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Gala to honor Girard, the man and the wing

Santa Fe chefs, caterers to mark textile artist's double anniversary with international theme

By Heather Wood
published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Taste section
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

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December 5th marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Museum of International Folk Art's renowned Girard Wing.

Housed within its walls are more than 100,000 pieces of folk art collected by Alexander and Susan Girard. The couple, longtime Santa Fe residents, donated their entire collection to the museum in 1978 and the state financed the construction of the special addition to the museum to house it.

Alexander Girard, who died in December 1993 at age 86, is considered one of the 20th century's finest graphic and textile artists, as well as an extensive collector of the work of other artisans.

Internationally, he is best known for his design work with furniture manufacturer Herman Miller and now defunct Braniff International Airlines. Locally, he was responsible for the interior design of The Compound -- converted from a classic 19th-century adobe dwelling to a restaurant in the 1960s -- as well as for other projects with John Deere and Co. and General Motors.

On Saturday, the museum's Folk Art Committee honors the silver anniversary of the Girard Wing -- and the 100th anniversary of Alexander Girard's birth -- with a "¡Celebrate Girard!" gala and fundraiser.

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Gala chairman Jonathan Parks says this year's event is extra special. "We're honoring the Girard Wing as well as Girard the artist," Parks said. "(Girard's) interest was in ethnographic art, but he treated it like fine art."

Parks, who owns Jonathan Parks Limited Antiques, Decorative Arts and Textiles in the Santa Fe Design Center, has been a docent and volunteer with the museum for more than 10 years.

According to Parks, Girard was known for quoting the Italian proverb, "The whole world is hometown." The phrase, painted in Italian and English, graces the entry to the Girard Wing at the museum.

"We're celebrating his love of the world, his accomplishments," Parks said. "And we're delighted that his son and daughter-in-law, Marshall and Alexis Girard, honorary co-chairs of the event, will celebrate with us."

"On this 25th anniversary I give thanks," Marshall Girard said, "as I do each time I visit the collection, for his brilliant gift of visual beauty, cultural understanding and desire for peace that he has shared with all of us and generations yet to come."

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Infinite expressions of beauty and love

A recent e-mail from Alexander Girard's granddaughter, Aleishall Girard Maxon, describes the artist as a "...magical amalgamation. An adult who inexhaustibly understood the suspension of disbelief that makes childhood so rich. A man who could depict scenes where cocks fight and men gamble just as accurately as he could capture the sentiment of two sisters sharing a grooming ritual, or a baby being christened in a bath of holy water. He was a father and a husband, a friend, a boss, someone who worked with incredible discipline and a person who knew how to play," Girard Maxon wrote.

Courtesy photo
Alexander Girard attends the grand opening of the Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art. Courtesy photo
Alexander Girard attends the grand opening of the Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art on Dec. 5, 1982, in this Museum of New Mexico photo.

Alexander Girard's eye for detail is perhaps what made his collection of folk art "so spectacular," Girard Maxon noted.

An artist and designer herself, Girard Maxon said she draws inspiration from the collection's rich display of craftsmanship, texture and color. "It is his ultimate motivation that I find most important.

His desire to unite people of the world through his work is what I admire most," she said.

"In bringing together rituals, religions, architecture, crafts and daily life from around the world together under one roof, one can begin to see the threads of similarities that cross over borders of culture, race, religion and social class," Girard Maxon said.

Perhaps her grandfather's own words express it best, she said. On a panel that once hung in Alexander Girard's home -- and now hangs in Girard Maxon's -- the designer had painted: "Infinite are man's expressions of beauty and love.

Open your eyes, your ears, and your heart to them and you will unite the peoples of the world."

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Time for a party

On Saturday, the Girard Wing, which opened to the public on Dec. 5, 1982, will be host to cocktails and a "smooth and swinging vibe" in a specially constructed replica of the lounge Girard designed for Braniff International Airways.

"Girard was responsible for over 18,000 designs for the airline," Parks said, "from matchbooks, to silverware, to the executive lounges."

Dancing will follow in the auditorium -- for this night dressed up as La Fonda del Sol, a famous restaurant/club in New York City's Time-Life building that featured Girard's noted "sun theme" design.

Mirroring the international theme of the Girard collection, this year's participating chefs and caterers are creating varied menus, sampling American, Asian, Himalayan, Indian, Mexican and New Mexican fare. Those providing food for the event include Adobo Catering, Celebrations Village West, C.G. Higgins Confections, The ChocolateSmith, Himalayan Cuisine, India Palace, Jinja Bar and Bistro, La Boca, La Casa Sena, Peas 'n' Pod, Rio Chama Steakhouse, San Miguel/Los Mayas, Santacafé, Someone's in the Kitchen and Walter Burke Catering.

