LOOK AT LIFE / COCO HAMES

 

The Ettes Present
Their Touring-Band Food Tips: How would you feel about bathing in some baked
beans? You’d feel really good about it, that’s how you’d feel…

 

By Coco Hames

 

Part
of the justification for living in a van — with three other people and
one-to-two dogs, constantly driving around the country, not doing laundry or
sleeping — is 1) we get to play rock shows, and 2) we get to eat exciting,
awesome regional treats! 

 

 

The
best Chinese food in the country is in New York,
though Poni and Jem assure me the New York Chinese diaspora has created a good
pocket of Chinese food in south Florida.  New York DOES have the best pizza (and
bagels, they say it’s the water), and do not even try to engage me comparing Chicago deep dish with New York pizza: there is no comparison.  Like what you like but don’t compare apples
to oranges; they ain’t the same fruit. 
Same goes for California-style fancy pants thin crust gourmet pizza with
figs and prosciutto; give me a break. 
That is delicious but it’s not the same species as a wonderful, perfect,
regular old slice of New York
cheese pizza.  You may only compare pizza
slices within New York City and Brooklyn. 
Thanks. 

 

 

We
get cheese steaks in Philly, and most people will tell you (if you ask them
whether Pat’s or Gino’s is the best) whichever has the shortest line at the
time you go is your best bet.  That’s
good advice.  Philly cheese steaks are
hard to mess up, long as they gots the gooey cheese and onions (“whiz
with”) and you also should use the granular hot sauce and chuck on some
chilies!  Also I hear Tony Luke’s is
good.  But Italian beef in Chicago is a whole new
world.  Get it dipped (in au jus) and
with peppers (spicy or sweet, it’s up to you) and you cannot go wrong. 

 

 

Seafood
is always best nearest its home, and we’ve had memorably killer seafood in Rhode Island, California,
Louisiana, South Carolina,
Maine and Florida. 
I’m partial to Floridian seafood, especially the kind you can get at
J.B.’s Fish Camp in New Smyrna.  You sit
outside (it doesn’t matter how hot it is, you’re on the intercoastal) and drink
cheap beer and eat oysters they harvest on the side of the dock and watch
dolphins cavort in the water. 

 

 

Nashville has
meat-and-threes, which means a meat (roast beef?) and three sides (mac and
cheese, collard greens, black eyed peas, green beans, mashed potatoes, etc.)
but I usually get a meat-and-one because my eyes are way bigger than my
stomach.  And you get you some sweet
tea.  At Arnold’s. 

 

 

In
St. Louis they have a special creepy pizza, which we call the ketchup gravy
pizza, but evidently they mean to make it like that and we’re supposed to like
it, and we kind of always do.  Johnny
likes ribs (who doesn’t?) but the rest of the Ettes are divided on their favorite
barbeque style.  Poni and I prefer North
Carolina barbeque, in which you will find a vinegar-based bbq sauce (other
common ingredients often include ketchup, onion powder, garlic, and sometimes
grape soda!) but Jem likes Memphis-style, specifically Payne’s (suggested to us
by Greg Cartwright) where you will find coleslaw on the sandwich and no
decipherable sauce, which purists insist puts emphasis where it belongs: on the
meat. 

 

 

Green
chiles (they’re not hot) in Arizona and New Mexico find their way into
everything, and even though clever Trader Joe’s sells them canned now, you
can’t beat them fresh.  All the chiles
down around them parts, mmmm.  The
Mexican diaspora in this country over the last ten years or so is indeed
extensive, and so, so welcome.  Mexican
food is so good.  You would assume Boise has potatoes, but
how would you feel about local potato vodka and a potato burrito?  You’d feel really good about it, that’s how
you’d feel.  In your mouth. Texas is #1 for breakfast tacos and its own style of
barbeque, but Austin
just wins all around for best city in general, food included. 

 

 

We
used to be very serious about the best Mexican food being in LA (not, as you
might think, in El Paso, a city that is a
stone’s throw from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico) though San Francisco’s taquerias (not the same thing
as a Mexican restaurant) are pretty much the bomb.  Seattle has a
real gift for rock-and-roll diner food (Hattie Hat’s), as does Atlanta (the Earl).  Every city needs a rock-and-roll diner. 

 

 

A
rock-and-roll diner is a place that typically features a highly tattooed
kitchen and wait staff, and should be run by an ex-touring musician or
skater.  The decor is casual and kitschy,
there should be skulls and motorcycle stuff everywhere, there should be good
local beer on draft, and the food should be structured as American comfort food
(burgers, tater tots, meatloaf, fried chicken, etc.) but done in an inspired
new (and usually more healthful) way. 
More of these!  Everywhere! 

 

 

I’m obviously not mentioning everywhere we’ve ever gone or
want to go (and eat), I’m just excited that we’re headed to Wisconsin and Poni and I are looking for
cheese, and Jem says he heard of a good local beer, yessssss!

 

 

***

 

Blurt “co-co-editor”
Coco Hames fronts The Ettes – Hames on guitar, Jem Cohen on bass and Poni
Silver on drums – whose album
Look At Life Again Soon and EP, Danger Is, were released by Take Root. Their new Greg Cartwright-produced album Do
You Want Power arrived in stores Sept.
29, and you bet we’ve got a big feature on the band in our new print issue.
Check out the band’s MySpace page for music and tour dates.

 

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