The Comfort of the Bacon and the Egg

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20th, 2011 by Babs

Wagons

 

For the better part of two years, I split my time between the nebulous Pacific Northwest (an unholy combination of Portland, Seattle and Roslyn, WA) and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney, to be exact, with a decided emphasis on Melbourne.)

My African astrology sign is the Traveler and my name literally means “foreigner.” Gypsy living is what I was built for (which is a little weird, considering that I’m supposed to be a comfort-driven, nesting Libra…) I have many musician friends who dread touring and I always want to trade places – I feel alive and energized when I’m on the road again. Anyone wanna buy me a plane ticket back to Oz?!?!

As much as I truly love Australia and am pining to get back (I miss hanging out with my dear friends, drinking flat whites, eating pumpkin as a savory ingredient and speaking sarcasm freely), I will admit to a little culinary homesickness when I leave America’s West Coast.

I was raised on Mexican food and – sorry, Australia – there is no such thing as a bean enchilada. On my fifth birthday, which was celebrated in Vegas because my cousins were playing in a football tournament, I actually scoped out a Taco Bell on our first day and when my folks asked me what I wanted for my birthday (and I said “Taco Bell”) they solemnly explained that we were in a strange city and didn’t know where to find one.

“Yes we do!” I exclaimed, and proceeded to guide them to said “restaurant.”

(It didn’t occur to me until decades — and thousands of recountings of this story by my relatives — later that allowing a five-year-old to guide you through the streets of Vegas is a little weird.)

What isn’t weird is the idea of comfort food, particularly if you’re on the road or living life as a gypsy. I have no shame in telling you that the hardest thing about being in the Southern Hemisphere for six months was the absence of Taco Bell. It’s my first stop every time I land on American soil.

While being deprived of Taco Bell is a bummer, getting to see awesome music is not. On my last trip down under, my friends turned me on to a fantastic Melbourne band called Wagons. If you think that twang(st) only applies to bands from the American South or Pacific NW, you’re as wrong as Glenn Beck on any given day.

Wagons rule, in a distinctively Australian, Nick Cave-meets-Americana, sun/rain-drenched, arid/awesome kind of way. They’re on our shores for SxSW and related events, which got lead singer Henry thinking about comfort food. And bacon. Mmmmmmmm – bacon!!!

For those of you in Seattle, come see Henry and his awesome band Wednesday the 23rd at Hattie’s or Thursday the 24th at the Sunset. Portlanders – you can catch them at the Bunk Bar on the 22nd. The rest of you can get a taste at www.myspace.com/wagonsmusic.

The Comfort of the Bacon and the Egg

Henry Wagons’ Bacon and Egg and Guacamole Sandwich

A lot of people think that going to a fast food chain when overseas is lame. It is. Why travel all the way to Spain in order to eat at McDonald’s?

But sometimes, the most strident and road-hardened Clydesdale has a bad day at the office, gets a splinter in its hoof and becomes a little lame. Its ok.

Don’t make a habit of it, but it is ok. Eat your cheeseburger and get back to a strict regimen of eating paella the next day.

It’s in this spirit I am going to talk about bacon and eggs. I am in a band (called Wagons) that has to travel a lot, and each journey takes many hours. We are from Australia. Getting around our own country to play shows is quite an enterprise, let alone going anywhere outside our shores. I’m not complaining about it. In fact, I love it. But, when you are out on a long stint away from home, you have to clutch at comforts from home to keep spirits high.

My spirit soars into the clouds around bacon. I feel my shoulders relax, and my stomach gently bloom when I know some eggs are on their way. Bacon and eggs are a comforting, ubiquitous combo that is my crutch on the road anywhere in the world. I’m not that fussy about how they come. Crispy, limp, fried, poached, all smashed together in a brutal omelette… just bring them to me.

Now that I have got that off my chest, I want to share one of the most enjoyable ways I like to have the bacon and the egg on the road. Make it yourself if you are lucky enough to stay in a serviced apartment with a kitchen, or make it for your friends who put you up on their floor overnight. It tastes nice.

