It took until just a couple weeks ago, but it is finally (mostly) super cold in New York (though significantly worse in Michigan last weekend, yikes). Not that I’m saying this is a good thing; winter is easily my least favorite season, except for the fact that I can comfortably use my oven and also make and eat soup all. the. time. I adapted this recipe from David’s stepmom, and the original is an award winner (at the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival many years ago, and still talked about all the time!); this version is vegan, and it was served at last month’s Supper Studio dinner with Brooklyn psych-pop band TEEN.
Brooklyn Americana band Jones Street Station launched an ambitious, philanthropic new venture last month. From now through August 2013, the band’s Perennials project offers a new song each week. Each track is free to stream or download, and listeners are invited to donate to one of 12 charities hand-picked by the band.
“It’s like an artist marathon,” says singer Jonny Hull (pictured left). “Your friend says, ‘Hey, I’m running a marathon for this organization. If you want to support, feel free. You don’t have to.’ It dawned on us: We’re just going to put these songs on our site for free anyway; wouldn’t it be cool if we could drive some awareness and hopefully raise a couple bucks for some charities that we really like?”
Perennials launched Sept. 4 with “For a Lifetime,” a gorgeous tune benefitting Charity Water. Other organizations include the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Musicians on Call, The Trevor Project and Housing Works — check out the full list here.
The guys are embracing technology to get them through this 12-month music marathon of 52 songs. With the band members now dividing their time between New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles, they’re sharing song ideas via the Web using Evernote, Dropbox and Google Hangouts — a process Hull calls, “really fun, and kind of nerdy.”
Splitting the distance also lets the band get their food nerd on. Here are some of Jonny Hull’s recent favorite restaurants, with links to the singer’s own Foodspotting reviews:
Kenosha, Wisconsin: The Brat Stop is amazing and massive. We stopped there after playing this year’s Milwaukee Summerfest. Fried cheese curds and bratwurst and cheddarwurst, people doing karaoke in the back. There are pictures of all the people who have played their stage — everybody from to Jackyl to Styx and Enuff Z’nuff.
Los Angeles/Venice: The Tasting Kitchen, Gjelina. The last time we were in town, Danny Erker (singer, mandolin player) and I did a trip to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. That was amazing. Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles was a fantastic little interlude for us.
Brooklyn: Van Horn Sandwich Shop. It’s down-home, Southern, comfort food that used to be hard to find in New York, and it’s right down the street from us now, which is kind of awesome. They have a fried chicken sandwich that’s insane. I crave it. There’s bluegrass there, too. We play there every once in a while.
There’s a new spot in Carroll Gardens called Battersby. It’s now one of my favorite restaurants in all of New York. It’s one of those places where whatever they’re making on that day, it’s gonna be ridiculous. They have a kale salad that’s really good. The last time I was there, I think I live-tweeted the entire tasting menu.
Blondies loaded with Momofuku chocolate “crumbs,” caramel, and bourbon
I recently participated in my first Tumblr Eat Up, in which a ton of Tumblr-ers are assigned a person somewhere in the country to bake and send treats to. My Eat Up buddy Alexis also lives in New York, and happens to be one of the ladies who started the Eat Up, so I couldn’t bake just any treats and throw in a couple of compost cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar to impress her — I had to do something just a little bit over the top. So I combined three elements from New York foodie staples: Momofuku Milk Bar (chocolate crumbs, which are used in several of their desserts), Baked (caramel and the method used in the Red Hook, Brooklyn, bakery’s famous sweet-and-salty brownies), and a recipe for blondies from the great Smitten Kitchen. I’m pairing them with a few songs from supergroups, since the best ones take great pieces from other projects and combine them into something that’s different, but can sometimes be just as special. These blondies are rich and gooey and possibly one of the most amazing treats to come out of this kitchen.
Wild Flag, “Romance” (from Wild Flag): Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders). Their self-titled debut was my favorite album of 2011 and this is my favorite song from it. Also, this video rules.
Traveling Wilburys, “Handle With Care” (from Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1): Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty. Can you fit more songwriting legends into one album? This is one of those songs that I’d heard all my life but for the longest time didn’t know who wrote it. Glad I got that figured out.
The Dead Weather, “Treat Me Like Your Mother” (from Horehound): Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, solo), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs), Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs). As far as Jack White projects go, The Dead Weather added some fierceness that I think was missing from The Raconteurs, mostly thanks to Alison Mosshart.
The New Pornographers, “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” (from Together): Most notably Carl “A.C.” Newman (Zumpano, solo), Neko Case (solo) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer). Seeing this band live (especially when Case and Bejar are on tour with them, which isn’t all the time) makes me so, so happy.
The Living Sisters, “How Are You Doing?” (from Love to Live): Inara George (the bird and the bee, solo), Eleni Mandell (solo) and Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond). A couple years ago, these three ladies put out out a collection of sweet, harmony-heavy folk songs.
Midtown Dickens are a Durham, North Carolina-based folk group who thrive on a ragtag mix of acoustic instruments and twangy harmonies. (When I saw them in Brooklyn a while back, I had trouble keeping track of who was playing what because they all switched instruments after nearly every song.) They just released Home, their third and most focused record: The vocals and production are more polished, but they keep the charm and playfulness of their earlier work.
The band was in town a couple weeks ago to play a show with Retribution Gospel Choir, and like I did with their Trekky Records labelmates Lost in the Trees a while back, we met up for breakfast before they played a show at Barnard and headed back south.
