Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BEER WITH ALIENS: EMP MUSEUM IN SEATTLE, WA

A MUSE BOUCHE

BY: ERIKA ROBERTSON

My post today is part exhibit review, part restaurant review, and aims to answer the question: can I imagine an exhibit without food? (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out my first article). 

It's that sign again! Photo by Erika Robertson

I think any stay in Seattle should include a visit to the EMP Museum. I have fond memories of the EMP's music-focused exhibits on the Beatles and Nirvana, but its mission has expanded since I was little. Today it's dedicated to “the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture” (source). It feels like the astonishing building, designed by starchitect Frank O. Gehry, houses miles of exhibits. They delve into such diverse subjects as video games, guitars, and horror movies. The centerpiece of the museum is the “Sky Church,” a concert venue by night and massive HD LED screen used to display music videos during the day. I overheard a visitor ask if it was a projector and a staff member responded, “It’s the real deal—only in Paul Allen’s museum!” This museum is a place to let your imagination run wild.

Sky Church: the real deal. Photo by Erika Robertson
 
But I was there for the blockbuster exhibit, “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds.” I know as much about Star Trek as an average person, but I wondered if an exhibit about science fiction would involve food. The EMP also boasts an in-house restaurant called Pop. Would their menu be a continuation of the galleries?

Sextant used by Benjamin Sisko, captain of the Enterprise in Deep Space Nine. Photo by Erika Robertson
 
The exhibit presented Star Trek as a positive influence on society through its diverse cast and optimistic vision for the future. The first floor touched on each of the series and movies, which gave outsiders like me a good introduction to Star Trek culture. The second floor focused on how the franchise has inspired scientists and engineers to build the utopian vision of the future through hand-held communicators and voice-activated computers. But would there be food in the future?

After ogling the beautiful artifacts, I finally spotted food in the galleries. Not surprisingly, the hit franchise has inspired a lot of merchandise, including Cardassian cookbooks and Romulan ale. The drinks were available in the gift shop, but I wasn't brave enough to try them. I wish I could report on what Cardassians cook, but the only copy was behind glass. I had evidence that even science fiction exhibits include food. My curiosity partially satisfied, I headed to Pop for more substantial fare.

The restaurant itself looks a bit like a spaceship. Photo by Erika Robertson
 
Pop’s happy hour specials were delicious, if not topical. I enjoyed the Pop burger, but it did not deepen my appreciation for popular culture. Our fabulous server revealed that she was the genius behind the “rocktails,” or cocktails named after classic hits. I stuck to my local red ale, which I definitely recommend. Classic music videos played on overhead TV screens, extending Sky Church's impact. Music added to every part of the museum without being intrusive.

Pop is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant contracted to the EMP. Because the celebrity chef’s name is not on the sign, the location has more creative freedom. Our server was enthusiastic about an upcoming remodel and seasonal specials. Maybe next time I visit, Cardassian specialties will be on the menu.

If anyone has insights into alien cookbooks, let me know. I’m really curious now!

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