Nucky Thompson and all his gun play and illicit hot sex can hold! The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is serving up a too-tempting multimedia free exhibit with the Kitchen Sisters called "The Making Of..." which has 100 artisans making everything from hotrods to kimchi, violins to submerged turntables throughout the museum. Since SFMOMA is shuttering for renovations, "The Making Of..." is something of a til-we-meet-again fiesta.

On Friday May 31, there will be an added spectacle that even has the potential halo effect via "The Making of a Charitable Food Movement" which provides real sustenance for folks that need it. Mission Street Food's Karen Leibowitz says their event is definitely an experiment. Originally she talked to Kitchen Sister Davia Nelson about participating and thought they would do a pop-up restaurant. It was quickly obvious that something bigger made sense. Anthony Myint explains how their personal business philosophy is at play, "We've been involved with restaurants with a charitable agenda. I suspect that if we didn't have a charitable agenda, and lowered prices, people would still be interested."

See also: Art and Food Join Forces at SFMOMA's Collaboration With Hip S.F. Restaurants
Blue Bottle at SFMOMA Rolls Out New Artistic Desserts Ahead of Cookbook

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Run Away to the Circus-Themed Lunch at SFMOMA Tomorrow

Blue Bottle's cotton candy trio inspired by Paul Klee's "Lion Man."
It's a well-established fact that Blue Bottle at SFMOMA makes awesome food in conjunction with the museum's special exhibits, like the recent edible glitter-adorned ice cream float for the Cindy Sherman show. The pastry wizards are at it again, making a trip-colored cotton candy (flavored with orange blossom, honey, and black sea salt) based on the "Lion Man" painting in the new Paul Klee Circus show. But that's not all! Tomorrow at lunch, there will be a special pop-up from Straw, the circus-themed restaurant in Hayes Valley.

See also:
- Drink in Art: Blue Bottle's Glittery Ice Cream Float at SFMOMA
- At SFMOMA, These Works of Art Can Give You a Sugar Rush
- "Craft of Coffee": Checking Out Blue Bottle's New Book

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See Eerie Renditions of San Francisco in Jell-O

Categories: Food as Art

Liz Hickok
Palace of Fine Arts.
Talk about playing with your food: San Francisco-based artist Liz Hickok has created eerie, beautiful cityscapes of our fair metropolis using a medium known to most of us as dessert: Jell-O. Her photographs will be on display this weekend during San Francisco Open Studios, where you can also take a peek at her next work-in-progress: Jelly NYC.

See also:
- It's Better With Jell-O

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The Alinea Project's Allen Hemberger on Mastering Maltodextrin and Mocking Up an Anti-Griddle

Categories: Food as Art
Allen Hemberger
"Bubblegum, long pepper, crème fraîche, hibiscus" from the Alinea Project.
Allen Hemberger, a visual-effects artist at Pixar with no culinary training whatsoever, had a conversion experience the first time he went to Alinea, arguably the tabernacle of modernist cooking in the United States. "I was really floored by the whole thing," he says. "It was my first exposure to presenting food as art -- so beautiful and poetic."

In 2008, Hemberger's girlfriend bought him the Alinea Book for Christmas, and he flipped through its pages, simultaneously marveling over the pictures and scoffing at the idea that anyone could make the recipes at home. "I was amused and irritated. It almost seemed like a bluff. I thought, 'I'm just going to try one of these,'" he says. The recipe was caramel powder. It took him six tries to get it right, making a caramel and then mixing it with tapioca maltodextrin. The results, he says, were "magic." The Alinea Project, Hemberger's primary hobby and beautifully photographed blog, was born.

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Candy Heart Valentine's Day Graffiti Might Make Lonely Folks Feel Better

Categories: Food as Art

You know how candy corn tastes like sugary candles, and Peeps taste like sugary foam, and candy hearts are pretty much just sugary chalk? Over on our sister blog The Exhibitionist, our funny, talented, and entirely un-housebroken writer Angela Lutz has put the hearts-are-just-chalk theory to the test ... and managed to let us know just how she feels about Valentine's Day:

sidewalk xoxo.jpg
​First, she decorated the stairs outside her apartment.

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Our Dinner with the Dead at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Sarah Kermensky
It's a dead man's party, who could ask for food?
We had no idea what to expect with this weekend's dead-artist dinner party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Would it be a goofy farce, or dreary and overserious? Would it be participatory, or would we be merely spectators? And how about the food?

Opening prelude: a table of small bites from Bar Bambino, including deviled eggs, leek and mushroom frittata, and buffalo mozzarella and tapenade on crostini. Promising!

Sarah Kermensky
Leek and mushroom frittata.
These snacks, as well as jugs of lavender water and wild huckleberry and mint tea, bore subtle meanings within the event's highly literary framework. The conceit was that 12 dead celebrities, through an elaborate metaphysical contrivance/wormhole, had ended up at a dinner salon hosted by Virginia Woolf. Over the course of two hours, McSweeney's editor and poet Jesse Nathan held forth with imagined dialogue and dramatic interplay between the guests, told with a coffeehouse spoken-word flow. The words were interspersed with the freeform jazz of musician Chris Janzen.

Lest you think "How dreary," rest assured this was an accomplished piece of artistry. Janzen and Nathan have honed the piece over two years of intense collaboration, improved with the recent addition of a live band. Janzen's prose was sharp, diabolical, accessible, and obtuse, and the result was a moody melodrama for the intelligentsia (Billie Holiday's date is in the kitchen getting frisky with Virginia Woolf: quel scandale!) Though perhaps better suited for a smaller, more dimly lit venue, the piece nonetheless managed to draw you into its bizarro universe, not letting go for the duration.

