French toast

Citrus French Toast with Brandied Peaches (Inspired by Kathleen Edwards)

French toast

THE DISH
French toast inspired by the flavors in a sidecar cocktail

THE INSPIRATION
Kathleen Edwards’s album Voyageur has held up as one of my favorites this year — I was introduced to and fell in love with her music last fall, and this particular collection of songs came at just the right time. She wrote it while going through a divorce with a former bandmate and then falling in love again not long after (with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who co-produced the record with her). I first heard Voyageur near the end of one relationship, and the songs continued to sink in as I got over that one and found myself in a new one that took off faster than I could have ever anticipated (there’s nothing wrong with that, but it definitely took me by surprise).

The song “Sidecar” is about the excitement of starting a journey with a new partner — going on adventures, learning about their favorite places, and taking on new challenges. Apologies for being a total mush, but now it’s more than half a year into this journey and I am filled with more love than I ever knew was possible. There’s a line in the song that goes, “Sit up, sit up, sit up, I went and made you/ Breakfast in bed, coffee and juice” — so I made breakfast for my “sidecar” on his birthday last Friday, inspired by the flavors in a sidecar cocktail. (I would have made him a cake, but 1) we were traveling and it would’ve been tough to transport and 2) how would I have been able to compete with this?)

The drink uses brandy (traditionally cognac), orange liquer and lemon juice, so there’s lemon in the French toast filling, orange in the batter, and brandy and more orange in the topping. (It wasn’t actually served in bed.)

P.S. Listen to Kathleen Edwards. Her first album Failer is a good place to start.

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Granola bars

Chewy Granola Bars + 10 Bands to See at Coachella

Granola bars

THE DISH
Better-than-store-bought chewy granola bars (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Coachella weekend one (of two) starts Friday, and while I’m not going (totally can’t handle the camping-festival thing…plus that tiny detail that it’s on the other side of the country from me), I thought those of you who are might want an easy-to-make treat for the road, breakfast during the weekend, whatever. These granola bars are simple and filling — great for kickstarting a long day without regularly timed meals (if you’re anything like me at a festival). And you might even be able to make them with stuff you already have stocked in your pantry.

10 BANDS TO SEE AT COACHELLA

M83: M83’s epic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was one of my favorite albums last year, and I have no doubts that its huge sound would have no problem reaching a massive crowd in the dessert. [Recipe: Funfetti frog cupcakes]

Jeff Mangum: Who could’ve expected that in 2012 Jeff Mangum would be playing Coachella? I’d be a little skeptical about how a performance from the former Netural Milk Hotel frontman would translate to a huge, outdoor festival, but after seeing his breathtaking show at New York’s Town Hall back in October, it actually makes sense. He sang out, encouraged the crowd to sing along, and genuinely looked like he was having a great time. [Recipe: Peanut noodles with edamame, carrots and flowers, inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel]

Bon Iver: The last (and only) time I saw Bon Iver was in July 2008 at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and to hear this band at festivals back then would have been really weird/probably wouldn’t have really worked. Obviously things have changed a bit since then, and I regret not seeing the louder, fuller version of this band last year. [Recipe: Butternut squash pancakes with maple goat cheese spread and candied walnuts]

First Aid Kit: Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg make folk songs with simple instrumentation and gorgeous harmonies. Their record that came out this year, The Lion’s Roar, is lovely. [Featured in beer + music pairings: Fall 2011]

Laura Marling: British singer/songwriter Laura Marling has been a favorite of mine for a few years now — since her first record Alas, I Cannot Swim, written when she was 16, she’s continuously developing her voice, both in terms of her maturing songwriting and the way she sings. The ’70s-leaning songs from last year’s A Creature I Don’t Know, will be refreshing. [Featured in beer + music pairings: Winter 2012]

St. Vincent: Annie Clark’s sound has taken quite a journey since her 2007 debut Marry Me, and her shows have too — though what’s remained constant has been her velvety alto and her status as one of the finest guitarists in recent memory. On stage she gets lost in her guitar, which I’m sure will be especially intense during some of the harder-edged songs from last year’s Strange Mercy.

