Leftovers: Talking Food with Cat’s Eyes

One of the more unexpected treats of 2011 is Cat’s Eyes, the collaboration between Horrors frontman Faris Badwan and classically-trained soprano/multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. Their debut hangs in an ethereal limbo between the Shangri-Las and Ennio Morricone. Not a bad place to be.

MP3: Cat’s Eyes – Bandit (buy it!)

I interviewed the duo for BrooklynVegan recently and managed to sneak in a few cullinary questions at the end.

SOUND BITES: Did any food fuel the making of the Cat’s Eyes album?

Rachel Zeffira: Snacks.

SB: Such as?

RZ: Classic things with rediculous names. In England they don’t have candy corn so I made them eat that. That was disasterous.

Faris Badwan: It’s deadly, candy corn. If you have ten kernals or whatever, you’re ill.

RZ: Mostly it was healthy stuff. Spelt stuff. Steve Osbourne likes spelt. Dried mango. It was healthy stuff that was eaten in an unhealthy way. I wasn’t allowed any sugar. I get really hyper. It affected the recordings.

SB: Do you cook?

FB: Rachel cooks and I let her cook for me.

RZ: I was vegan for a long time so I still use tons of vegan recipes. I’ve got two vegan cookbooks that I love.

What was the gateway back into meat?

RZ: Moving to Italy. The word “vegan” doesn’t even exist there. No translation. Then I was just vegetarian, and they served me veal because it was grass-fed! Like something out of a movie. Because it ate grass, they thought that was the same thing. I swear. And then I ate the veal…and I liked it. I don’t think I ever liked meat before moving to Italy. All the food is good in Italy.

Where did you live?

RZ: I was in Verona for three years. I love Italian food.

BP: And that’s what you cook?

RZ: Yeah. The different regions are so different. That’s what I love. It’s not just pizza and pasta. Sicilian food versus the Northern, more Austrian stuff.

Do you have a signature dish?

FB: She does — gnocchi.

RZ: I make good homemade gnocchi. I really like sugary stuff, baking. Nanaimo bars…which are only found on the West Coast of Canada.

FB: Whoopie pies.

RZ: But then everyone started making those so I stopped.

Do you have a favorite city when touring or otherwise for the food?

RZ: Sicily. I would fly to Stromboli for this one restaurant, Il Canneto. It’s unbelievable. I would fly there just to have a meal and fly back. Well worth it. What about you, Faris?

FB: There’s been loads of places in the States, actually. There’s a vegan cafe in San Francisco I really love. I’ve always liked touring the States for that reason. The food’s a lot better than in England.

When you knew you were coming to New York to do press, did you have a food agenda?

RZ: I have a list! Have you noticed my eyes getting wild while we’re talking? I wanna go to Katz’s deli for matzo ball soup. And that place Babycakes as I don’t eat much sugar, I wanna see if it’s as good as people tell me it is.

FB: What’s Moby’s place called? Teany. That’s pretty good, I went there once.

RZ: I really like American breakfasts. In England, pancakes are like crepes and the French toast is flat. In New York it’s made with challah bread, which is so much better.

On the flip side of that, is there a food you wanna eat when you get home from touring?

RZ: Usually healthy food.

FB: Not really for me. I feel like I get to eat more of what I like when I’m away from home.

Are there any foods you just don’t don’t like?

RZ: Prawns. I have a shellfish phobia.

FB: I eat pretty much anything but I don’t like raw onions or peppers

Sound Bites Interview: North Highlands

As you may know, I'm curating a series of daytime shows at the Seaport, which kick off this Sunday (5/30) with Brooklyn quintet North Highlands. Having just celebrated their first birthday, the band are currently working on their debut album. Until that's done, you can pick up their Sugar Lips EP and here's an MP3 appetizer:

MP3: North Highlands – Sugar Lips
If you live in NYC you can also catch North Highlands tonight at Cameo Gallery where they play with Montreal's loud No Joy. But you should definitely come on Sunday for the big kickoff event. As these Seaport shows are helping to promote the Fulton Stall Market, I asked the band a bunch of food questions. The band (who have a song called "Fresca") were clearly up to the challenge.

You'll be playing across from the Fulton Stall markets. What's your favorite vegetable?

