Funfetti frog cupcakes

Funfetti Frog Cupcakes (Inspired by M83)

THE DISH
Funfetti cupcakes with water, grass and frogs

THE INSPIRATION
M83‘s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was, not surprisingly, one of my favorite albums last year. In part it sort of fills the void LCD Soundsystem left when they broke up — not so much in the sound itself, but in the huge, euphoric feeling I get when I listen to them. While I love the big hits on that album, the song that’s the most memorable to me is “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” (which translates to “Tell me a story”) — it’s a little kid (a girl, I think) telling the story of a magic frog that, if you touch it, distorts your senses and eventually turns you into a frog, too. She says, “We can be a whole group of friends, a whole group of frogs” and at the end, “The biggest group of friends the world has ever seen, jumping and laughing forever. It would be great, right?” There’s also a line about how the world looks like “a giant cupcake.” The song makes me think of my group of friends, who I’ve mentioned many, many times here, but I think of how even though we’re “adults,” some of our best times involve ridiculous giggle fits and acting like kids, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

I made these cupcakes to take to a party to celebrate a few friends who recently started new jobs (pretty badass new jobs, I should add) — in terms of “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” I thought they were appropriate for a group of friends who can act like 10-year-olds and do great things professionally. Also, the whole album is about a brother and sister and their dreams, and my friends are taking new steps in following their own dreams and goals, and making some pretty damn-good progress for mid-20somethings. In the song “Steve McQueen,” Anthony Gonzalez sings, “There’s a magic inside/ Just waiting to burst out” and “Nothing can hurt today”; and perhaps the most fitting, in “New Map” he sings, “There’s a hole in your heart, begging for adventure/ Play yourself a new track, set traps for the future.” Lastly, the rainbow colors and purple swirls on the inside are both for the way the magic frog changes your perception, and also for the album’s cover.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/1_m1jbijsf/uiconf_id/6501231

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Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce + songs for new beginnings

THE DISH
Vietnamese-style spring rolls with peanut sauce (recipe here)

THE SONGS
New York has been feeling like spring, well, throughout most of where winter normally would have been. But this week we finally had the first real day of spring, and to celebrate the beginning of a new season, I made these spring rolls — tasty, refreshing, and uh, springy. Make a few and go eat them in a park (that’s what I did the evening of the spring solstice, and it was lovely). And, since spring is a time for starting over — a new season, new life outside, spring cleaning, etc. — below are a few songs/albums about new beginnings.

Bowerbirds, “Tuck the Darkness In”
The Clearing is a fitting name for Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s third LP as Bowerbirds: A clearing is a clean slate to start over again, and these songs came out of Beth battling an extreme illness, the couple breaking up and getting back together, rescuing a stray dog, and beginning to build a cabin together in the woods. [Recipe: Acorn squash soup, inspired by Bowerbirds]

Edwyn Collins, “Losing Sleep”
On the title track of Edwyn Collins‘s 2011 album, the former Orange Juice frontman sings, “I must believe, I must retrieve/ The things I know, the things I trust.” In 2005, a brain hemorrhage left him at the beginning of a long road to recovery. That he regained the ability not only to speak and walk again but to make an entire new album (and he also finished one he’d started before the hospitalization) is astounding.

We Are Augustines, “Book of James”
We Are Augustines are made up of former members of the band Pela; that band was dissolving, frontman Billy McCarthy’s brother James committed suicide, and We Are Augustines rose from their ashes. This song from their debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, is a tribute to James, with McCarthy singing, “Just know we tried/ You’re forgiven.” [Recipe: Peach-blackberry-ginger popsicles, inspired by We Are Augustines]

Kathleen Edwards, “Sidecar”
Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards‘s recent album Voyageur is, in part, a post-divorce recovery. But the end of that brought on the beginning of a new relationship, this time with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who helped produce the record. Voyageur was also sort of a musical rebirth for Edwards, who traded a bit of her older (and amazing) music’s Americana twang for a little more pop polish. This is a perfect song about a new romance — sharing each other’s favorite places, eating breakfast in bed, getting over monsters from the past and “chasing down the hard stuff” as we go.

Mikal Cronin, “Apathy”
Graduating from college is a monumental time to snap into start-over mode, and that in-between is what fueled California garage-rocker Mikal Cronin‘s 2011 self-titled album. In “Apathy,” he sings about being older and “getting along with my future.”

Great Lake Swimmers, “New Wild Everywhere”
On the title track from Great Lake Swimmers‘ upcoming album, Tony Dekker sings about new life outside: plants rooting, “blooming sounds,” and the sky exploding. Also, this band will always make me think of new beginnings, thanks to my cousin and his wife, who played their song “Your Rocky Spine” at their wedding last summer.

