Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meals On Tour: Part One

Greetings from a tour bus in the middle of Pennsylvania!  I’ve been away from my kitchen for weeks, first performing at the OK Mozart Festival and now playing with this man on a 5-week tour.  I had grand plans to cook and photograph many summery dishes in early June so I could write periodic blog entries from the road, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.  I was overwhelmed by the preparations for these 7 weeks away from home, so until I am back in my kitchen, here’s another series of Meals On Tour.

I love being “the string boss” for this band, and the concerts have been a total blast with a mixture of songs from the new album as well as classic standards, gospel tunes and New Orleans jazz.  A typical day on this tour focuses on an evening concert, followed by a several-hour drive and arriving at the next hotel in the middle of the night. Sometimes we only have a day in each new city, but I always try to explore a bit and seek out an excellent lunch, no matter what.

The first big travel day was rough, leaving late after the first concert in Baltimore and rolling into Providence at 7 am.  At least our hotel was around the corner from Local 121, so after sleeping a solid four hours in the hotel, I treated myself to lunch. This white pizza with smoked mozzarella, sautéed kale, oven-roasted tomatoes and topped with a fried egg totally hit the spot, and I can't wait to recreate it at home.

We followed the brief stint in Providence with several days in Boston, my old college town.  I was thrilled to play at Symphony Hall for the first time, and my inner 19-year-old was turning cartwheels with the excitement of it all.  I was deliciously happy wandering around all weekend, revisiting my first two college apartments and other favorite places.

After walking through the Public Garden, I had to pop into the nearby Parish Cafe, a frequent college haunt of mine.  The Parish menu features sandwiches and salads created by well-known Boston chefs, and The Bristol sandwich – rosemary-roasted chicken with boursin, Bibb lettuce and a béarnaise aioli on toasted foccacia—was a happy new discovery for me.

One of my fellow musicians just asked me what I missed most about home while being on the road for such a long time.  Of course I miss my friends dearly, but the next thing that came to my mind was kale salad!  Fortunately there was a Hillstone (aka Houston’s) in Boston, and I got my kale fix.

After a really intense first week of tour—five concerts, five cities, and countless hours of rehearsal on all new music—I had a blissful day off in Philadelphia.  Even though the sky was already growing lighter by the time we reached the hotel, I was awake again by 10 am. I couldn’t sleep any longer, wired with the sheer anticipation of going to La Colombe for my favorite cappuccino. 

Talk about cappuccino bliss!

In fact, I had been craving a cappuccino alongside the iced coffee-with-an-espresso-shot, my daily beverage order during the two weeks I spent in Philly last fall.  With my beverage duo and a ginger scone from the nearby Metropolitan Bakery, I had the perfect set-up for an extended writing date that morning.

After getting sufficiently caffeinated, I ate lunch around the corner at  The corkscrew pasta with fava beans and adorable little fiddlehead ferns was bursting with springtime flavor, a treat even in June.

If you have a day off, you might as well take yourself to The Ritz for a sparkling glass of rosé cava.  When the bar at that particular Ritz is in a magnificent room made of marble and stone with a majestic high domed ceiling, it’s a particularly excellent setting for happy hour.

My last visit to Pittsburgh was fifteen years ago, but I’ve never forgotten the hotcakes at Pamela's Diner.  These were not your ordinary fluffy diner pancakes but were more similar to crepes, tender throughout but crisp around the edges and cooked to buttery perfection.  Luckily for me, there was another branch of Pamela’s within walking distance of our downtown hotel. 

Just a few nights before, HCJ had told a story on stage about the dessert his parents always served for their parties. This involved injecting large strawberries with a syringe-full of Cointreau, then serving the boozy strawberries alongside bowls of of sour cream and brown sugar.  I’d been craving that in the worst way ever since he mentioned it, so imagine my delight when I found that Pamela’s had their crepe-like hotcakes filled with strawberries, brown sugar and sour cream!

They were so good I had to return the next morning for the killer blueberry version. 

This tour continues for another three weeks, and I look forward to sharing more stories and culinary discoveries with you.  To be continued…

One Year Ago: Apricot Sorbet
Two Years Ago: Key Lime Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Avocado Grapefruit Salad
Four Years Ago: Limoncello Floats

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