Steal like an artist, not like a pirate

Long before Austin Kleon rose to the New York Times best seller list, a narcissistic Spaniard with a fascination with bulls and the female nude had something important to say.

Good artists copy, great artists steal (Pablo Picasso)

Austin Kleon champions creativity in the digital age.  He lays out 10 really important concepts that inspire us to do something worthwhile.

Chef Mario Batali already knows what it’s like to be an artist. Visit any one of his NYC restaurants and steap in his vision. Mario creates an authentic Italian dining experience with a twist.  A Mario twist.  Something which is his own.

Olive oil gelato next to caramel gelato from Otto in NYC

Olive oil gelato next to caramel gelato from Otto in NYC

Recently we found ourselves at a middle table in Mario’s pizzeria in New York called Otto. Otto translates to the number “eight” in Italian. After a feast of pizza and pasta, a chalice of gelato descended on our table. Our choice followed the waiter’s advice: olive oil ice cream. Mario’s signature dish.

We paired it with caramel gelato. As if there was something else that goes with olive oil.

Little pearls of extra virgin olive lay in waiting in that vanilla cream. On the tongue it was a siren’s song. A seductive tease. A play between green grassy olive oil and the pillowy nature of vanilla spiked dairy.

It was as if Mario mixed our appetizer with our desert. Like a writer who lands the hero precisely in the same place when the story began.  However this time changed forever.

That’s an easy feeling to get with a desert like this.

And one which had the creative juices oozing.

Weeks later our extended family arrived in Maine to drink up the sunshine with cool breezes.  We intended to wear out leg muscles climbing up and down trails in Acadia National Park.  Evenings are reserved for cocktails, fellowship and eating the best this location has to offer.

Friday night followed a day at the farmers market.  The farmer had ribeyes waiting for us.

To tip us into the evening, we began with local goats’ and sheep’s milk cheeses. Plus a combination stolen from Mario.  This time as the appetizer. The start of the hero’s journey.

Garlic cream and EVO surrounded by pesto from the garden

Garlic cream and EVO surrounded by pesto from the garden

Heavy cream reduces with garlic pods, seasoning and a touch of nutmeg.  It thickens and becomes infused.  Extra virgin olive lands on the plate.  It was christened with lemon thyme earlier.  As the cream dove into the pool of oil, shapes emerged.

Our eyes made out human characteristics.  Could have been a Jean Arp painting or sculpture.  Probably too suggestive to say out loud while children are in the room.  One of us connected it back to an island.  No doubt since we find ourselves on Mount Desert Island just now.

When fingers took hot, crusty bread and dipped into our painting, new shapes emerged. Smiles grew.  Not because of the imagery.  It was the daring combination of oil and cream.

Aside from Johnny Depp, pirates are despicable creatures.  In the world of intellectual property, they pass off their work as someone else’s.  They hide behind replica logos, emulated patterns and similar stitching.  They offer knock offs with discount prices. They offer phonies.

They are not artists.

Artists ingest ideas and by the vary nature of creation, make it their own.

If you want to learn how to steal properly, buy Austin Kleon’s book. If you want to temperarily leave this planet, go to Otto.  If you want the recipe for garlic cream with EVO, drop me a line in the comments field.

Or simply tell us where you witnessed a really good theft.  One that really tastes good.


  1. Renee

    The combination of olive oil and cream sounds too tantalizing to pass up. Your gift of pairing the unusual is an art not shared by many. Please, please share the recipe!

  2. Pingback: Authentic or counterfeit? How to identify a true signature dish | ideas that taste good

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