New York, the 90’s and salad dressing

When I worked at The Gap (a million years ago), I frequently travelled  to New York to assist on photo shoots. Just a few years out of college, it was such an exhilarating and exciting time in my life — I was absolutely fearless in exploring the city. When I was on the company expense account, I stayed in nice hotels, cabbed everywhere and spent a $75/day per diem for food. Sadly, after a long day of steaming khaki pants, babysitting models and shuttling cappuccino orders I rarely had the desire to do more than order dinner in and fall asleep in front of the television. All to do it again in a few hours.

On personal trips, it was a very different experience. I was basically broke-ass, staying on the couch of a high-school friend who had moved there. But…it was SO much more fun. I remember going to Wigstock in Tompkins Square park (when it was still a place you would not go after dark), searching for the perfect vintage Levi’s 501s at Antique Boutique, staring in the marvelous windows at Barneys and Bergdorfs, and buying my Doc Martins at discount on W. 8th. While it wasn’t unusual to see celebrities and models going about their business, one memory stands out of seeing Ed Lover dancing at Wetlands (for some reason I thought that was oddly hilarious). At that time, I could still drink well enough to keep up with my friend (who, as a guy, should have had a much higher tolerance than me), as we would flit from bar to bar, going more underground as it got later and later. Ah, to be that young and spirited again.

Aaaanyway…we used to frequent a place called Dojo’s in the East Village. It was just downstairs from his roachy apartment on St. Marks, and they had healthy food for crazy cheap. One of my favorite things was their Carrot Ginger dressing — a bright/tangy/sweet thick sauce that we’d pour on salads, dip things in, and basically lick from the bowl. That stuff was amazing.

Just today, I was at Trader Joes, and got a prepackaged salad that had a very similar dressing, sparking memories of the original, which I haven’t had since my last visit to Dojo’s in the 90s. And now I can’t stop thinking about it. Then I look at the ingredients on the package and realize there isn’t any reason why I can’t make a jar (or a gallon) of this at home. A little more googling™ and next thing I know Gwyneth Paltow is serving up a recipe that looks pretty much spot on. Her version comes via GOOP, where she exhuberantly exclaims: “This dressing is the jam!” Oh Gwynnie!

(I will share the recipe here, in case you have a strong aversion to her or her website in general. I totally understand and I was right there with you, until she kind of won me over when she sang with Huey Lewis in Duets. I even bought her new cookbook — she’s harmless.)

SALAD WITH CARROT AND GINGER DRESSING

For dressing:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sweet white miso
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons water

Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and whiz together. While the blender is going, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and the water.

Combine the lettuce, onion and avocado in a bowl, drizzle with plenty of dressing and serve.

"Rudie Come Forward!" (South By Part III)

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When I told my husband about the next show I was going to see, he said, “I don’t know. That has the potential to be really bad. And SAD.” Ever the optimist, I decided to go anyway. I mean it’s the English Beat, afterall. Well, to be accurate, it’s Dave Wakeling fronting a much younger band of polished musicians. No Ranking Roger. No Cox/Steel rhythm section. No Saxa. So you can understand our skepticism, especially since were both surprised to hear that the English Beat (or to everyone else outside of the US, “The Beat”) is still around playing music.

I have a very fond memories of that wave of ska + reggae + pop crashing through my early school years, when I was really starting to discover, explore and form my own musical tastes. From the iconic graphic design to the perfect dance beats, I Just Can’t Stop It was an album on heavy rotation at my house, and a staple of the school dances where we would skank and jump around like little kids who had too much sugar.

So guess what? The show was great. And super fun.

Wakeling has gained a few pounds and no longer has short spikey hair (looking a bit like a grown up frat boy who wandered into the wrong party) but once he starts playing and singing and performing, it all comes back. His voice is true to form and sounds exactly the same. They started in with a slowed down groovy version of Stand Down Margaret and moved uptempo into Rough Rider, Mirror in the Bathroom (gorgeous sax solo), Ranking Full Stop, Twist and Crawl, and big hit Tears of a Clown. By this point the crowd is totally jumping around and dancing, even the middle aged industry guys in their suits and beer guts. How can it be that all these awesome songs were on the same album? And why do I still know all the words, including the Ranking Roger toasting parts?

