Body knows best, never mind the rest, the mind is a tether holding you together too tight.
I wake up early in Hartford, Conn. on Day 3 of tour and rouse my drummer to get moving. I peruse the hotel's complimentary breakfast options -- toast, waffles, muffins, cereal, milk. There's nothing for me here, but my mood won't be shaken, Hartford Holiday Inn! I'm on my way to New York City, where I can find anything I want -- anytime!
I make a bagel with cream cheese for Paulie and grab a banana and a couple peanut butter packets for myself, and we head toward New York. I have my mind set on finishing all my meetings at my record label's office so I can wander around the city, nibbling on this and that like Holly Golightly.
I've been gluten-free and mostly dairy-free ever since I walked into my nutritionist's office in 2010 begging her to fix my constant stomach problems. Staying the course on tour is no small feat -- the choices on any off-ramp of the 80E at 2 a.m. are too often the snacks at a Love's truck stop or mysterious "beef salads" from Taco Bell. I've been counting down the days til New York, having heard about a couple places in the West Village that cater to my celiac, lactose-intolerant needs -- places like Victory Garden, which serves goat's milk soft serve frozen yogurt, and Risoterria, a gluten-free Italian restaurant that supposedly has great GF baked goods.
I'm on an LA-based indie label called Chop Shop, but when I'm in New York City, I visit the mothership label: Atlantic. Due to a surprise thunderstorm, the traffic is terrible, so Paulie drops me off a few blocks away so I can run the rest of the way to make it on time. We agree to meet later at the club. I feel momentarily guilty for not including him in my frozen goat yogurt plans, but then realize he is a normal person and probably isn't fantasizing about goat's milk soft serve fro-yo.
(To give you a reference point: In my mind, playing the Highline Ballroom is a 9 on a scale of 1-10 in excitement. Goat's milk soft serve is a 8.5.)
When I arrive at Atlantic I am sopping wet, but they have a nice sushi spread waiting. I have a couple pieces of yellowtail and seaweed salad but forego a full lunch in order to save room for Victory Garden. This place is very Portland-y: small and crafty, with an emphasis on local/organic everything, with artisanal things in eco-friendly wrapping. (I feel like there was burlap involved, but I can't remember for sure.) The female owner also reminds me of my Portland neighbors: pale and pretty in glasses and mildly aloof (or maybe it's my over-exuberance).
Me: I'm so excited to be here. You have no idea!
Me: I came all the way from Portland.
Me: Why do you think goat's milk soft serve hasn't taken off around the country? It's such a great idea! Why did you decide to do it??
She tells me she just wanted people to have a healthier alternative. I quietly endorse this with a thumbs up and suspect this only makes her hate me even more.
I shut up and order, opting for a combination of the salted caramel and the original tart (both amazing), sprinkled with cacao nibs. I also buy their goat's milk lotion, which comes in a roll-on stick -- perfect for the touring musician.
Afterward, I make a left on Bleecker to check out Risoterria's bakery. The waitress suggests the red velvet cupcake or the chocolate chip cookie, but I'm already high on sweets, so I can't make good decisions.
"Both," I say, convincing myself I'm now a food reviewer and this is my duty.
By now I'm late for soundcheck and getting crankier by the second, and there are no benches in sight. I find myself perched on a window ledge in an alley attempting to balance my backpack and guitar in one hand while shoving pieces of red velvet cupcake into my mouth with the other. There is no way I could possibly look less like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Neither the cupcake nor the cookie are anything to write home about, and the corn syrup in both aren't doing me any favors. I rush to the Highline, sweating, shaking, and swearing to myself the whole way. I'm starting to feel like a New Yorker.
I remind myself to eat some real food before the night is over, and after the gig and the merch-selling and the dancing and the laughs with friends, I head upstairs to the green room, where Paulie and I have a nice plate of grilled salmon, sauteed vegetables, and mashed potatoes waiting for us. What a great night. We drive to Brooklyn and stay up late, talking with friends. As I lie in bed I can still hear the echos of the day ringing in my ears.
I fall asleep, crushed out on New York.
Day 4: Fri 5/25, Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Bed Stuy
In the morning, Paulie and I walk to Choice Market in Clinton Hill for breakfast with my friend Blair Mastbaum. Choice Market has a great assortment of freshly-made dishes like grilled salmon, curried vegetables, etc., so I have salmon again, strangely, for breakfast. This must be what my body needs after so many sweets. Paulie's egg sandwich looks great and Blair's turkey burger -- for which Choice Market is famous -- is big and juicy enough to warrant an Instagram or two.
Before hitting the road for our next gig in Sellersville, Pa., I want to try a raw vegan place I've heard about called Sun In Bloom in Brooklyn. Our server is everything you'd want from a raw, vegan restaurant server. She is vibrant and beautiful and her skin has that extraterrestrial glow that no human being has unless they work in a dermatologist's office and have full-time access to the laser machine.
I, however, order like a mortal, asking for a kale salad, veggies wrapped in collard greens, and a cookie, and she looks astonished. So astonished, in fact, she asks me twice if I am sure I want the cookie "for here and not in a bag." See, this is my problem with raw vegan cuisine: If there isn't enough protein, good fats, and nutrition -- if it's all greens, I can feel unsatisfied. Probably because I am. (Notable exception: Sarma Melngailis' Pure Food & Wine on Irving Street, one of my favorite restaurants of all time that never leaves me feeling anything other than blissfully happy.)
"And you wanted the cookie for here you said?" the waitress asks again. "You're sure?"
Yes, I'm sure.
That night we arrive in Sellersville and find homemade chicken salads with garlicky hummus on the side in our backstage rooms. (So often there is either no food at all for the performers or processed food in a plastic tub waiting for you. It doesn't go unnoticed for the lonely troubadour when there's an extra homemade touch to the hospitality. Thank you, Sellersville Theatre!)
After the show, we drive to my best friend Chynna's house in New Jersey and pass out for some of the best sleep of the trip.
Chicken salad running total: 3
Day 5: Stanhope, N.J.
In the morning, Chynna takes us to Toast in Asbury Park, where they serve gluten-free French toast and waffles she swears are indistinguishable from the regular full-gluten kind. After my breakfast salad of greens and chicken, I have a few bites of waffle with whipped butter and grade-B maple syrup for dessert. She's right. Just like the real deal.
We have some time to kill in Ocean Grove, so we walk around the farmer's market sampling kale chips and gluten-free spelt breads before heading out early to Stanhope, N.J.
We're treated like kings at the Stanhope House. I get a house-made tomato bisque and a chicken salad for lunch, while Paulie goes for their homemade simple tomato, sausage and cheese pizza, which looks incredible (thin crust! bubbling cheese!). For our late-night, post-show dinner I have yet another chicken salad and a handful of stone-ground corn chips from the greenroom, along with trail mix and lots of green tea for the drive back to Ocean Grove.
That night I get to thinking about the farmer's market and all the hippie stuff. On one hand it seems exorbitant to charge $5-$8 for a bag of kale chips. On another, it feels good to support independent farmers, chefs, and business owners who are making delicious healthy foods. I'd rather put my money back into the community than give it to some big conglomerate for a little less -- sort of like the people who came to the show tonight after working so hard all week. They spent their hard-earned dollars on a ticket for my show, and in some cases a CD and a T-shirt, and nothing compares to that show of support.
Up next: D.C. and Baltimore
Chicken salad running total: 6!
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