Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Spaniards are some of the world’s leading innovators when it comes to mixing high design with haute cuisine. Ferran Adria’s elBulli, after all, was a mecca for foodies everywhere. And our very own Jose Andres, who introduced DC to molecular gastronomy with minibar, has raised food (in the forms of shape, scent, smoke, foam—you name it) to a high art.
It’s no wonder, then, that Andres was the chef advisor for an exhibit at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain on 16th Street NW called TAPAS. Spanish Design for Food, which explores the intersection of, well, design and food!
If it looks like Juli’s tie is askew, that’s because it’s not a tie. It’s a napkin designed for grownups! And the glass? Well, makes drinking wine much more efficient, wouldn’t you say?
This is what I LOVED about the show. Spanish designers are creating the most whimsical products around food. “There’s a component of playfulness with Spanish artisans—a will to take classic elements and turn them into something else,” said Guillermo Corral, the Spanish Embassy’s cultural counselor here.
Capella explained the title. Tapas, he said, “is a universal concept of food that Spain offers to you. Tapas is not one main dish. It’s a lot of small ones with different flavors, different tastes.”
And as you can see from the graphic, the exhibit gives us all the “tastes” of food design, whether it involves the food itself, tools for preparing and cooking food, or implements to lay on the table.
It’s the most fun exhibit I’ve been to in a long time. Here are some of my favorites:
And while we’re on the subject of bread—
Moving on to the food itself—This exhibit celebrates the delight Spain takes in its food and food products:
But here’s the coolest thing. I never got the chance to visit elBulli while it was open, but I’d certainly heard enough sermons about the wondrous chemistry that went on there. Here’s a picture of one of their dishes, called “seeds,” which as you can see, is composed like a work of art:
But with a large kitchen staff, how do you reproduce this art IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY night after night? Ferran Adria solved that problem by developing plasticine molds of every ingredient, and creating a “sculpture” for each dish that each person could easily copy when composing the real thing:
Here’s the side-by-side:
Now, if EATING food isn’t your thing,
Make it into furniture! This light was fabricated by molding bread over a steel structure. If you can see the images on the display board, chairs and tables have been made the same way. And there’s also a bread container for a soft boiled egg: rip off a piece and take a dip.
Spain is also a culture that loves the design of a wine bottle as much as it values the wine itself:
They also elevate restaurant design to the same vaunted level—and don’t necessarily think a dining table should be used for only one purpose.
Well, I’ve hardly covered a fraction of this exhibit, which is on display through March 23. There are also several programs surrounding the exhibit that are worth catching:
Thursdays, Feb. 6, Feb. 20 and March 6 at 6:30 pm: Film Series on Spanish Cinema & Food (films TBA): SPANISH EMBASSY, 2375 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Saturdays, Feb. 22 and March 15 at 12 pm: Guided tours with designer Douglas Burton of Apartment Zero. Douglas will take you through the exhibit and talk about “the panorama of the avant-garde and top-notch Spanish design as applied to gastronomy.” Click here for more information and to RSVP. 2801 16th St. NW
That’s all for now, but Juli Capella, the curator who also wrote a book surrounding the exhibit, hopes to see you soon!