We were also treated to Save it for Later (from Special Beat Service) and even General Public’s hit, Tenderness. This incarnation of the band has obviously been playing together for a while because they were energetic and tight and just on. I’m so glad to have had the chance to see them live, even if it wasn’t the full original band. To know that the music can still move me after all these years, felt really good. I left the show invigorated and happy and nostalgic…all at the same time. Oh, and sweaty.

A Light Lunch and More Musings on Music

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I can’t imagine eating this way any more than once a week or so, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try and discover the subtle nuances of Texas BBQ while in Austin. So here’s my take:

“Mmmm. Smokey. Good meat. Sauce is kinda sweet, kinda vinegar-ey. I need something crunchy with this. Oh man, everything is sticky. Do potatoes qualify as vegetables? Napkins, wet-wipes, where are they…”. Etc. You get the picture. Same deal at most of the places I went.

Now back to the other bands I checked out at South by…

Goldspot. Apparently this band’s music is on the O.C and a bunch of other shows like that. Since I didn’t watch that show, I’m not familiar with Goldspot, but I can totally imagine the songs on a show with a bunch of rich kids full of angst. No, I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging them. I actually liked the music, and I thought the songs were interesting, if not a bit anthemic (is that a word?). . Check out “Time Bomb”. You’ll know what I mean.

There were a few other bands at this same venue that it turns out were part of a showcase presented by KCRW. So these bands have a bit of buzz going around them already, probably having been played on Morning Becomes Eclectic or whatever. Another band I saw here was The Duke Spirit out of the UK. Female singer, darkish, driving, and kind of goth. I probably would have gotten more into them if it hadn’t been 1:20 am in the morning. Hear a song from them here.

I dug Electric Touch…maybe the piano power chord demo that I heard on their SXSW profile page roped me in initially (because I am a SUCKER for a good piano power chord) or maybe it was the 70s classic rock stylings. They are based in Austin, but the lead singer is British (maybe the whole band is?) and looks like a cross between a baby Chris Robinson and a certain local singer-songwriter I used to crush on. This band wins the title of “tightest rocker pants” as a collective.

I also quickly ran by the Lemonheads (remember them?!) show, which was happening at Emo’s Annex OUTSIDE, meaning I didn’t even have to go into the venue to hear them. I peeked over the fence, and yes, it sounded exactly like Evan Dando always sounded like and I also observed that he is quite tall. They performed the entire tracklist of “It’s a Shame About Ray”, although I didn’t stay. I have the cassette somewhere at home I should dig out.

Lastly, my favorite show of the night was The Ting Tings. They are a guy/girl duo from Manchester who do an upbeat electro poppy kind of thing. The female takes lead vocals and the male plays the drums (like the White Stripes in reverse). She’s super cute with a pretty voice, kind of reminding me of Debbie Harry meets Terri Nunn, with the wardrobe trendsetting potential of Gwen Stefani. It was hard not to bounce up and down to the synth-ey and bubbly sound. I’m definitely gonna buy their disc once it comes out.

Destination, Austin

Well, the sun’s coming out and I’m seeing less and less people texting on their iPhones or hunched over a laptop in the hotel lobby. The crowds here are getting younger with a thriftscore meets Urban Outfitters chic. This changing of the guard can only mean one thing…South by Southwest Interactive is ending and the Music Festival is starting!

I’ve been here in Austin since last Friday and it’s been like watching the seasons change. Considering that the weather dipped down to 35 degrees in the evening just a few nights ago, it’s hard to believe it’s completely turned and is now a pleasant and comfortable 77, at 6 pm, no less.

I just got back from a checking out a short set by the band Ra Ra Riot. I was instantly struck by the lead singer’s shirt, which could very well have been the same plaid Alexander Julian button down that I bought for my Sadie Hawkins date back in the 80’s. Kind of good foreshadowing for their sound, which I might describe as:

(The Cure + Morrisey) backed by the string section of our high school band and members of the Chess Club.

Lots of energy, though, and I liked them. Boy did they look young. Listen to a bit of their music here.

More to come on later music shows tonight!