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Lost in the Trees

Breakfast at Veselka with Lost in the Trees

Lost in the Trees

Lost in the Trees are an orchestral-folk band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who found a big place in my heart a couple years ago. Their first big release, All Alone in an Empty House, came out in 2010 on Anti- Records (I wrote about it here and here), and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful. That album’s follow-up is out today; it’s called A Church That Fits Our Needs and in some ways it follows the torn-family narrative frontman Ari Picker started with Empty House, this time addressing his mother’s 2009 suicide. The subject matter is dark, as is some of the music that accompanies it — but like the last one, it’s just as much about the suffering as the recovery.

Because Lost in the Trees’ music is so emotional and ultimately about hope and healing, last fall I made a sweet potato corn chowder inspired by their music; comforting because soup has magic healing powers, and sweet potatoes and corn for their southern roots. It’s easily one of my favorite dishes I’ve made — for this blog or otherwise. Someone in the band posted the soup on the band’s Facebook page and said they were going to try it out — and when I met them last month, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Emma Nadeau said she’s made it several times, at least a couple of which have fallen on band-practice days (“so now they think I make it every day,” she told me).

Lost in the TreesThe band was in town last month for a week of press and a few shows, culminating in a run-through of the entire new album at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, and thanks to what started as a Twitter back-and-forth about New York restaurants, I met up with them at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, just before they headed back south for a short break before a five-and-a-half-week tour. We went to Veselka, the famed East Village Ukranian diner, where we drank copious amounts of coffee, chowed down on potato pancakes and crepes, and chatted about some food stuff. [All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo. It’s quite obvious that we were all extremely awake.]

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Lemon blueberry pie

Lemon Blueberry Pie and Blueberry Sauce with Hilly Eye

Lemon blueberry pie

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Hilly Eye, performing a brand-new track, “Robbie’s Song” (download the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here’s the lemon blueberry pie and blueberry sauce I made with the band. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Lemon blueberry pie with blueberry sauce and whipped cream

THE INSPIRATIONHilly Eye
When I asked Hilly Eye’s Amy Klein (who you might recognize as the former guitarist/violinist for New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus) what kind of food she wanted to make for BB Songs, she mentioned that a fan had mentioned “Hilly Eye berry pie” on the band’s Facebook page, and neither of us had made pie before, so we decided to go for it. She said the song she and bandmate Catherine Tung would be recording had a lot of triumphant guitar details; triumphant made me think of winning, which made me think of blue ribbons and therefore blueberries. Hilly Eye’s music has elements of sweetness in the vocal melodies (especially in their new track “Robbie’s Song”), but they also make a lot of noise and distortion, hence the strong, sour flavor of lemon that dominates the taste of the pie. Also, can I just say that this pie is amazing?! It tastes more or less like a lemon bar, but with graham cracker crust instead of shortbread. Top it with blueberry sauce and whipped cream, and you’re good to go.

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Maimonide of Brooklyn

Q&A: Maimonide of Brooklyn’s Neal Harden

Maimonide of BrooklynNeal Harden is the executive head chef at Maimonide of Brooklyn, a freshly-opened artistic, friendly and unpretentious vegan restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. A veteran of the city’s top vegetarian restaurants (including Pure Food & Wine), Harden brings a healthy respect for cooking tradition and a love of the wide-open possibilities of punk rock to the restaurant’s offerings of sandwiches, comfort food and epic vegan brunch. He’s also a musician and we met as teenagers in the small punk scene of Portland, Maine. We talked over house-made kale chips, chickpea flour-breaded mushroom nuggets and a Mediterranean open-faced sandwich called a “MOB,” seated at a family-style table in the dining room, which is decorated with experimental objets d’art, cooking magazines and comic books. (And speaking of comic books, the restaurant has one to explain its background, viewable here via Grub Street.)

Maimonide of Brooklyn
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S’mores Honeycomb Treats (Inspired by Mountain Man)

THE DISH
S’mores honeycomb treats

THE INSPIRATION
There is no man in the band Mountain Man; it’s actually a trio of three ladies — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath — who sing gorgeous, hushed, often-a cappella harmonies; songs about loons and honeybees and buffalo and chickadees. Go ahead, get lost in these videos of them. It’s also worth noting that they recently did a bunch of shows with Feist… Their music sorta feels like sitting around a campfire by a lake, and honeycomb fits it well because this old-fashioned treat is just as light, airy and sweet as their voices; and it’s also known as seafoam, appropriate for an album called Made the Harbor whose cover is a photo of something making a splash in the water. So, just like there’s no man in Mountain Man, there’s no honey in these honeycomb treats — and while the honeycomb itself tastes like burnt marshmallows, there are no marshmallows involved, either. Anyway, dip the honeycomb in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs, and you’ve got a s’more, perfect for listening to Mountain Man and pretending you’re by a campfire on the water.

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