Category Archives: Food and Wine

Break an Egg + Shufflin’ wit da Chefs

At some point in the mid-’80s, my rock stars went from cutting records to cutting onions. I was star chef-struck and proud of it. My sister lived in New York City, so instead of theater tickets, we’d plan and save in order to lunch at one of the top-rated restaurants. First was La Côte Basque, followed by the original Bouley, and then La Grenouille, where I had a coq au vin that near ’bout made me cry outloud. While living in London and attending culinary school,  (yeah, yeah, yeah, I can already hear you commenting on the irony of a cooking school in England) several of my classmates and I pinched enough pence to eat at Aubergine, newly opened by the temperamental Gordon Ramsey, yet unknown outside of London. The food was exquisite, but the screaming from the kitchen all but ruined the experience.

Chefs were just on the verge of becoming celebrities, and my list of memorable meals and chef meetings is long and satisfying. My first real high-profile face-to-face encounter with a chef was at the Fancy Food Show in Chicago in 2001 at a seminar by Charlie Trotter. I waited two hours in line to talk to him and get a book signed. I never got to eat there before they closed and sadly, Trotter died on Nov. 5 at age 54. At another food show in NYC, I finagled my way into the bathroom line behind Sara Moulton. Damn near dogged Rick Bayless until he knew my name.  I was a mostly rambling mess while Anthony Bourdain signed Kitchen Confidential, until we started talking about The Ramones and agreed that any day you woke up and Keith Richards was still alive was a good day. Lesson learned after I nursed a rather pitiful years-long crush on David Rosengarten imagining “if he only knew me ….” and “if I could only have dinner with …” then when I got to spend an entire day with him, which included taking him to Allen & Sons (lunch) and Lantern (dinner),  could barely put one intelligent word in front of the other.  Picking up the dinner check, I realized that I was signing off on my “if only” fantasy and went into brief mourning as the perfect crush melted faster than chocolate in a hot car.

It almost goes without saying at this point: the food scene in Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh is becoming legendary. That’s evidenced not just by our own extraordinary rock star chef talent in the Triangle, but by the growing handful of high-profile chefs and restaurant owners who now stop here on book tours or to give cooking lessons where once we were in the flyover zone between Atlanta and NYC. I actually felt heat rise when I heard about these upcoming book signings and chef appearances.

LionelVatinetIf you’re unfamiliar with La Farm Bakery in Cary, well, shame on you. Lionel Vatinet is a master, and La Farm products are available at all area Whole Foods. Get thee toward a croissant.

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JohnBesh

New Orleans Chef John Besh, owner of nine restaurants, has won so many awards it’s hard to keep track of them, from being named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 1999 to claiming the 2006 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. Besh is all over Food Network, competing on Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters, and even appearing in a season one episode of HBO’s Treme.

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JohnCurrenceCity Grocery owner and chef John Currence, while maybe less well-known except among rabid foodies, actually began his food career as a student at UNC, washing dishes at Crook’s Corner when the man in charge was Bill Neal. He returned to New Orleans, working for the Brennan family of restaurants before opening City Grocery in Oxford, Miss., in 1992. Also multi-award winning (2009 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the South, e.g.), Currency is contributing editor for Garden and Gun.

A Passion for Bread with Lionel Vatinet
Mon. Nov. 18, 7pm, Free
The Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham
919-286-2700 | http://www.regulatorbookshop.com

Cooking from the Heart with John Besh
Mon. Nov. 18, 6:30-8:30pm, $59
Sur La Table at The Streets at Southpoint, Durham
919-248-4705 | http://www.surlatable.com

Cooks & Books Lunch Reception with John Currence, Author of Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey
Sun. Nov. 24, 3pm, $85 (includes autographed book)
The Fearrington Granery, Pittsboro
919-542-2121 | http://www.fearrington.com
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ShuffleShufflin’ wit da Chefs

Mississippi, You’re on My Mind (Jerry Jeff Walker/Jesse Winchester)
Congo Square (Sonny Landreth/Mel Melton)
Mr. Bojangles (Jerry Jeff Walker)
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Edith Piaf)
It Don’t Matter to Me (Bread)

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muscleshoalsJust in case you were wondering, and I know you are … I plan on spending the weekend watching the next 3 episodes of Treme and the documentary Muscle Shoals. Maybe even the new Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me if it arrives. I predict happiness.  Not just because it’s my birthday, but because I’m going to do exactly what I want. Nothing more, nothing less.

Pleasure + Island + seafood + blues = Gregg Allman

19th Annual Pleasure Island Seafood & Blues Festival
October is one of my favorite times at the beach.  Hell, any time of the year is my favorite if the ocean is involved. But fall is just a little more special. The air crackles. The sea reclaims itself after the throngs of tourists have gone home, and yes, the water might even be a little deeper blue.  That’s never more true every year than during the second weekend in October when the beach throws one of the best parties on the coast.  For nineteen years, the residents of the strand known as Pleasure Island, home to Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and historic Fort Fisher, have quietly built stages, set up booths to house a handful of local well-known seafood vendors, and invited some of the cream of the blues crop to come on down and play at the Pleasure Island Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival right there on the banks of the Cape Fear River. And then they turn around and invite us to come on down too!  The Saturday night headliner this year is Greg Allman.

