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Weekend Preview: Local Art Shows And Boozy-Themed Dinners

"Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach," a painting by the late local artist Jen Trute.
Courtesy photo
"Sunbathe Barbie at Bombay Beach," a painting by the late local artist Jen Trute.
Weekend Preview: Local Art Shows And Boozy-Themed Dinners
GUESTSKeli Dailey, food writer, U-T San Diego. Kinsee Morlan, freelance arts writer.

CAVANAUGH: Just plain celebration! Two local restaurants get creative with food and drink pairing dinners. I'd like to welcome my guests, Kinsee Morlan is a free-lance arts writer. Welcome. MORLAN: Hey, thanks! CAVANAUGH: And any moment now, you are going to be -- [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: A mommy! >> One will become two, are yes. CAVANAUGH: Okay! We hope you get through the show. And Kelli Dailey is food writer with UT San Diego. DAILEY: Hi, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Good to see you. Kinsee, there's a new art exhibit featuring the work of Jen Trute. MORLAN: The bad news first, she passed away last year after a long struggle with breast cancer. But she really became known for her large-scale, impeccable oil paintings. She really had this insane process that took her months and months for each piece. So the glazing, the layering, she was a perfectionist. So every piece was just -- you couldn't find a mistake. And they have these sort of dark distaupian future themes. She always had the environment on her mind, and so she would tell these narrative ares of our neglect of natural beauty and our obsession with superficial things. She kind of fit into the category of pop surrealism. So picture these large-scale, strange, very strange settings! And then pop culture references. So Barbie dolls and McDonald's and cereal boxes. CAVANAUGH: She had a really sort of strange career in that she started out in fine art, and then went into commercial and ad art really, right? MORLAN: That's right. She was a commercial artist for pretty long. She didn't make the switch until late in her life. And it wasn't easy at first. She kind of tried her hand at portraiture, and then slowly worked her way and found her voice into these environmentally themed paintings. And I don't use the word master very often when I talk about local artists. We have a lot of great local artists. But she was really a master oil painter. And the retrospective that's opening up at Oceanside, I can't recommend it enough because you have to see them in person to really get what I'm saying here. And not only because she's passed away. I'm not giving her unnecessary or unearned reverence. She really did a great job. And the narrative that she wraps into her pieces kind of coming from that commercial background. So she really does tell a story in every piece. CAVANAUGH: What is it that you enjoy about her art? Obviously you're very passionate about this. Is it her technical mastery or the subject matter? MORLAN: I've never been one to obsess about process very much. I really do think the end product is great. If it's beautiful, you can appreciate it. It's always interesting to learn about the process and to see artists in action, then you can really get more appreciation for what they do. What I like about her working it's just so unique: And the distaupian teams, she really is tell a message. I think art that tells a story is really fascinating. And that's what she does. CAVANAUGH: Inviroscapes, the Jen chute retrospective at the Oceanside museum of art. Grant grill, it's hosting a mixology dinner. What is this about, Kelli? DAILEY: Well, a mixology is one term for cocktails. CAVANAUGH: Yes it is! I knew that! [ LAUGHTER ] DAILEY: Grant grill hosts a mixol dinner, and I've been to one of these before. And that means they pair cocktails with each of their courses. And the grant grill is down at the hotel on Broadway, and it's swanky and mahogany colored, a very masculine space. CAVANAUGH: Very cocktaily. DAILEY: It's kind of jazzy, on Saturday they have live music too. But they also have really good food. And the chef teams with a very well known bartender, and Jeff prefers the term bartender over mixologist because it sounds a little snooty to say, what do you do, I'm a mixologist! But it does connote a higher glass of cocktailing. His cocktails are really seasonally driven. They feature a lot of fresh produce. And for this particular theme, the autumn theme, the food and the cocktails are embracing spices. They're going with autumn nal flavors. And Chris is doing something with curry. Granola with curry that compliments a duck breast. And Jeff, the bartender, teases out similar flavors with his cocktails to team with that. And it's four course, and it's going to last through next Friday. CAVANAUGH: I think we're all familiar with pairing wine with dinner. Is pairing cocktails with food becoming more of a common thing? DAILEY: You know, for someone like me who likes blackout beverages, I hope it becomes very, very common. [ LAUGHTER ] DAILEY: You will see it across the city. Leroy's in Coronado will do a whiskey dinner, or Westgatical Hotel will do a tequila themed dinner. And you can find very nuanced flavors in boutique spirits which we're seeing tons of right now. And mixologists are approaching it the same way that chefs approach their meals, really finding complimentary flavors. And I was looking at one of the cocktails that Jeff is coming up with. CAVANAUGH: Please do! I saw them on the website, and they just sound amazing! DAILEY: There's this one that he's got, it's got plumb brandy and plumb wine, wormwood bitter, and wine tannins. Now, I was talking to Kinsee about this. How do you just extract the tannins from wine? MORLAN: They're experts, Kelli! Mad scientists! [ LAUGHTER ] DAILEY: I don't question the process, I just want to see the end art! The story to be told! And having done these dinners before, when you have four really well-crafted cocktails of regular size with a