A ‘Taste’-ful experience at the Mint

Special guests join the latest ‘Taste of the Mint’ tour

With a menu well-seasoned by salt, 22 people enjoyed the latest installment of the “Taste of the Mint” program on Wednesday evening – among them, the inspiration for the evening’s dining, artist Motoi Yamamoto of Japan.

“Taste of the Mint” allows participants to sample small plate and drink pairings at two world-class restaurants housed within Mint Museum Uptown: Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth restaurant and e2 emeril’s eatery. Then, the group heads inside the museum for a special tour. Future dates are scheduled for March 20, April 20, May 15, and June 26 and will be themed around the Mint’s upcoming F.O.O.D. (Food, Objects, Objectives, Design) exhibition. The series will resume monthly dates in fall 2013, and “Taste of the Mint” experiences are also available by appointment for groups of 10 to 25 people with at least 30 days’ notice. (Click here for details on group tours and click ‘Experiential tourism’).

In addition to Motoi Yamamoto, special guests during Wednesday evening included Brad Thomas, the Mint’s curator of Modern & Contemporary art; and Oscar Roldán-Alzate, organizing curator of the upcoming exhibition Sociales: Débora Arango Arrives Today, from Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia. After dining with guests, Motoi resumed work on his large-scale saltwork, Floating Garden, in the museum’s atrium and answered a few questions from participants.

The evening began inside Halcyon, where Chef Marc Jacksina led a presentation entitled “Interactive Tomatoes,” demonstrating the difference in taste between three varieties of salt. The same tomatoes tasted remarkably different when paired with lava salt from Hawaii, Jurassic salt from Utah, and fleur de sal from Portugal. The course was paired with a Tarragon Salty Dog cocktail (in a salt-rimmed glass, of course).

Next, Jacksina introduced cabbage fermented in kosher salt (resembling simplified sauerkraut) paired with salmon, and for dessert, guests lingered over a scoop of rich salted caramel ice cream. But the evening had just begun, because it was soon time to head downstairs to e2 emeril’s eatery.

There, manager Jeff Wakem led demonstrations including a lesson in how to shuck an oyster, and chefs explained the process for curing bacon (in salt, of course), and braising it to be served on top of crostini. The signature cocktail for the evening, Zydeco Punch, included a splash of South American pisco liquor. Finally, it was time for the evening’s second dessert – a chocolate ganache tart with a light sprinkling of grey salt on top. “Salt balances, and it’s very necessary in any form of cooking,” said Stephanie Nikolic, the restaurant’s pastry chef. A dry Zinfandel wine was the perfect pairing to bring out the chocolate taste.

Once inside the museum, guests marveled at both the atrium installation and the smaller one being installed on Level 4 to remain in place during the run of Motoi Yamamoto’s exhibition, through May 26. One guest asked how Motoi developed his process for applying salt to the floor. His response: His parents owned a motorcycle repair shop, and all his life he was accustomed to the small plastic bottles they filled to oil the machinery. Those same bottles are what he uses to create his works of art.