The following makes 2 sandwiches. One for you, and one for another human of your choice.

1. Make the simple guacamole:
2 avocados
1 big dollop of sour cream
1 finely diced chilli
1 handful of chopped coriander (otherwise known as cilantro here in the States)
the juice of one lime
lots of salt an pepper
Mash them all up in a bowl.
Save some left over coriander leaves to put in the finished sandwich.
2. Toast
Toast up 4 slices of the best sourdough bread you can get your hands on.
3. Bacon and Eggs
While you are toasting the bread, fry up a few strips of bacon for each sandwich. Nice and crispy.
Fry up 2 eggs, sunny side up, until the yolks are just firm, but not as hard and dry as a lame horse’s hoof.
You don’t want the yolk to be a runny mess in a sandwich, but you also don’t want it rubbery and tasteless like a guitarist’s finger callus.
4. Assemble
Place two pieces of toast next to each other.
Spread a generous helping of guacamole on one slice and spread a dollop of ketchup over another.
Then, place the bacon on one slice and the egg on the other, with a few fresh coriander leaves on the egg.
Don’t forget to repeat the same steps for the other human.
Now, have a look at what you are about to eat and soak it all in.
Shove the two halves together, creating your sandwich.
Shove all that in your guts and think of home.

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I want candy – or how to make a candy bar into a shot

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11th, 2011 by Babs

I’m not sure if being friends with bartenders is a blessing or a curse – but it’s definitely a byproduct of spending an inordinate amount of time in rock clubs and various local watering holes and hanging out in tightly knit music scenes. While my liver might have a differing opinion, it’s a pretty awesome feeling when the person behind the bar starts pouring your drink before you belly up to said bar. (Some of us are creatures of habit…)

I met Mike because he bartends at the High Dive and has a much better memory than I do (unless I’m the one behind the bar, at which point my memory becomes razor sharp – I guess if you want me to remember you, you should tip me?) I didn’t realize he was also the frontman in local kick-ass outfit Elder Mason, a band of scruffy, relocated Midwesterners who take the best elements of the ‘70s and turn them into a glorious concoction of melody, harmony, attitude, fuzz, contemplation, rockingness, riffs and epic dynamics and make them sound mind-blowingly fresh. Any band that emphasizes the fact that they have “bombastic drums” is a-ok in my book – and should be in yours, as well.

I’m sure it speaks volumes about me that I tend to trust my bartender friends and the folks who cut my hair more than I do most guys I’ve dated. And if Mike weren’t so effing awesome and Midwestern-trustworthy, I would never have allowed him to pour me a Snickers Bar shot. Frangelico and Bud Light?!?!? Gross!!

As it turns out, it’s miraculously delicious and does, in fact, taste exactly like a Snickers bar.

I’ll let him explain because I don’t know that I could – except to say that when I was bartending at the Brick in Roslyn, I learned to embrace a shot called the “Duck Fart” (Kahlua, Bailey’s and Crown, layered.) Sounds like a terrible idea on paper, but it’s great. Too bad the same can’t be said about those ex-boyfriends…

Here’s Mike:

The Snickers Bar (or how to make a drink out of random booze left in your house)

Everyone has one. The corner under your sink. In a cupboard above your fridge.

We all have a spot in our kitchen that is a dedicated wasteland for the unused non-perishable or kitchenware. It’s the spot that is filled with the once beloved idea of “I’m gonna use/eat/drink this, no problem!”, but you just can’t seem to get rid of it, so you hide it.That George Foreman Grill you used once (check); the bulk Top Ramen you bought at Costco that you outgrew 5 years ago (yup, that’s in there);a Mason jar, sealed, dated, and filled with an unknown yellow liquid (maybe you should throw that out).

It’s a stash of whatever kitchen item you don’t use much or (realistically) won’t ever use again in a cabinet that you rarely open or even look at.

It’s alright, you’re not going to end up in an episode of “Hoarders” – unless you’ve got a house full of those Mason jars…

So in mine (above the fridge), I have only one thing: a bottle of run-of-the-mill Triple Sec, left from about six roommates ago.

