Verde's executive chef, Kaytlin Brakefield, is at it again, and museum guests can once again have their art and eat it too. Honoring Pérez Art Museum's latest exhibit — "Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks," a compilation of works created by the late American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat — Brakefield has crafted a unique and limited-time menu celebrating his memory.
"With each menu, I find a new connection to the artist, whether it's with where they're from, why they created a piece, or the medium in which they used to create it," she says. "They all have different inspirations, which in turn inspire me differently.
"[Creating these menus] are the coolest part of my job," she adds, "thinking outside the box, outside the realm of the everyday, to do something that is inspired by another artist by taking someone else's art and re-creating it in my own medium."
Brakefield translated Basquiat's intrepid and gutsy work — which is largely made up of notebook-filled poetry fragments, wordplay, and sketches concerning themes such as street life, race, class, and world history — into vibrant dishes. The menu features bold dishes, along with references to the artist's symbolic notebooks, ethnicity, and early career, she says.
"I want the menu to do justice not only to the artist but also to their craft," she says. "For Basquiat, a reoccurring theme I noticed was his repetition of colors, which is mostly black and white, as well as some form of yellow, which was most often gold."
The meal begins with watermelon carpaccio mixed with muscadine grapes, feta, verjus, and cilantro. It's finished with black Hawaiian lava salt. "I used yellow watermelon because it's different," she says. "You don't see it every day. I coupled it with the grapes, which are almost black, with a thick outer skin."
Because the meat of Basquiat's exhibit are his notebooks, arranged on the museum's walls in black and white, Brakefield named the second plate "Black and White Pages," which uses house-made fazzoletti, octopus, and cacio e pepe — or cheese and pepper.
"I used an Italian fazzoletti pasta," she says, "which looks like layers of pages on a plate. The pasta itself is double-sided, one with a plain 'parchment' color and the other in a black squid ink."
For dessert, Brakefield decided on tembleque, a traditional Puerto Rican treat honoring Basquiat's mother. "Tembleque is similar to what a lot of people would consider to be coconut pudding," she says. "In many of Basquiat's pieces, he features a reoccurring symbol of a three-pointed crown. I replicated that symbol as the mold for the tembleque and used a dark-chocolate sauce to add a graffiti-like look."
Brakefield's Basquiat-centric menu is her first exhibit-inspired menu of 2016. "When our guests step into Verde, we want them to feel like they're still in the museum," she says. "We want them to continue to interact with the art and give them the feeling that they are walking into another exhibit."
The menu is available through October 16. It is available for lunch Thursday through Tuesday, as well as dinner Thursday. For more information, visit pamm.org/dining.
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