For the Love of Coffee

Imagine. It’s a breezy night in late August, and you’ve finished your dinner. Is there any better way to offset the sweet and salty flavours left on your palate than with a rich, hot coffee? The beverage need not only be consumed in the morning to jolt you into action—it is also perfect after an evening spread. So, as we near the end of our blogging adventure with food art, let’s relax over a cappuccino, a latte, or an espresso while considering the true art of coffee.

Credit: Food-related Blog

Modern coffee, grown in coffee trees in the “girdle” between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, is generally made up of Coffea Arabica, which accounts for seventy-five percent of world consumption (Pendergrast n.p). Coffea Robusta, another commercially viable coffee plant, is considered inferior because of its bitterness and high levels of caffeine (Pendergrast n.p).

Part of understanding the art of coffee begins with acknowledging the wide array of flavours in each blend. Coffee is similar to wine in the sense that no two mixes are identical in taste and aroma. Lighter bodied blends are suited to foods like fruit salad—the light flavours in the food are enhanced by the coffee’s brightness. On the other hand, dark, rich coffees are best served with robust, full-flavoured meals. Cafes and coffeehouses, where we coffee lovers enjoy such a variety of blends, began as fifteenth and sixteenth century establishments known as kaveh kanes (Pendergrast n.p). These coffeehouses supplied a location where individuals could converse with friends over the coffee beverage of their choice (Pendergrast n.p).

Credit: Image by Lisa Salfi

Cappuccino and latte art is generally the first association made with coffee art. It’s an artistic technique in which floating images are created using foamed milk. Leaves, flowers, swans, and detailed portraiture are designed by carefully pouring frothy milk into the espresso. The embedded video shows specific techniques to achieve the desired result:

There are some key indicators of a truly lovely cappuccino. A reddish-brown ring should surround the floating white design (Safronsky n.p). The foam should be “tight” with few visible bubbles and the natural sweetness of the milk should eliminate the need for added sweeteners (Safronsky n.p).

Coffee art, however, is not confined to floating milk foam designs. Painting with coffee, developed by Angel Sarkela-Saur and Andrew Saur at Coffee Art®, takes the everyday product to an exciting new level. By using coffee as the medium for their paintings, the couple asserts that their artwork reaches individuals from all cultures in the sense that coffee is a beverage to which many people have access.

Credit: Image copyright Coffee Art®

With subjects ranging from forests to Viking ships, their art has received attention globally. However, coffee is a very difficult medium with which to work—the couple has to mix their own colours in the same way that Renaissance artists had to create their own pigments. Be sure to visit their website at

This post only begins to explore to the art of coffee. If you are looking for more possibilities, try cooking with coffee. Enjoy!

Article Sources:

Mark Pendergrast. “Coffee.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003.  University of Windsor.  17 June 2012

Mark Pendergrast. “Coffeehouses.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003.  University of Windsor.  17 June 2012


Tomato Roses and Turnip Flowers: Discussing Food Artists

What comes to mind when the phrase “artistic medium” is uttered?

Oil paints, sketch pencils, pens, and clay need not be the only options. Have you considered Swiss cheese, red cabbage, strawberries, and green beans as potential candidates?

From dried beans to egg shells, food is the ultimate example of found art. Reflect for a moment on soft tomato skin, fluorescent orange rinds, or the smooth, buttery flesh of an avocado. Talented food artists use such products as a new artistic medium, embracing the natural beauty of cuisine. In this post, I will discuss two unique food artists and will also post short instructions on ways to create beautiful, simple food art at home.

If you have not seen the work of Carl Warner, a still-life photographer based out of London, England, I urge you to continue reading. Warner is known for his trademark foodscapes—landscapes made entirely of food with plenty to admire. From red cabbage oceans to garlic bulb air balloons, Warner’s food art will undoubtedly trick your vision. At first glance, Warner’s foodscapes may appear to be the sunny Italian countryside, turbulent waves on an angry sea, or a picturesque forest in early spring. A second look at the mountains, and you’ll realize you are actually examining the rough surface of a baguette. Is the image a golden sea beneath a setting sun, or the oily surface of a salmon fillet? Warner’s foodscapes use the natural qualities of each food product, paying attention to the smallest details so the landscapes seem completely natural. Be sure to view his website for more information at

Christel Assante, a food artist based in France, uses a very unique product to showcase her talent—eggshells. With ostrich, duck, pheasant, and quail shells, Assante uses dentist tools in a four-step process involving sketching, engraving, carving, and painting (“Light on Christel Assante: Egg Shell Carver” n.pag.).


Photo Credit: Art et Artisanat du Monde

In an interview, Assante says that the porous quality of eggshells allows for a variety of carving techniques and she affirms that tools with the least amount of vibration are the best option for the delicate nature of eggshell carving (“Light on Christel Assante: Egg Shell Carver” n.pag.). Assante’s intricate designs include owls in mid-flight, dragons, violent ocean waves, and detailed portraiture.

