The Sound Table is collaborating with the High Museum of Art for its next in a series of special suppers: Comida La Revolución, a culinary tribute to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexico's most influential and controversial couple. Inspired by their artistic and political legacy, chef Joey Zelinka will create a modern tasting menu using traditional Mexican ingredients, bar manager Navarro Carr will serve sophisticated drink pairings featuring small batch Mexican tequilas, and DJ (and owner) Karl Injex will curate musical selections from Mexico and South America. Below, Injex talks more about the collaboration, and how the lives and work of Rivera and Kalho influenced the menu.
Why are you doing this event?
We've been working on projects with the High intermittently and this seemed like a perfect collaboration, given the political and biographical legacies of the artists and the culinary aspects of Mexican food. The drive for us is to take inspiration from the personalities and biographical sketches of the artists, the general arcs of their careers, and put that into the context of a dinner.
The interesting challenge is to translate the visual aesthetics and biographical information into something delicious. The thrust behind the dinner is to do more than present a delicious dinner but [to create] something that has more core meaning to it. It's a different proposition if you take it too literally and end up painting portraits with hot sauce on the plates—that's kitschy.
We're not recreating Mexican cuisine; we're taking some ingredients—much in the way that Diego Rivera would use cultural iconography to create a new work—to create a new cuisine using ancient ingredients. We're using pre-Spanish ingredients, including chocolate and spices, that have been in use literally thousands of years in Mexico and presenting them in a new way in a new context.
What's on the menu?
I don't want to be too specific because part of the fun with these kinds of dinners is that you have an open palate when you come—I'd rather people be surprised.
I will say there are so many spices and flavor profiles in regional Mexican cooking that aren't necessarily addressed in the American interpretation of Mexican cuisine. Chef is digging around and finding some very special and maybe even forgotten ingredients that we can take and twist in a new way. Our main goal is to make an absolutely delicious dinner while keeping the thematic aspect in the foreground.
Our bar manager is creating a tequila-based pairing for each course—in some cases a cocktail and others a specific type of tequila. We're also planning a tequila tasting before the dinner, led by Milagro Tequila's Jaime Salas. Tequila is often maligned as potent and not extremely sophisticated, but it is incredibly nuanced and in some cases akin to better cognacs, sherries, high-end bourbons [and other spirits]. We're trying to elevate tequila; it's an often-misunderstood spirit and is huge component of the dinner. Pairing tequila with food is playing a major role in how the dinner is being designed.
How does the menu relate to the exhibit and the artists' relationship?
Obviously the revolution title refers to the biographical background of Frida and Diego. Joey, Alex, and I have done research while trying to design the menu. We're choosing specific flashpoints in their careers, special moments of greatness or challenge, to be relevant to the meal.
One thing that makes their work so great is the story of these incredible people and the struggles they overcame to produce the work that they did. We're trying to create a context for the exhibit rather than mimic the actual work. We're trying to create a discussion of who they where and why they were able to do what they did.
Do you anticipate that diners will already know the artists' story or are you planning on teaching history?
We're going to do our very best not to overreach, but at the same time, part of the fun is creating some references and perhaps even food puns that folks may or may not get. Even if you don't get the pun, we want the dinner to be delicious and exceptional.
Why is this great for Atlanta?
An exhibit like this is great for Atlanta. It's the first time an exhibit addressing a Mexican artist is in such a high-profile context at the High. I feel we need to promote it every way we possibly can to get the word out.
You've said that you'll use Mexican ingredients to make food that isn't traditionally Mexican. What do you mean?
One of the most ancient ingredients that the Aztec culture treasured was chocolate. Chocolate was used as a medicinal agent, an aphrodisiac, ceremonially. We're looking at this ingredient which is common to Americans as a dessert confection and are utilizing it in different ways. For example, a mole is an example of a savory sauce that incorporates chocolate. You'll definitely see chocolate with other ingredients that may or may not be familiar to the American palate but pushes perspective on all those ingredients.
—Hope S. Philbrick, Getaways for Grownups
The dinner, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, 2013 has three courses and an amuse along with four drink pairings is $45/person. For more information, visit the Supper Series website.
· Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting [High Museum]
· All Supper Series Coverage [-EATL-]
· All Coverage of the Sound Table [-EATL-]
· All Eater Interivews [-EATL-]