Thursday, February 10, 2011

Art and Food Pairing™: Galerie Intemporel and O Corcovado Restaurant

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Several months ago, I was contemplating my never-ending quest to increase my food and wine pairing skills when the idea sprang to mind that I could pair art and food in a similar fashion. I had been exploring museums and galleries that display African or black Diaspora works, and wanted to couple the visual experience at these venues with a gustatory experience at a nearby café or restaurant. Thus, the concept of Art and Food Pairing™was born!

Today, I present the vibrant exhibition Acqua at the Galerie Intemporel ( coupled with a dining experience at O Corcovado in the Marais.

Galerie Intemporel was founded by Laurence Choko in 1998. It is located in the heart of the Marais, only a few blocks from the Pompidou Center. The gallery’s mission is to expose modern and contemporary works of select artists of the African Diaspora and other countries.

Choko is particularly supportive of artists from Cuba. The Galerie Intemporel Web site lists no fewer than eleven Cuban artists, most of whom are painters. But Choko shows works from artists from other nations as well, including her native Martinique, Haiti, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Iceland, and Australia. She also shows works by U.S. photographer Frank Stewart at the gallery.

During the 2010 Art Basel Miami Beach show, Choko opened a temporary gallery where she presented sculpture by Barbara Chase-Riboud and a portrait by Beauford Delaney alongside the works of many of the artists that she normally supports. She eventually plans to show selected works by these American artists in the Paris gallery.

The exposition Acqua features the paintings and sculpture of Cuban artist Arturo Montoto. Most of the works are paintings – aquarelle still lifes to be exact. Having grown up on a farm on the outskirts of Pinar del Río city, Montoto developed a passion for fruit, and most of the works shown at Intemporel depict them in exquisite color and form. Curator Choko has chosen a couple of powerful, bronze sculptures that feature fruits for the exposition as well.

Painting: Oro Caribe (2009) Oil on canvas
Screenshot from Galerie Intemporel Web site

Montoto was born in 1953. He graduated from the National School of Art in Havana, and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree at the State Institute V. I. Súrikov in Moscow, with a specialty in mural painting.

Click here to see the entire Montoto collection shown at the exposition.

Once your appetite is whetted by Montoto’s uncannily realistic portrayals of food items, take a five minute walk to the restaurant O Corocovado Beaubourg, one of two sister restaurants serving authentic Brazilian cuisine in the City of Light. (The other restaurant is located in Montparnasse.) You cannot fail to find this eatery on the short and barren rue Simon le Franc, only steps away from the Centre Georges Pompidou, because the arched entry is marked by a neon sign in the yellow and green colors of Brazil.

O Corcovado Entrance
© Discover Paris!

Walking into the restaurant, diners are immediately immersed in atmosphere. Samba, bossa nova, and other forms of Brazilian music play on the sound system. The bar and the walls are brightly colored, and a chandelier with multicolored lights boasts an artificial macaw on a perch. Paintings of Brazilian street scenes grace the walls amid kitschy decor. The restaurant prepares the non-alcoholic portion of its signature cocktail – the caipirinha – in advance, so that the bar is often lined with glasses containing sugared lime juice and wedges of lime. This makes it easier for the bartender to fulfill orders quickly by adding ice and Cachaça, a potent Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice, and shaking vigorously to mix the ingredients. My partner and I each ordered one, and found the drinks to be fruity and refreshing. Our server assured us that the Vitamin C from the lime juice and wedges would fortify us against colds and flu!

The servers speak Portuguese amongst themselves, and several Portuguese speakers were among the diners the night that we ate there. Though the names of all dishes are presented in Portuguese, explanations are presented in French. English is spoken as well. Servings are copious, so be forewarned.

My partner and I elected to order a full, three-course meal. As an entrée, I had the six “petit-fours” – two were stuffed with beef, two with chicken, and two with cheese. These were actually crispy, crunchy fritters with a thick, lightly seasoned, bread-like crust. They were served with a sweet and sour sauce and minced onions. While they were quite tasty, they were so large that I feared I would not be able to finish my main course! My partner selected the crabe farci, which was a misnomer because the dish was not served in a crab shell, but rather, in a porcelain serving dish. However, this did not change the fact that he found it to be completely satisfying.

© Discover Paris!

For the main course, I chose the national dish of Brazil – feijoada. O Corcovado’s rendition is made from black beans, pork sausage, and beef morsels and ladled around a mound of white rice in the center of an enormous plate. Slightly steamed “new cabbage” and diced oranges are served alongside. This is a terrific meal to order on a cold day, as it is stick-to-the-ribs delectable! My partner chose the Xinxim de Galinha, two large chicken thighs stewed in a sauce made of peanuts, cashews, shrimp, and garlic. This was served with a side of white rice. He thoroughly enjoyed it, and I vowed to try it next time because the portion is more appropriately sized for me.

Xinxim de Galinha
© Discover Paris!

My partner ordered a blond Brazilian beer called Brahma to accompany his meal, while I remained faithful to the caipirinha.

Dessert consisted of a Pudim for my partner and a Quindim for me. Pudim is Brazilian flan topped with caramel sauce, and Quindim is dense coconut custard atop a cookie-like crust. Both desserts hit their mark, being pleasingly sweet but not too filling.

Galerie Intemporel
37, rue Quincampoix
75004 Paris
Metro: Châtelet
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 2 PM to 7 PM, or by appointment

O Corcovado
7, rue Simon le Franc
75004 Paris
Metro: Rambuteau (Line 11)
Hours: Monday through Sunday 7 PM to 1 AM (food service ends at 11 PM)


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