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If you go

What: ¡Celebrate Girard! -- a gala and fundraiser at the Museum of International Folk Art celebrating the Girard Wing's 25th anniversary and commemorating the 100th birthday of Alexander Girard

When: Saturday 5:30-6:30 p.m., Cocktails & Girard gallery walk; 6:30-9:30 p.m., Dining, dancing and silent auction

Where: Museum of International Folk Art, Museum Hill

Price: $150 per person, all inclusive, of which $100 is tax-deductible

For tickets or more information: Call the Museum of New Mexico Foundation at 982-6366 ext. 112 To view a partial selection or auction items online, visit www.internationalfolkart.org and click on Events and Education.

"It's our second year participating in the event," said Kari Keenan, owner of The ChocolateSmith. "This year we're bringing piñon caramels hand-dipped in dark chocolate, classic almond bark, and peppermint drops."

Keenan, who feels the museum's annual fundraiser is important to the community, noted that it " brings a lot of fabulous people together for an important event."

"I've participated every year they've had the event -- since the beginning," said Sylvia Johnson, owner of Celebrations Village West, formerly Celebrations restaurant on Canyon Road.

"The first year I was in Santa Fe, 21 years ago, I visited the Girard collection and fell in love with a miniature Chinese village in the exhibit ... So I'm doing Szechuan classics (on Saturday). Traditional appetizers from that region, including seafood pots, wonton mounds, scallion pancakes and other delights."

Chef Alain Jorand of Adobo Catering said this is his company's fifth or sixth year catering the fundraiser. "It's a fun event," Jorand said. This year Adobo will be serving smoked trout with mango and tomatillo salsa on plantain chips. They also will offer a duck confit with a basil chiffonade on a mini taco shell to partygoers.

A silent auction, notable for its creative gift baskets containing a variety of goods and services from trips to cooking lessons to gift certificates, rounds out the evening.

Auction items include original "sun-themed" works, which pay homage to the La Fonda del Sol design. Local and international artists who have contributed to the auction include Karen Ahlgren, Carol Anthony, Charles Carrillo, Marshall Girard, Nance Lopez, Thomas Morin, Barbara Doraba Ogg, Ford Ruthling and R.C. "Doc" Weaver.

RECIPES

From Adobo Catering:

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SMOKED TROUT WITH CILANTRO, MANGO AND TOMATILLO SALSA ON PLANTAIN CHIPS

  • 2 boneless smoked trout
  • 1 small mango
  • 2 peeled shallots
  • 6 peeled tomatillos
  • 2 bunches cilantro
  • 2 plantains
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

Peel the plantain and thinly slice the size of a potato chip.

Jane Phillips/The New Mexican
Smoked Trout with Cilantro, Mango and Tomatillo Salsa on Plantain Chips and Duck Confit and Basil Chiffonade in Mini Corn Taco Shells are two dishes that Adobo Catering will serve at the ¡Celebrate Girard! fundraiser Saturday at the Museum of International Folk Art.
Smoked Trout with Cilantro, Mango and Tomatillo Salsa on Plantain Chips and Duck Confit and Basil Chiffonade in Mini Corn Taco Shells are two dishes that Adobo Catering will serve at the ¡Celebrate Girard! fundraiser Saturday at the Museum of International Folk Art.

Dip-fry until brown in hot vegetable oil. Drain on a paper towel. Peel and dice mango. Purée tomatillos in a blender. Thinly chop shallots and mince the cilantro (save a few nice leaves for decoration). Skin the trout.

Over a mixing bowl, crumble the trout meat into small pieces. Add the shallot, mango, cilantro, lime juice, tomatillo purée, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon over the plantain chips and decorate with a cilantro leaf.

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You can make the duck confit (as in the recipe that follows) or buy it already prepared. If you make your own, you need to start at least three days before you plan to serve the dish.

DUCK CONFIT AND BASIL CHIFFONADE IN MINI CORN TACO SHELLS

(Makes about 80 pieces)

  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 4 duck legs with thighs
  • 4 duck breasts, trimmed
  • 4 cups rendered duck fat
  • 10 large corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil
  • 6 springs basil

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt in the bottom of a dish large enough to hold the duck pieces in a single layer. Evenly scatter half of the garlic, shallots and thyme in the container. Arrange the duck, skin-side up, over the mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining salt, garlic, shallots and thyme and a little freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for two days.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Melt the duck fat in a small saucepan. Brush the salt and seasoning off the duck.

Arrange the pieces in a single snug layer in a high-sided baking dish or ovenproof saucepan. Pour the melted duck fat over the duck pieces -- they should be covered by fat -- and place the confit in the oven. Cook the confit at a very slow simmer -- just an occasional bubble -- until the duck is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, about 4 hours. Remove from oven. Cool and store the duck in the fat in the refrigerator until ready to serve the dish.

Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

With a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut eight circles off each corn tortilla. Place them in a taco shell mold, then dip-fry in hot vegetable oil till brown.

Drain on a paper towel.

Slice the basil into chiffonade (very thin strips).

Scrape the fat and remove skin and bone from the duck.

Lightly pull the meat and sauté in a pan with a little duck fat.

Fill the taco shell with the confit and top with basil chiffonade.


Heather Wood is a freelance writer who writes regularly for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She can be reached through her website at www.HeatherWoodFreelance.com.

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