Thursday, September 4, 2008

Museum Cafe gets a fresh new canvass


In a place where art is expected to be hung on the wall, Brenda Simon and Emily Stuart are creating art on plates and bowls.
As the new proprietors of the Museum Café at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Simon and Stuart launched their art-themed menu earlier this week and are already hitting their stride.

“We were swamped through yesterday’s lunch and we’re busy today,” Stuart said after jotting down an order.
Chef Simon’s menu, described as a play on vegan and raw food cuisine with an option to add meat or cheese, also plays off the current museum exhibits.
A “Hollywood and Vine” tomato salad is an homage to the “Made in Hollywood” exhibition featuring photographs from the John Kobal Foundation. The Tibetan lentil soup pays tribute to the museum’s collection of Asian art.
“We’re so excited about Picasso,” Stuart said, referring to an exhibit of the famous artist’s drawings and prints that opens this weekend.
Simon said she’s constantly retooling the menu and is already considering a change to her seared buffalo burger to add a touch of Picasso.
“It could change as often as it wants to,” she said. “I love that.”
In addition to her 18 years of experience as a chef and five years as a private chef, Simon owns Secret Ingredient, a local company that offers catering, event planning and cooking classes.
Stuart has a decade of experience in the restaurant industry and has managed several downtown establishments during the past five years.
“Together we typically cover all the bases,” Stuart said.
The café opened Tuesday after being closed for two months and operates during museum hours — Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The previous operators who owned Fresco Café decided to move in a different direction, museum officials said.
“It did not take long to find a new operator,” Georgia McDermott, the museum’s retail and visitor service manager, said in a prepared statement. “Emily and Brenda bring a wonderful energy and enthusiasm, not to mention a very exciting and culturally inspired menu to the museum.”
Featured menu items include a chilled Crenshaw melon soup, white nectarine bruschetta, and roasted corn and charred bell sopes. Paninis, coffee and sweets are also served, along with wine and beer.
Officials said patrons might continue to notice some renovations and upgrades to the café during the next several months. Stuart said they’ve already made a few changes, such as bringing in linens and flowers.
“We’re trying to make it feel more like a fine-dining experience than a cafeteria,” she said.

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