Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Day Roy Orbison Died

I went out to dinner the other night with friends that I knew from when we all worked together at GreenWorld Records, a California based company, in the mid-eighties. I've kept in touch over the years with Paul Marotta , I consider him to be one of my greatest friends, but for some reason or other lost touch with Steve Bromlee after GreenWorld and Holly Lane since 1995 (she told me at dinner that she came to see my band that year, better memory than I) . We were all re-united when my wife Jill put up a Facebook page and found out that former employees of GreenWorld/Enigma had a group page. I've been on the page and funny enough found out that someone I knew from LIFEbeat, The Music Industry Fights AIDS (I worked there for about 9 years) also worked at Enigma.

In 1984 Paul talked GreenWorld into opening a NYC office and shortly after hired me. We only worked together for a few months but I learned so much about the record business from Paul. To this day I still learn something interesting every time I see Paul. When Paul left I wound up becoming the manager of the office, with practically no experience under my belt. I subsequently hired Don Brody to do sales and Holly Lane to do everything else that Don and I didn't have the time to do. The three of us worked together in a small cramped office on Lafeyette Street for about 14 months, but had the time of our lives. Who could argue with bad Heavy Metal indie groups, calzones from Sal's and cheap beer from the local bodegas? But the good times faded and I left right before the ship sunk. I got tired of selling the few crappy records we had left after being cut off for past due bills by all the indie labels we carried, and the pressing plant that made the discs for our own label, and the long distance trucking company to boot.

We had camaraderie that only exists when you like the people you work with and when you all really care about the music, not just making money. Catching up with people that your respect and also had good times with is special. After a few margarita's I brought up Don's name and regrettably changed the subject. Don died suddenly on December 27, 1997 and I guess I still have trouble dealing with losing friends too soon. I tend to get sentimental bordering on maudlin if I have too much tequila and I wanted to keep the night festive. When I think back about Don I can remember every time I'd see him he'd say "so what's on your turntable today" (cd's weren't quite prevalent yet)? He loved hearing what mattered about the music his friends listened to, he wanted to soak it all in. I also remember the great songs he wrote being a terrific singer/songwriter and the honesty he performed them with. He was in a band from Columbus, Ohio called Cryin Out Loud when I met him and then later he had a duo called the Marys above all he just was a really good guy and funny as hell to be with.

For the Marys he wrote a song called "The Day Roy Orbison Died", which still gives me chills. You can listen to the song without leaving this blog, just click on Roy's youtube clip in the upper right corner of my blog or you go to youtube at you'll hear the song with photo's of Roy Orbison. I always liked Roy Orbison, but a few years back I downloaded an anthology in ITunes of his music. I had Roy on vinyl but needed some songs for a wedding I was doing the music for the father of the groom. I downloaded a compilation of Roy's music from iTunes.

Now when I shuffle my ipod Roy's music comes up frequently and of course the hits are familiar (Pretty Woman, Crying, Blue Bayou, Love Hurts to name a few) but I didn't realize how prolific, ahead of his time and talented he was. Of course he had a voice unlike anyone else, with an unbelievable range and tone. Now when I hear Roy's music I also think of my friend Don and how much I miss him. At Don's memorial there were so many people, mostly musicians, that came to the Elks lodge in Hoboken that the crowd spilled outside.

Thanks to the internet you can find people that you haven't seen in awhile, music you care about, meaningless facts about anything plus important stuff too and luckily in this case the memory of a good friend and talented musician will remain alive in so many ways. You can see a clip of Don with Cryin' Out Loud: You can also find out about Don at Of course while checking into Don's life and music why don't you stop by and check out Roy Orbison's too, Don would be "pleased as punch" if you did.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Veneration Spread Update: Gig tonight

Dusting off the old leather stick bag (about 28 years old to be exact) and back in Rock N Roll for at least one more night with Veneration Spread

@ Uncle Mike's

57 Murray Street, NYC 10007

Cost: $10

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Parents Concerned about School Food

Take Action Now -

Go to and join their petition to tell SchoolFood they must purchase rBGH-free Milk. More info is available at that link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Selfless + Food= Community

That's my Park Slope Food Co-op crew C1 Squad (l to r, Tom, Stephanie, Yusako, Matthew behind, me, Mujafi) on the left that cooks meals at Park Slope's C.H.I.P.'s soup kitchen every four weeks as part of our membership responsibility. I've managed to be in a position to use my passions in life music and now food to help people who are less fortunate. But this article is not about me. While I acknowledge that I am proud to be doing this, I also know it's part of an obligation that I am fulfilling. I love the challenge of cooking for over 100 people in just a few hours using produce that the Co-op can not sell but is edible mixed with other random ingredients. I get as much out of my experience as a chef as hopefully our guests get enjoyment and nutrition out of their meal.

