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Monday, February 6, 2023

Food

Taking foodies back in time


An 18th century English tablescape that consists of marzipan fruit, candied cherries, wafers, sweetmeats, roasted and larded hare on a bed of toast and sponge biscuits is part of an exhibit at Rienzi, the house museum for European Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston .  |  Photo by Tom DuBrock/Courtesy of MFAH

An 18th century English tablescape that consists of marzipan fruit, candied cherries, wafers, sweetmeats, roasted and larded hare on a bed of toast and sponge biscuits is part of an exhibit at Rienzi, the house museum for European Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston . | Photo by Tom DuBrock/Courtesy of MFAH

An elaborate dining experience recreated from 18th century England was the scene for an event aimed at local foodies.

Foodie Fest was held on Saturday at Rienzi, the house museum for European decorative arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It combined its ongoing exhibit, “English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century,” with catering provided by Houston chef Monica Pope’s ta’fia restaurant.

“English Taste,” which has been on view since September, takes you into a typical upper class English country house where exotic foods and new culinary technology were a stamp of luxury and fashion.

The stunning and highly structured food presentation of Foodie Fest was a pleasure to behold, and the wine and light cocktail food provided by ta’fia were in keeping with the culinary experience.

Cooked hens decorated with feather tails, beautiful sugar molds, exotic seaweed and colorful jellies were part of the display and showed the effort 18th century Britains used to put into entertaining and maintaining their social status.

“To make gelatin at that point in history, you would have to make it from calf’s feet and cook it yourself to generate enough gelatin,” said Elizabeth Huber, a native Houstonian who organized a meet-up event for the accompanying lecture to the exhibit back in September.

Amongst the exquisite food creations, our everyday dinner, macaroni and cheese, also had a place at the elaborate dinner table.

“Macaroni and cheese was the hippest thing to eat at the time,” Huber said. “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni — that was the epitome of being totally in fashion.”

With dinner being the center of entertainment in 18th century England, hosts would bring out and serve the meal on the finest silver and porcelain available. This was another manner for which aristocrats would show off their wealth.

Rienzi, a state-of-the-art heritage property in River Oaks that was turned into a museum in 1999, was the perfect venue to host this culinary experience.

“Rienzi’s celebrated ceramics, silver and glass, including the recently acquired Sackville Epergne and porcelain pieces from the Möllendorff (Dinner) Service, said to be designed by Frederick the Great, would have been used for a meal of such significance,” said Katherine S. Howe, director of Rienzi.

“English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century” is on exhibit until Jan. 29. Students with an ID will only pay $5 at the door.

For more information, visit www.mfah.org/rienzi.

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