Fusebox Festival Merges Art and Food

By Megan Giller  |  April 17, 2014

The Fusebox hybrid art festival has just started its two-week run, and the town is abuzz with modern artists that range from musicians to actors to performance artists to, yes, chefs. “Food and drink are the centerpiece of so much of our lives and our art,” said Natalie George, the producing director of the festival, who works on the programming with Hank Cathey, their culinary arts coordinator. “A meal or a beverage can create a sense of community in the same way that art can,” she told us. And so for the past four years, Fusebox has included a section called Digestible Feats that merges art and food into one avant garde experience. Some of the first acts were collaborations between chef Sonya Cote (who herself is an artist) and musician Graham Reynolds.

So what does Digestible Feats have in store for this year? Here is a mini-guide to the most exciting performances and experiences that have to do with food.

Gelato and a Movie

The documentary Art Flavours chronicles the interactions between Italian gelato maker Osvaldo Castalleri and Italian critic and curator Roberto Pinto. After Pinto presented four themes that he felt embodied life (body, memory, archive and spectacle), Castalleri brought them to the taste buds in the form of gelato.

Dolce Neve has recreated their version of the flavors, and you can try them gratis while you watch the film. For body, try egg cream with lemon zest and vanilla, which is remarkably similar to Dolce Neve’s eponymous flavor (“that one was easy,” co-owner Marco Silvestrini told us, laughing). For memory, Castalleri made raspberry gelato, because he picked raspberries from his grandmother’s field. Dolce Neve is making a raspberry coulis cream-based gelato.

Next, for archive, the original featured a sorbet with peaches, strawberries and oranges because, in Silvestrini's words, “the artist wanted your brain to discern the three components inside the sorbet.” They’ve translated that to make a sorbet with mango, strawberries and oranges. Last, for spectacle, Castalleri made a visually compelling gelato with pistachios, cookies, golden sparkles and “green spray.” Dolce Neve is keeping it local and more natural with a flavor with pecans and cookies. “It has to compel your taste buds first, then your eyes,” said Silvestrini.

Check the schedule for screening and tastings times and locations.  

Frito Pie Tour

What’s more Texan than Frito pie? George says that on a trip to a Portland, Ore. Festival with Cathey, they discovered that Frito pie was indeed so regional that their West and East Coast friends didn’t even know what it was. “Should Frito pie have chopped beef in it? Beans? Sour cream?” they questioned, leading the Austinites to try every Frito pie that they could once they got back into town. And thus the epic Frito pie tour was born.

Fusebox has picked five Frito pies for you to sample over the next week or so. In other words, this tour isn’t an all-you-can-eat blowout on one day but a measured guide through the wild world of Fritos and chili, one per day. But don’t think you’re just trying the crème de la chili. “We chose five that aren’t necessarily our favorites,” George told us, “but they’re from different categories” so that all types are represented.

So where are they going? On April 18 at 1 PM it’s Shady Grove for a classic treat; on April 19 from 4-7 PM it’s the Whip-In for an Indian version of comfort food. Then on April 21 at Spider House Café they’re trying a vegan variety; on April 23 at 5 PM it’s the Texas Chili Parlor (say hi to Carillon pastry chef Plinio Sandalio while you’re there); and last but not least, on April 25 at 10 PM it’s Live Oak Barbecue for a chopped beef treat.

See how their tour compares to our guide to the best Frito pies in town here.  

Pop-Up Mezcaleria Silvestre

Join the impromptu party with more than a shot of mezcal as well as tamales and cumbia-driven music from Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma at this pop-up mezcaleria. “Mezcal and the history around it is embedded into Oaxaca just like an art form would be,” George told us. “The mezcaleria is designed to feel the same as if you’d walked into a museum or art gallery to learn about Oaxacan history and culture.”

It sounds like the liveliest museum you’ve ever been to, with producers like Mezcal Vago, Del Maguey, Pierde Almas, Wahaka and Fidencio offering samples of their various goods. Also enter the Luchadores del Brazos to test your strength against other wrestlers, fueled by the confidence of the agave plant.

April 18, 10 PM, 916 Springdale Rd., tickets at the door