The work of the two food artists I’ve discussed above is magnificent. But how accessible is it for the everyday cook? If you are looking for simple ways to incorporate artistic, sophisticated elements into your dishes, I can willingly offer a suggestion.

Tomato roses are a simple, beautiful option for garnishing. Using a sharp knife, tomato roses transform a spinach or Caprese salad into an impressive culinary delight.

Here is a very helpful tutorial:

Consider serving the roses on fresh mozzarella with basil and coarse salt for a summer appetizer. Watermelon roses, though beautiful, are more elaborate, requiring special carving tools for an appropriate result. Watermelon roses may be a good option once you have mastered tomato roses.

Article Sources

“Light on Christel Assante: Egg Shell Carver.” Art et Artisanant du Monde. N.p. N.d. Web. 6 June 2012.

Watermelon Roses!

This is just a short tutorial on how to make watermelon roses. In a few days, I will be posting more information about food artists. I thought this was a nice little introduction to the topic!

Video by: ThePacManStories

Art-Inspired Dining: Wonderfully Creative Restaurants

Back straight. Elbows off the table. Chew slowly.

Tired of stuffy dining rooms and strict etiquette?

We’ve all experienced it: boring people, boring atmosphere, and the food– anything but stimulating.

However, the three businesses I will be reviewing today are anything but conventional. Stunningly original and endlessly creative, these businesses invite you to open your mind, lose your inhibitions, and excite your palate in artistic ways.

Alinea, a restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, offers inventive dishes that are true works of art. Creating inspired dishes using such ingredients as hibiscus, thai banana, and daikon, Alinea is at the forefront of culinary innovation.

Grant Achatz is the head chef at Alinea and many of his dishes are created using molecular gastronomy (changing the food at the molecular level).

But how does he incorporate art into his cuisine?

Visually, the dishes are astonishing. Aesthetics and the organization of all elements of the meal are carefully planned out and executed.

In the embedded video, pay attention to the care Achatz takes when making the dessert.

The frozen chocolate mousse, once pulverized into a mass of light brown rubble, has the danger of looking messy. However, Achatz frames the mousse with a sprinkling of sweet cream dots and milk chocolate squares. A simple smear of blueberry sauce, expertly placed brown sugar crème brule, and blueberries poached in red wine help complete dessert. Once finished, the meal looks a great deal like abstract art.


Dessert @ Alinea in Chicago, Illinois

Credit: yellow truffle @


Kandinsky’s Unbroken Line

Eating the dessert becomes a shared experience between the diners, and everyone can luxuriate in the aesthetic beauty of the dish. Visit for a detailed look at the menu, the restaurant, press, and more.

The next restaurant that I will be discussing focuses more on combining food and literature. Alice of Magic World, an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant based in Tokyo, Japan, combines dining with literature so it seems you may have slipped into a magical unreality. The restaurant uses elements from the novel by Lewis Carrol as inspiration for the décor and the menu. A heart-shaped table, booths hidden in a maze garden, playing card tables and chandeliers, and illustrations of Alice in her marvelous misadventures create a wonderfully psychedelic experience.


Maze Garden Booths @ Alice of Magic World in Tokyo, Japan

Credit: Fantastic Designs

While absorbing the mind-bending atmosphere, devour some of the Alice-inspired dishes. For example, try the Cheshire cat tail pizza, if you feel so inclined.  Search through pictures of the restaurant, as well as pictures of other Fantastic Design projects, at

Artiste, a company based in Los Olivos, California, produces lovely blends of wine from its very own sun drenched vineyards. Each blend, however, is created with inspiration from the Impressionist paintings that grace the label. For example, Cupid Takes Aim, a Bordeaux-style blend inspired by a painting by James-Paul Brown, is one wine out of virtually hundreds of which to choose.

Another fascinating detail- many of the bottles are sealed with a traditional coloured wax, making the experience all the more unique. Browse the website at

Chocolate Art: Delectably Stylish Creations

    “I have seen them/ transformed by delicious alchemy/ into brown slabs, / ambrosial ingots/ wrapped in gold…”

                                                                                                            –Divine, by Gaia Holmes

The gorgeous language in this poem effectively captures an unforgettable experience with chocolate: magical, whimsical, and extravagant. Mixed with piping hot milk, baked into cakes, shaved into ribbons, or melted over ice cream, chocolate is a food of decadence and indulgence, and has a truly rich history.


The cacao bean, the main ingredient in chocolate, has been roasted and fermented by the Mayans and drank in a hot beverage with chilies, vanilla, and other spices by Aztec nobles (Smith and Presilla para.1). From there, the Swiss invented milk chocolate, and the Dutch created chocolate in the form of bars (Terrio 10). Chocolate not only has an interesting history; it also has some health benefits- the dark varieties contain a high amount of flavoniods that provide antioxidants.