I was a reluctant first timer in 2010 when Leon Russell was the Saturday night big name artist. Been there, done that with festivals. I like little intimate venues where it feels like I’m yay-far from the stage and feeling up-close-and-personal with who I’ve come to see. Yes, I’m one of those … I want to see the sweat on the brow and the crazy faces the guys in the band make.  It turned out to feel like someone’s ginormous backyard party (albiet a really big, cool backyard that has a view of the Cape Fear),  and we were not all that many lawn chairs away from stage left. But wait. Two days of nearly non-stop music? More stages? Smaller ones, scattered around the park … one for blues, one for jazz … one of which was so close to the Cape Fear River you could almost party on the boats gathered off-shore. Local food vendors were filling bowls and baskets with seafood chowder, fried shrimp, and other goodies that were right out of the sea only days ago.

I even ran into a healthy handful of friends from Chapel Hill and Carrboro who begged me not to give away the secret. A tattooed, pony-tailed man from New Jersey who had perfected the slow rock that usually only true Southerners can claim, went lazily back and forth next to me in a big old rocking chair and told me he’d been riding his Harley down since Johnny and Edgar Winter headlined in 2008. He, like those before him, wanted it to remain a well-kept secret. 2009 featured Delbert McClinton, and 2011 brought in Jimmy Vaughn. It’s not just about the headliner. Opening for Allman is the Jaimoe Jasssz Band. Die hard fans will recognize Jaimoe as the legendary drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band.  You can also catch the Polar Bear Blues Band featuring Harvey Dalton Arnold (bass player and former member of The Outlaws), Damon Fowler, and a handful of some of North Carolina’s own homegrown blues artists.  My pop-up chair is already in the car.

19th Annual Pleasure Island Seafood & Blues Festival
presenting Gregg Allman
Oct. 13 & 14, 2012
FortFisher Military Recreation Area
Kure Beach, NC
910-458-8434
Gates Open 11:00
Two-Day Ticket in Advance – $40
Saturday Only – $50
Sunday Only –  $15
Children 12 and under Free

Follow the Pleasure Island Seafood Blues and Jazz Festival on Facebook.
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Little Feat + noise makers + plus music to conga by, with and to


Little Feat at the Cradle
 

Wowie zowie, what a show! It was a night full of signs and magic and meant-to-be’s.  Finney and I were running late and I wasn’t looking forward to driving all over Carrboro looking for parking. But we drove through the lot just in case and there was a spot right in front of the door, almost as if it had been waiting for us all night. 8:30 and the place was packed to the gills with expectant Feat fans as we elbowed our way toward the front to find a good vantage point. As we leaned against a wall stage right, a woman turned to me and offered us their seats when they decided to move closer to the stage. It only got better from there. Even down to the surprise when Craig Fuller (former Pure Prairie League founder and one-time member of Little Feat) joined them on stage for a goose-bumpy “Amie” and then stuck around for a 10 minute version of “Dixie Chicken” … which is a perfect segue right into my last column in The WEEKLY:

If you’ll be my Dixie Chicken …
by Deborah P. Miller

I’m confessing right here and now that I have my own personal rock anthem.  No, not exactly written for me, though if truth be told, I have inspired a song or two. I’ve actually had several anthems, each a punctuating high note for my life at the time.  My first was Brown Eyed Girl (still applicable today), followed by Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild, then The Stones Sweet Virginia, and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But, at the top of the list, pretty much since it came out in 1973, is Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken.  I can’t explain why except to say that the song moves me to get up and move. 
Little Feat always felt indefinable. Were they rock? Were they blues? Were they New Orleans funk? How about all the above. They sure can boogie and their energy level on stage is always on the upper range of smokin’.  They are the one band that’s as good live, if not better, than they are on album. No surprise, considering the serious pedigree of the band, various members of which came together by way of Frank Zappa’s Mother’s of Invention. 
Back in 1978 when I was living in Atlanta and working for the Warner Bros. Artist Development Director, he got sent in one direction and asked me to go the other direction for a few shows with Little Feat, who were touring in support of Waiting for Columbus. To say I was excited would be an understatement, but to discover that I’d actually be working with them in my own hometown of Chapel Hill was just a really fine bowl of sausage milk gravy. They stayed at the old Holiday Inn on the Boulevard, played Carmichael Auditorium, and when they asked if I could set up a golf game for them, I turned them over to my Dad, who took them out to Finley Golf Course, and even played 18 holes with them.  I ultimately received a gold album for my insignificant role in that tour.  Maybe it IS the little things.
I was just as excited recently for the opportunity to talk with Paul Barrere, guitarist/slide player/lead and background vocalist for Little Feat prior to their upcoming August 4th show at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.
When I mentioned that former Chapel Hill visit to Paul, his memory pulled up one nugget.  “Wasn’t that the basketball arena?” he asked.  When I confirmed that it was, he said “I just remember that Dean Smith wasn’t pleased that we were playing on his court. Even though they covered it, he was still worried about the floor.”
Once he and I got past all the reminiscing, the so and so says “hey,” and I’m a friend of “what’s his name,” we got down to the business of talking about what’s new with Little Feat.
Rooster Rag, their 16th album, and the first with new material in almost 7 years, just gets more enjoyable with each listen. I was hooked from the first track, a jumpin’, jivin’Candyman Blues, an old Mississippi John Hurt classic.
Paul was as eager to talk about Little Feat and Rooster Rag as I was and our phone conversation was peppered with lots of teasing and laughter.  Does it get any better than this?
We got cowbell!
Finney happened upon Just Drums one day in his travels around his own neighborhood in South Richmond and he couldn’t wait to take me there.  Lordy, Lordy … it was better than shoe shopping. Too easily said by someone who primarily slips her “I’ve Got The Blues For Red” painted toesies into flip flops every day even in the winter, right?
When was the last time you tested tambourines?  Once the 2 row, 2 metal (brass and stainless steel) version hit my hands, it was all over.  Dual sounds … dry & bright … with more sustain.  I like staying power :)
You probably already know that about me though.
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The conga’s stare at me every day.  Sometimes they just taunt. My hands are sore. But I am determined.  I’m told that the way to learn the hand positions is to do 10 minutes of each on each hand.  I may never leave my living room again. Hell, as bad as my hands hurt, I might not be able to manipulate the door knob.  My knife skills in the kitchen are minimal at best for the time being as I pray to get past the initial knuckle shock.
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Music to conga by:
Evil Ways (Santana)
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking or Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
Udu Chant (Mickey Hart)

