Friday, February 10, 2012

Museum of Science Artists' Talk & Dinner at ArtBar

Last night Gail and I attended a great artists' talk at the Museum of Science, Boston. Award winning photojournalist Peter Menzel along with writer and wife Faith D'Aluisio shared hundreds of photographs and spoke about their work focusing mainly on their Hungry Planet and newer What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets books.
Gail and I first heard about What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets when we visited the Museum of Science, Boston last month for the Pompeii exhibit. While at the museum we visited a curated exhibit featuring a selection of daily food portraits and blurbs from the book. We stopped at every photo in the gallery and read each blurb- commenting and reflecting on nearly every single one as we walked through the gallery. By the time we left the museum we decided to purchase a copy of the book that inspired the exhibit. Gail and I are both currently reading our way through the book and hearing the duo talk about their experiences with food all over and share some of their amazing photographs, including a slew of photographs from their visit to Burma and Laos last month was interesting and incredibly informative.
Because their talk had a largely visual element I did not take detailed notes on each point that was made (there were at least 2 dozen great ideas worth noting), instead I jotted down some points and ideas that stuck with me. Here are three of them:
  • The concept of nutritional transition which is the increased prevalence of overweight individuals in low and middle income countries as a direct result of increased consumption of unhealthy (and often over processed foods). In developing areas still struggling with hunger there is an added complexity of also dealing with obesity and related health issues. 
  • We pay a serious price by consuming meat from CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and food raised by modern industrial agriculture. By this they are referring to the number of antibiotics in CAFO meat as well as the high levels of pesticide, herbicides and other contemporary agriculture inputs. 
  • The Japanese idea of Hara hachi bu/Hara hachi bunme which is a Confucian teaching that tells people to eat until they are 80% full, which gives the mind a chance to catch up to the stomach.
The talk by the clearly jet lagged Menzel and D'Aluisio, fresh on their return to the States from being in Burma and Laos was riveting as were the great photographs they shared. The talk and slideshow provided me with a much greater idea and appreciation for what went into putting together books such as Hungry Planet and What I Eat and will be in the back of my mind as I work my way through What I Eat, which thus far has been fascinating!

On the subject of What We Eat, Gail and I knew we would need to grab dinner ahead of the lecture and wanted something close to the museum. Based on a number of positive reviews I had seen online and it's close proximity to the museum we decided on ArtBar, right around the corner at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. I mentioned on twitter that we would be heading there for dinner before the talk a few days ago and the folks at ArtBar tweeted back right away offering to reserve a table for us, which I thought was great, but probably not necessary for 5:15 pm (we are exciting people with our early dinners!) but went along with it anyway.
From the time we arrived the staff was courteous, knowledgeable and extremely polite. We first ordered drinks from their interesting list of custom made cocktails (ArtBar also has Cocktail Classes). I had the Wicked Cider which was a warm sweet delight with rum, house spiced cider, and maple syrup while Gail enjoyed the Perfect Bubbles a concoction of gin, clove syrup, lemon, and prosecco that packed a deceptive punch! 
For dinner we shared an order of Salt & Pepper Fries and Sweet Potato Tots that were fried to perfection without tasting or feeling too greasy. They were served with a trio of great dipping sauces - spicy banana ketchup, pesto crem fraiche, and roast garlic parmesan aioli. The portion size was perfect to split and the dipping sauces were really great, especially the spicy banana ketchup which I need to make here at home! I really could go on about how delicious it was.  A salad of Boston Bibb, sugared pecans, goat cheese and pears had a simple sweetness that I enjoyed. It was the exact opposite of my 'main course' - the charcuterie plate which consisted of chicken liver pate, salami, prosciutto, a spicy cured pork, mustard, pickled carrots and shallots, and toasted baguette pieces. I am a sucker for a good charcuterie plate and the portion sizes of this one were exactly what I wanted, just enough to enjoy all of the flavors together as well as separately. For her entree Gail had the house made Cavatelli with broccoli rabe, roasted squash and cheese, which was very nice and balanced. The cheese and squash played off the bitterness of the broccoli rabe very well. 

Typically we do not go out during the week but it was great to get out for a really delicious dinner and enjoy a wonderful and engaging talk! Thanks to ArtBar and the Museum of Science, Boston for getting us out on a weeknight!

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