Then I got to thinking, using my photographic/selective memory, about searching in cabinets for a glass at parties and seeing a lone bottle of peach schnapps or Midori out of reach. A theory started to form: when people move out of a house/apartment/flat, they almost always leave the liqueurs. It’s like old roommates are doing you a favor by leaving you a bottle of Apple Pucker. How did they know I enjoy a sour apple schnapps on the rocks after a long day of work?

Seriously though, if they would leave a bottle of vodka or Tullamore Dew or better yet, Pappy Van Winkle 12 year (leave the 20 year and you are legendary), you would totally forget the time they ate the last of your pizza or the week-long spanking fetish that kept you up till 5 AM.

But they never leave liquor, just liqueur. Rat bastards!

Fortunately, your forgotten kitchen treasure trove is stocked with a bottle of Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur. If you don’t know what the bottle looks like, just imagine a Mrs. Butterworth’s bottle, but dressed in a robe and with no racial stereotypes. Chances are, somebody brought it over for brunch to drink with coffee or you bought it ‘cause a dessert recipe called for it (it’s delicious poured over vanilla ice cream). But you are thirsty for a shot. Something tasty. It’s after hours and all you’ve got in the house is that bottle of Frangelico and a few beers. Ok, a bottle of Frangelico and a couple of Bud Lights. Why do you have a couple of Bud Lights? The same reason you have Frangelico: it was just in the back corner of your fridge. As an emergency reserve. A nuclear option, if you will.

Crack open the Bud Light and get the step stool out so you can reach the Frangelico: you’re making a shot…

THE SNICKERS BAR
1-2 oz. Frangelico
Add Bud Light to taste

You don’t have to be precise with this recipe, it’s all how you like it (as with a lot of cocktails). Just make sure you add more Frangelico than Bud Light, ‘cause the last thing you want to do is tell your friends you made a Bud Light cocktail. Instant loss of respect, not to mention their growing concerns of your alcoholism. This is merely a concoction comprised of two red-headed step-children in your kitchen.

It’s not high in alcohol content (Frangelico- 28% or 56 proof, Bud Light- 4.2% per 12 oz.), but it’s tasty, and absolutely ridiculous.

One of the many problems (laundry list actually) with the Snickers Bar is that it’s sugary and if you ordered it in a bar or drink one at all, you are probably a bit tipsy, or drunk. Sugary drinks always give me the can’t-get-out-of-bed hangovers. My best suggestion would be 1.) drinking gallons of water (obvious), and 2.) stocking up on Rockstar Recovery drinks. They get you back on your feet by giving you 16 non-carbonated ounces of caffeine, all your B vitamins (plus milk thistle, ginseng, taurine, etc) and are not sugary so you don’t get the sugar-shock (2 grams of sugar). They make a lemon (best), orange (ok) and grape (like a Fla-Vor-Ice pop), so take your pick. I’m not trying to get sponsored by Rockstar or anything (mail the cases to P.O. Box…), this is just my way of beating booze off with a stick.

If you don’t have the energy to get out of bed and head to the store to buy the recommended hangover cure, then stay in bed. You need heaps of sleep. But you can’t go back to bed, ‘cause your head hurts too much.

Get a big glass of water, put it next to your bed. Grab your laptop or iPad. Go to Project-Free TV (http://www.free-tv-video-online.me/) or alluc (http://www.alluc.org/). These sites are streaming (ie, you won’t get a cease and desist order in the mail from illegal downloading) free movies and television shows. Pick your favorite one(s) out and veg. If your attention span is waning, then head over to Pandora. Normally, being a whole album kinda guy, I wouldn’t suggest this, but you’re not in the mood to pick out songs for a hangover playlist, or put on some vinyl. Start with a station that is acoustic and then work your way to the more upbeat. Stationwise, I’d go Gillian Welch or Leo Kottke for a bit. My Morning Jacket or Wilco next. By this point, you are ready for the Booker T and the MG’s.

