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FOOD by Sharon
From our 2011 tour of the U.S....
I am going to try to keep this page mostly positive, and
therefore write only about places that actually have good food. We
booked this tour (2011) with the idea of playing at as many venues as
we could where our music would be supporting local foods and local
farms. I am, by all accounts, picky, critical and articulate. So, in an
effort to keep this page upbeat and positive (and lord knows, the world
could use more of that), I’m not going to make a post about
last place where we eat on this trip because “if I
have anything nice to say, I won’t say anything at
all.*” If I do write about you here, feel lucky to
included. If I don’t write about you here, and you know I ate
your establishment, also feel lucky to be excluded.
And so we go down this road., where we eat what others make, where I
have no kitchen, and so will be going increasingly mad with passing
days of not cooking for myself, but ever curious, will be happy to
taste the next thing around the bend.
*quote from my mother, engrained in all of us kids.
There is no way that a restaurant meal can be compared to one that was
made and shared out of generosity. We have had the incredible
fortune on all of our tours to not need hotels, instead staying with
friends or camping. We buy or make our own food, avoiding
overpriced and unhealthy road meals (typical day for us is oats and
coffee on the camp stove, fruits & veggies & nuts, and
& cheese for other meals in the car), but nothing compares to
waking up at a friend’s house and sharing a meal.
surrounded by love. For instance, my little sister and her husband
smoked a salmon for us, and made homemade cream cheese and bread so
that we could have good car food to take with us after we left! So many
friends had coffee and breakfast ready for us after showing up at their
house at some ungodly hour, only to get a few precious moments of
reconnecting, before they send us on our way. We’ve had
Thanksgivings with families and extended families of our own and of
colleagues and friends. To be welcomed, unquestioningly into homes, and
to share the simple, necessary event of a meal is really one of the
highlights of touring for me. I love food, and sometimes I’ll
taste something wonderful at some restaurant, but that satisfies only
one sense. A simple meal, shared with love leaves me full and happy in
indescribable ways. To all of the wonderful people, friends old and
new, who have hosted and fed us along the road, I don’t have
words to thank you. I hope my honest gratitude reaches you in some way,
and that I can pass along your hospitality and graciousness to you or
some other wayfaring stranger.
Day 52, 22
I have the cookbook for this place thanks to Jim and Jillian (who I had
the honor or marrying—to each other; Jillian makes and sells
super cute stitch markers that allow her to stay at home and take care
of her new twins (http://www.etsy.com/shop/weeones)). I have cooked all
sorts of things from this book; black bean chili might be my
most-cooked recipe (and I finally got to taste ‘the real
thing’ and mine is better (IMHO), but theirs is really,
good in its own way). So I was giddy when I walked past this shop en
route to a coop (http://www.dailygroceries.org/) to pick up some
Thanksgiving recipe ingredients. Since we had already eaten dinner, I
held back, and just ordered two desserts to go (we were playing late
that night so we could use a sugar hit). The chocolate cake was so
moist and rich, but it was Key lime pie that took the cake. Yum. THEN,
the following night we were there for dinner with friends. The special
was amazing (pasta, veggies, rich-yummy sauce), and a huge bread slice.
I was stuffed. But I got some fried tofu cubes anyway, because they are
oh-so-good. Dave found it in him to get dessert (which I
Chocolate pumpkin silk pie, and quiet enjoyed. AND they have at least 4
IPAs, which made me extra happy. Oh, and all the prices, totally
reasonable, people friendly, food yummy. Go Grit!
Day 51, 20
255, Athens, GA.
Wanted the burger here to be amazing since this is a meat place
(local—they grow their own) but it was only fine, compared to
hopes. The fries, on the other hand, were really good—just
them, or maybe try something pig related if you go here. I got the same
vibe as Tupelo Honey in Asheville (hipster, place to eat local, but
honestly not that amazing). But they’ve got a great
philosophy about food and they’re trying to get the right
going, so one gold star for that.
