Category Archives: Food and Wine

The Past Becomes a Present + Kitchen Shuffle

by Deborah Miller

I hit my early 30’s with a couple of significant, but soon to be important, strangers in my how-fast-can-I-run life. One was my second husband, who I hadn’t quite met yet, the second was my kitchen where I mostly kept beer or wine cold, the aluminum-drip-pot coffee hot, and take-out stashed as I hurried on the way to somewhere else. Please don’t judge my taste buds. They had no respectable influences back then … Mateus Rosé was my wine of choice because the man I shoulda married always came over with a bottle. You judged the night before by how many empty little Krystal Burger boxes were on the table when you woke up the next day. More than 5 … oh-oh.

Krystalboxes2

But I didn’t hate cooking. In fact, there was something calm and almost Zen-like there that was non-existent in my day-to-day, but I never stopped long enough to appreciate it. My candle stayed lit at both ends in those days. Plus at the time, my kitchen was a converted closet containing a baby 2- gas burner stovetop /oven and the sink was around the corner in my bedroom. Not terribly conducive to culinary expression … not that I’m making excuses because I was, after all, brought up by the “it’s a poor craftsman/woman who blames his/her tools” proverb.

When we (and by we, I mean me, my best friend and our running buddies, who were all either art students, musicians and/ or roadies) would end up in one place long enough, I’d often bake bread and cook a big pot of something. Soup. Stew. Spaghetti … because have you ever seen a boy (or a man) turn down a plate of spaghetti? Hasn’t happened in my life yet and I’m still waiting.

BreadPastaWine

Rarely did I write recipes down, because I was fearless and not afraid to add ingredients with abandon (whether they went together or not). Add enough wine to the pot and the guest(s), and who cares?

My recipes back then, if you can even call them that, were haphazard concoctions based on 1) how my mother made it, 2) how my grandmother made it, and 3) what I could afford. I’ve already proven in earlier blog posts that my siblings and I have varying colorful and wildly different memories of the exact same thing.

There was one family recipe I started doctoring just as soon as I was far enough away from home not to get caught. Bless her heart, my mother’s spaghetti sauce was just plain weird and not like anything I’d ever had before or since. She used to say that’s the way my Dad’s mother made it, that it was German-inspired. German spaghetti sauce? Really? They were from Yadkinville via the Alsace region, but that could hardly account for this particular and peculiar combination of ingredients. And there was nothing North Carolina about this sauce except for the woman opening the bottles. She’d saute onions and celery, maybe some dried garlic, brown some ground beef, then add a couple of bottles of Heinz Chili Sauce. I loved it until I tried “real red sauce” at a real Italian restaurant.

In an attempt to impress when I finally met the man I would marry, born story-embellisher that I am, my kitchen skills took on grand proportions as if I didn’t know, or care, that it would catch up with me sooner or later. We ate out a lot at first, and grilled almost every weekend, so coming up with sides for whatever hunk of meat was charring away outside was easy. There was foolhardiness as I threw elaborate dinner parties and tried out new dishes without even a rehearsal. One dinner, everything was held-up waiting for the rice to bake, a recipe my mother often made for fancy dinners. After 30 extra minutes and finally pulling the bubbling beef broth out of the oven, it was only to discover I’d never added the rice. Fortunately, there was wine a’plenty and if I know nothing else, it’s how to laugh long and hard at myself. For reasons that now escape me we ended up dancing around the dining room table singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  It became an after dinner tradition.

cooking

Still, the kitchen didn’t scare me. Our circle of friends became fooled into thinking I knew what I was doing back there in that room with the pots and pans. I’ve lost count of the times I’d just go back in there and rattle things around a little just for their benefit.

Once married, and without even consciously trying, we began to start our own food traditions. One that included having all our favorites on one plate for a birthday, which in my case meant lobster, crab cakes and ribeye’s all in one meal. The holidays would roll around and I’d find myself homesick for a specific dish from my own childhood – breakfast strata, Christmas pie, baked fruit compote, or Mud Hens.

We honestly thought Mom created them until I pulled out my old dog-eared 2nd edition copy of Charleston Receipts to search for a dessert to take to a cookout and there big-as-life was her recipe. Exactly the same. They were such a hit, I promised myself I’d never forget about them again, though I’d smile coyly about our “secret family recipe” every time after.

WagonerFamilyCookbook1The Family Cookbook
Sometime during the summer of 1990, as I began to collect all those family recipes, including those that my brother and sisters had reworked and adapted to our adult tastes, it morphed into a family cookbook project. Everyone would send me their recipes, I’d re-type them all, make copies, and gather them in a ring binder. Sounded simple enough. I was either crazy or didn’t already have enough to do, so I also volunteered to design and cross stitch enough covers for each family to have their own book, plus an extra one each for the two 10-year old nieces who I named as my assistant editors. It became the big shared family Christmas gift that year and took its rightful place next to the old Joy of Cooking and Ladies Home Companion.