meal, you really get torn up. It depends on your weight, of course. CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see what you're saying! I wasn't quite sure what you want! Okay! DAILEY: I meant that I needed a taxi home. I was tipping everyone freely, and probably -- I stopped taking notes. I started asking the waiter, could you bring me some paper! And it was a sloppy mess, but it was so enjoyable. And the two people do art there, and that's Chris and Jeff. And you should really appreciate both of them teaming together. CAVANAUGH: That is very good to know! I'm glad you put that caveat there. So definitely secure a safe ride home. DAILEY: That's right. CAVANAUGH: Okay! The mixology dinner, December 8th through the 14th at the grant grill inside the U.S. grant in downtown San Diego. We go to another art gallery, Kinsee. It's another local show opening tomorrow at the ice gallery. Tell us about this space. MORLAN: Well, one time, long, long ago, it was a dry ice factory. And since then, after the factory closed down, it became this quiet art hub. It offered affordable space in the cool neighborhood of Northpark, which is hard to come by. Every now and then it would pop up as an art gallery. From 2001-2005 it was run as a gallery by Perry Vasquez. And then it would close down again and become art studios. And this is the kind of dilapidated building on the corner of unionis and 30th. So the building came with the caveat that it is not functional. It's got a leaky roof, but artists don't care. CAVANAUGH: But there was a fund drive, wasn't there? People were donating to try to refurbish the space? What happened to that? MORLAN: In 2010, Joseph huBrit, Thomas demellow, they're this group of great friends and artists. They have stepped in and said we don't care about the leaky roof, we're going to turn it into this great gallery. And that's exactly what they did. For a couple year, they did these amazing show, site-specific. They really got to experiment because the space was so cruddy, it gave them this license to change the space completely. And that's exactly what they did. Now it started, this time of year, it rains, one of their pieces of ruined. And that's when they said let's raise some money and fix this up. They didn't get any feedback from the owner, and the reason was the owner is selling. The owner finally found a buyer, Jonathan Siegel, an architect. DAILEY: Right, he's got the Q building in little Italy. MORLAN: Everybody knows Jonathan. So they're out, eviction notices were served at the beginning of this month, and the gallery is -- CAVANAUGH: Oh, it's on its way out! Before I ask about plans to relocate, what show is going to be opening and is this the last show? MORLAN: This is the last show in the space. They have a really big supporter of theirs, Tom drinkol. He's a fairly well-known, longtime sculptor. So they're going to pose one more show in the space before they have to get out. Tom does these really interesting sculptures made of unexpected material. For this show, he's using expanded foam. He kind of is known for taking things like the Styrofoam you found inside electronic boxes and casting that and making it into this really elegant, sophisticated looking sculpture. His work is unique, and this is a unique space. It's a chapter of Northpark that's closing. CAVANAUGH: And he plans to relocate the gallery? MORLAN: Well, yeah! That's the good news. We've got some good news. Another architect, James brown of public architecture, got wind of the situation and offered the ice gallery boys a space at his building, which is called -- what is it? Bread and salts? It's an old bakery! So they'll go from an old dry ice factory to an old bakery and continue doing these shows. CAVANAUGH: Thank you! That's a whole story there. We move to a beer dinner. We've been talking about pairing cocktails with dinner. Now pairing beer. Tell us where this is happening. DAILEY: Well, it's the Union Kitchen and Tap on south coast Highway 101 in Encinitas. But I called them this morning to see how many tickets were left, where they have all these beers from Avery, and they said they sold out. CAVANAUGH: No! DAILEY: And you know who bought the last ticket? Our UT beer reporter, Peter Rose. MORLAN: Peter! DAILEY: But the funny thing is that you can still -- they brought a lot of the rare beers in-house in the regular dining room. So you can still have a similar experience. So I still wanted to tell you about this. CAVANAUGH: Please do. This is really a pretty big deal. DAILEY: Avery, the brewer, is out of Colorado. And it's -- some of their work is part of the 1,001 beers to try before you die book. So they're called the demons of ale, which means that they really bring some strong alcohol into a small bottle. And of course again it's a craft brewer, it's really well known. They were here recently for San Diego beer week. And for them to be in-house in Encinitas is really a testament to union kitchen. Because they have so many beers on tap, and they are so fussy with what they bring in for you to drink. And will idea with their chef who's from Missouri to pair his food with eight beers. CAVANAUGH: Barrel-aged beers. DAILEY: I talked with Peter about that, and it's just a way to bring out different character into having a barrel program, the aging. CAVANAUGH: Like wine casting. DAILEY: Yeah. MORLAN: I had a beer recently that was aged in a white wine cask. So it got the wine flavors into the beer. It was really interesting. DAILEY: I like when they do whiskey also. MORLAN: So good. DAILEY: You can add a smokiness to a beer. So people are catching wild yeast and they're aging in barrels and they're doing all kinds of things to tease out better flavors than bud wiser. And Avery is actually on top at union kitchen too. CAVANAUGH: Talk about a tease, that's what we did here because you can't go to this beer dinner! [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: But you can go to the union kitchen and tap and sample some of the beers later on.