What I will write about are the people who come to the kitchen to volunteer because they care about helping people who are less fortunate. I'm not a very religious man but from my understanding of Hindu you reach Nirvana (heaven) by being selfless. I've met lot's of people over the years that should have a place in a peaceful afterlife for the good deeds they have done on earth.

The picture on the right below is of Serita Lewis, a photographer who is volunteer leader at the soup kitchen. She is one of the many selfless people I have met who come to the kitchen to help make sure that the clients we serve get fed a nutritious, balanced and tasty meal. Serita uses her photojournalistic skills to tell the stories of people who are homeless through her blog
"This project is my way of documenting the humanity of people living on the fringes of their cultures, just outside the norm. I hope to portray the unique stories that have shaped each person into the individual that they are, and by each journey to illustrate the connections between us all. No guilt-trips and no rosy picture painting either… Simply people as people; Humanity in all our grace and tenderness and pain".

Serita's interviews with 4 men (Serita's photo's of George on the left and Chris on the right down below are two of the men) who are homeless offers a personal, insightful, sincere, dignified and honest look into the complex issues of homelessness without being judge-mental or patronizing. It's difficult sometimes in our busy lives to pass by someone who is homeless and take a moment to consider that there's a person underneath the old tattered clothes. Not many people actually slow down enough to converse on a human level as Serita has done.

Another volunteer leader I'd like to mention with admiration is Dali Boczek. Dali has been coming to C.H.I.P.'s for over 5 years. She drives all the way from Suffolk County on Long Island. Not only does she volunteer her time but she usually comes with food she has purchased from Costco, like packages of chicken, fresh herbs, homemade sufrito, bags of rice and cookies. Her famous Spanish rice is a very popular dish among the clients, never any leftovers when we serve that. She promised me her secret recipe but so far it's still a secret. Last December Dali came to her shift despite the fact that she had just lost her job after I think 20 years or so for the same company, and on top of that being really under the weather too. Funny thing about people like Serita and Dali and the countless volunteers I have met they don't brag about what they do, they do it with quiet grace. That is what being selfless is all about and the best way to build a strong community.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Parenting

Being a parent isn't as glamorous as it seems. Alright it's not glamorous at all. But there are moments stuck in between the trials and tribulations that make you really happy to be alive. It's also difficult to talk about parenting without sounding like you're either whining/complaining or talking about a new found religion.

The good in this story happened last month. The bad and ugly just come with the territory. pretty much on a daily basis. I couldn't imagine life without my son, he's a constant source of humor, energy, fun, challenge, debate, and just plain life. Just the same it's hard work without a vacation plan. Let's leave the good for last.

The Bad: Having to constantly say no. No to more snacks, no to more treats, no to more TV, no to more Fairly Odd Parents, no to buying Reese's Puffs (we all enjoy a Reese's Peanut Butter cup from time to time but in a breakfast cereal?), no to staying up later, no to staying in the playground longer when it's freezing cold. Or the constant nagging. Finish your breakfast, pick up your toys, get ready for school, say please, say thank you, get your finger out of your nose. You get the point right?

The Ugly:
Let's just say I'm from Italian heritage. We do loud really loud. Sometimes when my buttons have been pushed more times than a stimulus package things come out of my mouth that make even me cringe. I guess the how to raise a child books will say that you should never discipline a child out of anger. I think my parents probably skipped reading that one and it would take years of therapy to erase it from my DNA. The trick is not to think about your explosion for days on end. I hope to learn that one before Jack goes to college.

