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Museum Restaurant Cooks Up Fine French Cuisine in Celebration of Cézanne and Beyond

To the French, cuisine is an art form, and food clearly provided inspiration for artist Paul Cézanne, whose achievement is at the core of the major exhibition Cézanne and Beyond at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (February 26-May 17, 2009). Many of Cézanne’s still lifes focus on enticing edibles — from plump, ripe apples to decadent desserts. Visitors to the exhibition who find their mouths watering can enjoy fine food based on the art of Cézanne and his successors — from his Apples and Biscuits to Pablo Picasso’s Fruit, Walnut and Glass — when they dine in the Museum Restaurant this spring.

“It is always the goal in our menus to create a lively conversation between great special exhibitions and great food, and Cézanne and Beyond particularly lent itself to that dialogue,” said J.C. Nuñez, the Museum’s executive chef in charge of the Museum Restaurant, Café, Balcony Café and the Perelman Building’s Gallery Café. “In this case, we drew inspiration for each item on the menu directly from a work on view in the exhibition. With 18 artists represented in addition to Cézanne, we developed some very delicious combinations.”

These artful translations include dishes inspired by Henri Matisse’s Fruit, Flowers and the Dance (a salad with grapefruit, edible pansies and fresh herb vinaigrette), Charles Demuth’s Eggplant and Green Pepper (Australian rack of lamb with eggplant caviar) and Three Apples (apple-glazed pork tenderloin with caramelized apple and sweet potato hash, sautéed spinach, apple cider and vanilla jus), and Cézanne’s The Bather (pan-seared skate in a porcini broth with vegetable dumplings). The Mont Sainte-Victoire Prix Fix Lunch menu, named for the mountain that Cézanne could see from his studio in Aix, includes a chestnut and apple soup, an Omelette Provencale with wild mushrooms, rosemary and goat cheese, and a dessert inspired by the artist’s Apples and Biscuits — apple crisp with a sweet biscuit crust.

Nuñez is no stranger to the art of French cuisine. As a student at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, he discovered the classic French ingredients, plating and cooking techniques that laid the groundwork for modern cooking around the world — just as Cézanne’s vision laid the groundwork for dozens of subsequent artists. “Though we’ve modernized the techniques, everything we do here is still inspired by French cuisine,” Nuñez added. “It is always a pleasure to develop specifically French foods for our menu.”

The Restaurant’s drink menu is similarly centered on Cézanne, offering wines from throughout the Southeastern region of France around Aix en Provence where the artist lived. General Manager for Restaurant Associates Tijs Wolters sampled more than 100 wines to develop the Cézanne Wine List, which includes whites and reds made in Costières de Nîmes, including Gournier Viognier and Saint-Antoine Syrah. Specialty cocktails are also on the table, including the voluptuous Le Luxe, a combination of Chambord, crème de cassis and champagne inspired by a Matisse painting of the same title, and the Cézanne-inspired Apples and Oranges, with Stoli Orange, Apple Pucker and a splash of cranberry juice.

The Museum Restaurant serves dinner every Friday night from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Guests can also enjoy the Cézanne menu at lunchtime from Tuesday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and the Restaurant offers an elegant Sunday champagne brunch from 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Reservations are always suggested. For more information, call 215-684-7990.

Cézanne and Beyond, the Museum Café (open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) and Balcony Café (Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.) will also be serving up small nods to Cézanne and French cuisine, and the Perelman Building’s Gallery Café will be open for lunch Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

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For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

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