Art Saveur is a new organization for people who share an interest in both art and dining. Their slogan is: “Blending Passion for Art, Food, and Wine into Art-Inspired Gourmet Meals.” They held their inaugural event last Saturday at Garden Café in the Junius Heights neighborhood of East Dallas. About 28 diners enjoyed the event. The restaurant was decked out like an art gallery and guests enjoyed the work of Dallas artist Cathy Drennan along with a four-course meal prepared by Garden Café chef Mark Wootton.
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Drennan’s work, mainly acrylics, is inspired the she lived in Lebanon, Iran, and The Philippines. Her early work is more photo-realistic while her later work is abstract. She exhibits mainly at The Cohn Drennan Contemporary (in the Design District) which she co-owns with her husband. At the dinner, she gave a description of her artistic approach and of her intentions with particular pieces of her art.
Mark Wootton took over as chef at The Garden Café (owned by his father, Dale Wootton) after stints at The Lumen and The Hotel Palomar under the same chef, and then at Central 214 under Blythe Beck. He made up for a lack of formal cooking school training with this on-the-job experience and now cooks with a vision and clarity that belies his 24 years. He took over responsibility for the garden which grows outside the back door of the restaurant and uses it for virtually all of the herbs and some of the vegetables served in the restaurant. The garden is not large enough to supply all of the restaurant’s vegetable needs so he relies on local suppliers, notably Tom Spicer.
For this meal, Wootton showed his emphasis on vegetables as first class members of the dining experience. An hors d’oeuvre of of cucumber cups with red pepper relish, The Five Circle, was named after one of Drennan’s paintings. Veggies also stared in a salad made with Brazilian-roasted sweet potato and greens with balsamic ‘caviar.” Wootton also served a stellar fish carpaccio on arugula salad ‘reef’ that featured salmon and tuna. Just one aspect illustrates the deliberation that went into the preparation: The carpaccio dish was splashed with wasabi cream to add zest. My senses were surprised by to the Eustachian-tube-clearing intensity of real wasabi. Most diners would have expected the ubiquitous fake stuff, but Wootton realized that, for the right effect, the dish needed full-frontal potency. The same thought went into the wines. The selection was diverse: Napa Pinot Grigio, Loire Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, and a red Burgundy (the latter paired with the main course of Moroccan ‘bird cage” tagine on risotto). Credit to the consultant who recommended these pairing. Credit also to the wait staff who handled the crowded room efficiently and with good humor.
Art Saveur is the brainchild of Torrey Schoel and Leilani Barnett, two affable people who have real jobs and do this solely out of love (I also think they underestimated the work involved!). The next, of what they hope will become monthly meetings, is July 7th at the Kessler when the featured artist is Bianca Elise. To sign up e-mail them.