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August 31st, 2019

August. What a perfect excuse for the untamed celebration of food. Sun ripened veggies, succulent melon, bountiful greens. August is any cooks dream.

For this reason, I was so excited to be tasked with menu planning, preparing, and presenting hors d’oeuvres at one of the seven Twilight at Taliesin tours. Twilight at Taliesin is a swanky night of indulging on tasty treats as well as an opportunity to tour and and lounge around Taliesin after hours.

Following in Mr. Wrights footsteps, I wanted to use nature and beauty as my guide for curating these appetizers. And I am now giving you a behind the scenes glimpse at a food artisan’s approach to preparing appetizers fit for Wright himself.

If we’re talking frankly here (pun intended), my life revolves around any sort of charcuterie or cheese and cracker accoutrements. So I knew the menu for this event had to reflect some of my fanatical adoration. After all, what better place to munch on cheese than the Driftless Region?!

On the cheeseboard, I placed a LaVon Farmhouse Brie, Marieke Fenugreek Gouda, house made crackers as well as dried cherries and apricots. This combination encompassed just about everything I love about food from the variance of textures between the brie and crackers in addition to the juxtaposition of the tangy sweet cherries with a creamy salty cheese. A match made in ‘driftless heaven‘ in my opinion.

Although I appreciate Wisconsin’s cheesy comforts, the next course was more internationally inspired. After experimenting with some tempura batter that week in the kitchen, I thought I would continue playing with this Japanese deep-frying technique by serving up deep-fried tempura cauliflower bites with a sriracha aioli. This dish was very fun to plate on Chinese soup spoons plus were a wonderful nod to the influence Wright’s travels in Asia had upon him.

Next I presented a beautiful flavor combo of melon, mint, and citrus. Cut into geometric pieces, each skewer represented a celebration of summer’s simplicity and freshness.

When it came to creating these crackers, I realized this particular food may be my new passion. These crackers were so fun to make because nature truly did the heavy lifting on beauty for me. I simply rolled some herbs including thyme, rosemary, and barrage into the cracker dough made from artisanal milled flours of Wisconsin—and voila—a show-stopping snack!

Being able to execute my culinary musings for others to try on a large scale was a great experience plus incredibly rewarding. With each of these dishes, I wanted consumers to pause to contemplate where these tasty morsels came from. Just like an awe-inspiring hike, a locally-sourced meal can let nature shine, allowing the blessing of plants and animals to humble even the largest egos. Food has the ability to carry big messages—conveying joy and gratitude for other people and the planet. Reflections like this make me feel grateful to remind others to remain intentional and bring happiness to people’s lives every day through cooking.—Written and photographed by Libby Schnepf, 2019 Food Artisan Immersion Program student.