Day 48, 17
We got the tip to go here for brunch and little did we know,
the same owner as Al’s bar from the night before. After a fun
re-provisioning grocery trip to the Coop (http://www.goodfoods.coop/)
we met my friend Mike at Stella’s
(http://www.stellaskentuckydeli.com/Home.html) for a birthday
(Mike’s) breaklunch (we littlest birds are not the earliest
birds). Starting, of course with pies, pecan and pumpkin, moving on to
soups of all jours, and quiches, and ending with sandwiches, we left
happy, waddled out, and back to our respective old cars, hitting the
roads in opposite directions for places yet to be known.
Day 47, 16
Bar, Lexington, KY.
Really, a hole-in-the-way dive bar on the other side of town. And for
that they get extra points. For having local, gourmet burgers (all
hand-made to order), and fried corn on the cob (from the bar-tenders
farmlette), a huge stock of Kentucky bourbon (at least 25!), and stage
for music—this place rocks. If I lived in Lexington, I would
at your bar, Al.
46, 15 Nov. Jack of the Wood, Asheville,
This place gets a mention because they had my favourite seasonal beer
(from Chico, CA) ON TAP for me. And they had another IPA that was
reasonable—their own Green man IPA. But to find a little bit
beer goodness, the Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, was cause for a
little celebration of my own. And celebrate I did, with a nice pint of
that wonderous seasonal ale. The food (burgers and parsnip
with fancy IPA ketchup) were fine--standard enough, and local enough
and worth eating, but t’was the ale on tap that made me
Day 46, 15 Nov. Chocolate Lab, Asheville,
Not a place, but a person (really, people) who dips all sorts of things
in chocolate. We stayed at the Klepzig home while in Asheville, and
sampled a few of the many chocolate things that they make at this lab.
My favorite was the chocolate peanut butter ball. Never again will a
Reese’s peanut butter cup suffice. This is real peanut butter
real chocolate—I needn’t say more. If
and you live in Asheville, you can get your fix anytime at YoLo
http://www.yolofroyo.com/, and for non Ashevillians, go online to get
these balls of happiness, if you’re so inclined
(http://www.thechocolatelab.biz). I think they need a little chocolate
lab puppy on the logo to complete the double entendre.
Day 44, 13 Nov. Tupelo
Honey, Asheville, NC. We
didn’t play at this place, but needed breakfast while in
The hype for this place was over-rated, and its bloated reputation
gives you nothing more than a 2 hour wait for a seat on a Sunday
morning. My sweet-potato pancake was fine (Sharon term for, waste of
time, money and calories, never to be repeated unless starving, but by
most other people’s standards was likely
‘great,’ but I’m picky and
that’s why I’m
writing this blog). Biscuits could be better (I’m sure
there’s some perfect biscuit in Asheville lurking just around
corner from this place but I didn’t have time to seek it
Dave ordered (we went here since it’s his Birthday) fried
with gravy and a biscuit and it was (the bite I got) pretty tasty. Goat
cheese grits were also fine. But they do all sorts of things for their
community and source locally when they can so that’s
nice—gold star for that. Tupelo is the slightly over-priced,
hipster place to eat and feel good about it for Asheville, so if
that’s what you’re going for, go for it.
Day 42, 11 Nov. French
Broad Chocolate Lounge, Asheville, NC.
Liquid truffle. A small cup, filled with molten chocolate, thickened
with my infinitely slow pace of consumption on a chilly night, but
amazing, none-the-less. I got the smoked salt and maple liquid truffle.
Since a gift card was part of the included pay, we returned
(T’was near Dave’s Birthday) to get a piece of
Stout Cake and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake (with a delightful
carmelized pecan crust). Both were really incredible, although the
pumpkin slice really ‘took the cake’ overall and
one picky cheesecake eater. Not too thick, not too squishy, not too
wet, not too dry, not too sweet. Well done, FBCL, well done. (Oh, I ate
all the truffles we bought for the road. The box is so cute,
keeping it. I look into it sometimes, wishing the Madagascar truffle,
the salted caramel and the vanilla bourbon confections might
spontaneously re-apper, but to no avail, thus far. Alas…
(Btw—the earl grey truffle was also really good, but talk to
folks at Burdick’s in Walpole, NH—theirs tops the
truffle charts). The owners of FBCL are Dan & Jael
*owners/chocoletiers/parents*, who, by the way are very nice, overly
cute, and have a fun story history, are mixing/pouring some chocolate
bars, and I have one stashed at an undisclosed location in the Honda
for when the only two possible outcomes for the day are hurting Dave or
eating too much chocolate. Dave hopes that I can recall where this
chocolate is located, unlike my memory on where we last packed all the
Sharpies or the spare tube of toothpaste.