Tune-Yards: What haven’t I already said about Tune-Yards? Merrill Garbus is powerful enough on last year’s w h o k i l l, but even if you’re not totally into her albums, her live show is a whole ‘nother animal, as Garbus uses looping pedals to build up ukulele riffs, drum beats and abrasive, abstract vocals. [Recipe: Berry-banana muffins + body issues]

Sleeper Agent: Sleeper Agent are a group of sugar-high pop-punk kids from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and their debut album Celabrasion is a total blast.

We Are Augustines: We Are Augustines’ 2011 debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships comes from a dark place (it was inspired by frontman Billy McCarthy’s younger brother James, who struggled with mental illness before taking his own life; which their mother had done years before), but like on the album, the Brooklyn band turns it into an empowering story about passion and strength. [Recipe: Blackberry/peach/ginger popsicles]

Wild Flag: Wild Flag is made up of former Sleater-Kinney bandmates Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (the Minders) and I wrote about why I love them so much here. They pretty much melted my face off when I saw them live last fall. [Recipe: Whiskey chocolate balls inspired by Sleater-Kinney]

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Butternut Squash Pancakes and Maple-Goat Cheese Sauce with Pearl and the Beard (Inspired by Bon Iver)

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 Pearl and the Beard, performing Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” (get the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here are the butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce I made with the band. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Spiced butternut squash pancakes with maple-goat cheese sauce and candied walnuts (recipe + tons of photos here)

THE INSPIRATION
Within five minutes of Pearl and the Beard (Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles) entering my apartment, I felt like they were old friends. All three of them are bundles of smiles and energy, and they came prepared to make delicious cocktails, which always gets points in my book. I first heard of the band through Dave of Backyard Brunch Sessions and was instantly won over by their simple but creative instrumentation and strong harmonies that often lean more toward cabaret than Americana (though there’s plenty of that, too).

When I asked them to do an installment of BB Songs, they decided to cover Bon Iver’s “Re: Stacks” from his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago (listen to their gorgeous version of the song here), and they wanted to make “stacks” of pancakes served with goat cheese sauce. From there, I decided on rich butternut squash pancakes and a spread made with goat cheese, maple syrup and yogurt. We topped our stacks with candied walnuts for an extra bit of sweetness — except for Jeremy, who is allergic but still insisted on flirting with danger and stirring them over the stove. Bon Iver’s music, especially For Emma, is a perfect match for the cold — and while we ate these pancakes for dinner, they’d be incredible as a comforting Sunday-morning brunch while holed up in a cabin in the dead of winter. The pancakes are filling, and the sauce — which we spread in between each layer — turns it into a pretty decadent meal. They’re still pretty healthy, though: The sauce is made with goat cheese, maple syrup and Greek yogurt, so there’s plenty of protein and not too much fat. And the butternut squash has got to count for something, right?

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ETB’s Favorite Music of 2011

I have mixed feelings about end-of-the-year lists: I enjoy reading them, mostly because I’m curious about what records friends and other critics enjoyed throughout the year, and I love that they help me catch up on music I missed or didn’t spend enough time with (because I obviously have listened to every single record that was released in 2011…).

What I have a hard time with is the argument of who made the “best” record. That’s not to say I refuse to participate in the list-making at work — I certainly suggested certain albums should be higher or lower on our list — but it can get a little ridiculous. When I make my own year-end list, it’s just my personal favorites: I don’t mean it to say that one album is definitively better than another in terms of music, lyrics, whatever, or that my picks are better than everything else that came out during the year, but this was the music I connected with, what I listened to the most and what had the biggest effect on me.

Also, because I do use other people’s lists to catch up on what I’ve missed, that means there might be music that came out this year that I’m just now starting to fall in love with (see: Kurt Vile). And if we’re talking about my favorite musical discoveries of the year, there are quite a few artists whose music I heard for the first time in 2011, but they haven’t released anything recently (Patty Griffin, everything Mark Kozelek, Kathleen Edwards — the latter has already made one of my favorites of 2012). And if you ask me in a few months what my favorite 2011 records were, my response might be a little different than the following list. But for now, these were my favorites; my top 10 are in an order that could easy change over and over again, and then a bunch of others I loved listed alphabetically.

ALSO: Here is a mix of 27 songs I really liked this year — from many of these bands — for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy!

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