Chocolate is not only used in desserts, special drinks, and candies. It is a beautiful product that should be looked at as an artistic medium. In fact, chocolate is often seen as an emblem of luxury, spectacle, artistic tradition, and culinary refinement (Terrio 3).

France, in particular, is a location in which artisanal chocolate production truly reaches its greatest. However, it was only recently that France has been acknowledged for its luxurious chocolate– namely southwest France, which is considered a regional centre for chocolate production (Terrio 2,10). An especially noteworthy tradition in France is the Festival de L’Art Gourmand, where artisans craft necklaces, earrings, rings, bouquets, corsets, and paintings– all out of chocolate (Terrio 3,4).


Credit: via

Let’s shift our focus to New York City. For the past fifteen years, sixty-five various chocolate companies have come together for the annual Chocolate Show in New York, which presents a great array of chocolate-inspired creations. A fashion show at this event effectively combines high fashion with chocolate and is brilliantly organized by a team of fashion designers, chocolatiers, and pastry chefs.


Dress: Designed by Martin Howard

Credit: via

For the fifteenth anniversary this year, chocolatiers will design fifteen giant chocolate hearts, representative of a growing passion for chocolate. Also offered are classes about pairing wine with chocolate. Please take time to visit

We have seen a great deal of fashion and chocolate. However, I would like to see more poetry and chocolate. Perhaps an event- a poetry reading. A coffee shop, late evening. All chocolate-themed poetry. It would be different to say the least. Any thoughts?

Article Sources:

Smith, Andrew F., Presilla, Maricel. “Chocolate.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003. University of Windsor. 27 May 2012 < ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t170.e0169.s0001&gt;

Terrio, Susan Jane. Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate. California: University of California Press, 2000. Web.

Exploring Food as Art: An Introduction

Turnip flowers. Chocolate handbags. Frozen butter figurines.

Food as art. Avant-garde dining. Exciting culinary escapades. Food can be treated as a material to be combined with visuals and music. It’s a trend that breaks away from traditional notions surrounding cuisine and dining. According to critic Glenn Kuehn, food blurs the distinction between high and low art, creating “an aesthetic interaction with the environment that becomes a part of a communal experience” (209).

Artistic innovations in dining, as I have mentioned, vary considerably from tradition. In the past, the dining area was the location in which good etiquette was tested and refined (Greenberg para 1). Manners, proper use of tableware, and appropriate menus and recipes distinguished high classes from the low, and were indicative of shifting social and economic values (Greenberg para 1). In short, good etiquette has historically been about class distinctions- not so much about cuisine. However, good etiquette does not always need to be the primary focus of dining. Modern restaurants may employ visuals and music in a movement away from apprehensions toward food and dining experimentation, creating unusual (yet wonderful) dining experiences.

Food as art is, in my mind, a completely natural union. Cuisine evokes aesthetic responses. A braided loaf of brioche or the syrupy thickness of balsamic vinegar can be appreciated in the same way that one admires a Van Gogh or a Matisse.


Credit: Geekosystem via Inscrutables

Furthermore, the aesthetics of food are incorporated within a larger human experience in which cultural values are embedded. Artistic culinary innovations allow for food to transform our experience of living, offering a “unified aesthetic experience” (Kuehn 209).

Bom-Bane’s in Brighton, England is an excellent example of a restaurant that combines food with art to create a truly innovative dining experience. While feasting on lovely Belgian and European dishes, patrons have the opportunity to be entertained by musician Jane Bom-Bane, the owner of the restaurant, who is well known for her unique songs and moving, mechanical hats.



Jane Bom-Bane performs her own songs on a piano in the dining room of her restaurant; some of the songs include, “I’ve Got a Goldfish Bowl on My Head” and, “The Edinburgh Mermaid” (all songs copyright Jane Bom-Bane). In terms of incorporating food and art, diners at Bom-Bane’s have the chance to have their dinner literally sung to them so that they may become knowledgeable of the delicious intricacies of the dish. Sample dishes include Oxford Pork with Belgian Beer Gravy, Grilled Goat Cheese Salad, and Chocowafflettes– chocolate-coated dessert waffles (all dishes copyright Bom-Bane’s). Please take time to visit the website at

I hope this brief introduction to innovations with food and art has been interesting. Subsequent posts will be more specific (think chocolate and sugar art, food artists, etc.). In the meantime, try to experiment with food. Enjoy the art and beauty of it. Always explore. Happy dining!

Article Sources:

Greenberg, Carol A. “Etiquette Books.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003.  University of Windsor. 20 May 2012 <;

Kuehn, Glenn. “Chapter 11: How Can Food Be Art?” The Aesthetics of Everyday Life. Oxford University Press, USA. 2007.