Day 41, 10
A place the donates 1% of sales to the local domestic violence
non-profit, and works hard to source from local farms gets at least a
shout out. The food was good—sandwich (had to make it twice
me, since I didn’t want mustard or mayo) when I final bit in,
a nice flavor combo (Turkey, Apple, bacon, Brie), side of a pile of
sautéed veggies, and a good brew to match. They made me nice
Toddies all night long and then brewed us up a fresh pot of coffee for
1-3am drive from Boone to Asheville. Nice folks.
Day 39, 8 Nov, The
Tomato Head. Knoxville, TN. I
don’t really recall the main dish (It was an Oh Boy sandwich
me and special quesadilla of the day for Dave) as being anything to
write home about, and perhaps it’s because I started with
first (always a good choice). Lemon cupcake. So, so good. Main dishes
and beer, on an outside patio on a sunny, Indian summer
afternoon--fine. Dessert—worth stopping in to get, to sit out
the sun, slowly peeling off the wrapper of the cupcake, and savoring
the lemony taste of summer in the slanting rays of the Autumn
Day 37, 6 Nov. Café Kronic,
Creole Shrimp & grits. Nuf’ said. When you can walk
unpretentious place (in a strip mall –so low expectations set
right off) and can be wowed with a local, fresh, but distinctly
southern menu, and further pleased when the flavor hits the mouth, you
get noted in this blog. There are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and
hormone-free-grass-fed-happy meat options, locally sourced bakery items
and if you’ve gotta get it to go, toss your cup in the
bin since it’s biodegradable.
Day 33, 2
Buffalo, NY 2nd night.
Aside from having a real stage, and super nice people, this place is a
little lotus in downtown Buffalo. All sorts of vegan, gluten-free,
vegetarian as well as food that includes all manner of meat, gluten and
dairy. We played here two nights. The first night I wasn’t
hungry, and went with the Wheatberry salad—a really nice
good flavor etc etc etc. The second night, knowing how good the menu
had looked, I came properly hungry and got the curry noodle pot
(thai-type flavors and coconut in base), and Dave got the Morrocan
tempeh pie (sweet potato crust, sauted chard, cranberry cardomon
gastrique). Both had a nice balance of flavor, but I was more smitten
with the Morrocan dish than the noodles. Try it. Go downtown and get
something besides Buffalo wings at Anchor (the original place, and we
did this, to some degree of culinary discomfort). Ah—and they
have good beers on tap. And they’re good people, doing good
things. If you need more reasons to try Merge, you need help. Good bye.
Day 29, 29 Oct. Skinny
Pancake, Burlington, VT. One
word. Poutine. They crepes, as always, were great, and creative. I
branched out and got a cake (stack of many crepes with goodies in
between –think crepe lasagna) but it was poutine that brought
back to early college years, skiing at Jay and eating so many fries
with cheese, with gravy and I’m shocked that I still have a
beating heart. Thank you French Candians for this comfort food, and
thank you Skinny Pancake for making it right & local.
27, 27 Oct. Claire’s, Hardwich, VT. Wow!~
I was impressed in every way with this little hole-in-the-mountain
town. They take local food to a higher level and make it taste that
much better. If I lived here, I don’t think I would eat
else. I got a few “small plates” and loved every
yellow eye bean falafel was incredible. The soup that night was Turnip,
leek, fennel, apple with pumpkin seed & sorrel pistou (fancy
for puree/sauciness swirled all pretty on top) and some crispy fried
bits of leek scattered on the top. Darn good soup. I’ve got
try to make this one day. That good. If one was to only want a salad
you would not be left wanting. The spinach, roasted squash, fennel, red
onion, shaved fennel, pears, spiced walnuts (would prefer pecans, for
the record), and a maple balsamic. Not a pansy salad. Great harmony of
flavors. Claire’s, local ingredients, open to the
Oh—and they had a local (Abner, Imperial) IPA (Hill
Farmstead) on that was really tasty. Yummy night. And as we were
packing up and getting loaded out, they showed me all the veggies that
the owner had canned over the summer, so that all winter long, they can
add little tastes of the summer to the menu. What a treat.