But it wasn't really a dinner party. SFoodie is no stranger to the arts, and this was primarily an event for the mind, not the stomach. Don't get us wrong: The small bites, savory at the beginning and sweet at intermission, were totally fine. It's just that the actual food was secondary to the playacting, and we were hungry by show's end. Oh, the price of art ...

A vinyl version of the event can be purchased on Chris Janzen's website.

New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

No. 9: Pistachio-Chocolate Landscape at Atelier Crenn

Brian Smeets/Brian Smeets Photography
Juan Contreras's pistachio-chocolate landscape at Atelier Crenn.
SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

Much of the food at Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn's laboratory/gallery/restaurant, is designed to be contemplated, a visual interpretation of the season. Baby vegetables are arranged to look like they are growing out of snow-covered "soil"; potato chips are perched on tree branches. Sometimes the gustatory dimension of the dish slips too far behind the visual, but with Juan Contreras's desserts ― like this landscape wrought in chocolate and pistachio that SFoodie ate a few months ago ― are fully realized.

Not only did the dessert resemble penjing, Chinese "tray landscapes," eating it was like scrambling up a steep forest path, encountering new sights at every turn: Cracking a craggy slab of flash-frozen chocolate mousse, a vine of salted pistachio puree might appear. A fork, stabbed into a tuft of airy pistachio cake ― that's the stuff that looks like moss ― might pick up a hunk of poached pear hidden beneath it, too.

When Contreras, a cook on the savory side of the kitchen, announced that he wanted to try his hand at pastry, Crenn sent him to Alinea in Chicago to intern, and you can sense some of Grant Achatz's improvisational, stream-of-consciousness style in the way Contreras brings many complementary flavors together, so that each bite reveals a different facet of the whole. Of course, this pistachio-chocolate dessert was a winter one, and Crenn and Contreras have moved on to new landscapes. But SFoodie continues to marvel over the memory, the true sign of a great dish.

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Tonight: Final Meatpaper Event at SFMOMA

Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher.
Tonight: Final Meatpaper Event at SFMOMA
Where: Rooftop Garden at SFMOMA, 151 Third St. (at Mission), 357-4000
When: Thurs., April 21, 6-8 p.m.
Cost: Free with half-price museum entry; Tasting plates $5 (3 for $12)

The rundown: It only started last spring, but we couldn't really picture it ending. Meatpaper's Thursday night art-and-eat affairs at SFMOMA are always a ball, intersecting live performance and innovative food without a hint of bourgie pretense. Museum admission is half-price, beer and wine is free, and you always meet some fascinating glitterati. Tonight's cooks will again play with edible flowers, including Leah Rosenberg from Blue Bottle, Morgan Maki and Linh Phu of Bi-Rite, Josey Baker of Josey Baker Bread, and Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher of Gypsy Kitchen and Catering. There will also be screenings of Allen Ginsberg home movies and Ginsberg-inspired performance art throughout the evening. Skip your sitcoms and get a sitter for the weans; tonight's your last chance.

Check out other upcoming events on SFoodie.
New York refugee Jesse Hirsch tweets at @Jesse_Hirsch. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

Crapping Your Pants for Art: Bompas and Parr's 'Dirt Banquet'

Categories: Food as Art

London's Crossness sewage-pumping station, site of the April 2 event.
Jonathan Kauffman's recent review of Atelier Crenn, a restaurant shaped by chef Dominique Crenn's notion of "poetic culinaria," brought up again the question of food as art. Is the aim of a restaurant meal simply to entertain while satisfying hunger? Could it be purely art? Or both?

In the the U.K., artists Bompas and Parr have wasted no time using food as a primary medium of expression. The duo is best known for installations like the pop-up breathable gin-and-tonic bar in London, where participants strolled into ― then stumbled out of ― a room filled with a fine mist of gin and tonic, and collaborations with architects that have resulted in elaborate structures made entirely out of gelatin.

The latest from the duo is "Dirt Banquet," an exploration of our social and physiological relationship to food and dirt, in one of London's oldest and most ornate sewage-pumping stations, the Crossness. The sold-out April 2 event features a menu that includes pork cooked in an imu (earth oven), Isay Scotch whisky distilled from grain roasted with peat moss, and fermented natto. The grand finale is civet coffee, rare coffee beans "harvested" from civet cat feces, while a "brown note" is played on a sound system. That's a theoretical infrasonic frequency (between 5 and 9 hertz) that reportedly causes humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance. Yes, wear a diaper.

Lou Bustamante tweets at @thevillagedrunk. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

Five Absurdly Elaborate Sushi Rolls

When did sushi lose all but the most glancing connection to fish and nori rolled in vinegared rice? Oh, about the time American maki makers started loading up sushi rolls the way Burger King loads up a Triple Whopper. If you can palm it like a San Francisco burrito (see: the sushirrito), or it fills the corners of your mouth with mayo, or it packs the kind of calorie count Tim Lincecum sucks down at lunch, is it really sushi? The good news: Even as the typical Crazy Roll in your neighborhood sushi joint has become a craggy, dripping exercise in deep-fried excess, other rolls in both the U.S. and Japan have become subtler vehicles for self-expression. Behold these five example of elaborate sushi-roll ― um ― art, that we'd feel guilty about dunking in soy sauce.

1. Skull maki.
Perfect to bring to one of those Goth potlucks where it's so hard to please anybody.

So, so dark.

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