AGO: Florence at FRANK

A little over a week ago, a small group food / lifestyle bloggers met up just inside the AGO (@agotoronto) to tour the Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art exhibit. There was to be a really neat exhibit-inspired tasting menu afterwards at FRANK as well. Not bad for the middle of the week! It was one of the most enjoyable art gallery exhibits I’ve ever had.

Downtown Core / Baldwin Village
317 Dundas St. W
Toronto, ON

Reservations: 416 979 6688  // OpenTable
Transit: 3-min walk from St. Patrick station OR 505 Dundas streetcar 
Hours: Tues-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm (lunch), Tues-Sat 5:30pm-10pm (dinner), weekend 11am-3pm (brunch)

The AGO, located a few minutes from St. Patrick station is, not surprisingly, always a hot spot for art enthusiasts and appreciators. For those whose wallets are a little light (student life!), every Wednesday night from 6-8:30pm is FREE! On top of that, the AGO is part of the Toronto Public Library’s “Museum + Arts Pass” (MAP) program where you can sign out family passes to various museums and art galleries for free admission! It’s a bit tricky to get your hands on these passes though…

Ooh, “Free After 3!” for Ontario high school students (tues-fri) plus free for OCT teachers. Sweet…I shall take advantage of this in the future!

The exhibit toured, “Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art”, co-organized by the AGO and the J. Paul Getty Museum took 10 years to curate and put together! Imagine the determination, the intense planning and negotiation to ensure that all the pieces in the gallery could be on loan at the same time. Pieces came from 45 different collectors, galleries and foundations. Even a tome from the Vatican City, which has been very rarely viewed by the public was in the exhibit. 

A little music to set the tone. Live performance of 'Ave mater, O Maria' by Lionheart in Walker Court at the AGO as transcribed from illuminated pages of the Laudario Sant' Agnese (seen in the exhibit).

Every piece on display was immaculate in detail and craftsmanship. This piece by Daddi of the Virgin Mary shows her with child, a very rare sight. Also, it hasn’t be restored in any way since it was made so what you see is what admirers back in the 1300s saw as well! 

Sasha Suda, the coordinating curator led the tour and provided a lot of insight and anecdotes that we wouldn’t otherwise have known about had we been left on our own. Thanks for the great tour! It was refreshing to hear from someone who is so connected and passionate about the works in the gallery!

Another work by Daddi. I was pulled in by how relaxed and calm she looks. It may not stand out much on a wall lined with other works but mounted solo, you get the full impact of it. Simply put, it's beautiful!

To my surprise, the colours are still so vibrant! The paper medium back in the early Renaissance were parchment and vellum (animal skin); so although these works were well preserved, they’re quite fragile due to their sensitivity to humidity, temperature and handling. How they survived 700 years of wars, upheavals, and usage so well is astonishing.

As a musician, I especially enjoyed this! :D Having learned about Gregorian chant, church modes, everything leading to the progression into tonality and beyond, it was so exciting to see the music as it was written from that time period. Below is one of a very elaborate five-volume choir book that was commissioned by a church in Impruneta (a city in Tuscany). Priceless, all five volumes have been carefully kept in near mint condition (at the same church!), save the rounded edges thanks to mice nibbling at it.

After a great tour, time to eat! Inspired by the Early Renaissance exhibit is a Florentine tasting menu. It’s a great collaboration that’s done at FRANK (the restaurant inside the AGO) where a prix fixe menu is created using an exhibition as inspiration. After Revealing the Early Renaissance wraps up in a couple of weeks, the next featured exhibit will be that of “Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Amuse (top and bottom right): Wild mushroom truffle tea + Wild mushroom & polenta bruschetta
Insalata (bottom left): Grilled Asparagus & Prosciutto w/ lemon garlic vinaigrette 
Wine pairing: Pinot grigio, Luigi Righetti-Veneto

Pasta al giorno: Spaghetti Puttanesca with Scallop
Wine pairing: Chianti Classico, Podere Elise-Impruneta  (notice that this wine is from the same city as the choir books!)

Second piatti: Pan seared Black Cod with tomato basil risotto
Corso di bistecca: FRANK Bistecca Florentine
Wine pairing: Barolo Giacomo ‘Fenocchio’, Piedmont

Here’s a video of Chef Jay discussing the local ingredients in the pasta primavera and steak Florentine featured on the Florentine tasting menu. (LINK). 

Dessert: Affogato and Tiramisu

There were definitely some standouts for me in this tasting menu including the wild mushroom truffle tea (perfectly hot and pungent), the spaghetti puttanesca (oh that scallop couldn’t have been meatier!) and the affogato. 

Thank you Chef Jay Tanuwidjaja for not only such a fantastic meal but also for taking the time to chat with us during and afterwards! The sommelier’s pairings worked so well with the meal! Loved how the Chianti is directly linked to the exhibit. What a great evening. Thanks Melissa for inviting me!  
**Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art runs until Sunday, June 16.**

FRANK on Urbanspoon