Hot + hot + hot + hot music

Uh-oh … shame on me … I forgot all about you.   Well, not really, but I’ve been what you might call a little distracted. Who knew that falling in love would both give clarity and focus to some things and turn right around and take it away from others?  Apparently I’d forgotten about all the fall out when you fall in.  Even Remy is feeling slighted.  Please to forgive!

And, oh yeah … Dear October, Hurry up and get here already.  It’s just too hot for comfort.
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The day the Tycoon’s came to stay

The conga drums came to live on my street. In my living room. They promptly made themselves at home.

My neighbors have not complained yet, which I’m taking as a good sign that I can continue my thrumming and thumping to my hearts content.

Now I just need to find a good teacher.

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Define busy.  Some days  I’m not sure there are enough hours to go along with all the things I honestly intend to do.

Crossed off the list since May 23, the last time I was here =  a treasured evening with two dear friends at Magnolia Grill before they closed + ten days at Sunset Beach with the wacky Williams cousins + a book reading by Robert Goolrick (one of my favorite authors) at Flyleaf Books + Stray Dogs Howlin’ jammin’ at The Blue Note Grill + Johnny Winter at The ArtsCenter + a biker bar adventure in Richmond + Bro’ T. Holla at The ArtsCenter + SideDish interviews with Mel Melton & Joe Taylor (Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse), Mickey Maloney & Marshall Smith (Glasshalfull), Jimmy Crippen (Fire in the Triangle), Susanna Reich (Minette’s Feast), and Dick Barrows (Kitchen) + The WEEKLY interviews with Rod Argent (The Zombies & Argent) and Paul Barrere (Little Feat) + make that two biker bar adventures in Richmond = me worn out just typing all that.
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Rod Argent / The Zombies

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy?
I fell for the British invasion hard. Like a rock. I couldn’t get enough and couldn’t spend my allowance fast enough on 45’s at The Record Bar on Henderson Street in Chapel Hill.

The Animals. The Yardbirds. Them. The Kinks. The Zombies. I first saw The Zombies in the cult classic film Bunny Lake is Missing (1965). Filmed in black and white AND in widescreen, it was gritty film noir at its most psychologically thrilling. There’s a scene in a London pub, all of about 1 minute long, where The Zombies are playing Just Out of Reach in the background. I walked out of the Varsity Theater and went straight to The Record Bar. Time of the Season and House of the Rising Sun were two of the first songs I loaded on my IPOD. I still crank them up a little louder when they shuffle past and am instantly transported back in time.

Breathe In/Breathe Out, released in 2011, is just a beautiful collaboration musically and vocally. No, these are not the raw, spare Zombies songs of the 60’s that made dramatic use of today’s equivalent of “white space” … pauses full of meaning and longing followed by the almost religious chording from a Hammond B3. Instead it’s like a giant warm hug from an old friend. The musical talent is still superb; the vocals fluid and touching. In an era where too many of my favorite singers on this side of sixty have started to deliver barely recognizable vocals, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent still have it. A Moment in Time and I Do Believe are my favorites …but then I have a weakness for soaring piano. Each listen I hear something new and wonderful.

Given the chance to interview one of the original members, keyboard player Rod Argent (also front man for Argent 1968-1976), made me giddy like a little school girl. He was open, amusing, and charming, and it took little to send him off in various directions with a true story about this or that. Whether it was the visit the band made to Graceland to find Elvis, working with Director Otto Preminger on Bunny Lake is Missing, or the 2008 live London performance of their classic Odessey & Oracle when it was performed in it’s entirety for the very first time.
CLICK TO READ THE ENTIRE Q&A WITH ROD ARGENT
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More to come. SunJam 2012 is this weekend and I’ve got resting up to do.

Angklung + Mickey Hart + Trampled by Turtles + Catch/Wilmington + Angklung

There’s an Angklung in my backseat.
And it’s been back there for about a week. Yes, I put it there.  But we’ll come back to that.
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Mickey Hart/Cat's CradleCat’s Cradle.  Early & late … all at the same time.

4/17/12.  Mickey Hart at Cat’s Cradle was an all-encompassing visceral experience. There was so much “bottom” in that room that my bar stool was vibrating. Sexy as all hell and back.  To be sure, I’m not a Deadhead, but Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum is just one of my favorite percussion albums.  So I was in it for the boom-boom pow.  There were Deadheads out in force. Whirling dervishes in tie-dyed  tees spinning out in worship … gigantic blow up “planets” swaying gently from the ceiling … and the punctuation mark … an old friend next to me who leans over to yell in my ear that he wishes he’d waited an hour to drop that blotter acid since the band didn’t start until nearly 9 instead of 8.  It was that kind of night.