Now get out of bed and go to the bar.

www.myspace.com/eldermason
www.reverbnation.com/eldermason


Let them eat (Brent Amaker’s grandma’s) cake!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4th, 2011 by Babs

 

If you live in Seattle (especially West Seattle) you know Brent Amaker, at least by sight. You’ve at least seen photos of him and his band The Rodeo – it’s hard to miss five guys dressed head to toe in black cowboy attire in a town full of indie rockers. And if you haven’t seen his band, you’ve probably run into him out on the town — how many guys karaoke at the Yen Wor or pop up at every show, from hip-hop to choral indie-folk, looking like The Man In Black? Brent is a bad-ass, and exudes effortless, black-clad cowboy awesomeness whether he’s performing whiskey baptisms from the stage, rooting on his pals in the Young Evils or helping you pick out car insurance. Why do you think we crowned him the Mayor of West Seattle?

 

I know I love Brent’s music (which someone recently described as a cross between Johnny Cash and Flight of the Conchords) but I did not know that Brent makes a mean cake. (And by “mean,” I mean “delicious.”) You learn something new every day – although you’ve gotta wonder what he wears in the kitchen. If anyone can accessorize a cowboy hat with an apron, it’d be Brent. Of that much, I’m certain…

 

If you haven’t seen Brent and the Rodeo live or checked out their latest tongue-in-cheek country masterpiece, “Please Stand By,” I urge you to remedy that situation immediately. It’s entertainment the way God intended it – awesome, dressed entirely in black and drenched in whiskey. He’s the one who writes the country hits. He’s the Man In Charge. And he’s apparently damn good in the kitchen, too.

 

We were at our local pirate bar when I asked Brent if he’d contribute to the site, so the details of what I beseeched him to deliver are a little fuzzy.  This is what he ended up giving me.

 

 

When Barbara Mitchell asked me to review an album for her new website, I thought to myself, this needs to be special.  I mean let’s face it, Barbara KNOWS music!  And on top of that, I live in the most amazing music city on the planet.  There is SO much to choose from.  Which band gets reviewed?  And could I really do them justice?  It would have to be something new and something mind blowing.

After tormenting myself for days, it came to me.  Barbara deserves BETTER than this.  And I can do better.  Sure Seattle is known for it’s music, but it’s also known for it’s coffee, it’s bars, it’s FOOD, and uh….., APPLES!  SO Barbara, it is with great pride that I give to you my favorite cake recipe. Behold:  Grandma’s German Apple Cake.

1 ¼  Cup oil

2 cups sugar – white

3 cups apples peeled and chopped into small pieces.  Use cooking apples (Jonathan or Winesap are good.  Use Granny Smith if you like it tart)

3 eggs well beaten

1 cup pecans

2 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups plain flour

2 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients together.  Mix oil and sugar together and beat until well mixed, then add 3 eggs and beat again.  Add apples and flour mixture alternately.  Mix well, then stir in nuts and vanilla or beat in just for a minute.  Bake in a 13 x9 pan that is greased and floured.  I use a big industrial lasagna pan.  Start baking in cold oven at 325 and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to make sure it’s done in the center.

This cake is best with a caramel icing and I like to ice it hot out of the oven.  That way the icing soaks into the cake and forms crunchy sweetness around the edges.  Yum!

Caramel Icing:

½ Cup oleo

1 cup light brown sugar

¼ cup canned milk

1 tsp vanilla

Mix oleo and brown sugar together and heat over low fire.  Add canned milk and let it come to a boil.  Boil for a half minute or so.  Remove and let cool.  Add vanilla and speak on cake.  Icing is thin, but thickens as it cools.  Serve warm

This cake KICKS ASS!  People who know me have been asking for THIS recipe for years.  This is the first time I have taken the time to write it down.  I hope you like it.  Serve warm with a shot of whiskey on the side.

And if you are still looking for some great new music, check out VIRGIN (http://www.myspace.com/fastfriendsuk).   I’m not going waste a word reviewing their music.  Eat my German Apple Cake.  If you like it, go out and buy Virgin’s new LP.  After this you will not question my taste in food OR music.