The Good: After our only significant snow of the winter I asked Jack if he wanted to go sledding. He had never really been on a sled since there's been very little snow since we bought it a few years ago. It took a lot of convincing to get him to want to go to Prospect Park in search of good sledding hills. It took forever to get him to cooperate and get dressed for the cold and snow. Then he basically complained the whole way there. On top of it I had to remove the snow and ice from the car with a credit card (didn't have the proper device in the car and I knew if I went back home to get a more appropriate tool we’d never go back out). Well it was worth all the trouble since we had the most fun a parent can have with their child, especially without shelling out big Yankee dollars. Laughing, screaming and careening out of control on the snowy hills was an activity I wish could take place every day. I think we will both remember sharing that experience for a long time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kevin Ryan Makes Food Look Magical

Is it food or some earthy sculpture? When a photo transcends the reality of the actual image it makes one take notice. Kevin Ryan's photography does just that. I had met Kevin a few years back when I was interviewed for the Park Slope Food Co-op's in-house newspaper "The Linewaiters Gazette". The article was about the P.S.F.C.'s involvement with C.H.I.P.S. soup kitchen on 4th and Sackett in Park Slope. For years the co-op has been donating usable but unsellable produce and other food items to the kitchen. Then about 4 years ago the co-op started donating members work slots. I've been cooking there since it's inception.

Kevin recently contacted me in regards to the fact that he has been doing more food photography lately. If you visit his website you will see the fine photography he has in his repertoire of portraits, scenery, architecture, and projects. Judging from the samples of his food work they are equally impressive. Here is an interview I did with Kevin:

1. When did you decide to start branching out to food photography and what was your thoughts on doing so?

I have been photographing food related images for the Park Slope Food Coop for the past 12 years or so, however over the past several months I have been shooting what I have been calling "produce portraits", carefully lit, isolated images of produce that emphasizes their natural forms. My interest in doing these studies has a lot to do with the recent downturn in the economy, which has seriously hurt my business as a photographer of fine art. The art world is going through one of the worst periods in memory, and as my source of income is directly tied to the production of catalogues and the sale of art, I had to begin to think about finding a way to sustain my income outside of the art world.

As I began thinking about what I could do, and what I wanted to do within the field of photography, I began to think about what truly gives me pleasure. It occurred to me that shooting food would be a natural extension of what I have already been doing and it would be something that I would enjoy being around on a daily basis. So, I began to take some very simple images of individual fruits and vegetables, trying to see them as individuals, much in the same way that I would light and shoot a person's portrait, or a piece of fine art.

I lit them using the simplest of means, the light coming through my kitchen window and occasionally a reflector to bounce some light back into the shadows. The straightforward formal quality of the images is reminiscent of the early twentieth century photographs of the German design teacher, Karl Blossfeldt, whose minimal, isolated shots of plants and natural forms have become influential icons of nature photography.

2. What are the challenges associated with taking pictures of food as opposed to say a person?

The challenges of shooting food are many, depending upon what it is that you are trying to shoot. I don't have an interest in doing highly stylized studio shots that require the use of other materials to represent what is really supposed to be the subject. I would rather shoot things in available light if possible, concentrating on the forms themselves in their most natural state. I enjoy seeing beautifully prepared food shot as simply as possible, without too much intervention. A beautiful photograph doesn't necessarily have to resort to trickery to achieve its goal. When I photograph one of my "produce portraits" I prefer to treat it as though I am shooting a person's portrait, concentrating on isolating the subject, finding their best " feature", and trying different lighting solutions to enhance the subject's look.

Shooting portraits of people is very challenging because of the inherent nature of the personal involvement with the subject, their expectations, and the desire to please. I like to use dark backgrounds to accentuate the subject, using chiaroscuro and a single light source. This creates a more dramatic look and it allows the viewer to see the form for what it is, apart from everything else.

3. Have you encountered difficulty in having your food photography published?

I am just starting to try to get these images out there, and so far only the Coop has reproduced them, but my real interest is in getting some kind of photo project going , such as a cook book or magazine assignments. To be honest, I have to get something that makes money out of this, as much as I like the shots as individual works of art, my main goal right now is to break into the commercial publishing world of food photography to get some steady work.

4. I've been present at a photo session of my cookies and saw some tricks used for taking pictures of food, would you reveal a favorite trick you like to use to make food look special?

As I don't come from a background of being trained to shoot food, my approach as always been to shoot it much the way that I would shoot an object of art, or a person's portrait. The only trick to enhance the photo would be to use a lot of reflectors to fill in light in the shadows to better define the forms. This is something that I have been doing for years shooting sculpture, and it works very well for shooting the way I do with single source lighting, either daylight or with "hot lights", (tungsten photo lights). Most food photographers would likely use natural light or strobes, but I use a lot of tungsten, because that is what I have worked with over the years shooting art. I have approached the subject of photographing food in the same way that I shoot art, concentrating on the sculptural forms. In shooting with natural light in the kitchen you can use anything stainless steel to bounce light back onto the forms, even aluminum foil.