Listen to Not Fade Away (Mickey Hart & Band)


Megafaun at Cat’s Cradle

4/19/12.  Megafaun & Drive By Truckers.  I’m a Megafaun fan from way back.  Well, at least since 2009, about a year after they got together. Banjo and harmonies done thoughtfully and right.  Wikipedia describes them as an American psyche-folk band from Durham, NC.  Pssst … I liked them better than DBT, if truth be told, because the Truckers were so loud I had to go buy ear plugs.  That’s something I never thought I’d see myself type.

Listen to The Longest Day (Megafaun.)

Trampled by Turtles

4/23/12William Elliott Whitmore & Trampled By Turtles.  Trampled by Turtles, an indie-bluegrass-folk band, from Duluth blew in and took the Cradle with it all night long, including 2 salutes to Levon Helm with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and The Weight. What struck me was how many of the mostly-younger-than-me audience knew every lyric to those two classics. They are as tight a band as I’ve ever seen and I loved every note.  Those boys can pick a tune every which-a-way and back. Don’t miss TBT tonight on David Letterman.

Listen to Alone (Trampled by Turtles).  Get past that commercial.  It’s worth every second.
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The Angklung is at least behaving itself in the back seat.  No clanging aloud.
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Catch (Wilmington, NC)
Crab Cake

Catch/Wilmington,NC Thursday, 4/5/12
Keith Rhodes was a cheftestant on the most recent Top Chef Texas series on Bravo. I followed and cheered him on proudly like the good Tar Heel I am.  Gathering in Wrightsville Beach, NC for a family beach wedding, I jumped at the chance to visit Catch with my sisters and brother (and their families).

Wow, wow, wow.  We’re a foodie family and we don’t impress all that easily.  The menu is simple with fresh, local ingredients, when available. I started with a grilled asparagus salad followed by the Pan Roasted “Oriental, NC” Back Fin & Lump Crab Cakes with a White Truffle Mash + Mixed Farm Greens + Lobster Cognac Bisque.  Lord, help me.  It was eye-rolling.  In fact, everyone at the table spent the first full minute in a stunned silence as they took bites of whatever they ordered. Well, maybe there were a couple of orgasmic groans that I’m forgetting to mention.  Keith came by the table to meet and check on us. His beautiful wife, Angela, is the front-of-house magician to whatever he’s conjuring in the kitchen.  From the minute you meet her you imagine that you’re suddenly best friends, sipping sweet tea on a porch rocker somewhere. She had to show me their hydroponic herb garden growing behind the bar, and pulled out a basil plant that had roots so long they just kept coming and coming.  I’ll go back and you should too.
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Ok, the Angklung.  I was at the Chapel Hill Historical Society and someone said “I just wish someone would get that clangy thing out of the back.”  Now, being a fan of clangy things, I said “I’ll probably be happy to take it, but what IS it anyway?”  I took it without even knowing what it was … though, from the look of it, it was definitely some kind of percussion instrument. Which I’m also a fan of. (Did I really just end that in a preposition?  “Of which I am also a fan” just sounds so … so … like I was trying too hard.  I’m allowed a little poetic license, right?)

The Angklung

I imagined it had Asian origins. And it does. Indonesian, to be exact, played throughout Southeast Asia, mostly in Sudan. Bamboo tubes, carved and tuned to octaves, attach to a bamboo frame.  Hold the base of the frame in one hand while the other hand strikes the instrument. There are actually angkalung ensembles where each player strikes just one note or more, that when played altogether produces complete melodies.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with this clangy thing, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a personal performance.

Listen to Bohemian Rhapsody performed by the amazing maestro Daeng Udjo with his students from Saung Angklung, Indonesia performing at the Washington Monument Grounds – July 9th 2011

If this doesn’t make you laugh out loud, then you ain’t right, I say … not right.

‘Splainin’ + if it’s the beaches + o Canada + music to ….

I know, I know … I got some ‘splaining to do.  It’s been a month.  Coming up in the next few days is a full blown rave on dinner at Catch in Wilmington. Chef Keith Rhodes (Top Chef Texas contestant) & his wife Angela blew me away.

Driving from here to there, or there to here gives you time to think.  My head was in a different direction while my car was busy on highway 87 south.  It went something like this …

Have you seen me except in light blue suede?

What the hell ever happened to that pair of baby blue Frye Boots I used to have?  I saved a long time to buy those boots. When and where was the last time I saw them?  You’d think I’d remember if I left them somewhere and had to walk home barefooted.  Would I have given them away? Sold them?  Not likely.  Or maybe someone stole them.  But I’d remember that, right? Or maybe not.  It was, after all, sometime pre-80′s. I wore them to that Fleetwood Mac/Livingston Taylor  show in Little Rock.  Wasn’t that was the last concert I saw Sweet Connie of Little Rock, the ultimate rock groupie?

Boots. I was talking about boots.  I got to imagining a parallel world where all my missing stuff  – Frye boots … green cut-glass necklace from Chelsea … Flash, a dog I had in Atlanta … a Fender Rhodes …  still lives, all accounted for and still perfectly good. It’s right next to to that world where all the dryer socks go.  They can practically wave at one another across that universe.   Maybe Jack Daniels, or the major beer companies, should start putting “Have You Seen My _________ (insert name of item here)? for missing possessions on each bottle to help people locate their lost stuff? Now there’s a public service that would get some attention.

I won’t numb you with every detail about the last month … just the highlights.
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March 19

Crook’s Corner impromptu 30th birthday celebration!  Congrats, y’all!  I didn’t take any photos, I was too busy enjoying myself with the likes of Moreton Neal, Marcie Cohen Ferris, Bill Ferris, Claire Cusick, Whitney Brown, Nancie McDermott, Dan Shannon, and countless others.