Daniel Stewart (mandolin, violin): I'm fond of the cabbage relatives like kale, brussels, and brenda was over while i was making kimchi last night, but i'm definitely a beet fanatic. 
Mike Barron (guitar, vocals): Definitely onions. I have no idea why, but I've always loved them. It started when I was about 2 years old, and my parents thought I was super fucking weird because all I wanted was onions on everything.

What's your least favorite vegetable and why? 

Brenda Malvani (vocals, keyboards): I just found out that me and Mike both hate mushrooms, right on. 
Daniel: The bastard child of the cabbage family is cauliflower. Its fine but i can't think of a blander color next to beets. [Might I recommend orange or purple cauliflower? -Ed.]
Jasper Berg (percussion, vocals): I have never been a fan of brussle sprouts. They look like the balls of nature.

Has food ever influenced your songwriting? 

Mike: If it weren't for food, I wouldn't be alive to write songs.

Any good food-related band anecdotes? 

Brenda: I always get scolded when I mention adding ketchup to anything. Also, we shot part of our music video in a fitness club from 7pm-4am and had quite the pizza party.

Does North Highlands ever eat together as a band? 

Brenda: Yeah, it's pretty important to me that when we are working on projects (recording, etc.) that we start the day off together. Feels like family, grabbing bagels and coffee before noon.

Ever cook together? 

Brenda: We mostly BBQ. I love loitering around Daniel's kitchen. His fridge is generally full of beer and pickled foods. He also taught us the right way to dress a hot dog — with Friendship sour cream and jalepenos and mustard?

Where do you eat in Brooklyn? 
Brenda: I usually go to Egg for breakfast, they have great home made jam. 
Mike: The vietnamese sandwiches at
Hanco's are pretty bangin. 
Jasper: Top three bangin' food joints: City Subs (Park Slope), Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (Greenpoint),
Pies n Thighs (Williamsburg).

What's your cheap eats go-to joint? What about when you're willing to splurge a little? 
Daniel: Greenpoint's God Bless Deli (Hallowed be thy name) is my bodega of choice by proximity.
Jasper:  Arby's on Fulton. The most hilarious restaurant in the world. Whenever there's the desire to splurge a bit, it's generally a toss-up between Diner, Dressler, and Madiba.
AndyKasperbaur (bass, vocals): I don't splurge too often due to this economical fiscal climate, but when I do I always enjoy going to M Shanghai in Williamsburg. Steamed juicy pork or vegetable buns that are to die for!  Mae the owner is awesome and I think she just opened a noodle shop on Metropolitan as well.

What's your hangover food of choice?

Andy:  I stick to fruits like apples and bananas. But some days I will hit up Tom's Diner and get some Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and their Cherry Lime Ricky drinks are exquisite!  
Mike: Bloody Mary + anything that I can put hot sauce on. 
Jasper: The Lumberjack at Manhattan Inn has recently taken over the standard bacon egg and cheese bagel as my personal favorite.The Inn's hashbrown ball is perfection. 

What food would you imagine your music being paired with? 
Brenda: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Ala Mode. 
Andy: Disco Fries? 
Daniel: elote or toast. 
Mike: Ceviche with mango. 
Jasper: Perhaps one of those badass Korean hot dogs that are so hot right now.  I had one at the LCD show (on the roof cuz I'm a pimp), and it had a chicken dog, mango, onion, bok choi, and this hot ketchup that made me go, 'damn'. 

Chinese Kids are Chowin’ Down

Fried Dumpling-Mosco Street
In these wintry economic times, everyone can appreciate a bargain, especially a delicious one. On German Measles' debut EP, the Brooklyn band sing the praises of five-dumplings-for-a-dollar joint Fried Dumping. "There's a groovy place where you can always go, just gather up your change and head to Mosco!" A band who for a long time seemed to exist mainly to get f-ed up on stage have straightened up lately, to the point that I'd actually call them competent. Enjoyable even.Their recordings are the lowest of fi, but have a sort of sloppy protopunk charm. I dig it.

MP3: German Measles – Mosco Street (Buy it from Insound or Emusic)

The song also serves to note that Fried Dumpling's original Allen St. location no longer exists — so head to Mosco! Or, just go to Vanessa's Dumpling House on Eldridge which I personally think is a lot better than Fried Dumpling. It's got the same five-for-a-buck deal, the dumplings are superior and  – even better — you can also get their awesome sesame pancake sandwiches filled with pickled carrot, cilantro and the protein of your choice. (I like the duck.) Only $1.50!