The holiday season is in full swing, and officially kicks off here in San Diego on Friday with the annual December Nights in Balboa Park. But if you need a break from the usual holiday parties, there are plenty of other events to get you out of the house. From local art shows to unique, four-course meals inspired by the drinks they're paired with, here are a few events to check out this weekend:

Local artist Jen Trute was known for creating surreal, colorful, detailed paintings with an eco-conscious theme. Combining her experience as a commercial artist with fine art sensibilities, Trute used her canvasses to help raise awareness of environmental degradation. Unfortunately, in 2011, she lost her long battle with breast cancer and passed away at age 51. A new exhibition, “Enviroscapes: Jen Trute Retrospective,” opening Saturday at the Oceanside Museum of Art, celebrates her life and work. The exhibition runs through April 21, 2013.

There's more to holiday drinks than just mulled wine and egg nog. The Grant Grill, inside downtown's US Grant hotel, is hosting a Mixology Dinner, showcasing its "avant garde cocktail culture," December 8-14. The four-course menu, curated by Grant Grill mixologist Jeff Josenhans, features a wide range of elixirs — from whiskey and gin to plum wine — paired with creative, seasonal entrees. (View the menu.)


San Diego sculptor Tom Driscoll will present brand new works Friday, December 7, at the ICE Gallery in North Park. This will be the last show at the artist-run space; due to circumstances beyond their control, the four artists who run the ICE Gallery are closing their doors on 30th Street by the end of this month. However, they do have plans to relocate in the new year. Driscoll's work will be on view for approximately two weeks (after Friday night's opening, you can view the show by appointment.)

For those who prefer suds to liquor with their dinner, Union Kitchen & Tap in Encinitas is hosting a Beer Dinner with Avery Brewing tonight (December 6). The four-course meal features eight rare beers, including several barrel-aged beers brewed by the Colorado-based Avery Brewing, and even some from brewery president Adam Avery's own personal collection.