Culinary showcase adds to 10th annual Digital Graffiti Festival
May 22, 2017
By Michelle Farnham
Any chef worth his salt knows that eating food is as much a visual experience as anything else. “You eat with your eyes first,” they say.
It makes perfect sense, then, that Saturday’s Illuminated+ event – part of the 3-day Digital Graffiti Festival in Alys Beach – married the multisensory experiences of art architecture and food.
For the featured attraction, two dozen projection artists displayed their talents on the stark white buildings of Alys Beach. Best of Show honors went to Kameron Neal of Brooklyn for this self-portrait “Liquid Love.” Event Curator Brett Phares presented the Curator’s Choice honor to “Protoplasmic Routes” by Axel Cuevas Santamaria of Columbus, Ohio. Special recognition awards went to “Flag” by Nowhere Mountain of St. Louis, “Stray Voltage” by David Bennett of Nashville, and “Fluidum 2” by Germany’s Holger Foerterer.
Allison Updike of Mobile has been vacationing in her family’s Seagrove Beach home for years, but decided this was the year to finally take in Digital Graffiti.
“I figured I couldn’t miss the 10-year!” she said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, and I’m glad I did. It’s gorgeous; I’m fascinated by it.”
The festival’s path was lined with samples from regional chefs and beverage purveyors, allowing guests to add “taste” to their sensory experience. The evening concluded with drinks and desserts around the Caliza pool.
Hot and Hot Fish Club came all the way from Birmingham to dish up its Oyster Stew and the Hot and Hot Tomato Salad. The latter is served with deep fried baby okra, field peas, applewood-smoked bacon, and yellow corn.
A little closer to home, Café Thirty-A Executive Chef Derek Nowell and his crew plated Tuna Poke, marinated in a spicy Thai vinaigrette, topped with a little wasabi aioli and some toasted sesame seeds. Nowell also brought out the Seagrove Beach eatery’s West Indies Salad: crabmeat, cider vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a lettuce cup. Nowell said it is a favorite of owner Harriet Crommelin.
“I come to this event every year,” the chef admitted. “I’m a huge supporter. I love this walk and it’s a cool way to get out.”
Hailing from Rosemary Beach, Executive Chef Mark Eichin brought a taste of Restaurant Paradis. His Smoked Caprese Skewer with basil, blueberry and balsamic reduction went quickly. His kitchen also produced a Pulled Pork Slider with Carolina barbecue sauce, and a cucumber and cabbage slaw.
This was Eichin’s fourth year serving during Digital Graffiti, and he said he loved the opportunity to be a part of the experience.
“So much of the time, I don’t ever get to get out of the swinging doors of the kitchen. Very seldom do I ever get to interact and meet the guests and talk to them. It’s nice to have people come up and say, ‘Oh I love this restaurant; it’s one of my favorite places to go!’ It’s an awesome experience,” Eichin said.
Alys Beach’s own Fonville Press made its culinary debut with a dish of poached gulf shrimp, served atop quinoa, kale, carrot and lemon.
To quench thirsts, the likes of Idyll Hounds Brewing Company, Four Roses Bourbon, and Cathead Vodka were on hand. Pensacola Bay Brewery was pouring its Riptide Amber, Lighthouse Porter and Li’l Napoleon IPA. Donner-Peltier Distillers offered a trio of drinks, including The 30A Experience, which featured sou vided watermelon.
The weekend concluded with the sold-out Digital Graffiti brunch at Arboleda Park in Alys Beach.