Saul Bolton, executive chef of The Norm at the Brooklyn Museum, is just another Bowie fan. Putting together the dinner series to accompany the David Bowie is exhibit at the museum has been a labor of love as well as an opportunity to rediscover some moments in the artist’s decades-long career.
The sold out dinner series, which began in April and will feature one event per month through July, bases each four-course dinner around a city that was significant to the life and career of Bowie. Last month was Berlin, May (this Sunday) will be Tokyo, followed by Philadelphia and London in June and July, respectively. For $75, or $95 with a ticket to the exhibition, diners are welcomed by a Bowie-themed cocktail (e.g. Starman, Lazarus and Thin White Duke)m hors d’oeurves, an introduction to the night’s menu by Bolton, a presentation of the exhibit by the museum’s director of exhibition design Matthew Yokobosky, the four-course meal, and, for ticket holders, an opportunity to experience the exhibit.
Bolton posits himself as little more than a fan paying homage to Bowie’s incredible and varied work, as well as the work the museum has already done to celebrate him. “The menus are basically sort of fun things—what I’m doing is adding a complement to what the Brooklyn Museum has done,” he says. “It’s another opportunity for Bowie fans to connect with the exhibition.”
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In his research for menu inspiration, all accounts suggested that Bowie’s taste leaned more toward comfort food. True to this, and The Norm’s style of casual dining, most of the menus feature hearty, casual and street food-style dishes. The Berlin dinner last month, for instance, included a Turkish chopped salad, spätzle and currywurst—typical Berliner fare. For drinks, The Norm’s manager Olivia Carr designed two cocktails: the Heroes, which included Ommegang Witte beer, green chartreuse, rosemary syrup, fresh lemon and club soda (somewhat reminiscent of a typical German radler), and the Fame, with hibiscus-infused vodka, pineapple juice, blackberry liqueur and fresh lemon.
The daily menu at The Norm, too, is full of specific nods to Bowie’s life. Legend has it the artist would order an off-menu croque monsieur at the French Roast in Manhattan that included a beer sauce, which Bolton says references a Welsh rarebit – it’s unknown if the restaurant, back then, was intentionally tying in Bowie’s British heritage, but Bolton found the story fascinating and recreated the dish for The Norm. Also on the menu is a shepherd’s pie, which Bolton’s research found was something Iman frequently made for the artist.
The Tokyo dinner, which takes place this weekend, will include a traditional kani salad and a tonkatsu ramen, and the June Philadelphia dinner will feature pasta fagioli (a reference to Philly’s Italian community), and of course, a cheesesteak and deep-fried apple turnovers.
Currently the London dinner in July is scheduled to be the final in the series and diners can expect a West Indian conch salad and “Diamond Dog”-fish and chips, imagining what a night in David Bowie’s London might have tasted like.
Not going to make it to the dinner series? Be sure to see the exhibition David Bowie is before it leaves in July and stream this “Best of Bowie” compilation: