Monday, February 9, 2015

"Food & Music Feed the Soul." The Theme of Grammy 2015.

By Laura Medina

Aloe Blacc giving an intimate performance at The Nice Guy,

Far from the clamor of most nightclubs, hooping and a hollering while hosting multitudes of Grammy parties,  die-hard music industry professionals, who really care about music, gathered around Aloe Blacc so they can really hear the man sing and pour his soul and heart out.

Tucked away in a speakeasy of a supperclub/lounge, away from the maddening crowd and traffic of Los Angeles, Aloe and guests politely nibbled on upscale bar food of: Traditional Cheese Pizza, Truffle Fries, Blue Crab Rice Balls, Meatballs, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, and fresh baked Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The Nice Guy is a throwback of what Ago and Dominick's used to be when they first opened in the Sixties before they became way too popular, hang-outs for the Rat Pack, an home away from home.

The Nice Guy has returned the favor for this current set of industry insiders and celebrities who need somewhere cozy from prying eyes.

Well, this scribe was treated to Aloe Blacc opening his heart and history out to this respectful and sympathetic music crowd.   They all related to Aloe's recent struggle as a struggling musician and the Recession forcing him to become a musician.

We all laughed with him...with wisdom...when he half-heartedly joked, "Being an One Hit Wonder is better than no hits at all."

Tucked in a corner with a bare minimal of pianist and a bassist, more of a jazz band than full-blast R&B,  the crowd quiet down then thoughtfully listened when he surged into "I Need A Dollar"

It was only when he sang "The Man" that folks chanted and chimed in.

He ended this close set with a rousing rendition of "Wake Me Up," a cheering good-bye that set off Grammy Week into a good mood.

This intimate set, with a matching intimate cocktail party, whets everybody's appetite for music and food for all of Grammy Week.

K.T. Tunstall,

The next night, after Aloe Blacc, was a big blast from Whole Planet Foundation's Pre-Grammy Party.

Both events have heart.  Whereas a select few were privileged to get to know Aloe Blacc in a close and personal setting, Whole Foods' Whole Planet Foundation Pre-Grammy Party was a full-on blast at the cavernous Ohm Nightclub, two clubs throwing three parties all at once.

Regards of size, both have heart and soul...but Whole Planet does it on a bigger scale.

This scribe gladly caught up with K.T. Tunstall, the woman behind "The Devil Wears Prada" signature song, "Suddenly I See."

K. T. wants everybody and her fans to know, she's been focusing more on soundtracks than hits.

She thinks it's awesome that the same healthy supermarket, she shops from, is throwing a Grammy bash with the same healthy meals she normally buys.

Whole Foods/Whole Planet Foundation healthy, low-calorie, organic dinner buffet.

That's everybody's mood, good music with good, wholesome food with a wholesome agenda, honoring a pair of filmmakers who wanted to do some good in the world but really, people just want to feast on the vegan buffet then burn off calories dancing to 5 different music acts over a course of three hours, into the wee hours.

Healthy Dessert Buffet.

After two hours, the dinner buffet switched into the dessert buffet where folks snatched up bags of glazed popcorn drizzled in dark and white chocolate.

People were surprised you can turn the probiotic yogurt drink, Kefir, into dark chocolate truffle balls and Key Lime Cheesecake, thanks to its new Kefir Farm Cheese, still with it's trademark probiotics.

Blues artist, Keb Mo,

As an unannounced surprise performance set, Keb Mo chilled down the crowd while they munch on their glazed popcorn and Kefir desserts.

This was a mere warm-up to rousing and rocking finale of raggae artist, Rocky Dawuni, when the crowd jumped up and burnt off calories into midnight.

The headliners were pretty nice folks.  Who would had thought this scribe would be causally chilling out with Rocky Dawuni's bassist (he picked out Keb Mo when he walked in late) and the young-and-upcoming Andy Allo, who had to sit down before her set, because her feet were aching.

BET Music Matters with Antonique Smith.

BET's "Music Matters" brought it home with they hosted their showcase at H.OM.E. 90210, an upscale, Down-Home Jazz Supperclub where the stage is intimate, the dance floor is huge, and the dining section, ringing the dancefloor, has a good vantage view.

 Antonique Smith hits center stage then has a table reserved for her.

The headliner of the night, Antonique Smith was R n B meets Rock.  She got some heads banging.  She deserves to have a table reserved for her.

Executive Chef Shawn Davis specially designed a menu for hungry BET guests and musicians, especially the singers belting out tunes.