Sincerely,

Mr. Amaker

www.brentamaker.com

Here’s a quick list of what Brent’s been grooving to, along with a helpful hangover cure – especially helpful after seeing Brent and the Rodeo and partaking in one of their whiskey baptisms. Enjoy!

 

Chain and the Gang, “Music’s Not For Everyone”

Scott Walker, “Scott”

The Young Evils, “Enchanted Chapel”

The Three O’ Clock, “Sixteen Tambourines”

Dungen, “Skit I Allt”

 

Favorite hangover cure:  Going for a run.  It hurts, but gets all the tainted blood out of your system in about 20 minutes.

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Hi there! Welcome to Devil’s Apricot!!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23rd, 2011 by Jared

Like some good things, this started with a misunderstanding.

Like most good things, it took forever to germinate.

Like all my favorite things, it involves my favorite things – creative friends, food, music and alcohol.

Welcome to Devil’s Apricot, “A Spirited Guide To Living!”

The misunderstanding came courtesy of a collectively hungover mis-hearing of a British commentator’s statement about playing devil’s advocate.  Somehow, my mind instantly turned “devil’s apricot” into a magazine dedicated to food, music and alcohol and scrawled a graphic.

Nine years later, here we are.  Hope it was worth the wait…

I’m assuming you’re reading this because we know each other – but here’s something you might not know about me.  I owe my culinary chops to one Kurt B. Reighley, aka Senor/DJ El Toro.

Kurt and I moved to Seattle together way back in ’96 – he from NYC, me from LA.  I found us the house, and he helped me get over my perfectionist tendencies and the accompanying paralyzing fear when it came to cooking. He showed me how to freestyle (after learning the basics) and that salt was not my enemy.

Kurt’s teaching method started with walking me through what I wanted to cook, helping me find a recipe and then kicking it on the couch watching “The Simpsons” while I battled it out in the kitchen, him at the ready in case anything went terribly awry.  Knowing that the guy who would occasionally meander down to my basement office to ask if I was hungry – because he’d noticed there were some things that were about to go off in the fridge and he’d happened to casually construct a gourmet meal out of them – was there for me gave me the confidence to go outside my comfort zone and become a pretty good cook.  If not for him, I’d probably still be subsisting on a steady diet of pasta and burritos.

In addition to being a great cook, Mr. Reighley is an amazing writer.  Seriously.  If you think getting over my inferior cooking abilities was an obstacle, you should’ve been in my head when I wrote my first music preview for The Stranger, where Kurt was a contributor.  He has an unbelievable wit and an amazing way of synthesizing diverse information into a pithy, entertaining and awesome read, and he’s done that in spades with his fab new book “United States of Americana.”

Nepotism aside, if you’re at all curious about DIY culture in America, you should buy it.  From music to crochet, canning to burlesque, he’s managed to spin a web (or build an arc – and yes, I meant “arc”) that explains and illuminates the current crafty scene, and done it in a way that’s a thoroughly engaging (and sometimes hilarious) read, even if you’re like me and still harboring severe childhood macramé trauma.

And have I mentioned that he’s awesome and hilarious?  You can also catch him on KEXP (www.kexp.org), where, as DJ El Toro (a persona birthed in our old house in Wallingford – if you’ve never had your roommate suddenly announce that he’s a bull, well, I pity you…), he spins a beautifully eclectic mix of tunes both old and new and offers witty and intelligent commentary.

He published a version of his mac n’ cheese recipe when he was writing a column for the Seattle Weekly, but he’s since updated it.  It was created when my pals in the band Stanford Prison Experiment were staying with us on a night off on tour.  When he told us what he was making, we all reflexively flashed back to the Kraft version and secretly talked about sneaking out to dinner. To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I’d like to believe  those guys loved coming to Seattle because they enjoyed hanging out with me, but I think my place in their hearts was usurped by the mac n’ cheese’s place in their stomachs.

