Drinking Tunes: Summer Beer + Music

It’s summer! Which, for me, means free outdoor shows, the Brooklyn Flea, biking, watermelon lemonade, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, outdoor markets, and drinking on rooftops. It also means crafting the perfect playlist for those rooftop outings; and I’m pretty sure there are more songs I associate with summer than any other season.

I wrote a few words about five songs, new and old, that are perfect for the sun and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and MSN.com (he also has a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music and the mood, and explained why they work together. Cheers! (Also check out our spring beer edition.)

THE SONG: PJ Harvey, “You Said Something”
All of PJ Harvey’s 2000 album Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea makes me want to walk aimlessly around New York in the summer, but “You Said Something” pretty much sums up what I plan to be doing all season in the city — not so much the “you said something” part, but looking at the Manhattan skyline from my Brooklyn rooftop. Don’t even try to get me to go anywhere else on the 4th of July.
THE BEER: Sixpoint Tallboys (Sixpoint Craft Ales, Brooklyn, NY)
Not to take anything away from the next four pairings, but come summer, really all I want to do is listen to music and drink canned beer on a Brooklyn roof somewhere. Enter Sixpoint tallboys! Previously all-draft, Sixpoint’s May announcement that they’d started canning was big news for Brooklyn beer drinkers — the consistently great taste of one of the borough’s best breweries combined with the casual allure of cans. Plus aluminum is far more appropriate than glass in precarious rooftop situations [Especially ones, like mine, that involve climbing a ladder. — Laura]. Sixpoint is now distributing four of their beers in 16-ounce cans — Sweet Action, Righteous Ale, The Crisp and Bengali Tiger IPA — all of which are on the lighter side and ideal for summer.

THE SONG: The Breeders, “Cannonball”
A lyric from this song inspired the name of the album it’s on, The Breeders’ 1993 LP Last Splash. Even though the video follows around an actual cannonball (erm, likely a bowling ball in disguise), the energy and the underwater singing/whistling will always make me think of bratty kids doing cannonballs into a public pool, splashing everyone around them.
THE BEER: My Antonia (Dogfish Head, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware)
Agreed: “Cannonball” reminds me of the reckless side of summer, as does Dogfish Head’s bold take on a Pilsner. It’s bigger and brasher than the traditional Czech and German originals: more sweetness, more hoppiness, and — at 7.5% ABV — more alcohol. It’s all fun-loving bluster like the track’s prominent, awesomely-’90s bass line.

THE SONG: Yellow Ostrich, “WHALE”
Yellow Ostrich — aka guitarist/vocalist Alex Schaaf, multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper — make music that’s bright and breezy; especially this track from their LP The Mistress (which was self-released online, then put out exclusively through eMusic Selects, and soon it’ll see a proper release through Barsuk). Schaaf uses vocal and guitar loops to tell a story about swimming “far into the blue” with a whale, and he has other animal-inspired tracks that are equally whimsical.
THE BEER: Field Mouse’s Farewell (Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, Cambridge, Mass.)
Yellow Ostrich builds complexity from simple components. Low-key vocal loops and minimalist percussion merge into an awesomely catchy summer trance; Pretty Things’ equally approachable yet intricately-crafted Field Mouse’s Farewell is the perfect pairing. This refreshing, rustic ale is brewed with rye, oats, wheat and barley and should please even casual beer drinkers — but beer geeks will appreciate the perfectly balanced spice, lemony tartness and touch of fruity banana. And like a song about swimming with a whale, the folks at Pretty Things don’t take themselves too seriously — the label features a field mouse hitting the road with an over-the-shoulder satchel, hobo style.

THE SONG: Architecture in Helsinki, “Escapee”
On their recent LP Moment Bends, Architecture in Helsinki shed some of their super-twee roots in favor of pure dance-pop — and it’s a great fit. “Escapee” is perfect for a summer party, with lyrics about looking at constellations on a rooftop, getting out the dark, and escaping.
THE BEER: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany)
Hefeweizens — a German beer variety brewed with wheat in addition to barley — tend to be light, refreshing and nice and dry. Hence, they’re perfect for warm weather. Like AiH’s high-energy, bubbly dance pop, this classic take on the style is effervescent and bright with hints of banana and clove. Just don’t try to pronounce it.