5. Do you get to eat the food after it's photographed? I imagine you did not eat the raw chiogga beet.

The best part of shooting food is that it is just the beginning of the experience. My wife and 18 year old daughter, are always cooking in the kitchen, and that has been a big inspiration to me. I shoot what I eat, and eat what I shoot. My daughter Ava is a vegetarian who only eats organic, and as a result has had to teach herself to cook food that will give her all of her nutrients. She did cook up the chiogga beet, which she puts in salads, or in quinoa etc.... she is an amazing resource for interesting food combinations, and is my inspiration for a lot of what I shoot.

6. What would stuff would you like to have a crack at shooting? For me some of the things Andrew Zimmerman, from Bizarre Foods, eats could be worthy.

I would love to accompany Andrew Zimmerman to a shoot, but honestly, I don't have the same adventurous spirit as he in terms of eating all of that crazy stuff. I have been shooting things at the Chinese markets in Brooklyn's Chinatown on 8th ave... so many interesting forms. It would be a dream of mine to actually do some travel work like that and focus on food from different cultures and get paid for it. That is the type of job I want!

7. Anything you'd like to mention regarding food photography?

I have posted a number of images that I've taken on the photo website for VII Photo agency, where you can see some of my recent food shots as well as my photos from Puglia.


Below are photo's of food from Kevin's catalogue. I've identified the photograph of the chiogga beet at the top of the article. Can you identify the five food items below? If you think know your produce, now is your chance to show off your knowledge. Just place your answer in the comment field of this blog and show the blog world how smart you are.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chef Pete's 10 tips for eating better

I suppose I'm not the first to talk about how to eat better, but it seems to be a popular topic, and a conversation that I have often with people that I know. This is a list of simple things that I follow to have a better diet and perhaps it will help my readers too. Many of these ideas I have learned through my education and training as a natural whole foods chef. I hope to expand upon some of these topics at a later date. I know it's difficult for people with hectic lifestyles to keep good habits, but it's worth the effort.

  1. Make your own food as often as you can. You will be able to control the quality of the ingredients and the portion size. Simply prepared meals at home are usually better, both in nutrition and cost value and maybe even the taste, than restaurant meals. Try making some foods in bulk and freeze for later use to help save time, like sauces, soups and stews and even casseroles.
  1. Love what you eat. Food has to taste good in order to want to keep eating it. Try to find recipes that taste good and are easy to do that include lots of vegetables, good proteins and whole grains.
  2. Eat whole foods as much as you can. An apple instead of apple juice, steel cut oats instead of cereal from a box, eat nuts instead of pretzels, good quality cheese instead of ice cream, and munch on a carrot instead of a cookie (unless it's one of mine).
  3. Eat as many colors as possible (especially green). Nature made it easier for us by putting different nutrients in foods that have different colors.
  4. The opposite of whole foods is overly processed foods. Stay away from packaged foods that have more than a few ingredients, especially if the ingredients have more than 3 syllables. High fructose corn syrup and trans fat should be avoided as much as possible.
  5. Make healthy choices throughout the week, but allow yourself treats too. Just pick out treats (like one of my cookies) that are great and worth the deviation. Don't forget that one not so healthy meal isn't going to make much of a difference. It's overall diet that matters. So enjoy the occasional burger and fries and leave the guilt at the diner.
  6. The first purpose of eating is survival, second is nutrition and third is enjoyment. I feel lucky that I get to go to number three quiet often. Just the same I try to stay in zone 2 the most and find food that would be found in both 2 and 3.
  7. It's all about balance. Don't drive yourself crazy but try to make food choices based on what you eat throughout the course of the day and in relation to what you eat all week.
  8. I like to have a variety of foods in my pantry that can make a boring meal taste better. For example, sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, chipotle peppers, coconut milk, red curry paste, whole spices (once a spice is ground the essential oils dissipate and so does the flavor), fresh lemons and other citrus, good quality sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, nuts and seeds and so on.
  9. Stay away from most diet books and experts on nutrition. Do what makes sense for your lifestyle and food traditions. Also, make changes in reasonable increments. For instance if you love eating bagels for breakfast try to eat whole wheat bagels or eat only a half of a bagel with some fruit. If you normally put butter or cream cheese on the bagel, try hummus, maybe with a slice of tomato and baby spinach.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2 Weeks Back in Rock and Roll

Okay so I never really completely left music. But after 30 plus years of regular participation in music in various roles I’ve been relatively inactive. When I went to culinary school in 2002 I left Full Throttle Aristotle and haven’t been playing the drums much since. Immersing myself in the art of culinary and being a dad has kept me pretty occupied.

