Miasmal in baby lettuce hearts with fermented black garlic parm dressing, dusted with parma ham and parmigianno
I was honored to help feature local artist Kyle Butler at an event at the Burns Building. Kyle, who grew up in Michigan, received his Master’s degree in Visual Arts from UB and has been producing some really special work here since. He has been featured at the Albright Knox gallery, Burchfield Penney, and Hallwalls, just to name a few.
The evening featured hors d’oeuvres, a cocktail designed for the event, as well as a collaboration beer by Ethan and Rudy from Community Beer works. I met with Ethan and Rudy with a few ideas for flavor profile. The whole process was completely foreign to me as I walked into their production facility. We talked about the flavor profile and the style of the event to determine what kind of beer we were going to make. We decided on the base to be an English, malty style ale that would feature the soft citrus notes of grapefruit and the floral buzz of Thai long peppercorn. We made what was essentially a home brew batch of beer, all while witnessing the same processes in much larger production for their beers. The parallel made for a much sharper image of the beer making process. Once the beer had been fermented, we sat at a table a few mornings and got to seasoning. Well, I guess drinking would also be an equal description, but seasoning sounds better. Using small test batches of base beer, we were seasoning the beer with separate tinctures of pepper and grapefruit with a gram scale that measured to the hundredth of a gram, which produced a pretty exacting base. After the beer was carbonated, it came out just as we had hoped, subtle, delicate, with a citrus nose, and a gentle buzz of the long pepper.
Also local cocktail craftsmen Tony Rials helped craft a drink for the event as well. He put together a cocktail with flavors of pineapple and ginger mixed with sake. The cocktail was seasoned with a pineapple shrub and smoked salt. He garnished and finished the drink with a gelee of strawberry and vanilla and an edible orchid. It was balanced and layered, subtle yet strong, and visually impressive. The use of a saline solution with a touch of mezcal is something he’s been toying with more frequently with exciting results. He explains that just like in food, the touch of salt elevates other flavors, and brings out the acidic flavors as well. Kerry Quaile was nice enough to assist with the beverages that evening, bringing her amazing skill set to the party.
The menu for the evening was developed in a bit of a different fashion. Starting with pieces of Kyle’s work as the base idea, the food offerings were designed to mimic different works the artist created. A little Much was the basis for a vegetable composition for the evening. Plated on a cross slab of re purposed maple tree, the dish definitely was amply named. The dish h;ad braised quinoa, wheat berries, shaved carrots and fennel, roasted carrots, sliced cabbage, pickled shallot, pickled squash, roasted piquillo peppers, plumped golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, Greek yogurt, fennel fronds, parsley pluges, and nasturtium flowers. Even looking at the list, it seems, well, a little much. The earthy grains, crunchy nuts and shaved vegetables, punched by sour yogurt and pickled vegetables, the dish hit flavors and textures on levels with a harmonizing feel. With every bite there was a new flavor combination to be had.
Kyle’s sculpture, out of quarters, and don’t ask about my kids college fund, was the basis for the next hors d’oeuvre. It was stoic cubes of roasted beef strip loin, seasoned with black barley powder, with barley cooked with black barley, fingerling chips, and an “alegrette”. The black barley powder is used in beer making and lends an earth sweetness that caramelizes nicely with roasted. The alegrette was a vinaigrette that utilized beer as the base. Before we fermented the beer with CBW, I took a bit, added a vinegar mother, and the mother ate the naturally occurring sugars producing a soured liquid similar to vinegar. Its a lovely and unique product that has been fun to toy with, and a great way to use a local producers product in a atypical fashion.
Miasmal is defined as a dangerous, foreboding, or deathlike atmosphere. The streaky nature and the jet black against the start white canvas evoke those feelings succinctly. To get that black color I made a fermented black garlic and parmigianno dressing to blanket baby lettuce hearts. I emulated the flow of the painting and the drippy nature with the slick dark sauce. If you’re not familiar with fermented black garlic, read more on it here. The lettuce was dusted with a mixture of parmigianno cheese and parma prosciutto for texture.
Lastly, the artist filmed a video of himself titled “Leisurely confronting the abyss”. It follows Kyle as he leaves his studio, arm chair and coffee in tow. He drags the furniture replete with side table to the rocky edge of lake Erie. Taking in the view on the crisp winter sun kissed day, Kyle is seen sipping from his coffee cup. A few moments into the video, the artists lets out a piercing scream that can only be seen as an affront on nature and his surroundings. After that he sits back and goes right back to the peaceful facial expression and eases back into the moment. A white cauliflower bisque served as my abyss. It was presented with a backdrop of charred black eggplant puree. As you sip the soup, a sharp punch of spicy yogurt and tart pomegranate reduction confront your palate for a moment. After that bite, you’re right back to the smooth cauliflower abyss.
The event, for me, was a wonderful way to pay hommage to a really unique local artist. I found so much inspiration in Kyle’s work, and found using his work as the starting point for the development of a food menu to be utterly exciting. As a person who starts with ingredients and flavor profiles as the basis for dish composition, it was a perspective change to do the food offerings based on artwork. Thank you to Kyle for allowing me to play with his art, and to him for playing with my food!
“A bit much” comprised of vegetables
Charred eggplant canvas with a sharp punch of spicy yoghurt and sour pomegranite for “Leisurely Confronting the Abyss”
The soup poured, interacting with the garnishes
Barmen Tony Rials gleefully preparing his cocktail
Malted base beer being siphoned
Ethan seasoning beer with grapefruit zest tincture