“Columbia Room kicks off Hirshhorn Exhibition-inspired “What Absence Is Made of” Tasting Menu”

by Prince Of Petworth October 16, 2017 at 11:25 am 0

Penne and Clarity inspired by “Close to Nothing” (photo: Farrah Skeiky)

From a press release:

“Inspired by the upcoming exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden “What Absence Is Made Of,” the recently named “Best American Cocktail Bar,” Columbia Room, will launch a menu of the same name beginning October 17th. Offered in three and five course variations, each course plays on absence, memory, nostalgia, and change found in the Hirshhorn’s world class collection of modern and contemporary art.

Menu and more details after the jump.

Columbia Room -What Absence Is Made Of- Tasting Menu (PDF)

“The exhibition contains so many intriguing ideas and offered us a real challenge in putting together a thematic menu that had no explicit connection to ingredients or flavors. It’s not as if we could make a series of drinks that tasted like nothing,” says Beverage Director JP Fetherston. “We concentrated on two main aspects of the exhibition: playing on our guests’ expectations of the visual appearance while referencing elements portrayed within the exhibition.”

Some courses play on general ideas of absence and sections of the exhibition rather than specific works. Inspired by a section called “Close to Nothing,” Clarity is a colorless cocktail comprised of rum, cachaça, Capitoline white vermouth, autumn squash, maple, lemon, balsam, and milk. Served alongside Clarity is a clear penne dish with Benton’s bacon, white corn, and tapioca from Head Chef Johnny Spero. “Because the dishes and drinks are inspired by art, we really had no creative constraints. You can see how each member of our team interpreted this exhibit differently and how that translated to the menu,” says Spero.

Caffé Corretto Columbia, an interpretation of Condensation Cube. (photo: Farrah Skeiky)

Then there are cocktails like the Caffé Corretto Columbia, made to mimic Hans Haacke’s Condensation Cube. Condensation Cube is a transparent acrylic box in which water condenses and evaporates in reaction to the temperature outside of the cube, mimicking the seemingly arbitrary ways of nature. Caffé Corretto Columbia is a brandy and coffee-based drink, brewed and presented to the guest in a weighted coffee siphon that creates condensation and introduces aromas and flavors to the drink.

Scotch and Rugbrød in a cloud of scotch-like aromas. (photo: Farrah Skeiky)

Continuing in the vein of Columbia Room’s Punch Garden “Not a Wine List” (in which cocktails emulate but do not contain wine varieties), Scotch plays on the absence of its namesake spirit and instead uses vodka, oloroso, muir brose, jin hou tea, buckwheat honey, and cider. This drink calls to the work of conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth, who created pieces that featured printed definitions of words like “idea” and “number” in his “Art as Idea as Idea” series. This cocktail, like the series, prompts the guest to consider multiple identities and ways of existing. The corresponding dish is a literal representation of an exhibition section called “The Body in Pieces,” which makes the case that “modernity is founded on the loss of wholeness and permanent values.”

WHEN: Beginning October 17th, available through early 2018.

DETAILS: Reservations for the Tasting Room menu must be made in advance via columbiaroomdc.com.”


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