For more cheap dumpling action, Grub Street took celebrity chef Ming Tsai on a dumpling crawl and he rates his Top Ten. 

Photo swiped from  


Momofuku_koThere are a bazillion reviews of Momofuku Ko out there, certainly more than there should be for a restaurant that only has 12 seats. And Robyn at The Girl Who Ate Everything had pretty much the exact same meal I had, so check out her post for a full course-by-course breakdown (with mouthwatering photos) but I thought I’d touch on my meal in bullet-point form.

  • The much-discussed online reservation system is least busy on Sundays. If you’re up at 10am, it’s not so hard. I would also imagine Memorial Day weekend will be a good time to try too.
  • I’m pretty sure I was the oldest customer in the place all night. The reservation system favors the internet-savvy.
  • $85 is a serious bargain for the sort of high-end food you get, and it is a lot of food. Too much food, I thought. By the time we got to our last savory course — the braised then deep-fried short ribs seen above — delicious, but I was already stuffed. Smaller portions would still be worth it.
  • That said, it wasn’t as awesome as I had expected, probably due to unattainable expectations. (I expect to feel the same about the new Indiana Jones movie.) I think maybe three courses were "wows." The rest were merely very, very good.
  • Momofuku Ssam Bar is better.
  • The three folks behind the stove were some of the most non-stressed chefs I’ve ever seen. Maybe prep is bitch, but during service, Ko seems like a pretty sweet gig.
  • Sour cream ice cream is amazing.
  • My friend Kelly, who went with me, and I got different dishes
    sometimes. To quote her, "Momofuku Ko is sexist. They give the girls
    fish and chicken dishes and the guys pork and beef. Ladies, dress in
    man drag if you want the good stuff." I would say some of her dishes
    were actually better than mine, but this is not the first accusation of
    this nature I’ve heard about Ko. If there are any females out there
    who’ve eaten at Ko solo, I’d love to hear what you got.
  • Kelly also got the first-ever "beer pairing" at Momofuku Ko…which included Budweiser for two of the courses. I got the regular pairing which featured wine, sake, and beer. I left the place more than tipsy.
  • The soundtrack to your meal is like what you get at the other Momofukus (if you’ve been), but slightly more restrained (ie, no AC/DC). I was gonna write down all the songs during my 2 1/2 hour meal but it became apparent there were only about 10 album on shuffle. Those included Luna‘s entire catalogue, Pavement‘s Brighten the Corners, the new Stephen Malkmus, The ClashSandanista!, Joe Strummer & the MescalerosGlobal a Go-Go, The Kinks Ultimate Collection, and Peel Slowly and See.

Luna – Friendly Advice (buy)

And I can’t not post a song from Elvis Costello‘s new album, Momofuku, even though "this album has no connection with the restaurant of the same name but E.C. has been told that their cooking is excellent." They’re not lying to you, Elvis.

MP3: Elvis Costello & the Imposters – No Hiding Place

The Cheesiest

Another great, lactose tolerance testing party from the folks at Slice, Gothamist and Fornino. It would be unfair to hold tonight’s festivities up against the last one two years ago (lightning in a bottle) but it was a whole lot of fun. And delicious. Fornino is my neighborhood pizza place, the food eaten at most LOST nights at my place, so I’m familiar with the menu but I had a couple pizzas I’d never tried before including arugula/gorgonzola/figs, pesto/shrimp, and the black trufflicious Tartufo. Also: another mozzarella-making demonstration from Fornino owner Michael Ayoub and some great spumoni.

And, of course, there was "Hot Kate" who took a lot of great photos and supplied the evening’s best quotes:

"Can you hold this for a second?"

"Oh my god…it’s too big!"

"My bag is wet!"

"What happened to my wheat?"

