, Salem, MA

January 16, 2014

At the PEM tonight, party like a Parisian

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — It will be Paris in Salem tonight, when Peabody Essex Museum brings the culture and cuisine of the Left Bank to the North Shore.

With paintings by Renoir, Monet and Caillebotte gracing its walls in the exhibit “Impressionists on the Water,” the museum is throwing a party that features everything French.

Visitors can listen to Marine Futin, who lives in Brooklyn but sings in French in the unique style created by artists like Jacques Brel.

“We chose her because of the musical tradition inspired by the Impressionists and cafe culture — singing and music was a big part of that,” said Michelle Moon, assistant director for adult programs. “It’s very sentimental, romantic music that’s languorous and beautiful and creates a relaxing vibe.”

While everyone is relaxing, they may want to sip some absinthe or sample food being prepared in the style of a brasserie.

“A brasserie is a little more elegant than a bistro,” Moon said. “It’s an everyday restaurant with good, hearty comfort food in the French style.”

The menu will include onion soup, mini-nicoise salads and cheese puffs called gougeres, all prepared by Chef Rhiannon Nowak of Hawthorne Hotel.

“She has training in brasserie-style cooking,” Moon said.

The party is called “La Vie Boheme,” and it wouldn’t be bohemian without intellectual conversation, which will be provided by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik.

Gopnik analyzes French life in his books “Paris to the Moon” and “The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food,” and he will give a reading and answer questions in East India Marine Hall.

His appearance is part of the Tannery Lecture Series, a Newburyport-based arts initiative that started in 2009 and has brought writers to several events at Peabody Essex Museum.

“We call it ‘the word on the page meets the art on the wall,’” said Dawne Shand, who co-founded the series with Kirun Kapur.

Gopnik’s writings are an important bridge between American and French culture, she said.

“Adam Gopnik is one of the best American writers who keeps the idea of the American in Paris alive in our imaginations,” Shand said. “He is in many ways a very French writer, and as an essayist he writes about everything.”

The evening will include sketching, which is becoming a regular feature at PEM/PM events, the museum’s series of monthly parties. Modern Millie, a vintage and consignment fashion store in Salem, will provide a model at the event whom visitors can sketch.

“We don’t know what the Modern Millie model will be wearing,” Moon said. “They like to surprise us. They’re wonderful about styling their model in a themed outfit.”

The evening will also include a tour of “Impressionists on the Water” conducted in French by a museum staff member who is a native of Montreal.

“It will be a good chance for people to practice their French,” Moon said.

LA VIE BOHEME What: A celebration of the cafe culture of the French Impressionists When: Thursday, Jan. 16, 6 to 9 p.m. Where: Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem Admission: $10 at the door, members and Salem residents free. Cash bar. Tickets for Adam Gopnik lecture are included in the price of admission and are available at PEM's reservation line at 978-745-9500, ext. 3011. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.