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On September 17 in Brooklyn, TASTE Williamsburg brought the hungry people of New York something exciting—a chance to sample some of the borough’s top bites from its top restaurants. Among those restaurants stood a presentation from scotch whisky-maker Dewar’s—a one-stop-shop for a snack and sip. Guests stopped for a scotch egg (inspired by New York pizza with marinara sauce and cheese) and a cocktail of their choice made from the specially-crafted Dewar’s 12 Blended Scotch Whisky Emporium.
There, Dewar’s debuted its traveling tiny house to New York, The John Dewar & Sons Traveling Whisky Emporium. The tin house was designed by HGTV’s Tiny Luxury show, with the help of Chef Michael Voltaggio. It’s traveling around the U.S., playing home to North American brand ambassador Gabe Cardarella, inspired by Tommy Dewar, who traveled across the world spreading word of his whisky.
In Williamsburg, Cardarella took guests through a tasting of blends and single malts, such as Aberfeldy and Craigellachie, to highlight the unique story of Dewar’s scotch whisky.
To learn more about the creative mix of art and food, and design and craft, we spoke to Voltaggio about assisting in the design of the tiny house (a first for him), his relationship with the Dewar’s, and how food is an extension of art.
WHITEWALL: When did your partnership with John Dewar & Sons begin? How has it been working with a brand like this?
MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO: I started working with John Dewar & Sons last year for the first iteration of the Scotch Egg Club, but have been a longtime fan of the brand. My favorite drink is a Penicillin, and always opt for Dewar’s when making it for myself.
I like working with a Scotch brand that has a portfolio full of different taste profiles, and have enjoyed exploring several of their full line of whisky when crafting unique food pairings. I’ve had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas for the Scotch Egg Club, and partnering with Dewar’s has given me another outlet to showcase my creativity, whether it be creating dishes with Dewar’s sauces, using liquid nitrogen to make Chocolate Scotch Rocks, and some less-than-traditional Scotch Eggs.
WW: How is food an extension of art for you? Do you see many ties or similarities, or are inspired by the possible intersection?
MV: When I come up with a new dish, it isn’t just about the content, but also the presentation—how am I going to present this on a dish? Presentation is another art form for me. It allows me to highlight or hide aspects to the dish and think about how someone is going to enjoy the flavors if they are readily exposed, or if I save something to be an element of surprise. Living in Los Angeles, I draw inspiration from the city and its sheer diversity of cultures. I look to art, music, and the diverse LA dining scene for ideas. I’m always on the hunt for ways to improve and create different experiences for my diners.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your role with in the traveling tiny house?
MV: It is a fully functioning, livable space, complete with a bunk bed, bathroom, whisky cabinet and, of course, my favorite part and contribution, a top of the line kitchen that perfectly utilizes the space and will allow anyone to cook a gourmet meal. We wanted to take a spin on Tommy Dewar’s two passions—chickens and whisky. Combine the two and you get a Scotch Egg. As a part of the Traveling Whisky Emporium, I created different versions to complement the taste of DEWAR’S 12 Blended Scotch Whisky, ABERFELDY and CRAIGLLEACHIE, along with Scotch Eggs based off notable dishes from cities where the house is traveling—a New York Pizza Scotch Egg, Chicago Hot Dog Scotch Egg, and a LA Falafel Scotch Egg.
In addition, I worked with the design team of the house on the layout and elements that make up the kitchen within the six-foot space.
WW: What were some of your interior design contributions?
MV: The kitchen was my main area of focus for elevating the tiny home into a truly functioning space. No matter what level of cooking expertise, everyone cares about having a kitchen of high-level design and functionality to enjoy. Taking account for the limited area, I chose the appliances wisely, such as a compact chef standard grade oven to keep fumes, smoke, odors, heat and steam at bay. I wanted to keep things as clean and sleek looking as possible. Simultaneously, we needed to maximize counter space and incorporate items, such as a low-water-use dishwasher and energy-certified refrigerator, which were both seamlessly integrated, and also, sustainable for the tiny home. The space may be small, but what this kitchen can do isn’t.
There is so much thought and creativity that goes into creating a space that is functional and aesthetically pleasing, but also viable. This aspect is what drew me to assisting with the interior design of the Traveling Whisky Emporium—I was challenged to push the limits and showcase my creativity in a way I’ve done before. I’ve designed all of my restaurants, including my latest restaurant ink.well that we remodeled in under 10 days, but I’ve never been secluded to such a small space with other variable factors, such as the portable functionality of everything. I think the best way to take advantage of a restricted space is to realize how unrestricted you really are. In today’s world, there are compact versions of almost every kitchen appliance you could imagine, which will help make the space feel much bigger than it is.