Put a pig on it!  And Matt Neal, son of original Crook’s owner Bill Neal, did just that.

Bill Smith and Gene Hamer joined me to record an upcoming edition of SideDish this week.  Stay tuned for it to air Sat. May 12 & Sun. May 13 on 1360WCHL.
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Sunset Beach, NC

March 21 – Sunset Beach, NC
You won’t often find me turning down an invite to the beach.  Sunset is just one of my favorite places in the entire world. I can get downright lazy in a hurry not long after I unpack my car and hug up on my cousins. I drive the back roads taking neighborly pleasure in swooping down two lane roads waving at strangers, seeing farms, fields and towns so small they don’t even have a stoplight.  I’ve been making this same trip for nearly 5 years and now anticipate my own designated landmarks along the way …  the Church of Praise just the other side of Fayetteville down 87 where I tried to wait it out once in a torrential rainstorm. (When I pointed it out to my sister, she thought it read Church of Pause, so that’s what I see now every time I pass).  The roadside picnic table on 701 heading into Whiteville. And then there’s the intersection in Clarkton that’s my cue to put Jimmy Buffett on for the last 45 minutes to ease into beach mode.
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March 27, Il Palio @ The Siena Hotel
Wine and whine with Wendy Sease and Susan Reda, new Director of PR and Special Events for Il Palio … actually, we did whine for a few minutes, Susan and I with a Gruner Veltliner and Wendy with a sparkling Rose.  About halfway into a glass, we drew the line at whining and dove eagerly into the cheese plate expertly arranged with Looking Glass Creamery Ellington, Chapel hill Creamery Carolina moon, and Chapel Hill Creamery Calvander with fresh honey comb, membrillo (quince paste), and pear mustarda along with housemade crackers.

Adam Rose and Isaiah Allen are masters with a an empty plate.  I’d marry either one of them in a New York second except for one tiny little thing.  They haven’t actually asked.  That, and they’re both already married.  *sigh*
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O Canada
Dear those of you who can’t live without me,

I will NOT be packing my bags to move to Canada.

I’m only including one paragraph of their rejection letter.  But let me just say this … I’ve applied for over 28 jobs at Duke and have yet to hear anything. Thanks. No thanks. Kiss my ***. Go away. Nothing.   One application to a Canadian corporation and I get a response within 3 weeks.  I’m not giving up on Cirque though.  They need caterers on those tours.

Bonjour Deborah,  (Bonjour, Deborah … don’t you just love the sound of that?)
We have received your application for the position of Publicist, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position.
Best regards,
Cirque du Soleil
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So the job search goes on and on and on.  I’m over-qualified. I’m under-qualified. I might get bored. I might not.

I sent this out today as a cover letter.  What am I becoming?

Dear Company,
I’m absolutely, positively and completely out of my mind for even sending this. After all, my lifetime of public relations experience includes damn near everything BUT working in an advertising agency.  I came close one time though.  When working for IFusion in NYC, our offices were in the former BBDO space on 5th Ave so it stands to reason that I just naturally absorbed creative advertising energy by osmosis.  They left behind a state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen, where as High Priestess of Corporate Culture, I served up culinary genius in hopes of feeding the imagination while brainstorming in a room made out of white board walls.

Heck, I don’t even know who you people are … but …  I have a wicked (sometimes irreverent) sense of humor, am 80% right/20% left brained, keep a Gene Simmons action figure somewhere on my desk along with a Magic 8 Ball in case I don’t have a good answer at the time and because I once met the son of the inventor.

Thanks for listening!
Deborah

Now that you’ve read my response I am including the Craigslist ad just so you can see why I went where I went with the cover letter:

Do not respond to this Mid-Level Public Relations Position (Triangle)


Date: 2012-03-14, 12:26PM EDT
Reply to: pg86g-2901788756@job.craigslist.org


(just FYI, this is a real company, with a real job. This morning in Raleigh, it’s actually warm – spring is here, and I-40 didn’t have any real slowdowns). If you’re a talented PR Person, you shouldn’t be reading this ad. After all, if you’re any good, you probably have a cushy job at a cushy place, running your brain on auto-pilot every day, for if you actually used more than 15% of your brain, you would completely befuddle those around you. If you’re that kind of PR Person, and we hear about you, we’ll more than likely offer you a job. And after that, your days of faking it will come to and end. And on some days, you might actually break into a minor sweat, because we might not like your first plan. Or your second. Or third. You might even be a part of some several ground-breaking campaigns, fueled by your brilliant strategy, that gets so much National attention, your Facebook friends will get jealous of you. Which will cause other problems. If your style of PR is sending a carefully-crafted press release out everywhere, we don’t want you. However, if you’re into coming up with guerrilla ideas that gets our client on the 11:00 news, or get a million hits on YouTube, we’re interested.So, you’re probably best off not responding to this ad, for it might turn your life completely upside-down. Which is what we do best – there are many employees here whose lives haven’t been the same since they walked in the front door years ago.Regardless, hopefully we won’t hear from you.PS: If you’re completely out of your mind, and do respond to this ad, we’d like you to have up to 3 years experience doing PR for an advertising agency. No whiners.
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Music on shuffle while job hunting:
Je Suis Desole (Mark Knopfler)
Against the Wind (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band)
Boom Boom Pow (The Black Eyed Peas)
Keep the Car Running (Arcade Fire)
Come See About Me (Tedeschi Trucks Band)
Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye)
I Dug Up a Diamond (Emmy Lou/Mark Knopfler)
Life For Rent (Dido)

O yeah + the Sand Bar + 100 years of Oreo + shuffle off to somewhere

O Yeah
I haven’t quite decided yet, but as job piles go, I either sank to the bottom of or climbed to the top this week when I found myself actually applying for 27 jobs in Canada.  Not the “eh” Canada … the “oui” Canada.  Queest-ce que je pensais?

