April 17, 2015
On April 26, 2015, 13 chefs from around the Short North Arts District are going to get their art on. The chefs recently toured the District’s galleries to admire the art, which they will be using as inspiration for their dishes at the Ninth Annual Short North Gala, presented by Borror Properties. This year, the Gala talent includes several newcomers that includes chefs from both recently-opened restaurants and long-time favorites, as well as an exciting new taste experience – mixologists. Get in on the collaboration and celebrate the Short North Arts District at this year’s Gala with good food, good drinks, and good art. Click here for more information.
Executive Chef at Double Comfort
Gala Dish: Appetizer
As Americans, there are a handful of dishes that immediately hit a spot with us one way or another. Pumpkin pies, homemade mac-and-cheeses, mom’s meatloaf, and of course, fried chicken. Nestled into a little spot on High Street right across from the Convention Center, Double Comfort delivers southern comfort food, signature fried chicken included, with a bang.
Only about to celebrate their one year anniversary, Double Comfort’s success could easily enough be ascribed to their menu. Their Memphis-style fried chicken is hands down a crowd favorite, but not at all the only player in the field. Giving traditional southern dishes a bit of a spin, Executive Chef Dan Varga throws quinoa johnnycakes with smoked salmon and poached egg, and a sweet potato and Ohio-cheddar quiche into the mix as well. Chicken and waffles are served alongside shrimp po’boys, gumbo, and the occasional low country boil.
Varga says about his experience with food, that “it’s always best when you know it comes from somewhere. We want to keep it simple, and just produce really good quality food.” The store’s signature fried chicken is sourced from Gerber Poultry, a collective of free-range and antibiotic-free Amish chicken farms in Kidron, OH. Snowville Creamery, near Athens, OH provides the dairy and all the spices are bought down the street at the North Market.
That explains the “Comfort” in Double Comfort. “Double” comes from one of the main drives that owner Mary Lyski applied to her restaurant. A part of Double Comfort’s proceeds goes to support one of the city’s local food pantries.
For this year’s Spring Gala, Varga drew inspiration from Fernando and Humberto Campana’s Alligator Couch in
Leather currently on display at the Pizzuti Collection. Smiling a little and scratching his neck, Varga says “it was one of the only pieces that really jumped out at me as connecting to what I do here. Not a lot of people feel comfortable working with alligator, but I know how to play around with it.”
Mixologist at Denmark
Gala Course: Craft Cocktail
Overlooking High Street from Denmark’s second-story, floor-to-ceiling windows, resident mixologist Gary White talks cocktails. “We are a craft cocktail lounge. We really give cocktails the same amount of importance that most people give to food in that everything we use is made from scratch. We juice all of our own juices, we make our own bitters, we do our own liqueurs, we flavor most of own liquors in house. Anything we can do here we do.”
Denmark’s approach ties right in to the art-inspired dishes served at the Short North Gala. White said, “we really believe in pushing the culinary end of cocktails. We also utilize really cutting edge molecular gastronomy techniques. For example, right now we’re playing around with clarifying different types of juices. We’re all about here, pushing our understanding of the world of cocktails.”
In anticipation for the Gala, White says what he’s most excited about is really what every guest attending should be excited about. “To see so many talented chefs that are going to be there is really amazing,” he said. “Plus the synergy of watching different medias come together; the food, the art, the performance, it’s all pretty cool! …Wait, is media the right word?” He laughs, “anyway, it’s just such a cool concept. Everything about it is really through the roof.”
About his crafted cocktail for the event, White is proud to debut a really ‘spring-y’ cocktail. He said, “Spring is here, so gin is definitely here with it. It’s really a great profile with other springtime flavors [such as] strawberry, rhubarb, honey, and lavender. [They] all kind of scream spring to me and go great with it.”
Inspired by Maria DiFranco’s Noiseless Growth at Sean Christopher Gallery Ohio, Difranco “utilizes droppers in her art work, where she drops little drips of paint on top of canvases.” White said. “It really reminded me of techniques we use to drop color into egg-foam on top of drinks.”
Creating a layered cocktail with his favorite springtime flavors, White will begin with a gin base, adding clarified strawberry juice and home-made Limoncello, topped with a Meyer lemon and honey foam, droplets of home-made rhubarb bitters and then spritzed with orange blossom extract.
Crafted cocktails indeed.
– Tyler Wilson