Monday, August 8, 2011

Celebrating Anonymity (with pie!)

Several weeks ago, I was tapped to take part of a collaborative project between my University's IT dept and the local art museum. In less than a month, we needed to plan, design, and implement some way to present interactive multimedia within their upcoming exhibit on the human form. That, by the way, is a very short and hard deadline to create something completely original, with no amount of previous experience.

After going through designs, initial builds, tests, snafus, bugs, rebuilds, and many cries for help to other departments, everything was up and running on time. I was particularly pleased with the product, given that I played an unusually central role in the project. From research to implementation, and following through with testing and monitoring, I feel like I did the bulk of this project's heavy lifting.

And today, there is recognition! The main news feature on the University's central website is devoted to my project! "Smart exhibit blends art and technology", it reads, "Organizers of Go Figure use touch-screen technology to engage visitors, tell artists’ stories." Organizers...? The article tastefully recounts what moved the exhibit's curator to create the videos, and how my boss was inspired to lead this innovative collaboration. It goes on to chronicle how their boundary-breaking brainchild elucidates the deeper meaning of the works to the average museum goer, granting each a discreet view into the artists' respective thoughts. The two of them felt very privileged to have been part of such a landmark work, and both see many opportunities for this sort of partnership in the future.

I think I might even be mentioned in there. Somewhere. Possibly the phrase "...and others" refers to me. Maybe.

Far be it from me to feel slighted, though! Rather, I am tacitly amused. And I won't deny that they deserve a good helping of credit for what was, despite my ironic posturing, a pretty cool project. But I'm going to extend thanks to some the poor plebes who don't have enough of a title to be publicly recognized: yours truly, for one, who built the thing from ground-up from little more than a photoshop design (and we'll just gloss over the amount of redesigning & debugging it required); one of my department's designers, for creating said design; the University's mobile iOS developer, who originally constructed the pseudo-browser app that we used as a platform to present the media; and finally, the Smart Museum's videographer, who filmed & edited all 19 videos currently on display, side-by-side with the art pieces. These must be thankless jobs: I worked with all of them, and even I don't know all of their names.

So well done, mates. Have some pie. Some crazy pie for a crazy good job on a crazy project.

This pie brought to you courtesy of Bon Appetit's August edition. And let me just say, you should go eat some immediately. It's divine.

Rhubarb-Gingersnap Icebox Pie

for the crust:
  • nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup ground gingersnap cookies (20-30 cookies, depending on brand, ground in a food processor)
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
for the rhubarb compote:
  • 1 cup fruity red wine, such as Shiraz
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 lbs fresh rhubarb, (or frozen rhubarb, thawed,) cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices, then crosswise into 1,1/2-inch-long pieces (about 3 cups)
to assemble:
  • 1 quart good-quality vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 Tbs sugar

Preheat the over to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch glass or metal pie pan with nonstick spray.

Process cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and nutmeg in a good processor until well incorporated. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and drizzle butter over; stir to blend. Pour into prepared dish. Use bottom and sides of a measuring cup to pack crumbs onto bottom and up sides of dish. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, about 12min. Let cool on a wire rack and set aside.

Brine wine, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a wide pot, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring often, until syrup measures 1 cup, 10-12min. Add rhubarb, increase heat to high, and cook, without stirring and swirling pan occasionally, until compote thickens and syrup is slightly reduced, 4-5min. Slide onto a plate, keeping rhubarb intact. Freeze for 10min to chill quickly.

Chill bowl and paddle attachment of a stand mixer (ie: a spatula) in freezer. Soften ice cream in the refrigerator for 20min. Spoon ice cream into the chilled bowl and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth. Set 1/3 cup compote aside; add remaining compote to ice cream and mix until evenly incorporated. Spoon the ice cream into cooled crust; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Whip cream, crème fraîche, and sugar in a small bowl just until peaks form. Spoon into center of pie; spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch plain border. Spoon remaining compote onto center of cream. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour and up to 8 hours. Let pie stand at room temperature for 10min before serving.

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