Day 23, 23 Oct Coop, Hanover, NH. The
kind of shopping I like to do on any sort of regular basis is grocery
shopping and this is one of my favorite places to shop. The emphasis on
local and organic food is strong but since it’s a non-profit
Co-op (I was member here for years) the prices don’t kill
great selection of cheese, bulk food and regular store brand (surefine)
food means there is something to please everyone from the high-end
Dartmouth cocktail party planner, to the high-school kid movie night
mother. Enjoyed getting some provisions for a few days of eating on the
road and camping out.
Day 21, 21
Club. Hanover, NH. I didn’t order
much here, but I did sneak just a few fries off of Dave’s
and they were good. Interestingly, they sat atop a pile of mussels that
were in a good broth (Ok, I tasted a mussel, too), and had some odd
white cream sauce splashed across the fries, an aoli of some sort.
Thankfully we got ½ price food (seems like it should have
free since we were playing but that’s another rant) because I
would say that the plates were otherwise overpriced. You’re
paying for a name/atmosphere, but the food was good, and somewhat local
when possible. I have (in the past) had a chocolate mousse here that
was worth eating.
Day 19, Oct
Hanover, NH. I am the most picky fried food
eater, but I do like some things fried (which is why you’ll
me talking about French fries here and there). I eat about 4 doughnuts
a year. I taste about 30. I take one bite and determine if
worth eating, and if not, wasteful as I know it is in every way, I toss
it (or pawn it off on Dave to eat). Too many such things leave a grainy
feel in the mouth and taste that doesn’t go away, or the
part is just all wrong (heavy, bready, cake-like, oily, dry
A cruller is not a doughnut, but it’s similar. It’s
twisted confection of fried bread and a simple glaze. Lou’s
it right. I get one here every year and then sit facing the Dartmouth
green and watch people (a lot of them this day since it was Homecoming)
scurry to and fro, while sipping coffee and enjoying this treat.
Perfect texture, raised dough (never cake), light glaze-not like icing
or all crusty.
Day 18, Oct 18, Dartmouth Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.
We stayed for 2
nights at the lodge. They feed weary travelers good, honest food,
family style and with as many local (they grow some of it right at the
lodge) items as possible. The most memorable bite of food was in the
bag lunch they packed for a day hike. The apple was ‘the best
apple I have ever tasted*. The local honeycrisp was indeed
crispy, sweet, but not sickly so, and of a most delicate flavor and
unbelievable juiciness. We both enjoyed them, and then spent the rest
of our time in New England trying to find that variety in orchards. We
found 3 (apples) in one orchard near Cabot, VT where we also ate a lot
of cheese. Apples and cheddar do pair so nicely. *Dave’s words
Day 16, Oct
16. Montpelier, VT. Skinny Pancake. The
crepes at this
restaurant are both filling, really tasty and made from local food.
There is plenty here for the vegetarian and the meat-eater alike. Dave
and I both had crepes with meat—mine had chicken and his had
turkey. His was like thanksgiving in a crepe, and mine was a more
traditional mix of chicken, greens and cheese. Both were very good and
made me happy. I enjoyed the foodshed map on the wall, with a picture
of each ingredient and/or farm all around the main map, and a string
going to the location of each on the foodshed. Even with poor eyesight,
you can tell that nearly everything comes from very nearby. A nice
place to eat, yummy fries (yes, an on-the-road-comfort-breakdown for
us), good beers, and a nice people.
Day 7, Oct 7. Denver CO. Cholan.