Truth be told, for about the last 10 years whenever I found myself getting itchy for change, I’d do one of two things … come home from work, pour a glass of wine and scour the web for

1. beach bars for sale in the tropics
2. job opportunities with Cirque du Soleil

Note that both things involve wine.  Crazy, I know.  Two such disparate callings … there is nothing I can offer in the way of explanation.  Nothing that makes sense anyway.  Well, there was that childhood fantasy of running away to join the circus …
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Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke, BVI

In my own private version of Fantasy Island, Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize would be welcoming me.  De Bar!  De Bar!

The Sand Bar.  Built close to the sea on the sand, I’d never have to … well, do things like vacuum, sweep or mop ever again.  My toes … your toes … all God’s chillun’s toes would always be in the sand.

I’d pour wines I would drink, grill extraordinary seafood and cheeseburgers on my oil drum Chargrill  … basically spending all my days and nights polishing glasses, listening to music, wearing flip flops (or not), and living the low life.

A couple of years ago I found what could have been THE perfect place.  Island Blues, a bar in Coral Bay, St. John, USVI that had also been the home of the St. John Blues Festival.  All the signs pointed to “yes” … it was even on Carolina Avenue. How’s that for a sign?  I had this great idea that I could help raise the money by selling endowed deckchairs.  Beautiful teak numbers with an engraved brass plaque on the back. Your chair. Your beach. Your view.  Why didn’t y’all fall for that?  All I needed was 350 of my closest friends to fork over 1k each. You could be there sitting in your chair right this minute. You know who you are.

There was also the vineyard on Crete.  The small beachfront hotel in Roatan.  The seafront B&B in Belize.  Good thing my credit card has a low limit.  Yet, in the immortal words of Aerosmith, Dream on … dream until the dream comes true.
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But back to Canada … about as far away as you can get from a tropical paradise.  It’s the frozen north. It’s where you ran away to dodge the draft. It’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel.

The same country that had American kids everywhere singing Alouette.

Currently being used in a Target TV commercial, I found myself singing along with this French Canadian folksong the other day. Did I know what I was singing? Not really, so I searched for translated lyrics online.  This sweet sounding little progression song is disturbing on so many levels.


Lark, lovely Lark
Lark, I am going to pluck you
I am going to pluck your head,
I am going to pluck your head,
And the head, and the head,
O-o-o-o-oh …..

All followed by the successive plucking of various bird parts ….  beak, eyes, neck, wings, back, legs and tail. YOW!

What we have here is a perky, infectious melody about bird dismemberment, innocently and happily sung by little kids.  Coming from a country whose national sports are ice hockey and lacrosse, a little bird bashing isn’t really such a big deal. Sure, this could have been written by a chef plucking a bird prior to cooking, but how much sustenance could the tiny lark offer after all that plucking?  But, here I go getting off track again.

Cirque du Soleil
Pure take-your-breath-away magic.  A circus worth working for in any language. Every time I’d verbalize my wish to work for CdS, inevitably I’d hear “as a performer?”  Smack your own face for even asking such a silly question. Of course not as a performer. Do I look like I’ve had years and years of acrobatic training to the exclusion of all else?  Bend and twist like a pretzel?  Soar across a room on a scarf? I do not. I wear scarves, not hang on to them 50 feet in the air.  But I could help them do it from behind the scenes.  Can you imagine how many people it takes to make all that magic happen on stage?

So this was the week.   Oh, I don’t expect to ever hear from them, but I created my own internal magic just by hitting the submit button.  Under special talents, I listed “can ask how to get to the library, as well as sing Alouette, Frère Jacques, Dominique, and La Marseillaise.”  I’d hire me just for that.
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Happy 100th birthday to Oreo!

Regular or Doublestuff?  Twist and lick?  Just bite?  As a milk dipper? How do you eat yours?

Did you know that Nabisco holds a worldwide Oreo Stacking Competition?  How high could you go?_________________________________________________________

Shuffling off to Buffalo, over the Rainbow Bridge and hang a right … a variation on hymns from the 49th:
Long May You Run (Neil Young)
River (Joni Mitchell)
Great Big Love (Bruce Cockburn)
Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen)
Love is Everything (Jane Siberry)

Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees + the name game redux + shrimp & grits throwdown

We’re Too Busy Singing …
My friend Mississippi posted on Facebook this morning “Davey Jones has died. I thought the woman was joking when she told me, but then I saw her face and now I’m a bereaver.”   That made me smile so I’m stealing it.

Yesterday when I heard, I couldn’t ignore the ripple of sadness.

There goes yet another puzzle piece of my youth.  Got me puzzling about all the pieces. And how we often think they’re all in place, only to see them come undone.  Forcing new pieces in to the missing space just doesn’t work. What happens to us when we lose those pieces that have been so firmly in place for so long?

