Art of Food benefit at The Carnegie combined exotic edible delights with a feast for the eyes

COVINGTON, Ky. -- The Art of Food's opening night celebration was loud, tasty and adventurous. Kicking off the benefit to support The Carnegie,  the night included a live art installation, assembled by local artist Pam Kravetz.

Inspired after the wild, topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland tea party, the entertainment--accompanied by local musician Jake Speed with an acoustic guitar--provided the perfect centerpiece. Models dressed as characters from the classic tale marched around and stood atop a white table in the center of the first floor. A colorful array of food drew attendees the first and second floors.

"Five years ago, I wouldn't have done this menu," said Jackson Rouse of the Rookwood .

Rouse was referring to what he called "Head to Tail," a menu that utilized all portions of a pig and a cow. Rouse has been with the festival since it's inception, and also provided the music selections spun on the second floor, "mostly funk and soul 45s based on food."

  • If you didn't make it to the opening night kick-off the art from Art of Food is on display at The Carnegie until March 15. 

The Rookwood's contribution featured head cheese, pig ear and a creamy butter flavored with fennel, coriander, and blood orange and dotted with radish halves. The pig that gave various essential components to the menu had his skull cheerfully displayed on the table.

The intersection of art and food was most evident in the details: The entire main table was outfitted with hand-crafted glass plates and mini-chocolate tea pots, handmade fired clay spoons and utensils, and charmingly mismatched chairs--some wrapped in yarn, others painted, all painstakingly created by talented local artists.

The Alice in Wonderland characters invited Art of Food attendees to sit down, ostensibly for tea, and enjoy the local offerings among the revelry. The guests themselves became the art as they sat down as sampled the edibles.

In addition to The Rookwood, standouts included Fireside Pizza's wood fired pizza with crème fraîche, bacon and onions; Alfio's Buon Cibo's incredibly rich braised veal short rib ravioli with a creamy truffle mushroom marsala sauce, and Fresh Table's Mad Meriwether Bacon Short Ribs. On the sweet side, Cupcake Crazy brought now-ubiquitous cake pops and Otto's contributed a rainbow frosted, fruit-filled layer cake.

Risk-taking paid off in dividends for this particular Art of Food.

As Rouse put it, "This is all about doing something you normally wouldn't do."

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