Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Red, White and Cheese

Red, White and Cheese by David R. Darrow 6" x 6" (15.24cm x 15.24cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas SOLD Collection of Donna Tetmeir
Incline Village, NV – USA

About This Painting

The first ever taste of wine and cheese I can remember was on a New Years morning when I was about 10. Maybe younger.

No, my parents didn't serve wine and cheese. There was just some kind of a cheese thing... not a log... not a jar... it was a wad — and they claimed it was Cheddar and Port, as I recall. I seriously doubt it was real wine in there.

Doesn't matter. I hated it. It looked like someone stirred purple cheese into orange cheese, like that brilliant idea to sell peanut butter and jelly in one jar.

And it did not taste good with chocolate.

My family always had a tradition of rising New Years Morning and watching the Pasadena Rose Parade together. (Until I moved away to go to college, I never saw it in color – we only had a black and white TV). We would watch the parade and, as a tradition, eat the weirdest snacks a boy could ever be served: wheat thins, chocolate, cheeses, smoked oysters, kippered herring — we called them "kipper snacks" — and nuts that had to be cracked out of the shells. Then there were the cheese balls coated with nuts, and this cheddar-port wad.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I discovered how cheese and wine actually bring out the best in each other. Cheese alone is one thing, but after a sip of wine, it's altogether better! Wine alone is one thing, but after a bite of cheese? It's just better.

It's fascinating to walk down the wine aisle at the supermarket, or favorite wine store. It's also deeply puzzling. Since I don't read wine reviews or periodicals, I never know what to pick out as far as the name goes.

I tend to go by the variety first, then the label art and then the date. I guess that makes me a consumer. I tend toward labels that have names that either work with or adjust my mood. Usually, it's the ones that make me laugh, or have good art.

I find that just about any of them, red or white, and regardless of their label, go quite nicely with cheese.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not by Bread Alone

Not by Bread Alone by David R. Darrow 6" x 6" (15.24cm x 15.24cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas SOLD Collection of Jolie Elman
Glendora, CA – USA

About This Painting

Donald Miller, author of a fine book: Blue Like Jazz tells a story in another thoughtful book of his, Searching For God Knows What in which he and a couple of gentleman — one of them quite successful in business — were sitting in a coffee shop and someone mentioned the World Poker Championship on TV. The wealthy one among them quipped kindly, "no one I know that is successful gambles; rather they work hard, they accept the facts of reality."

Don shot back playfully, "But the facts of reality stink."

The gentleman replied, "Reality is like fine wine. It will not appeal to children."

I think the same can be said for cheese. But "reality is like cheese" sounds less poignant somehow, and if I used it in a sentence, I would lose my audience immediately, garnering instead the cocked heads and confused looks of, say, your dog when you tell him "Company is coming over and I want you to be on your best behavior."

I don't own a dog, but I know they do that.

I was fortunate to have parents that, from the time I was weaned, made me try everything. And if mom cooked it for dinner, you finished your plate, you didn't just "try it." I didn't always appreciate it then, but I do now, because I learned to enjoy so many differing flavors.

Back in 1999 I met my parents in the beautiful artsy town of Carmel by the Sea, midway to San Franscisco from Carlsbad, California. After wandering in and out of galleries all morning and afternoon we finally succumbed to hunger, and popped into a wine and cheese shop. There were so many cheeses to choose from, with names that said nothing of what to expect, and colors and textures that were at once impressive and frightening, so rather than asking for the most popular cheese, I asked what the fellow had that he regarded as the weirdest, smelliest cheese he actually sells.

Without missing a beat, he silently turned and opened the glass-doored refrigerator behind him and brought out a lump of something wrapped in cling-wrap wrapped in butcher paper. When he had freed the grayish, medium-soft cheese from its airlock, he thrust it before my face for a sniff. I recoiled in such an immediate and facially-distorted manner, that without another word, he wrapped it back up and put it back in the cooler. The only thing I could think to ask was, "How could you possibly know when it's time to throw it out?"

Well, we grabbed instead a square of Garlic Jack and a wedge of Jarlsberg, some earthy, aromatic fresh-baked bread and a bottle of white wine and enjoyed it together in the afternoon shade on a beautiful day.

It was one of the most flavorful, memorable meals I can remember ever having.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Red and White Wine

Red and White Wine by David R. Darrow 5-3/8" x 7-1/4" (13.65cm x 18.42cm)
Oil on Canvas SOLD Collection of David P. Best
San Francisco, CA – USA

About This Painting

Life is too short for cheap wine.

I heard that line for the first time from a displaced old country cuss at a company I contracted with back in 1994. Just about everything else about this guy was decidedly unrefined. He didn't like his job, the management or the amount on his paycheck. He had an abrasive personality, the mouth of a seasoned sailor, and a temper-fuse shorter than a bit-off cork.