If you’ve been there you know
that 1) this place needs no recommendation and 2) I’m so full
can hardly talk. But for those who have not yet experienced Cholan, let
me try to describe it. Imagine an overall Asian flavor, add the
tenderlovinggoodness (fat=flavor) of a French Chef, make the atmosphere
upscale, yet attainable, and sprinkle with good wines.
your evening at Cholan. Small plates of appetizers come first, and you
wonder if it’s one of those over-priced dinners that leaves
grabbing an Its-it when you get home. Fear not, the salads come, then
the large plates, then the side dishes, and then desserts. You are
full; you take the rest home to be savored as Sunday brunch.
included a PDF of the menu from that night (a wedding rehearsal dinner)
so you get an idea of what you can have. Even your crazy uncle from the
plains can order something hearty, made of beef. And that waif person
in you party, who is afraid of fat (pity the one) will be happy with
the amazing salads. As for me, I’ll take it all, eat the last
doughnut on the plate that nobody wants to grab, lick the drips of
salted peanut ice cream off the napkin and sip my coffee, while I drift
happily into a food coma. Seriously. I eat a lot of food. I travel to
eat food. I cook to eat food. I grow my own food to get just the food I
want. I am one damn picky person. I love Cholan and this is the best
food I can recall eating in many years. Way to rip it up in downtown
Denver. Colorado—not just for the cows anymore.
Day 6, October 6, Denver CO. Mercury
Café. A strange corner, in
a part of town that makes me want to not leave my car unattended all
night. Vines cover the walls of what appears to be an abandoned,
two-story warehouse. But upon further inspection, you see that the old
brick walls are covered with paintings, plants in the planters and
around the picnic tables outside are intentional, and sounds and smells
of food preparation waft from the back alley. From the menu “
this exploration of food, art, politics and community that surround
food began on the ides of march 1975 in Indian Hills, CO. After several
incarnations in Denver, we settled here in the center of town in 1990,
opening on Halloween.” Marilyn (owner) has for 35 years stood
her moto “Organic food is your birthright’ and her
proves it. This place is heaven for veggie/vegan folks and for the
meat-eaters, your elk, grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken and fish are all
from right here, humane harvested. My veggie &
breaded tofu marinara (gluten-free linguini) was excellent. Our shared
bread basket (spelt maybe?) with fresh butter, side salad w/
vinaigrette, and Dave’s Italian lentil/veggie soup, all good.
local organic beers (IPAs only, of course) were just up from Asher
Brewing in Boulder. I can’t comment on the meat—we
didn’t eat it, but the food was solid, not
out-of-this-world-amazing, but solid and yummy. The upstairs of the
warehouse was thumping with the Lindy Hop dance class (she has this
building filled with local community events). The room where we played
was first converted a movie theatre for a showing of “Taking
Root.” Talking with people in the room for the movie, and
dancing upstairs, this place it THE place in Denver for local community
and activism. Based on the 7 events for the evening that were listed on
the blackboard, I believe it!
Ed sanders poem (long live the rebel café).
Day 4, Oct
4th. Ore House, Durango, Co.
This place gets a few points in my book because they get local
grass-fed beef. I think (we don’t pay for meals, thankfully)
prices are a little high & you have to order sides separately.
got a steak last year when we came through, and it was the first beef I
had eaten in years, that was worth eating. Mark (“the daley
show”) was the barkeep last years, and was especially kind
entertaining. I tend to not like beef. This year, I wanted something
lighter, so I went with salmon—very good. I
over-the-top amazing, but if you want a nice place to go, where you can
eat some honest food, this is a great spot in Durango—they do
meat just right, and it was happy meat before it was dead.
A Taco Truck Encounter...
Bird Food Day
1, October 1, Olancha CA. Sage Flat Music festival (aka SFMF).
On and off wind and sun all day, unfounded threats of rain, and a sea
of happy people in the valley overlooking Little Lake. When the wind
came the direction of the stage, where Dave and I were sitting, running
sound, the smells of the yummiest taco truck made time until lunch pass
ever so slowly. Omar and Omar, of Paulina’s Catering (www.paulinasfoodcatering.com
out of LA) make some killer beef, pork, chicken or veggie options,
goodie-add-ons of onions, cheese, orange & verde salsas,
guacamole and a side salad of jicama, pomegranate and salted lime juice
& of course real tortilla chips. Viva la Taco truck! If you
need super good food at the your next event, call these guys, genuinely
nice folks, and great food. Efficiently fed everyone at the festival,
and then gave us all the leftovers before they left (which we turned
into a killer bean dip for dinner/breakfast). Day one = happy belly.