March 23rd, 2010 5:33 pm | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, Schools

P:ear Blossoms through Apartment Benefit Dinners

p:ear music salon dinner

[This dispatch is written by WW freelancers Kimberly Lilly and Jay Horton]

“At the end of last year's winter holidays our organization ran out of money,” says Pippa Arend, program director and co founder of p:ear. Now, she explains, this is something which always happens after the gift giving season, but p:ear—a local charity geared towards helping Portland's homeless youths through educational and artistic mentoring—was hit particularly hard as youth needs went up and resources went down. "We began to brainstorm, to think about what we had to offer," Arend says. "Which turned out to be community, love of food, and a house with a kitchen.”

So, for the past few months the nonprofit has been holding a series of "salon dinners" with live music in Arend's apartment. The next one in the series, which may continue through the summer, takes place Saturday, March 27 with classy Italian vittles from Big Ass Sandwiches' Lisa and Brian Wood (scroll down for details). WW had a chance to attend a previous p:ear salon dinner cooked up by Alex Neeley of local blog Cooking For Assholes in early March.

Though p:ear leaves the housing and clothing of homeless youth to larger charitable organizations, the nonprofit fills an important niche here in Portland: providing less fortunate youths with opportunities for exploring their own creative talents, providing them with something to distract idle hands and idle minds as well as expand their horizons in ways that otherwise would likely be impossible.

A "house with a kitchen," as Arend put it, certainly understates the quiet magnificence of her abode, an apartment that takes up the entire top floor of one of Northwest 23rd Avenue's grandest old homes. Honey-colored wood floors meet golden-hued walls that are interspersed with striking works of art, and the sparsely arranged furniture adds a whimsical flair.

Almost as a nod to the celebration of life and arts that p:ear has bestowed on so many, traditional table settings were replaced with party hats and snazzily colored streamers during the salon dinner. The vivid stripes and spots echoed the night's excitement. After some milling by the fire (the plasma-televised fire, that is) and mingling with guests—ranging from out of town professionals eager to make friends to fitfully employed friends of p:ear—who'd share the evening and support the cause, the musical portion of the night commenced. Wester Daywick, an acoustic combo featuring frontman Louis Panush and p:ear Media Director Trent Finlay, played a set of Celtic-tinged blues led by the heaven-blessed falsetto of Panush. It was a perfect match for the casually impeccable dinner to come.

The table was devoted to Southern barbecue: ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, chili stewed with various locally sourced veggies and bayou hot sauce; sweet, moist corn bread muffins enlivened by slivers of jalapeño; and a salad of mixed spring greens, pears, Gorgonzola cheese with a fresh vinaigrette. And for dessert, a delectably soft and creamy cheesecake drizzled with raspberry sauce.

Despite the flamboyancy of party wear and festive favors, the homey fare was, in consideration of the work that P:ear strives to do, a welcome choice. There is nothing less considerate than a benefit held for the homeless that features lobster and Dom Perignon. One that serves a bevy of backyard barbecue with Portland-crafted microbrews was ideal, elegance without ostentation.

According to Pippa, these nights of live music and great food will be a relatively common occurrence in the quest to support P:ear, “We'd like to spread this virally. The whole thing started with just a 10 person pizza party!” A notable exception will come up on May 22, when the nonprofit hosts its giant P:ear Blossoms performance benefit ( guests at that bash will have the chance to bid on seats for a more hoity-toity dinner in June). Other salon dinner events are taking shape later this summer.

Many would-be supporters of P:ear might be dubious at the idea of charitable events that are so seemingly pedestrian and low-key. However, the ambiance, the music, the meal and the delightful company of other P:ear supporters made for an incredible evening. Any person who has a chance to enjoy so many different experiences in the span of one evening shouldn't hesitate to do so: their stomach, taste buds and moral fiber will most assuredly be thankful.

—By Jay Horton and Kimberly Lilly

GO: P:ear's next salon benefit, "Lisa and Brian Wood's Rustic Italian Dinner" takes place 5:30-9 pm Saturday, March 27. Dessert by Cupcake Jones. Wine from A to Z Wineworks and a live acoustic set by Holcombe Waller. Proceeds go to fund P:ear's Capital Campaign to purchase a building and achieve stability in P:ear's effort to help homeless and transitional youth. $100, limited to 20 people. RSVP to

Another benefit dinner with wood-fired pizza from Via Tribunali and wine from Barefoot Winery is tentativley scheduled for Saturday, April 17.

Image: A photo from p:ear's benefit with Alex Neeley of Cooking for Assholes.

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