Misspent or not, my life was held in place by music.  Notice I didn’t say grounded … grounded was what happened when you got in trouble.  My parents, frequent grounders of me, did not like The Rolling Stones, but they loved the wholesome Monkees. Ha … little did they know.  They even took us  … well … I already wrote about this and couldn’t say it any better with new words, so I’m quoting/stealing from myself:

“But back to Dad … who Christmas of 1967 gave us four kids two tickets each, and piled eight kids in a car to see the Monkees in Winston-Salem, only to find me sitting out in the hall in a euphoric haze while the Monkees sugar-popped away inside. “You’re missing the Monkees,” he said. The opening act was Jimi Hendrix and I was now “experienced.” Had seen God. At seventeen, I was too young to recognize the gris-gris that Mitch Mitchell was throwing out there, but I caught it anyway. At the crossroads, I went left and never looked back.”
-excerpt from Come They Told Me. dpm 2011

My IPod carries a good portion of the soundtrack of my life – past and present. Most of it anyway … though there’s not a Monkee’s song to be found. Yet. But I still find myself singing along to “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m a Believer” whenever I hear them.  One of my favorites was the rarely, if ever heard, “I Wanna Be Free.”

Michael Nesmith

I was a Michael Nesmith fan. I don’t know why I liked that wool cap, but I did. He was my first “type” and would come to define the kinds of guys that made my knees weak and my resolve even weaker,  especially after he grew a moustache and beard.  Gotta love a man with a beautiful Gretsch guitar.

His mother invented Liquid Paper.

I even gave my virginity to a Michael Nesmith look-alike who worked at Harry’s on Franklin Street.  Whenever I saw a picture of Nesmith, it took me back to the note that Jim (the clone) wrote on an order pad sheet and handed to me when he came to take our order …  “coffee, tea, or me?”  I ordered and we went to his place.  I spent the whole time pretending it was Michael Nesmith. I still have that note.  No amount of White-Out will ever erase that.
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Long story short. AT&T accidentally cut my phone line doing an install. Almost 2 weeks to get them back.  Assigned repair tech calls this  morning to confirm that he’ll be here between 1 & 6pm.  What’s his name?  Robert.
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Lordy, Lordy … another phenomTuesday night blues jam at The Blue Note Grill!  Trust me. Just go. Be amazed.


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After putting on my best  Shrimp & Grits Throwdown face for this sold-out event at The Carolina Inn here in Chapel Hill, I was ready to mingle with  5 of my favorite celebrity judges, 7 of my favorite local chefs, and over 225 guests. Can you  imagine anything other than a mouthwatering afternoon? I was even considering taking my favorite spoon, but that would verge on tacky.

We judges, sequestered in the Sun Room with bottles of wine and plates of cheese, were warned that plates would come every 7 minutes. And come they did … each a unique interpretation.  Or course we tried to match each dish to the participating chefs.  And the winner was Trey Cleveland from Top of the Hill. Following close on his heels by only one point was Jimmy Reale, Carolina Crossroads/The Carolina Inn.  Fan favorite went to Vimala Rajendran/Vimala’s Curry Blossom Café whose version was full of palate-teasing Indian spiciness.

The event raised it’s goal of $2,000 for TABLE, Inc., serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro children at risk for hunger.
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Music on Shuffle

Do you believe in magic? + the name game + Sunday supper + music on shuffle

Will McFarlane & Band at The Blue Note Grill

Holy rock and roller! 
Where there’s a Will there’s a way …  a Will McFarlane, that is.  Way is for his playing … as in way great … as in the way that everyone playing with him just automatically amps way up a couple of notches … as in the way all of us witnessing said playing at the Blue Note Grill last night are jaw-droppingly mesmerized … as in the way it turned into a family affair with Will’s wife, Janet, sharing vocals and son, Jamie, on bass.  Well, you get most of the picture … the rest of which includes Clark Stern on keyboards and Justin Holder on drums.  If you don’t believe me, go google these players.

Three sets, three handsome men sharing my table (Robert, David & Mike), and three glasses of Matchbook Cab later and I still wasn’t ready to go home and break the spell.  The band brought their A-game with Standy By Me, Bring it on Home, Do Right Woman,  Nadine, My Little Runaway, Dixie Chicken … it was pure magic. I could go on and on, but then I’d just be rubbing it in.
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Robert \r(o)-be-rt\ a boy’s name pronounced RAH-bert is of Old German origin and means  “bright fame.” A favorite name for boys since the Middle Ages. Especially favored by the Scots due to 14th-century king Robert the Bruce and to poet Robert Burns. (Credit: www.thinkbabynames.com)

I know how many of you are laughing already. I’d laugh too if it wasn’t just so damn weird … and a little creepy, if I think about it long and hard enough. If you’ve heard, or read, about my boomerang drummer phenomenon, then you shouldn’t be surprised here … this is just one further example of my inescapable universal loop.  (Jump over here to peek behind the cymbals if you have no clue what I’m talking about.)

Somewhere early in the Life of Me, “it” was written. Or maybe the “Bob” fairy waved a magic wand over my bald baby head or cut my baby powder with something dark and twisty assuring that I would forever have some sort of Robert in my life. What Dr. Seuss character was let loose in my life story, I wanna know?  Bob, I am?  And why a Robert, fer cryin’ out loud?  Why not a Willie or a Sam? What possible lesson could I learn by having a Robert … or a Bob … or a Bobby … or a Rob?  None, I tell you … none.

But have them I do. It’s not even something you can take precautions against.  About a year and a half ago I was actually seeing two Roberts’ at the same time … and I admit right here and now that I got a bit of a cheap thrill out of it. At least I didn’t have to ever worry about calling one of them the wrong name during an intimate moment.

When I meet a man and he tells me his name is Robert/Bob/Bobby, I just smile knowingly and say “of course, it is” … much the same way I respond  “of course, you are”  if they tell me they are a drummer.

Far be it from me to try to make sense of this cosmic name game.
Robert, Robert, bo-bobert,
banana-fana-fo-fobert,
fee-fi-m0-mobert. Robert!