My copy is a treasure and is one of those things I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s outgrown the binder in a good way, with other favorite recipes added through the years. Even after graduating from culinary school, I still go for the family cookbook nine times out of ten. Ever year, usually sometime in November and way too late to have it ready in time for Christmas, there are talks of doing a long overdue update. Bring it on, y’all. It’s about time. While we’re waiting on that, here’s that recipe for Mud Hens.

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Mud Hens
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 ½ cup plain all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter (8 tbs, 1/2 cup), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated keeping both yolks and egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Cream butter and white sugar. Add one egg and yolk of other egg. Blend sifted dry ingredients adding to butter and sugar mixture. Add vanilla. Spread about 1/3 inch thick in a greased pan.
Mix unbeaten egg white, brown sugar and nuts with hands and crumble over top of mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until straw or toothpick. It will be a little runny and gooey when you take it out of the oven. Wait until cool to cut.

*NOTE: The top will puff up and crack as it cooks. That’s how it got the name, so don’t worry!

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Kitchen Shuffle
Shuffle
RC Cola & a Moon Pie (NRBQ)
Maximum Consumption (the Kinks)
Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo)
Sweet Potato Pie (James Taylor)
Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffett)

Jeffery Deaver + The Skin Collector

SkinCollectorJeffery Deaver
The Skin Collector, National Book Launch
Tues. May 13, 7-8pm – Free
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC
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If you’re voting for fictional detective characters, Lincoln Rhyme is one of my favorites. Put him at a dinner table with Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Harry Bosch and Stephanie Plum, and I’m in murder mystery nirvana. I’d make Boeuf Bourguignon, and because it would be downright criminal to pour the wrong wine, I’d open a dark, robust Malbec or a briary and brambly Zinfandel.I’d set a place for Jeffery Deaver too, being the father/ creator of Lincoln Rhyme, introduced twelve books and seventeen years ago in The Bone Collector (made into a major motion picture starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in 1999). Deaver’s newest Lincoln Rhyme novel, The Skin Collector (releasing May 13), has Rhyme and Sachs doing what they do best, cataloguing and outlining minutia while chasing after a tattooist with a tortuous agenda. I’ll say no more.Deaver is perfectly prolific leaving just enough time between Lincoln Rhyme novels that I don’t get itchy, and if I do, I turn to special agent/folklorist/song catcher Kathryn Dance, his other series character. Author of over thirty novels and short story collections, Deaver’s books have been translated into 25 languages sold in 150 countries. He draws on his own background as a journalist, attorney and, yes, a folksinger, when sculpting characters and plots. I can’t even imagine his research habits. He apparently is also a gourmet cook.

Jeffery Deaver’s a big deal. And it’s a really big deal that the national launch of The Skin Collector, begins right here at the independently-owned Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.“We are so lucky to have such a talented writer here in NC and we jump at any chance to host him in celebration of a new book,” said Flyleaf owner and general manager, Jamie Fiocco.I had heard tell that he lived in, or near, Chapel Hill, so I kept imagining I’d run into him at the grocery store because there’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell him for years. (You’ll have to read the Q&A for that one.)

DeaverAuthorPhoto200We connected on the phone that recent Friday when tornados were threatening, so we made a plan in case we got disconnected. Ten minutes in, hail was bouncing off the windows so fast and furious that I could barely hear him. We didn’t know what was happening in Chapel Hill (me in Durham, he in California), but we both fretted about our homes and dogs (he has a show-winning Briard). I’m thinking under my breath “holy moley, I’m talking with award-winning-international-bestselling-author Jeffery Deaver about the ‘hood, dogs, bookstores and Harris Teeter.”He’s a big fan of Flyleaf and they of him. “We’re incredibly excited to host Jeffery again,” Fiocco added. “He’s a wonderful presenter and is really funny and clever. In fact you never quite know what he’s going to do but you can be assured it will be entertaining!”

Much like the “never quite know” in every single one of his novels. I promised him I’m not a stalker. But I’ll be at Flyleaf on Tuesday, May 13. Cross my heart and hope to die.BrownSlashBar

Red the rest of the Q&A:

Simmer2Sizzle
Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY

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)

The Zombies + congas + hot food + hot music

Rod Argent / The Zombies

What’s Your Name? Who’s Your Daddy?
I fell for the British invasion hard. Like a rock. The Animals. The Yardbirds. Them. The Kinks. The Zombies. 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.

 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 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 long visit with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Their musical talent is maybe even more impressive; 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, and then some. 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. Playing with them on this tour are bassist Jim Rodford (Argent and the Kinks), Rodford’s son Steve play on drums and guitarist Tom Toomey.

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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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.

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.  I was having lascivious thoughts about that stool, and I think my friend Liz was too. Permanent vibrations. 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.”  So I did 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.