Painting and Cocktails in Manchester

Get creative - with the help of a few cocktails

Author Courtney Hoppe at Muse Paintbar in Manchester.

Now that I’ve been writing this column for two years it’s time for me to revisit some of the locations I’ve been to and check out what I missed. The first in this series is Manchester, which I last covered in June 2012. Previously I visited Cotton Restaurant for dinner, Boynton’s Taproom for the dueling piano show and Planet Marshmallow for dessert. Sadly, two out of three of these have closed, Cotton being the location still standing. Filling the void is a crop of bakeries and pastry shops, most of which are only open during the day.

One of the other upstarts is Muse Paintbar located a couple doors down from the Palace Theatre on picturesque Hanover Street. The concept of Muse is very trendy right now — you sign up for a session and learn to paint the featured painting while imbibing beer and wine. Drinking and painting — isn’t that how the masters do it? But first, nourishment.

With a 7 p.m. session looming, we headed over to Firefly American Bistro & Bar on the early side but still got the two last seats at the bar. Although Firefly is known for their martinis, we were feeling festive and decided to toast the start of a fabulous evening with a bottle of bubbly. We started with the fried goat cheese and spinach salad, then I ordered the scallops (but subbed risotto for rice, a wise move on my part) and my boyfriend ordered a burger with their hand-cut chips. The food was delicious and the atmosphere, with Firefly’s brick walls and dark wood, was even better.

Although I was already in a good mood, I was immediately struck by brightness and color upon entering Muse and found myself lifted even further. Having signed up for our session beforehand, which is highly recommended since most sessions sell out, my boyfriend and I found the easels labeled with our names and grabbed smocks from the back wall. Our easels were staged with a blank canvas, a set of five paintbrushes, each with a different color handle, a can of water and a palette of paint.

Our instructor began by explaining our tools, the layout of the room (including reminding us of the ever-important bar) and ordering us to have fun. Then she guided us through a series of simple strokes, layering color over color. Since we were doing a couples painting, we were instructed how to paint two separate pictures that would join together as one painting; in this case, a wine bottle (him) pouring into a wine glass (me). The instructor kept reminding us to step back before making any tweaks, and boy, was she right. I added two stupid splash marks to my glass that I will regret as long as I live. But at least my boyfriend and I will always remember the good time we had. And the manicure I ruined.

Conveniently located a block from Muse is the famed Hanover Street Chophouse, a perfect spot for thirsty artists to grab a cocktail while enjoying some live piano music. A few hours had passed since we’d eaten so we found ourselves craving dessert. Although the entire menu was drool-worthy, we opted for the crème brûlée, which was served in an oval baking dish with berries and a sprig of mint as garnish. When I squinted, I could swear the crème brûlée resembled a painter’s palette.



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