THE SONG: Wild Nothing, “Summer Holiday”
“Summer Holiday,” from Wild Nothing’s excellent 2010 debut Gemini, is a reverb-soaked love song about vacationing to a lover’s parents’ house and having to sleep in their brother’s bedroom, during which frontman Jack Tatum sings, “Won’t you sneak into my room and climb under the covers, talk nonsense in your sleep?”
THE BEER: Sorachi Ace (Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY)
Virginia college music isn’t all Dave Matthews jammery: Wild Nothing founder and Virginia Tech alum Jack Tatum’s songwriting brings to mind Morrissey and doesn’t include a single 10-minute electric violin solo. It’s sophisticated and moody yet approachable and Sorachi Ace is a great match. This beer is seriously amazing — one of Brooklyn Brewery’s best. It’s super dry, spicy and complex with an earthy edge and a summery burst of intense carbonation.


DIY Business Association Conference + Red Pepper Hummus and Beet Dip

Alternately titled The Little Food Processor That Could OR No One Girl Should Make All That Hummus
(skip to recipes at bottom)

I’m starting this post shortly after taking a way-too-expensive car ride home from the first (but definitely not last) DIY Business Association Conference in DUMBO, and I am glowing because WHOA, I am full of inspiration from a day of panels and chatting with friends, past and present colleagues, and new acquaintances who are all working on amazing creative projects.

In my running around all day, I failed to take photos; I’m sure other people’s will surface soon…

The DIYBA was started this year by Amy Schroeder, a close friend who began as my mentor; she founded the now-defunct women’s music and culture mag Venus Zine when she was a student at Michigan State (also my alma mater, though we’re 10 years apart). When I was in college, Amy took me on as an intern and soon after hired me as an editor, and it’s because of that experience — and the constant support from her and the other colleagues, mentors and friends I met because of it — that I truly believed I could make a living writing about music in New York. Just four years later I was able to make it a reality. Anyway, Amy put on an incredible conference (I helped out most of the day and with the help of Stefanie of The Petite Soiree and a kickass volunteer team, it was like clockwork) and every single person left with something new.

“Ideas need to have sex with each other”
Most of the conference focused on collaboration — Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge talked about seeking out people in communities outside your niche who share the way you think; Molly Neuman, who I work with at eMusic, talked about how Ted Leo (who she manages) has started collaborating with comedians to reach new audiences; bassist Gregory Jackson, who’s played with countless reggae, soul and R&B artists, talked about getting gigs that combine music and art. The conference today was a clearing for new ideas and inspiration, and I know there will be some cool projects related to this blog that came out of today. (Jessica H. Lawrence talked about ideas needing to “have sex with each other” and it’s true.)

Among the people I met today: Journalists Niema Jordan and Annie Reuter, who wrote concert reviews for me at VZ back in the day but I’d never met them in person; Shondes drummer Temim Fruchter; comedic songwriter Jessica Delfino; BUST Magazine designer Erin Wengrovious; Brian Merchant from the Utopianist; photographer (and fellow former State Newser) Eleanor Templeton; Patrice Fehlen at September Gurl PR and quite a few others. I definitely have some cooking and wine-drinking dates and collaborative ETB posts ahead of me.

Journalist Niema Jordan (of Essence magazine and others) and Temim Fruchter of the Shondes

So, speaking of food (of course), the other notable part of the day is that I offered to make snacks for the drinks and mingling hour at the end of the event; which was about 150 or so people … which I had never done before. Considering the logistics — I had to make it a day ahead of time and it had to sit in a fridge or at room temperature all day — I decided on roasted red pepper hummus and beet/goat cheese dip, with pita, carrots and cucumbers, and a huge fruit salad. I also have no perception of how much food should be made for that many people, and I spent Saturday hovering over my tiny, tiny food processor, making my weight in hummus. (I don’t even wanna talk about it. The morals of my story are 1) I need a bigger food processor, and 2) I should never make that much hummus again.) And before the conference I chopped up two watermelons, four cantaloupes and combined them with six cartons of strawberries and about four pounds of grapes. WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.

In my frantic planning and errand-running and food-making, I completely freaked out. I thought, “I’m representing my food blog and this food is totally nothing fancy and people are going to think I’m super lame” … and then I realized it actually doesn’t matter. At all. What I do on ETB is not fancy. OK, I guess sometimes it can get a bit elaborate — but it’s usually not, and that’s a lot of what this site is about. I’m a home cook, not a business. I’m not trying to sell you anything; I just love to make food and share it with people. And reminding myself of that made it totally fine that I was making two dips and fruit salad. And then at the end of the evening when people said they liked my hummus, I realized how silly I was for thinking people would judge me in the first place. It was a great learning experience. And since I made WAY too much of everything, I pushed hummus-filled Greek yogurt containers onto other volunteers and conference-goers, and I can only hope they eat it.

