A perfect pairing

Artist Sean Martorana (left), chef Nick Rada (center) and mixologist Kevin Farrell. (Photo: CJ Dawson)

For over a year now, local artist Sean Martorana has been working on a collection of nearly 15 paintings. When he first embarked on this artistic endeavor, he never imagined that his work would be introduced with a dish of crispy pork belly and a Corpse Reviver. Yet this Thursday, August 15th, Martorana abandons sterile gallery walls to feature his work in one of Stephen Starr’s best-known eateries, Old City’s Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar.

“We wanted to bring more senses into the experience” Martorana explains, “A gallery show is just white walls with artwork hung up, but with this event you can literally see, touch, taste, and smell the artwork.”

Art on the Menu is a new event, an experiment in experiential art, and a foreign but tantalizing concept for those who are participating in it. The idea is simple; you take three artists—a fine artist, a master Chef, and a Mixologist—and have them reimagine an atmosphere to view art. “The food and the drink are geared towards the artwork so that when you have a dish in front of you, or a drink in your hand, it is going to help enhance the artwork,” says the Continental’s house Mixologist, Kevin Farrell.  

Farrell has designed three cocktails for the evening’s menu: Purple Velvet, Corpse Reviver, and Blood and Tears. “There’s no Cosmos, Pink Flips, and Skinny Girl Margaritas on this menu,” Farrell jokingly says, “It was easy to take the ideas behind his [Martorana] artwork and then apply them to cocktails,” which for him meant taking a nod from the classics. 

The design process blossomed from an exchanging of inspiration and themes. Where Martorana was drawing from the old masters of the 15th and 16th century to create his paintings, Farrell and Chef Nick Rada examined and researched the cuisine of the time periods, while adding their own signatures and a modern twist.

“They ate a lot of salty fish, vegetables, and pickling was a huge staple, and of course there was meat, heavy, hearty meat. They ate good back then” Rada says. Rada has concocted three meals for Art on the Menu. “The continental has a reputation for certain things, so now it’s given us a chance to say we don’t just do your Philly cheese steak eggrolls and your lobster mac and cheese. The food doesn’t necessarily show what the chiefs can fully do, and what their knowledge of food is, and this is our way of saying ‘hey, check this out. This is what we can do here.’ It shows off the restaurant and it shows off the artwork.” The dishes include: Fresh lightly pickled vegetables with a lemon dill aioli; Classic brandade, rye bread and beets with bull's blood; and crispy pork belly with a warm kidney bean salad.

Guests of the evening will receive a food and drink recipe cards along with a custom print signed by Martorana. Tickets run from $65 to $95, and though the pricing may seem a bit steep, one must consider what they are purchasing: a truly unique experience. It’s not everyday when a one of the city’s well known and up scale restaurants lends itself to creative expression. “What a lot of people don’t recognize is food and drink are art. It’s not on a canvas; it’s on a plate, in a glass,” Rada notes. Art on the Menu reminds us that art comes in many forms, and on a few occasions those forms are edible.

Pre-order your tickets, for August 15, 2013, from 7pm-9:30pm, here., and look out for future Art on the Menu events.