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January 20, 2011

Marina Abramovic’s Volcano Flambé

By Stephen Wallis | Arts + Culture, Restaurants

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© Courtesy Park Avenue and Creative Time/photo: Diane Bondareff

The seasonally changing Manhattan restaurant Park Avenue—currently in its Winter phase—has teamed up with the public art organization Creative Time on a year-long project, where a different artist will collaborate with chef Kevin Lasko on a dish for each of his quarterly menus. A few days ago I got an early taste of the first offering, Marina Abramovic’s dessert as performance art Volcano Flambé.

Diners who order the $20 treat are given a white lab coat to wear and presented with wooden box containing headphones and a tiny mp3 player. Put on the headphones, press play and the fun begins. The soundtrack features Abramovic, known for performances testing her own physical and mental limits (including sitting silently across from strangers for the entire run of her two-and-a-half-month retrospective at MoMA last year), intoning instructions in a hypnotic and sultry voice: “Close your eyes…Breathe slowly, deeply…” Timed correctly, you’re told to open your eyes just before the server pours a flaming liquid over the dessert that’s been placed in front of you. As you taste, Abramovic urges you to focus on flavors and textures: “Hot…cold…creamy…crunchy…”

Described as a riff on Baked Alaska, the Volcano Flambé features almond cake, chocolate ice cream, banana mousse, meringue and chocolate cookie crumbs—all topped by a swirl of golden spun sugar. I could have sworn I also tasted ginger, unless that was just my palate falling prey to the suggestiveness of Abramovic’s voice, purring “spicy.” As Cecile Panzieri, executive director at the Sean Kelly Gallery, which represents Abramovic, joked to me: “It’s like phone sex.” Indeed, Abramovic noted at the tasting that many of the dessert’s ingredients are aphrodisiacs.

Volcano Flambé is available through March 15 at Park Avenue Winter (100 E. 63rd St.; 212-644-1900; parkavenyc.com).

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