The Artists’ Table: Unique Dining @ The Drawing Room

Deanna Foster

The Drawing Room is a trio of businesses - a design boutique, a café, and most recently, an art gallery - all owned by the husband and wife design duo Kenleigh and Michael Larock.  As designers, they are called upon to combine disparate elements and select accents that will bring harmony to a space. In this regard, The Artists’ Table Dinner was a perfect expression of their work.  The Larocks, along with the Gallery’s Curator, Cameron Schmitz, and the Café’s Chef, Paul Lockely, brought symphonic harmony to their pairing of a five-course dinner with the art in the gallery’s current exhibition, Homeland. 

The attention to detail and care with which the menu and the evening were planned were apparent not only in the way the staff spoke about the process from concept to creation, but also in their genuine level of excitement in sharing the art and the chefs’ inventive interpretations of it.  Chef Paul Lockely, of the Drawing Room, and Guest Chef Bjoern Eiken, of Thomas Henkelmann at Homestead Inn, created 5 dishes each inspired by one of the five artists’ works.

Guests mingled over drinks and hors d’ oeuvres in the gallery, meeting the hosts and each other, while the chefs transposed food and art in the adjacent café.  The gallery is an intimate space, and the long, narrow table set with white linens, a burlap overlay, and candles in marmalade jars was an inviting presence in the center of the room. After we took our designated seats in mismatched chairs around the table, we had the opportunity to meet the chefs as they presented the first dish and explained their interpretation of the art that inspired it.

 Dinner began with a celery root soup accented with black walnut pesto inspired by Dark Interval #9, an ethereal photograph of the ocean, taken with a pinhole camera by Jeremy Saladyga, who was also in attendance. The rich, silken soup was complemented beautifully by the sweetness of the inky waves of pesto, studded with candy-like morsels of black walnuts. It was a masterful opening that, like the photograph, captured our attention and drew us in, wanting more.

The second course was a brilliant representation of the piece Rising Climb by Darthea Cross. Potato ricotta gnocchi was rolled to different thicknesses, cut into geometric shapes, and plated as a mosaic over a pea coulis. The variations in the gnocchi intertwined with the pea shoots gave added depth to the plate. The flavors blended nicely together, but the gnocchi was a bit dense, more reminiscent of a potato pancake than a traditional pillowy gnocchi.

 The third course was a visual as well as a tasteful triumph.  A deboned chicken leg was rolled around a dense, wild mushroom farce. The roulade was wrapped and poached to perfection, then cooled, re-wrapped in maple-smoked bacon and pan seared to finish. Presented on the plate over a Pommery mustard sauce, and surrounded by edible flowers and wild mushrooms, it evoked a path through the forest of Cameron Schmitz’s painting A Moment.  It was a dish that brought more than a moment’s pleasure.

 While the chefs did not make the goat cheese presented in the next course, they do get ample credit for choosing it. The colors in the bloomy rind of the Lake’s Edge Goat Cheese from Blue Ledge Farm mirrored the blues and silver leaf in Michele Kishita’s piece, The Perfect Storm, and it’s taste, balanced between earthy and tangy, with a creamy yet firm texture, lived up to it’s award winning status.

 The star of the dessert course was the goat’s milk vanilla custard, framed between layers of caramelized puff pastry. The chefs once again showcased their ability to balance flavors and layer complexity in the slightly tart, yet still sweet, and richly textured custard.  The strawberries were an obvious nod to the dominant red in Chris Macan’s Two Trees Fall, and the placement of just 4 blueberries on the plate proved a whimsical finale.

 Dinner was much more than the sum of its individual elements thanks to the chefs successfully reflecting the art on the walls in their dishes, and our hosts graciously creating an inviting and intimate setting. The 14 people gathered enjoyed the gallery, the food, each other, and the welcome anticipation of waiting to see and taste each artful dish. It was as if we were all sharing a secret.

 Luckily, there will be more Artists’ Table dinners at the Drawing Room Gallery, and more secrets to share. The owners and their staff have created a wonderful model for a unique dining experience, and they have 2 more dinners planned for their upcoming exhibitions.  More information about the gallery and the Artists’ Table dinners can be found on their website.

The Drawing Room Café and Gallery, 5 Suburban Ave., Greenwich, CT