It was an elegant but simple comfort food of Fried Chicken with French Toast and Bananas in Maple Syrup, accompanied by Parmesan-crusted Mac n' Cheese.

This is scribe wants to return for dessert and a jazz set later on.

Chef John Besh & Louisiana's Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne 
"Only In Louisiana" Grammy Brunch

Let face it,...way, way, before the Grammy Awards existed or the Gramophone was invented, New Orleans and the luscious state of Louisiana was mixing cuisine, culture, and music for a very long time.

Long enough, that they invented American music that is uniquely American...Blues then Jazz.

The same time the music became popular world-wide, so did the food, setting the standard for upscale American cuisine that no one could have or much less, imagine.

You can thank a Louisianian for naming the Grammy Awards, "The Grammy," after entering then winning a contest.

Ever since then, there has been, at least, one Louisianian musician (with the exception of two years) who has nominated for a Grammy or won a couple.

Because of the rich musical stew, Louisianian singers and musicians are never entrenched in the past but push pop music even further and forward into the 21st century, thanks to Mikky Echo and Brittany Spears.

The food influences continues to stretch boundaries, without losing their roots.

Since the grand state of Louisiana is proud of their daughters and sons, past and present, always in the Grammys, they threw a big feast of a brunch honoring them and how their culture became American culture, their "Only In Louisiana" Grammy Brunch.

Celebrity Chef John Besh cooked up a storm of a brunch buffet which this Southern scribe is so thankful for.

He whipped up dishes representing the past and present of contemporary Creole and Cajun Cuisines that you can eat, right now, in his restaurants.

The legendary Buddy Guy was honored by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne for his lifetime achievements in the Blues.

Also, Chef John Besh got up onstage.

But really, everybody was too busy chowing, listening to the bands, and dancing. Yes, they dance at the Only In Louisiana Grammy Brunch!

Thank God, these musicians got a sense of humor.  One of them quipped, "I'm singing for my meal," but what a meal and what a line-up of singers.

The set spans from traditional Cajun Bayou to contemporary R n B artist, Ledisi whose own concert will be at L.A. Live in two weeks.  She'll hanging out in L.A. for awhile.

The Brunch was more like a feast, putting Charleston to shame...

It ain't Louisiana without crawdads etouffee with John's crunchy take on fried rice.  His crunchy fried rice was a like a savory Rice Krispy.

Crawfish Etouffée
2 c vegetable oil
1 ea yellow onion (diced)
2 ea celery stalks (diced)
1 ea green bell pepper (diced)
1 ea red bell pepper (diced)
1 T garlic (minced)
3 c all-purpose flour
1 gal crawfish stock
2 lbs peeled Louisiana crawfish tails (with fat)
2 T salt
2 t fresh ground black pepper
3 T paprika
½ t cayenne pepper
3 T light brown sugar
1 bunch green onions (finely chopped)
2 ea bay leaf
3 c steamed white rice

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add the oil. Add the onions and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the celery, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook until the roux is dark brown but not burnt. Gradually add the stock, whisking constantly to incorporate. Bring to a simmer. While the mixture simmers, in a large bowl combine the crawfish tails with fat, black pepper, salt, paprika cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. When the stock has simmered for 15 minutes, skim all impurities and fat that float to the surface. Next add the seasoned crawfish to the pot. Be sure to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure that none of the seasoning is left behind. Add the green onions and bay leaf and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and serve the crawfish etouffee with steamed rice.

Lousiana shrimp and shrimp stock may be substituted for crawfish when not in season

His idea of gravy...and shrimp & grits...Yes, this Charlestonian is a traitor and would love to use his recipe as an alternative to the cliche but much beloved Shrimp & Grits...

Slow-cooked Pork Grillades, Jalapeño Grits
From My New Orleans by Chef John Besh and Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • 4 pounds boneless veal shoulder, sliced into thin cutlets
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons Basic Creole Spices – recipe below
  • 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned whole plum tomatoes, drained, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cups Basic Veal Stock
  • Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • Tabasco
  • 2 green onions, chopped

  1. Season the veal cutlets with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour together with the Creole Spices in a medium bowl. Dredge the cutlets in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Reserve a tablespoon of seasoned flour.
  2. Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet over high heat. Fry the cutlets, several at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Take care not to overcrowd the skillet. Remove cutlets from skillet and continue to cook in batches until all the veal has been browned. Set the veal aside while you continue making the sauce.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the onions to the same skillet, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they are a deep mahogany color, about 20 minutes. Add the celery, bell pepper, and garlic, reduce the heat to moderate, and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of reserved seasoned flour into the skillet and stir to mix it into the vegetables.
  4. Increase heat to high, stir in the tomatoes and Veal Stock, and cook until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and stir the thyme, pepper flakes, bay leaf, and Worcestershire into the vegetables. Add the veal cutlets, cover, and simmer until the veal is fork tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco, then add the green onions. Serve over creamy Jalapeño Cheese Grits.

