Caffè Museo and the Rooftop Coffee Bar at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will offer a variety of dishes inspired by The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde exhibition, on view at SFMOMA from May 21 through September 6, 2011.
During the run of the exhibition, Caffè Museo will present French delicacies influenced by The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, written in 1954 by Gertrude Stein’s partner and muse, Alice B. Toklas. Available at SFMOMA’s MuseumStore, the volume is as much a memoir as a traditional cookbook, recalling with wry humor and great detail the meals the duo shared during their 40 years together as American expatriates living in France. Their Paris apartment was a hub of the city’s vibrant cultural life, and they often entertained important artists and writers of the day, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thornton Wilder, and Ernest Hemingway.
Toklas was celebrated as the subject of Stein’s most influential book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, but she achieved fame of her own with her cookbook, the most renowned recipe of which is Hashish Fudge, which she claims “anyone could whip up on a rainy day.” This infamous confection, which Toklas warned should be eaten with care, was contributed by her friend and Beat generation icon Brion Gysin and incorporates dates, dried figs, almonds, peanuts, spices, and cannabis. Excluding the notorious fudge, Caffè Museo’s menu will showcase French-inflected daily “Stein specials,” such as French onion soup, chicken dijonaise, savory crepes, petrale sole, bouillabaisse, as well as a “Picasso palette” cake (in the shape of a paint palette) of the chef’s own creation.
Toklas recalls in the book: “One day when Picasso was to lunch with us, I decorated a fish in a way that I thought would amuse him. […] I was proud of my chef d’oevre when it was served, and Picasso exclaimed at its beauty. But, said he, should it not rather have been made in honor of Matisse than of me?”
As if to answer Picasso’s query, upstairs at the Rooftop Coffee Bar, pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman will offer yet another art-inspired dessert—this time in Henri Matisse’s honor. In addition to her popular Mondrian Cake (vanilla and red velvet cake with chocolate ganache) and The Thiebaud Cake (chocolate cake, coffee ganache, and vanilla buttercream), the menu will now feature a Matisse Parfait. This sweet was inspired by Matisse’s portrait of Sarah and Michael Stein’s son, Allan Stein, on display in the exhibition. Freeman explains that her team was drawn to the head-on portrait of this obscure, curly-haired boy against a vivid pink background. “We were interested in taking apart the painting’s abstract composition and looking at its components as potential ingredients to create our Stein-inspired offering,” says Freeman. The dessert consists of a salted caramel parfait with strawberry sauce and chocolate curls, served on a blue hand-knitted coaster that references the distinctive blue sweater the figure wears in Matisse’s painting.
The Rooftop Coffee Bar also serves a wide array of coffee drinks prepared using an ornate espresso machine from Amsterdam and presented in custom-designed cups by Heath Ceramics. The Rooftop Coffee Bar proudly features products from local vendors, including milk from Clover Organic Farms, chocolate from Recchiuti, and Humphry Slocombe ice cream.