I don’t make this stuff up.  Cross my heart. Hope to ….
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Sunday just squawks for roast chicken and biscuits.  And this Sunday it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, with even a slight chance of snow in the mix … so there you go.

Just slide some garlic herb butter up underneath the skin, nestle that bird in a big old Le Creuset pot with some white wine, garlic, potatoes, carrots, onions, fennel, mushrooms, peas and some tarragon tucked in around it … pop that baby in the oven for a couple of hours.

Serve it with a salad, biscuits, and a bottle of pinot noir.   And for those of you who only drink white wine with chicken … yes, it’s ok to drink white wine before Labor Day.

Is this a good time to mention that my friend Robert is coming over for supper?
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Music on ShuffleMusic to shuffle through while roasting a bird:
The Funky Chicken (Rufus Thomas)
Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Wasn’t Born to Follow (The Byrds)
I’ll Fly Away (Gillian Welch/Alison Krauss)
How Long (The Eagles)
Fly Like an Eagle (Steve Miller Band)
Free Bird (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Advice for the lovelorn + love at any age + Glasshalfull + music on shuffle

My friend, Laurie, told me this week I should write something that includes advice for the lovelorn.  According to Merriam Webster, the definition of lovelorn is bereft of love or of a lover, of which I wish to state right up front, I am neither.  But just to be sure, I looked up bereft … an adj. meaning deprived or robbed of the possession or use of something —usually used with of.   The online Etymology Dictionary indicates it’s a term from the 1630′s … love + lorn (see lose).

I’m not sure why she thinks I would qualify to expound positively, negatively or otherwise on love or lorn, me being single and all … but she had me in a position on her massage table where I was so relaxed and in a state of complete zen that I wasn’t likely to argue with her about anything.   My earlier comment that a man should woo a woman for a lifetime must have touched her soul.  And I meant it … even if he has been sleeping next to her for 50 years in ratty old flannel pajamas.  Before I get into trouble, here, I also believe a woman has her own longterm wooing to do … both have to commit from the get-go to making and stoking fire.  In this case, it IS about the little things.

From the view from my heart, I’ve been lucky in love.  Lucky enough to have fallen world-spinning, vision-blinding, crazy-making in love three (okay, five, maybe six) times in my life.  You could say unlucky that I’m not with any of them, but that would diminish the original statement.  Lucky that I’m still friends with almost all of them … those that are still alive with a sense of forgiveness anyway.  There’s one from art school that I can’t find, but he’ll surface one day. I just feel it.  The real unlucky part is that in one of those, I fell alone. Totally by myself.  Oh, he pushed me alright, but once I was headed over the edge, he didn’t bother to fall with me.  Kerplunk! And I dangled there for more years than I can count. Too many.

But that was a long time ago and Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Love is in the air, as it should be.  To you upstate … I will always remain wistful  … I wish I had taken better care of your heart … you are the pirate’s booty in my life even today for the friends we have become.  I love you.  You know that.  To you across town whom I’ve  never met …  somedaymaybebaby.

Is that lovelorn enough?  ‘Cause it’s a beautiful day and I’ve got places to go and people to see.  Looking for love in places I never dreamed I’d go :)
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Carol Woods. Saturday morning before Valentine’s Day.  Love at any age.
For the last 11 years, A Helping Hand has been the driving force behind an annual Valentine Delivery and Serenade that actually gets out and delivers more than 3,000 hand-crafted valentines to older adults.  Oh, wait … I’m an older adult. I guess I should say seniors.  How many years before I qualify for that?

This year kicked off at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill with a capella performances by the UNC Achordants, the UNC Loreleis, and the Duke Rhythm and Blue, who shared love songs with residents.  After performing in the assembly hall, the 3 groups split up to visit the various assisted living buildings and health care center residents delivering valentines, long-stemmed roses and love songs.

The UNC Achordants

Earlier when I was talking about luck … this is where mine kicks in!  I got to escort the UNC Achordants around. Imagine. Me and some 15 or so adorable and talented men.  Seriously.   These guys are  … ok, I’ll just whisper it  … hurt me now … awesome.  Even their Facebook page states “Singing people’s faces off since 2011 and still going strong.”  And don’t even start with me about tiptoeing into cougar territory.  It was not, I repeat, NOT about that.  They went above and beyond.  Go take a listen to More Than A Feeling on Grooveshark.

In one of the dining halls, several of these young men circulated the room, going down on one knee to take the hands of a few of the women. To see the girlish blush of delight on the women’s faces at being personally sung to by a handsome young man … well … that’s wooing at its finest.   Made my poor romantic heart proud.  UNC Achordants, y’all done good. Real good!

Coincidentally, my parents live here.  I had to hold back tears at watching my Mom, who has fairly advanced dementia, flirt with one of the young male singers.  She can’t remember who I am, but by God, she remembers the words to songs.   When I can’t reach her, we sing together and for a whisper of a moment we are connected again.

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Glasshalfull/Carrboro
Should have guessed with First Friday Artwalk that Glasshalfull would be jam packed, and it was. Good for them!  I love seeing my favorite places (this being one of them) owned by some of my favorite people (these being Mickey, Betsy and Jim) filled with happy customers.   I was contributing to the happy … dressed up and out with a charming man, and he was enjoying that I decided to go with a little décolletage.

GHF is always at the top of my “go-to” list.  Armed with a bottle of  Row Eleven Pinot Noir (2007 Santa Maria Valley, CA), we shared the Charcuterie and Cheese Plates, so as to leave room for dessert.

Music on Shuffle