I don't know how I was in his office long enough for the subject to change to wine, but when he tossed that line into the air, I stopped and inquired as to what made one wine different than another, and just what is "better wine."

You should have seen how instantly I became one of his favorite people in the company for the remaining months of my contract there. And all because I asked him to explain to me his love of wine. Thereafter, he always smiled when I walked in and stood up to shake my hand and greet me. I don't remember seeing him treat anyone else the same way as he treated me after that.

My mom has always reminded me that, biblically, wine is always a symbol of celebration and joy. She's right, you know?

I ended up sitting and talking with that man for over an hour that afternoon, and he went on about the various subtleties, flavors, accents and impressions from a single sip of wine — things of which I had never heard prior. He used words like smoky, musty, oaky, and nose and legs, and finish. The entire conversation occurred without a single sample of wine for demonstration.

But wine never tasted the same after that.

No, I never turned into a wine snob, but I can tell you this, there is a difference between the same wine in a breakfast juice glass versus a fine crystal goblet.

And I am talking about the way it tastes, as well as the way it looks. It is truly a work of art in crystal.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nightclub Morning

Nightclub Morning by David R. Darrow 6" x 6" (15.24cm x 15.24cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas SOLD Collection of Jolie Elman
Glendora, CA – USA

About This Painting

The silence of the sunny Fall morning was stolen only by the bumble buzzing of the gardener trimming the edges of the postage stamp lawn outside Dini's By The Sea. The contrast to what this corner establishment boasts at night was deafeningly bewildering.

This tiny little restaurant and bar — Carlsbad's version of a nightclub — sits directly across from nothing but the blue Pacific on the absolute edge of California. It has been hoppin' every night since I moved to this town — probably longer. It is truly one of the most popular places to go, apparently, for tourists and locals. Every time I have walked by it on an evening walk, there have been merrymakers filling it beyond its walls, spilling out into the cool night air, laughter and music echoing off the nearby apartments and timeshare resorts.

One large resort shares it's balcony patio area with Dini's as the nightclub's roof. I've walked by in the summer several times to see partiers not only spilling out of the insides, but up above, shouting their conversations to friends in the downstairs patio. The whole scene looks like the real party is on the roof. And it just has to attract even more customers. Where else would you see women in bikinis dancing on the roof in the setting sun?

Ah, but on this quiet morning while the previous night's guests sleep in, this lone worker spins fresh-cut sideburns, readying the place for tonight's date with the townspeople.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Morning Paper

Morning Paper by David R. Darrow 6" x 6" (15.24cm x 15.24cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas SOLD Collection of Karen Wrigley
Austin, TX – USA

About This Painting

You can not only feel the change in the weather now that Fall is upon us here in Carlsbad, CA, but you can see it, too.

People go from wearing tank-tops, shorts and sandals to wearing sweatshirts, shorts and sandals. It's that brutal.

And it will probably be like this all winter.

Wednesday morning I walked out to the seawall area along Carlsbad Boulevard at Pine Avenue, where just at the north end there is a fenced-off view spot with concrete benches. I happened upon this elderly local resident enjoying the sunny morning in his light-weather jogging suit, coffee in hand, engrossed in the morning paper.

Newspaper reading, as an activity, has always been a bit of a novelty to me. In the home in which I grew up, my father never read the paper. Nor did my mother. We never had our own papers to donate to the Newspaper Drives at the schools.

To my great surprise, my father, who passed on in 2005, had started reading the paper, I believe, about 10 years ago in his 60's. When I would visit Mom and Dad, it was as out of place for me to see Dad sitting there flipping through the morning paper as it would have been to see him sitting in front of the TV watching Survivor.

Oh, yeah... he started doing that, too.

This old gentleman, on a gorgeous, sunny, Fall morning, was sitting in front of one of the most beautiful and popular views in Carlsbad, yet his eyes were feasting on The Morning Paper.

People just do what they do. Nothing more to it than that.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dressed Up

Dressed Up by David R. Darrow 6" x 6" (15.24cm x 15.24cm)
Oil on Stretched Canvas SOLD Collection of Madeleine Andrén
Norrköping, Östergötland – Sweden

About This Painting

I had my daughter pose for this one as I did with my earlier painting "Old Hat," and had her slowly turning her head in increments as small as a second hand on a clock, dipping her chin and lowering her eyes until I saw this little bit of light on her eyelid, and the light raking across her face to light the shadow side just past her smile.

This pose was chosen mostly for the lighting, and secondarily the coy look.

I often stare at people unintentionally, completely caught up in how the light is revealing the forms of their faces, subtle ins and outs or muscles, bones and skin.

I was looking for this as I posed her, and when I finally saw it, well... I can't explain it, but that is the pose I had to paint.

Her look, too, was perfect... something she adopted and kind of "got into" because of the old fashioned hat and sweater. She settled into this pose quite naturally, and I was once again delighted to paint my daughter.

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