"Wait a minute, I said something else funny…"

Sound Bites Interview: Gerard Cosloy

Gerard Cosloy is Co-President of Matador Records, and ran Homestead Records before that. (My cassette of Homestead’s seminal 1988 compilation Human Music still gets play when I visit the parents.) When he’s not busy doing those things, he blogs about baseball. I pulled him aside after the Blog Factor panel at SXSW to talk, ever so briefly, about food. I was a little nervous, as the last time I’d spoken to Cosloy (on the phone as a college radio MD trying to get Matador to send us the Teenage Fanclub record; our station was more mainstream than a lot of college stations) he yelled at me. But it made his Top 10 Highlights of SXSW So Far, apparently, so maybe now would be a good time to hit him up again for A Catholic Education.

Sound Bites: The Matablog seems to be turning into a food blog.

Gerard Cosloy: Yeah, well we get hungry. Patrick [Amory, Matador GM] is a wiz in the kitchen. I do think if you look throughout the years, most people who were degenerate record collectors – as they move on in their lives, the only thing left for them is food. I look forward to the day when we move exclusively to food coverage and can stop putting out records altogether. That’s our five year goal.

SB: I know you posted endorsing Torchy’s Tacos as the place many may eat every meal during SXSW. Have you managed to eat elsewhere?

GC: I have, as a matter of fact.

SB: So what’s the best thing you’ve eaten this week?

GC: I’d rather not say — Austin restaurants are overrun this week as it is.

SB: This won’t go up till after SXSW.

GC: Well, in that case, Jonathan from Shearwater to me to a Vietnamese place on East Oltorf called Hai Ky which, for better or worse, is probably my favorite place in town these days. Very cheap, the food’s awesome, the people who work there are great. Sadly they’re closed Sundays, but what can you do?

MP3: The Young Fresh Fellows – Taco Wagon

Photo courtesy Mr. Cosloy; credit, according to him, "Dick Avedon." Ahem.

Happy Sushi!

Holiday travel sucks, but it’s always nice knowing there will be a new Sushi Yasuda origami waiting for me when I get home. They send them out every year to people who are on their mailing list. (It’s free.) Usually, it’s some kind of fish (eel, blowfish, etc) but this year they sent out a Fishing Boat. It kind of looks like a doobie in this picture but, don’t worry mom, it’s not. It’s a boat.

Sushi Yasuda is probably the best sushi place in NYC that won’t cost you a month’s rent. It will still cost you your cable bill, but it is worth it.

Still, it’s a splurge. But once you have had the good stuff, neighborhood sushi just doesn’t cut it. The rice is cold and hard. The fish isn’t cut with much skill. And the pieces are too big to eat in one bite. (A serious no no.) Finding affordable sushi that is worth eating in NYC is difficult. But I’ve found somewhere that fits the bill.

Nori opened about a three weeks ago on 2nd Avenue, just below St. Marks. It’s a little place with nine seats at the sushi bar and about seven or eight tables. They don’t have the variety of fish you’ll find at Yasuda or 15 East but everything they have is very good. And if you sit at the bar and show the sushi-ya that you’re a serious sushi eater, and let him choose your meal, he will show you how serious he is.

On a recent meal I got fluke that had been marinated between sheets of kombu, giant clam,
kanpachi, hamachi belly, King salmon, real Japanese wagyu beef sushi, briefly blowtorched, very good
o-toro, uni, house-made sea eel, ikura, and half a roll filled with toro and japanese pickles. And the finale was something I’ve never had before: king crab topped with uni, and then blowtorched. Awesome. And the rice is not an afterthought — warm and soft, you need to dip your fish flesh-side down in the soy sauce (the way you’re supposed to) or risk it falling apart on you. As it should be.

Nori doesn’t have a liquor license yet, so it’s BYOB and they’re currently enticing customers with an trio of amuse bouche  (last night we got eggplant in miso, asparagus with sesame sauce, and a salmon and roasted tomato thing) and desert (chocolate cake and green tea ice cream), both of which were gratis. The bill for all that? $60 not counting tip — pretty amazing if you consider we got toro (twice), wagyu beef, uni (twice) and more. They also have your typical $20 sushi assortments that I have to imagine are good too, but I recommend sitting at the bar and getting the good stuff, served one piece at a time.

