Executive Chef Josie Urbick and the culinary team at TASTE Café love finding inspiration in the art and exhibits just down the hallway at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).
When SAM announced the “Double Exposure” exhibit featuring photographer Edward S. Curtis’s historic images of Native Americans juxtaposed with contemporary Native American and First Nation artists, Josie saw an opportunity. She decided to uncover Native American foodways and interpret them through the lens of TASTE’s mission: emphasizing seasonal ingredients from the abundant Puget Sound region.
Her culinary team did their research. They explored the dishes and ingredients of the Choctaw and Seminole tribes, examined foods indigenous to the Seattle area, and even sought out contemporary Native American restaurants to understand the historic spectrum of how various ingredients have been treated. The resulting menu was a combination of culinary trends and techniques, exhibit-inspired flavors, and the best local products available. Dishes like sweet potato crepes and blue corn–crusted chicken sliders with green chile ranch dressing were the perfect combination of accessible yet innovative.
The menu launched in conjunction with the exhibit at a series of three SAM-member-only events: a plated VIP dinner for 30 or so guests, followed by two opening parties in the same week for 250 guests and 600, respectively. Tray-passed dishes included fry bread bites with whipped avocado, smoked corn, and pepper relish; and sautéed cactus with zucchini, sweet potato, spring onion, and green chile salsa served in a lettuce cup. On the sweet side, Pastry Chef Carina Wolff created desserts like wild strawberry cake with cornmeal streusel and tarragon crème fraîche, and blueberry pie bites with hazelnut crumble.
The team’s hard work behind the scenes paid off. “This has been the most well-received menu in my time at TASTE!” said Josie. “The guests were absolutely raving about the flavors in each bite. It’s exciting to see this menu resonate with so many.”
The catering team built on the success of the exhibit menu by offering it as a supplement to TASTE’s seasonal event menus. During the exhibit’s run, catering clients could select any bite from the “Double Exposure” menu for their event. The most popular items have been the dishes most full of seasonal flavor, including the double cornbread muffins with whipped maple butter and sunflower seed brittle.