I’m going to let Kurt tell his side of the story in his inimitable style. I highly recommend that you a) make this mac n’ cheese; b) buy his book; c) listen to him on KEXP (Weds from 9 pm – 1 am ); and d) read anything that has his byline on it. (That was in no particular order, btw.)

 

I started baking my own macaroni and cheese in 1989, the year I moved to New York City. I’d purchased the cookbook Square Meals, Jane and Michael Stern’s celebration of American comfort food from the 1920s through the 1950s, and was really taken with the dishes from high school cafeterias. Which is odd, since I dreaded lunchtime in the cafeteria when I was actually in high school. But I digress. Anyway, I worked at this upscale deli and catering company at the time, and odds and ends of gourmet cheese and bulk dried pasta were two of the easiest items to steal from the pantry when nobody was watching, so I experimented a lot with macaroni and cheese to stretch my meager budget. I have modified my recipe over the years (and will no doubt continue to do so, as I have commitment issues). This one is slightly different from the version previously published in Seattle Weekly and Carolyn Mark’s cooking zine Terrible Hostess: Recipes for Disaster. I am still a big fan of Kraft dinner and other boxed macaroni and cheese mixes, but this is a completely different animal. Add a green salad or steamed vegetable—seriously, you want some roughage with this baby—and a loaf of whole grain bread, and you can easily feed you, your roommate, and whatever band is crashing in your living room that evening.

 

El Toro’s Macaroni & Cheese

(Serves 6 to 8)

 

12 oz. uncooked macaroni

6 Tbsp butter

4 cups grated cheese[1]

1 ½ cups milk

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

cooking oil

flour

salt & pepper to taste

breadcrumbs

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 

1. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until just al dente (still firm to the teeth). Drain but do not rinse.

 

2. Sautee onion in a tablespoon of cooking oil until translucent. Set aside.

 

3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of flour and mix, to make a roux.

 

4. Slowly add milk, whisking it in to the roux. At first mixture will be very thick and pasty, but should gradually make a white sauce.

 

5. Set aside ½ cup of shredded cheese. Slowly add remaining cheese by the handful to white sauce, stirring until cheese is melted. Now your white sauce is a cheese sauce.[2]

 

6. In a large bowl, combined cooked macaroni with sautéed onions and diced tomatoes. Then add warm cheese sauce. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

 

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

8. Pour into a two-liter casserole or other suitable baking dish.

 

9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is set and casserole is bubbling.[3]

 

10. Remove casserole from oven. Sprinkle on a generous layer of breadcrumbs and reserved ½ cup of shredded cheese.

 

11. Return casserole to oven and broil for a minute, or until top is brown and toasted.

 

 


[1] This is a good way to use up odds and ends lying around the fridge. Personally, I usually go with mostly sharp or medium cheddar, mixed with some smoked gouda for added panache. Use your imagination!

 

[2] Of course, if you’re using all white cheeses, your cheese sauce will also still be a sauce that is white—just not a classic white sauce. Let’s not argue about semantics, okay?

[3] If you prefer a moister, creamier casserole, cover the dish with a lid for the bulk of the baking time, and remove after 15-20 minutes.

 

More info on Kurt and his various endeavors below.

Also, here’s what Kurt’s been listening to recently.  He has exquisite tastes – and he thinks he’s a bull, so you should definitely listen to what he tells you to!

Various Artists, “Bossa Nova: Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s (Soul Jazz UK)
Beat Connection, “Surf Noir” (Moshi Moshi/Tender Age)
The Chills, “Kaleidoscope World” (Flying Nun)
J. Rocc, “Some Cold Rock Stuf” (Stones Throw)  (not as spelling error: “Stuf,” not “Stuff”)
*Half Japanese, “Sing No Evil” (Drag City)

http://twitter.com/kurtbreighley

www.kurtbreighley.com

http://kexp.org/dj/DJElToro

xo-

babs

p.s. -you can now follow devil’s apricot on twitter – @mydevilsapricot.com (sorry – don’t know how to link it.  it’s either a miracle or a sign of the apocalypse that i was able to post this in the first place!)