Nori | 129 Second Ave.|212-677-4825


In other sushi news, Ushiwakamaru just reopened after a nearly six-month renovation. It the closest thing NYC has to the great neighborhood sushi joints you find in LA and San Diego (though more expensive), filled with Japanese speakers and in-the-know round-eyes. The sushi chef and owner, Hideo, is well-loved and gets all sorts of fish you normally don’t see outside of Japan. It’s not as affordable as it once was, but it’s still cheaper than the Midtown shrines. Reports on Egullet say the funky vibe and green walls have been somewhat replaced by lots of pretty blonde wood but as long as Hideo-san is still in charge it will be worth checking out soon.   

Adiós Matamoros

Matamoros_sopes1After 18 months of having a For Sale sign in their window, looks like Matamoros Puebla Grocery has finally given up the ghost. I headed there yesterday for some lunch and they were gutting the place. I was gutted too. They might’ve been merely renovating, I couldn’t bring myself to inquire, but I’m guessing not. The shutters were down when I walked by around 11am this morning.

Matamoros was one of the few places on Bedford that was still around from when I first moved to Williamsburg ten years ago. It was there that I first had "authentic" Mexican food and it’s cheap and delicious tacos, sopes and tortas got me through some lean years and continued to eat there probably twice a week. It was also my source for perfect avocados, crema, cotija cheese, dried chiles and bizarre tamarind candy. Mostly I will miss their amazing sopes, pictured above. I’ve had better tacos elsewhere in the city, but nobody did sopes as good as Matamoros. I am very sad.

Thanksgiving Aftermath

Thanksgiving2007_2Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, as it’s all-inclusive. It doesn’t matter what religion, race, nationality…if you are here, you’re welcome to be apart of it. The more the merrier. And I love big potluck dinners, especially when everyone is trying to bring the delicious.
This was maybe the best Thanksgiving, foodwise, in quite a while. Nobody tried to fancy it up too much (a crime committed by me in the past), all the standards were covered but with extra attention. Just awesome.

I took it easy this year, after treating previous Thanksgivings as a competition, making three things but they were all fairly easy. White bean spread for crostini using Cellini Runner beans from Rancho Gordo, the beans being so good I almost ate them all the night before; curried cauliflower, using Ganda’s recipe again, as a base, though upping the dose of spices and adding dijon mustard and unknown chiles from that stand in the Union Square Greenmarket … excellent, and even better cold the next day; and green tea vanilla ice cream which was very good though not quite as green tea-y as I would’ve hoped. But not bad for an idea I did on the spot. Plus a jar of Windy City Wasabeans from Rick’s Picks, a big hit.

I ate leftovers the rest of the weekend, barely leaving the house, watching a lot of Picket Fences Season 1 (not as good as I’d remembered) and too many episodes of Never Mind the Buzzcocks on YouTube. (If you’ve never seen the episode with Amy Winehouse from a year ago, it’s a must: Pts one, two, and three) Ate out Sunday night at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which was great. But I’m not sure anything was as good as that cauliflower.


I usually consider myself as being on top of the UK scene, but Obscure Sound has three tracks from a band I’d never heard before, Hidden Messages, and they are quite good. [Obscure Sound]


Over at the AV Club, Comedian of Comedy Brian Pohsen interviews fictional, animated metal band Dethklok who tell him about the craziest thing that ever happened at one of their shows: "There were two guys who ran at
each other full force in a mosh pit and exploded their brains and guts
and donkey cum onto a bride who had just gotten out of a limousine at
that exact moment."; Jason Schwartzman offers up his iPod for an exceptionally interesting Random Rules. My esteem for him went up by 24% after reading this; And Nathan Rabin finally tackles the inexplicable, horrendous, yet un-turn-off-able mess that is Dreamcatcher for his awesome My Year of Flops project. [AV Club]


I saw both of Pelle Carlberg‘s NYC shows in May (one of which I reviewed) and in addition to his
own songs, he covered Elton John’s "Rocket Man" and Mika’s "Grace
Kelly" which were both great. I’ve been looking for MP3s ever since.
(There’s an EP that has them, somewhere, but you had to order the album
online to get it. I already owned it at that point.) Quick Before it
Melts comes through with the Mika one. [QBiM]


Speaking of… in today’s NY Times Dining section, restaurant critic Frank Bruni gives two stars to high-end tapas joint Pamplona. I’ll have to take his word on the food, but Pelle Carlberg’s song of the same name is at least a three-and-a-half, if not four:

MP3: Pelle Carlberg – Pamplona
(buy it)