I love eating in museum cafes as much as I love visiting museums. Museum eating isn't like eating on regular sojourns because although it tends to be a quick stop for fuel, it is a more ponderous stop that is taken amidst hours of viewing breathtaking creations that beckon a more conscious and semi-adventurous form of fare. The food experiences tend to go hand in hand with the art experiences and I find myself crafting my eating in alliance with the mood and ambience of the museum I am visiting so that the culinary art becomes part of the overall taste I take away.
For instance, while visiting SFMOMA in San Francisco, I love to sit outside on their rooftop cafe with a big white ceramic cup of frothy-headed cappucino and a slice of rich Mondrian cake. It's the perfect sophisticated snack under the biting city chill while viewing the cooly distant and slightly intimidating spider sculptures of Louise Bourgeois.
At LACMA in L.A., I enjoy breezy afternoons with their special sangria, ripe with fruit spears, and a small salad of whatever is in season with exotic lettuces. This light lunch seems to go in line with L.A.'s health conscious psyche and the reputation of finding new food items with rare combinations first. Seeing major pieces of blue chip art in the Broad wing like Warhols and Koons peppered with the pure light and space painters of Southern California always brings a laisez fare attitude to the meal, sometimes spent until the wine jug is exhausted over conversations about what we've just browsed.
In Boston at the Museum of Fine Art, the meals tend to be regional and deep like a pint of hearty Guinness and hot bread and butter, perfect for that East Coast carb-appropriate brisk walking that occurs from place to place.
Recently, I visited the Getty Villa in Malibu and decided it was the perfect place to experience the "when in Rome" mentality. After viewing the Italian, Greek and Etruscan antiquities, the marbled columns and al fresco painted ceiling, I was craving a taste of European flair. My best friend Lisa and I lazed away an hour on the outside patio with an artisanal cheese plate, red wine and a sparsely dressed arugula salad. Something about the presence of brie and other fine cheeses, dried fruits like fig, apricot and date and brown wafers of dark toasted bread spiked with cranberries, seemed to carry us in our minds to the beautiful lazy lunchtimes in Italy where wine is fluid and the ingredients are simple, healthy, eaten slowly and with pleasure. With a view of the Pacific Ocean, we momentarily felt like we could have easily been dining on the cliffs of Sorrento.