Anyway! If you tasted these at the conference or they just sound good to you anyway, recipes are below. Both are very simple, though I recommend using a large food processor if you plan to make more than a few batches.

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Follow These Foodies: Liz and Zeph Courtney from Snap Food Truck and Brooklyn Band Diehard

Liz and Zeph Courtney are the guitarist/vocalist and drummer, respectively, of Brooklyn rock outfit Diehard (download a free track from their upcoming LP here), and now the recently hitched couple has another creative endeavor: a bio-fueled food truck called Snap, through which they’ll sell Chicago-style hot dogs, along with burgers and fries. The truck itself still needs a bit of work, but they made their official dog-vending debut at the Bell House in Gowanus just a couple weeks ago, and they hope to be hitting the streets by next year. Avocado fries with chipotle aoili? Yes, please!

Liz and Zeph chatted about the B-52s, Liz’s lack of microwave skills, and the tunes you’ll be hearing from the truck when it’s out on the road (it won’t be Frank Zappa).

Diehard on Facebook
Home Sweet Homewrecker

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Spiked Orange-Chocolate-Oatmeal Bars (Inspired by Modest Mouse)


“I drove around for hours, I drove around for days/ I drove around for months and years and never went no place” — Modest Mouse’s “Interstate 8,” from the Interstate 8 EP

Orange oatmeal bars with nuts, chocolate chips and vodka-soaked raisins (recipe here)

Modest Mouse’s music was made to be blasted in a car with the windows down. It can be spastic, a perfect soundtrack for reckless driving or speeding on the freeway, but it’s also a perfect companion for a cathartic solo drive late at night. Especially in their first two albums, 1996’s This Is A Long Drive For Someone with Nothing to Think About and 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, frontman Isaac Brock drops plenty of references to escaping, sitting in parking lots, and driving — although in many cases it leads nowhere.


“Out of gas/ Out of road/ Out of car/ I don’t know how I’m going to go and/ I had a drink the other day/ Opinions were like kittens/ I was giving them away” — “Out of Gas,” from The Lonesome Crowded West

I first heard of Modest Mouse when I was away at camp and my friend Jason mentioned in a letter that he and his friends were driving to Ohio from Michigan for one of their shows. I think it was that same summer, when I was 15 and in driver’s ed, and there were at least a couple times that he dropped me off at class. It was right after he had gotten his license, and I remember him accidentally turning the wrong way onto a one-way street… It was good times. It was the following school year that I first actually heard Modest Mouse; Jason performed the song “Bankrupt on Selling” at our talent show (it’s still probably my favorite MM song), and I immediately downloaded everything I could get my hands on. Isaac Brock’s lyrics, especially earlier in their career, are rough and dark, about destruction, sometimes substance abuse and as mentioned earlier, a lot of going in circles and getting nowhere. Maybe it’s not a surprise that my friend had connected so closely with Brock’s songs; Jason took his life a few years ago, and even though we had drifted apart a few years before, this band will always make me think of him. He would’ve been 25 today; kind of a weird coincidence because I’d already had this post planned for this day … but I guess life is funny like that sometimes.

Anyway, about the food, which isn’t all that deep: Between references to being on the road and drinking/general self-destruction, I wanted to make a roadtrip-ready snack with booze in it — that obviously does not involved drinking and driving, in any way. The heat takes out some of the alcohol but leaves a little bit of the taste, although to be honest, I’m not sure if I can actually taste the alcohol or if it’s just the orange flavor. Either way, it works and these are good.

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Cheesy Spinach Bake, and a Dad Rock playlist from my dad

Cheesy spinach bake (recipe here)

My dad bought me my first guitar — a tiny, tiny acoustic — when I was about 8 years old. It’s a shame I didn’t learn to play one until a few years later, but he’s the one who made me want to start (he’s been playing since he was 17, and he might kill me if I tell you his age now, so let’s just say it’s been 40+ years). While my mom got me into piano lessons, I think my rock ‘n’ roll tendencies started with my dad. I can remember plenty of trips to various guitar stores in the Metro Detroit area, where I accompanied him as he gradually tweaked and added to his collection (I think he’s got about eight guitars now?).

