There are so many aspects of the dining experience that are artistic in nature. Consider the decor, the lighting, the way wine is swirled in a glass before we drink it. From the act of plating to the particular way we experience the food to the chair we sit on and the way light hits a table, hospitality and its delivery can be approached as a form of artistic expression, which is the subject of Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, at the University of Houston's Blaffer Art Museum through December 7, 2013.
As a prelude to the show, Blaffer Art Museum and Uchi Houston partnered in a series of artistic meals in which a contemporary artist worked with the chefs at Uchi to create a multi-sensory dining experience. Part of that collaboration also included a project with the University of Houston Industrial Design School, whose students were asked to create a plate that would "reimagine the relationship between serving vessel, food and the user."
Wood Sticks is a three-dimensional plate made of milled and laser-cut beechwood. There are two sections on the plate that can be removed and used as a spoon and fork, negating the need for additional utensils. The sections are cut with a laser, so they sit flush within the plate. The multi-layered, three-dimensional item is finished to a shiny gloss, and is beautiful on its own. It was presented earlier this October at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, but now it's being used for its originally intended purpose: serving food.
About ten of these plates were made, and because they are handmade, each removable piece is custom-fitted to a single plate. An accompanying description of the work of art states that Kaz Edwards, chef at Uchi, has "designed a dish that takes advantage of the dual nature of the piece, creating an eating experience for two that would be presented as a composed dish but consumed as a tasting. The completed dish is a take on a caviar tasting that presents two kinds of fish roe in a manner that reflects Uchi's practice of creating artful combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique and style. One side of the dish is comprised of golden whitefish roe served with yuzu kosho crème fraiche and a fingerling potato chip with grated botarga, while the other offers smoked trout roe served with a fennel-coconut reduction and puffed rice with fennel pollen, finished with lemon-champagne 'caviar' pearls on a dehydrated chili meringue with ginger gastrique."
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The project was not for display alone. Uchi Houston is currently offering the caviar tasting and artistic vessel on which it is served for anyone who wants to experience the fruition of this project at the table.