A few weeks back John Rae, a long time friend of mine, was over for dinner and mentioned that Veneration Spread, a band he was in as vocalist/spoken word artist, had a gig and were sans a drummer. I decided it would be fun to play music live again so I accepted his invitation to join them. We’ve rehearsed twice for the gig and will do one more today. I’m listening to a tape of the last rehearsal trying to study my parts while writing this blog.

When I finally open my own bakery (stay tuned on that front, there's a storm brewing) I might not have much free time for the first year or two to be in a band but for the time being I might as well sling the sticks and bang a beat or two.

Epilogue: Got a call later that day from Mark (guitarist) telling me that John had the flu but the band wanted to do the show anyway. I was feeling a bit crappy but after a long nap I got a second wind and made the show. We didn’t do half bad considering the lack of practice as a band, me being a bit rusty and John not being able to do the show. Well at least the audience of about a dozen or so people at Goodbye Blue Monday’s in Bushwick seemed to dig us. Perhaps another gig is on the horizon.

More on Greens

Thanks to all who wrote to me by email or posted. I got more of a response on my kale recipe than I expected so I figured I would talk a bit more about greens. My fallback recipe that I probably do at least once a week is either buying Swiss chard, or if I find beets with the greens attached, or turnip greens or any combination of those greens.

I just thinly slice 2-3 cloves of garlic, saute in a pan on medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and few hot red pepper flakes, add the greens (washed and coarsely chopped) and sea salt to taste. Mix well and saute for a few minutes. Then I turn the heat on low and place the lid on the pan and allow the greens to soften. Makes a nice side dish with pasta, fish or just about anything. My favorite way to eat the greens is to place the greens on a plate and top with a couple of fried eggs. Great way to start the day if you can do that in the morning.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kale Tastes Better Than You Think

Yeah! Thanks to my friend Eleanor Traubman (photo taken right at the computer using photo booth on our new Mac, what fun) from Creative Times I am up and running with my blog! Eleanor was a great help, I suggest her services if you are reading this and wish you could take the plunge as well.

My webmaster Tony Limuaco from The Yarn Monkey ,will be happy to hear it since he's been bugging me for about a year to do this. The timing is good since my website is almost ready for a more expanded launch.

Here are some topics you will find at Groovalicious in Brooklyn on a regular basis:
  • Culinary articles, tips and recipes with a focus on food that's both tasty and healthy
  • My path as entrepreneur and interviews with other entrepreneurs and people who made career changes
  • "On the Turntable", quick forays into my vinyl collection with short reviews about some hard to find faves and other music topics
  • Fatherhood in South Brooklyn
Let's start with a recipe for kale, a vegetable many find challenging to cook and eat. I was listening to a talk show recently and one of the hosts mentioned he had gas from eating kale. The other hosts on the show couldn’t believe he had eaten kale to begin with. I suppose many people don’t know what to do with it and don’t know how to make it taste good. Too bad because it’s one of the most healthful vegetables. The greener the food the better, being chock full of A and C, calcium, iron and potassium.

Kale with Caramelized Onions
serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion
salt to taste
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup dry red wine
1 bunch Lacinato kale, washed well and coarsely chopped

  1. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium until it shimmeys (before it smokes). Add onions and a pinch of salt, stir onions and put on lid on the pan. After a few minutes when the onions start to sweat, take off the lid and lower the heat a bit. Cook for about 10 minutes or more, continuing to stir, until the onions get a nice shade of amber.
  2. Add the fennel seed and the tomato paste and stir well. Add the red wine and simmer for a few minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.
  3. Add the kale, stir well, put the lid back on and cook for about 10 minutes more. If the pan is drying out you can add a bit of water. Cook until the kale is the texture you prefer (longer cooking for softer greens).