He took me to get my first real guitar — a “midnight wine”-colored Fender stratocaster, which I bought in eighth grade with bat mitzvah money — and the bass guitar and acoustics that came in the years later, and found me a guitar teacher, a hippie-ish dude who was usually late and told me I would like the Violent Femmes. My dad has always been supportive of my musical endeavors (including the less cool ones, like taking my sister and me to see 98 Degrees at the Michigan State Fair), and much more importantly, he’s always supportive of everything I do. The night before I moved to New York, his toast to my roommate and me was, “To Laura and Mike, and New York: Balls to the wall!” He’s the most supportive, generous, hilarious and genuine person I know, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. So thank you, Dad, for being the best. Happy Father’s Day!

This dish is in no way related to guitars, etc., but it’s one of my favorites my dad makes — because, yes, I was blessed with two kitchen-savvy parents. I should also note that my dad is the king of kitchen gadgets (every time I go home there’s some new and weird toy for me to tease him about), and it’s probably a good thing that the spacial restrictions of New York living prevent me from keeping up with him. The best part of this dish is I actually got to make it with my pops, since I was back in Michigan last weekend for my brother’s high school graduation.

When I think of my dad in relation to music, I think of the Eagles (“Take It Easy” is probably the most-played song on his guitars), The Lovin’ Spoonful (their greatest-hits album got a lot of airtime in his car when I was growing up) and Fleetwood Mac (we went to see them together a couple years ago!). But I left this list up to him, so here you go! It is Dad Rock to the core, and I love him for it. (Obviously I couldn’t use the real version of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.”)


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Basil-Mint Watermelon Lemonade (Inspired by Beach Fossils)


Watermelon lemonade with lime, mint and basil (recipe here)

When it’s as hot as it is in New York this week (in the 80s and 90s, aka I AM MELTING IN MY APARTMENT AS I WRITE THIS), the only thing I can think about is watermelon. And now, I can assure you, the only thing I will ever think about during times like this is this drink. It’s inspired by the Brooklyn band Beach Fossils, whose music is equally fit for this weather; they’ve recently become my start-of-summer soundtrack. Their music is breezy and drenched in reverb, and while the songs have plenty of pep and energy, they never seem to be in too much of a hurry, which is exactly how I like to be in the summer. In their song “Lazy Day,” from last year’s self-titled debut, frontman Dustin Payseur sings, “Lazy today, lazy tonight and later on/ All we had to do was nothing at all, under the sun.” Sounds about right to me. Their recent record, What A Pleasure, isn’t as explicitly about the laziness of summer, but still has the same feeling. What a pleasure, indeed.
Beach Fossils on MySpace

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Egg and Smoked Salmon Sandwich (Inspired by Ida Maria)

“I eat boys like you for breakfast/ Where’s my salt and pepper now?/ Oregano, basil and thyme/ And my Tapatio” — “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” from Ida Maria’s album Katla


Frittata and smoked salmon sandwich with hot sauce (Recipe here)

Norwegian rock singer Ida Maria’s songs are typically about drinking booze, being heartbroken, kicking ass, and getting it on. Her first album, Fortress Round My Heart (home to the song “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”), soundtracked my summer between college and moving to New York, so a couple months ago my mind was blown when I learned she had already released LP No. 2, Katla, in Norway late last year, and I didn’t already know about it. It’s finally out in the U.S. tomorrow (June 7) and it’s fantastic.


I teamed up with Missy and Mariel, the lovely ladies of What We Wore To Work Today (who are just as sassy as Ms. Maria) to make a dish based on her song “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” in which Ida shuns a dude for pissing off her dog, insulting her mother, groping her sister and crapping on her father (!!). We made a frittata served on a sandwich with smoked salmon (a nod to her Norwegian roots) and a side of potatoes, and it uses all the foods she mentions in the song: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, oregano, basil, thyme and hot sauce. It’s also linked to Katla‘s super-fun and sorta-raunchy first single, “Cherry Red,” with the cherry tomatoes and Mariel’s lipstick in the photo.
Ida Maria on MySpace

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Herb-Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits (Inspired by Simon & Garfunkel)


Cheddar buttermilk biscuits with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (Recipe here)

This one’s pretty straightforward: biscuits with the namesake of Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. The name comes from the song “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” which combined Paul Simon’s lyrics with lyrics from a traditional U.K. ballad.

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