FOOD- THE DISH- ArtinBar: 'Artini' party strikes again.

Artist Aaron Eichorst presents his vision for the Second Street Gallery's second annual Artini fundraiser.

Second Street Gallery's popular Artini fundraiser is on again! The fundraiser culminated in a party (some called it the party to end all parties) last June. Like the setting for a celebration of the Apocalypse, 500 guests danced the night away while a thunder and lightning storm raged outside the Frank Ix building, with torrential rains coming down through the gaps in the roof of the old textile mill. Some described the scene as "other-worldly."

"We all loved it," says Alice Kim, the Oxo co-owner who helps organize the event with Gallery director Leah Stoddard. "It was very like an underground club. It set a mood coming into that dark, dank flood." 

So what is Artini? To raise money and spark an interest in art among a younger generation, the non-profit Gallery (along with sponsor Absolut Vodka), challenges local restaurants to create their own "arty martini," for a competition and party fundraiser. In addition, local artists create the promotional materials for the event, including the coasters the Artinis are served on. 

Although last year's crowd favorite, the Boar's Head Inn's Bistro 1834, is absent from this year's mix, some heavy-hitters have weighed in with their Artinis, including last year's winner Bang!, along with the Blue Light Grill, the C&O, Cassis, Escafé, Kiki, Maya, Michael's Bistro, Oxo, Starr Hill, Ten, and the X-Lounge. Although we'll leave martini lovers to discover their creations, we can tell you that Pollock, Toulouse-Lautrec, O'Keefe, Hockney, Murano, and other famous artists are implicated.   

In addition to giving birth to a new reason to party, the Artini event seems to have given birth to a new school of local art– let's call it CoasterArtinBar. 

Last year, Sharon Shapiro painted a naked woman dipping her breast into an empty martini glass, giving new meaning to the term "nursing a drink." As this year's selections show, the concepts are provocative as usual, featuring a naked, god-like couple with eyes for nipples and spotted tongues luring perfectly round droplets of a red martini right out of the glass (Aaron Eichorst), disjointed Picassoesque demons hassling a drunk (Russell Richards), a beautiful blond woman, red lips parted, eyes closed, tongue poised to accept a row of olives on a toothpick (Shapiro, of course), and what looks like a Hindu statue worshipping a martini with black olives and a protruding white flower (Therese Verkerke). Other artists include Marcy Rampini and Anne Vanderwarker. 

Kim says restaurants will be serving their Artinis from May 11 until the party on July 20, with party tickets going on sale June 1 at the Live Arts box office and online at Tickets will be $50/$45 for Gallery members, which includes drinks, mingling, and munchies. In addition, Kim says they'll be serving all the Artinis, not just the top six. 

And, yes, the party will be held in the Frank Ix building again, although Kim says they be using a little more space– and while we can all hope for a repeat of '06, they can't guarantee a thunderstorm.

Treat a friend

The Seasonal Cook in the West Main Market has added a twist to its popular Wine & Food Series classes– sign up for one and you can bring a friend for just $30! Since the two-and-half hour classes are $95, that's quite a savings for your friend. In each class, you and your friend will taste at least six different wines, alone and paired with seasonal dishes, and be taught to use all your senses to find wines you'll enjoy and why. In addition, it's all under the guidance of Bizou's Vincent Derquenne. 

Coming up: a summer reds class on May 24, a champagne and sparkling wines class on June 7, and summer whites class on June 21. To make reservations, call the Seasonal Cook at 295-9355.

How to Fuel up your mom

Fuel Co. spokesperson Kristen Moses tells Dish that the out-of-the-ordinary gas station will present a special $65 prix fixe Mother's Day lunch on May 13. In addition, they'll be offering a $12 kids menu for little ones 12 and under. 

"It's sure to be quite yummy and elegant," says Moses.

Indeed, she gave Dish a peek at the menu, which includes such treats as a poached quail egg salad appetizer, as well as a cumin scented rack of lamb and crab Eggs Benedict entrees. Yummy indeed!