Overlooking Plein Air

Easton, MD has a Plein Air painting event that is considered one of the best in the country. People paint around the area for a week and significant prizes are awarded. On the Saturday of Plein Air week, activities center on Harrison Street. This painter was smart to put down a piece of cardboard to keep his feet off the hot asphalt.

About six years ago Laura had the idea to get a small group of women together to have lunch at one of the restaurants on Harrison Street and people watch. The first years we had lunch on the porch of Masons. Two years ago the restaurant closed so the following year we had lunch on the porch of The Bartlett Pear. People on the street wondered who we were to have such a great viewing location. Some asked if we were judges. We just nodded.

Bartlett Pear is now on the market and its restaurant is closed. Laura, being the master negotiator, rented the porch for us and we collaborated what each of us would bring for lunch. We started with cheese, crackers and fruit. Betty Ann brought two large pitchers of white Sangria. That was followed by a chilled carrot soup. Then a tomato filled with chicken salad. A mini-croissant completed the main course. Dessert was cookies I’d bought at the St. Michaels Farmers Market that morning and cut into quarters.

We had extra sangria so we shared it with the band. The left over cookies were given to the Bartlett Pear owner’s daughter to share with her friends. While we were still on the porch, artists would occasionally make their way up the stairs to get out of the sun and have a glass of sangria.

One of the signatures of Plein Air is that it seems to occur during the hottest week of July. This year was no exception. Temps in the high 90’s with Eastern Shore humidity. We had an occasional breeze on the Pear porch, but most of us were wearing as little clothing as possible that women of a certain age can get away with. After lunch we walked the streets for a little while and then took shelter in the air-conditioned Armory and the Art Museum where juried participant’s work was displayed and for sale.

I often think the palettes should be framed and sold.

By mid-afternoon we had sweltered long enough and went home. I took the remaining sangria fruit thinking I would cook it up, strain it and use the juice to make jelly.  I never want to waste anything. The juice is in the fridge and I will make Plein Air jelly tomorrow. There were so many kinds of fruit in the sangria that there won’t be one dominant flavor. I’ll see what kind of liquor I have in the cupboard that I could add to make a palate focal point. Peach schapps? Cassis? Port wine? Cointreau? I’ll let you know how it turns out. If it doesn’t jell, we can eat it over vanilla ice cream.

 

Plein Air, Easton MD 2016

My writing partner, Laura Ambler, always has excellent ideas. Since the Mason’s Restaurant has been sold to Bob Pascal and turned into Pascal’s Chop House, she looked for a different venue for our annual Plein Air ladies’ lunch.

We love wandering the streets watching the artists (who have been here painting all week) as they completed the Quick Draw competition. I would have bought this palette if it had been for sale.

Plein-Air-palette-2013

Laura has done some PR work for Bartlett Pear Restaurant and called Alice, wife of Chef Jordan Lloyd to see if we could get a table on their front porch. The restaurant wasn’t open for lunch, but Alice suggested a menu for the price we specified (wine was extra) and the food was spectacular.

We overlooked the artists painting along the sides of the closed to traffic street, and were just behind the band speakers so we could actually have a conversation. That’s me in the blue hat (second from the end) and Laura (fourth from the end). Mary Ann Hillier, a member of our Stinky Book Club, is sitting between us.

Plein air group on porch

We started with cold heirloom tomato gazpacho that was the best I’ve ever had. The oil on top was infused with lemon. Yum! It was so pretty.

plein air gazpacho2

Then we had hard rolls and croissants and sandwich fixings with homemade mayo with herbs. Swiss cheese, salmon, prosciutto, cucumbers and tomatoes.

plein air gazpacho

Plein air salad

We had a dedicated server who kept our glasses of iced tea filled. I didn’t manage to get a photo of dessert fast enough. The table was served a variety of cookies – chocolate chip that were definitely worth the calorie count, oatmeal raisin still warm from the oven and three different kinds of macaroons (mint chocolate chip, lemon and Nutella). OMG. Food orgasm. The lemon macaroons exploded in your mouth with the most incredible lemon flavor. Often macaroons are dry and a little tasteless. These were the best I have ever eaten surpassing macaroons I bought in Paris and they were made at Bartlett Pear Bakery in Easton, MD.

Plein air cookies

The weekend of Plein Air was hot, as it always is, but this year the Plein Air folks provided free fans to keep us cool. Some years it rains, but this year the sky was blue with beautiful white clouds. A perfect day for a premier art event in Easton, Maryland, sponsored by the Avalon Foundation.

And in case you’re thinking of reserving the front porch next year… we’ve already got a reservation.