Over beets and eggs, lox, and a huge baked pancake at Williamsburg’s Roebling Tea Room, I chatted with multi-instrumentalists (and fellow mostly-vegetarians) Kym Register, Catherine Edgerton and Will Hackney about the “food-service mafia,” Will’s uncommon and seriously fascinating taste buds, and the food that reminds them of home.
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.
Lemon blueberry pie with blueberry sauce and whipped cream
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.
Neal 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.)
Last summer when I found my current apartment, one of the biggest perks was that I’d soon be living just around the corner from one of my favorite bars, Pine Box Rock Shop. The name and casket theme alone make it pretty cool — the space used to be a coffin factory — but there’s a lot more to it than that. The counters are lined with concert tickets that come from owners Heather and Jeff Rush and a handful of their friends and family. The seasonal drinks are named after bands and songs (they’re currently serving the Yardbird and the Brown-Eyed Girl). And everything served in the bar is vegan, from the house-made Baileys and bloody mary mix (they’re known for their exhaustive bloody mary menu, which include the Sunday Bloody Sunday, My Bloody Valentine and the Dr. Feelgood), to the empanadas provided by Park Slope’s V Spot restaurant. Not to mention they have a months-old concert and event space in the back and a huge, totally affordable drink selection. So when it came to planning ETB’s first-anniversary party (Oh? You haven’t heard I’m having a party next week?), picking the location was a no-brainer.
I chatted with owners Heather and Jeff Rush — a couple of musicians who moved to New York from Seattle in 2003 — about the challenges of keeping a vegan bar, what inspires their cocktails, and where all those concert tickets come from.
ON THIS SEASON’S MUSIC-THEMED DRINK SPECIALS
Heather: The Yardbird (Kanon organic vodka pickletini with house-made brine, served with a baby Gherkin): Pickletinis have already been a thing, but somebody wanted to try it with our spicy pickle brine so it’s our version with our spicy brine, which actually isn’t even pickle brine, it’s pepper brine. And I’ve been on a British Invasion kick so that’s how it got to be named the Yardbird. The Brown-Eyed Girl (Seagram’s 7 and Cointreau with a splash of apple juice, served on the rocks in a cinnamon/sugar-rimmed glass): It’s a stripped-down version of a Legends cocktail which was developed for Oprah. It’s kind of an homage to my friend who’s in Cuba right now, she’s a big Oprah fan and she’s also a brunette like me so that’s kind of my good-luck wish to her.
ON PINE BOX’S COCKTAIL PHILOSOPHY
Heather: Everybody’s doing super high-end, ’20s-style drinks and I want to do cocktails where a lot of the stuff is not super fussy. They’re fun, they’re fancy, but it’s not so hard that you couldn’t turn around and make this in your own kitchen.
ON THE CHALLENGES OF VEGAN WINE
Heather: The most tricky thing was finding a decent vegan wine. Most are usually refined with bone meal or egg white. We wanted to do vegan and local, and we were able to accomplish that with the white wine. The thing with vegan wineries is that they’re usually very young, so it takes a while for a winery to get its feet under it. So there’s no New York vegan red wine right now that I love — there might be some great ones out there, I just don’t know about them. But we managed to get Cycles Gladiator out of California. I’m hoping somebody actually picks up the gauntlet and does it here. I think most of the wineries out on Long Island are white wines anyway, but I think it’s gonna be a while before a really good New York vegan red wine comes out.
VEGAN BAILEYS? WHAT?
Heather: We use Soy Blenders vanilla soymilk, Absolut vanilla, Kahlua and Frangelico. It probably would be less likely to give you a hangover, and it’s not as creamy as Baileys but I think it mixes better for that reason. Baileys has a cloying sweetness and you could probably drink a little more of ours. It’s almost like a mudslide, and we mix it with root beer or Stoli or white Russians.
ON HOMEMADE PICKLE AND PEPPER BRINE
Heather: Jeff has two big vats, one for the super hot and one for the regular. There are habaneros and ghost peppers, Italian long peppers, dill, rosemary and garlic, and he’ll put two or three cucumbers in just for flavor. Then he slow cooks it for about five hours and lets it cool for two more hours. We’ll go through a gallon of pickle brine in a weekend. It’s crazy.
ON CHOOSING THE BAR’S SOUNDTRACK
Jeff: It’s mostly just music I like, music I download, music I own. I just develop playlists out of it. This is one of our afternoon playlists for more mellow times or [we have others for] more crazy-busy times. I just try to put a new selection on there every week or so, so there’s a ton for the bartenders to choose from.
ON THE BAR’S MOST MEMORABLE CONCERT TICKETS
Heather: We had two people who actually became friends of ours that showed up after a Gwar show, like 10 minutes before I was about to pour the resin over the bar. They were covered in Gwar goo and they proudly handed me their Gwar tickets and that was pretty cool. That and my Bumbershoot performer pass [from when my band played the festival] were pretty special.
ON GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE BAR’S NEW-ISH BACK-ROOM PERFORMANCE SPACE
Jeff: I play some music with some friends of mine and we just started doing it back there recently. It’s been really cool to have the space to do that with. We have to do it during non-business hours, of course, so it’s earlier band practice than I’ve ever had in my life, but we’re all mid-30s now so we’re OK with that.