Of course, John Besh can do Poached Egg better than anyone else...


4 artichoke bottoms
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, poached
3/4 cup Hollandaise Sauce (see Index)

In a small saucepan warm the artichoke bottoms in salted water and place them in a greased baking dish. In a separate saucepan saute the green onion in the butter; blend in the flour, stirring constantly. Gradually pour in the cream and cook until thickened. Combine the spinach, lemon juice, cheese, salt, and pepper, add to the cream sauce, and mix well. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture on each artichoke bottom and keep them warm in the oven. Poach the eggs and place 1 egg on each filled artichoke bottom. Serve the eggs immediately topped with the Hollandaise Sauce and sprinkled with paprika. The Hollandaise Sauce may be kept warm by placing the blender jar in tepid water. Serves 2.


4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 pound of melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

In the top half of double boiler, heat egg yolks and lemon juice. Cook very slowly in double boiler over low heat, never allowing water in bottom pan to come to a boil. Add butter, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. When mixture thickens, add salt and pepper.

It ain't Southern; and it ain't Louisiana unless you have gumbo...

Duck & Andouille Gumbo
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 1 large domestic duck or 4 wild ducks, each cut into quarters
  • 2 pounds spicy andouille, sliced into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 4 quarts chicken stock or water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 6 cups hot cooked white rice
  1. Make a roux by heating oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat; whisk flour into hot oil.
  2. It will immediately sizzle. Reduce heat to medium; continue whisking until roux is the color of peanut butter, about 15 minutes. Add onions, stirring into roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue stirring until roux is brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Season duck with salt and pepper. Add duck to pot, increase heat to medium, and cook, turning pieces until browned, about 10 minutes. Add andouille sausage and stir for 1 minute; add bell peppers, celery and garlic.
  4. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add green onions, chicken stock, and bay leaves.
  5. Bring gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes; stir occasionally, skimming off fat from surface of gumbo. Add smoked sausage, and Worcestershire. Season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco.
  6. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim fat from surface.
  7. Serve in bowls over rice.

Who says Southern cuisine isn't healthy or fresh?

Here's a seafood rivalry between New Orleans and Charleston for fresh and light seafood...

Seared Tuna with Black Eyed Pea Salad
(serves 6)
1 ½ lbs yellowfin tuna
½ cup creole seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups black eyed pea salad
6 cups tender lettuces (loosely packed)
½ cup herb vinaigrette
chopped chives for garnish

1. Cut the tuna into 4oz portions in the shape of small rectangular logs, and roll in the creole seasoning.
2. Sear the tuna on a flat grill or in a cast iron pan on high heat. Sear on two sides and then place back in refrigerator so the tuna does not cook any further.
3. Slice the tuna into small square tiles.
4. Toss the lettuces in the vinaigrette and place in the center of each plate.
5. Layer the tuna on top of the black eyed pea salad. Garnish with chopped chives.
6. Place approximately 3 ounces of black eyed pea salad on top of the lettuce.
Black Eyed Pea Salad
1 quart black eyed peas, cooked and drained
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chives, chopped

For the vinaigrette
¼ cup pepper jelly
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¾ cup canola oil or pecan oil
Freshly ground pepper

1. Mix together the black eyed peas, onions and chives in a bowl.
2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients until well combined. Pour over the top of the black eyed peas and toss the salad so that it is evenly dressed. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Can't forget us Southerners' Sweet Tooth.  No meal is complete unless you have dessert.

"Only in Louisiana" Grammy Brunch puts us to shame.

A dessert buffet of Starberry Shortcake in cups, Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Tart in Chocolate Cookie Crumb Shells, and mini skillets of Caramel Cornbread, Apple, and Popcorn.

Oh, this scribe is so grateful there was a lot of dancing and jiving, later that night, to burn off all this food!

As Chef John Besh said, "Food and music feed the Soul."   There was a lot of music, food, and love during the Grammys.



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