Kate Peterson was watching Bravo’s “Top Chef” when she found inspiration.
It was late 2016 or early 2017, when she was the newly named director of Get Lit Programs at Eastern Washington University. So, of course, she said, “I was thinking about all the cool events I could do.”
That’s when she noticed the chefs on the show describing the things that sparked their culinary creativity. “The way they were talking about food was the same way I’ve heard people talk about writing,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, it’s all really the same, the way we’re inspired to do art, whether we’re visual artists or musicians or writers – or chefs.”
Those similarities inspired her to collaborate with James Beard Award semifinalist Adam Hegsted on a happy hour event to promote the 2017 and 2018 editions of Get Lit, the annual literary festival presented by Eastern Washington University.
This year, they’re planning something more ambitious.
Get Lit is partnering with Hegsted and Le Catering company, part of his Eat Good Group of restaurants and culinary pursuits, to host a special dinner for the springtime literary fest.
The dinner will feature live music, works of visual art, poetry readings and a 12-course tasting menu created by Hegsted. Each course – and accompanying musical performances and art works – will be inspired by the four seasons as well as poems by local and regional poets.
“I’ve been wanting to do this sort of dinner for awhile,” Hegsted said. “I had this idea that you would sit down to have a full experience, a whole sensory experience – visual, auditory and obviously eating. Partnering with Get Lit just made sense.”
Tickets are on sale through Tuesday, and seating is limited to 75. Proceeds will help bring writers to future festivals.
This year’s fest runs April 22 to 28 and features more than 70 authors and 40 events. Most events are free.
The Four Seasons dinner is a fundraiser and new addition so, naturally, “we’re a little bit nervous about it,” Peterson said. “This is the first time we’re doing something like this.”
But, mostly, Hegsted said, “We’re really excited. It’ll be really interesting.”
They’ve been talking about collaborating on a poetry-inspired dinner with art and music since last fall. It was Hegsted’s idea to incorporate the four seasons. That way, he said, the dinner would have a clear beginning and ending, and a way to “move through the plates as part of a story, everything connecting together.”
The plan is to start with winter and end with fall. Each writer will share poetry during one “season” of dinner. Hegsted will introduce his dishes. The musicians – three soloists and one duo – will play a couple of songs during their select season. The visual artists, also one per season, will discuss their works and inspiration.
“It should be a very dynamic evening,” Peterson said. “I hope people can walk away from it inspired to do their own creative work. That would definitely be a goal. And, I hope it introduces Get Lit to a wider audience, people who are interested in visual arts or food.
“It’s our kick-off event, so I hope it drums up interest in the festival and encourages people to come back to the Montvale for some of our other events.”
Participating poets are Washington poet laureate Claudia Castro Luna; Spokane’s former poet laureate Laura Read; Dujie Tahat, co-host of the Poet Salon podcast in Seattle; and Pullman-born Keetje Kuipers, who now lives on Bainbridge Island and recently released her third book, “All Its Charms.”
All four of the poets will be participating in at least one other event during the 21st annual Get Lit Festival. They’ll also be appearing at a free happy hour event at Hegsted’s Wandering Table restaurant in Kendall Yards just before the Four Seasons dinner.
Hegsted created three dishes per season based on the poets’ submissions.
“I read through all of the poems and tried to think of things that could relate it all together,” said Hegsted, noting all plates will be small plates. There are a dozen of them and, Hegsted said, “You don’t want people to leave overly full. Some will be a couple of bites; some will be just one bite.”
If a poet mentioned a particular ethnic food or ingredient, he aimed to incorporate it into a dish. For example, Read’s poem “Gloves” – for winter – mentions Chinese-American fare. So Hegsted created lemon chicken egg rolls with fried-rice aioli, pureeing fried rice and then “making it just like aioli” with garlic and olive oil.
“If the poem was talking about going outside in winter, I tried to do something that’s relatable to that,” he said. “Rosemary has a really good pine flavor, if you’re talking about the outdoors. If it’s summer or fall, I’d use vegetables or fruit from that season to help relate to that period of the year.”
And if the poem relayed something abstract, a dark element perhaps, “we’ll use some darker colors in the food or some charcoal or something smoked.”
Look for baby greens and baby vegetables spritzed with rice vinegar and served with a miso dressing for spring – and Tahat’s poem “Wasted,” in which March and April are mentioned.
Luna is summer. Her poem is “Grace.” Hegsted paired it with blackberries, acai berries, red onion, red cabbage and red wine vinaigrette.
There’s elk carpaccio – seared and thinly sliced and served with birch-sap mustard and onion ash – for fall and Kuipers’ poem “The Elk My Father Shot” from her latest collection.
Music will be provided by Jenny Anne Mannan, Ruthie Henrickson, Liz Rognes, Gregory Spatz and Caridwen Irvine-Spatz. Mannan, a bluegrass musician and singer-songwriter, produces and hosts the monthly Americana variety show “Northwest of Nashville.” Singer-songwriter Henrickson specializes in sultry melodies about heartbreak and healing. Rognes, also a singer-songwriter, is working on her third album. She’s opened for bands such as Trampled by Turtles, Star Anna and Mary Lambert. Spatz is a member of John Reischman and the Jaybirds. He and Irvine-Spatz are fiddlers who released their “All Along the Sea” album last year.
Visual art works will be provided by Spokane Arts and its Saturate program, which celebrates artists of color. Azzah Sultan is working on her master of fine arts at Washington State University. Julia Ugarte is the writer and illustrator behind Rather Puckish, designing and selling notecards, prints, canvas totes and more. Antonio Romero works in a variety of media – from acrylic paints and photography to sculpture and digital art. Remelisa Cullitan received her bachelor of fine arts in studio art and her bachelor of arts in art history from Eastern Washington University. She’s the co-creator of GlitterCouch, a platform for interviewing artists.
Together, they’ll “bring you to this whole different world,” said Hegsted, adding, “I just want people to come, have a great time, and be able to experience art in a lot of different ways.”
Get food, Get Lit
Here are a few more food-related events at Get Lit.
Inspired Happy Hour: A Four Seasons Poetry Preview takes place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 22 at Wandering Table. Admission is free. Poets will begin reading at 4:15 p.m. Appetizers and drink specials inspired by festival authors will be for sale. A dollar from every sale will be donated to Get Lit.
A handful of local establishments will offer food and drink specials inspired by festival authors all week. A dollar from each special will be donated to Get Lit. Participating establishments are: Baby Bar and Neato Burrito, Bellwether Brewing, First Avenue Coffee, Gilded Unicorn, Incrediburger & Eggs, Ruins, Volstead Act, Wandering Table and Yards Bruncheon.
The ever-popular Pie and Whiskey reading, founded and hosted by Sam Ligon and Kate Lebo, runs from 9 to 11:30 p.m. April 25. This year’s theme is heroes and villains. And, true to its name, there will be pie and there will be whiskey — for a $5 donation at the door.
Doma Coffee Roasting Co. will sell its special festival blend April 27 at the Montvale Event Center. Spokane’s River City Brewing used that same blend to make an infused beer, which the brewery will serve to fest-goers – 21 and over, two pints per person – April 27 and 28 at the venue.
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