The Key's Year-End Mania: Julie Miller's top five concert snacks of 2016 - WXPN
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Carnegie Deli’s knish | photo via Carnegie Deli

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, Julie Miller shares the best snacks she ate before, during, or after a concert over the past twelve months.

I like food even more than I like music. I daydream about what I want to cook up for my next meal, I read the menus of restaurants I want to try, and the only type of Instagram accounts I follow that might (but probably don’t) eclipse the number of dogs accounts are food accounts. So as I read through my Excel doc of concerts I’d been to in 2016 (50 or so, plus one opera), I started thinking about where I’d had dinner beforehand or a midnight snack afterwards. The following five concerts were great nights of music and even greater nights of food.

January 1st / Phish at Madison Square Garden / Knish at Madison Square Garden

I think it’s great that the concession stands at MSG have expanded to include buzzy spots like David Chang’s Fuku Chicken and Drew Nieporent’s Daily Burger alongside the more traditional hot dog and popcorn stands. But it’s the Carnegie Deli outposts, with their hefty $5 knish, that are the real hidden gems inside the hallowed halls of the Knicks, Rangers, and Billy Joel. Compact packages of creamy, peppery mashed potato wrapped in flaky pastry and baked until golden brown, served piping hot with a small cup of brown mustard and a plastic fork… it’s safe to say that next week I’ll be welcoming 2017 the same way I said goodbye to 2015.

Phish at Madison Square Garden | photo by Julie Miller

Phish at Madison Square Garden | photo by Julie Miller

January 29th / Joey DeFrancesco Trio at Chris’ Jazz Cafe / Mac and Cheese, Roasted Beets at Chris’ Jazz Cafe

I have to admit at first it was a little awkward eating a meal seated at the front and center table of the Sansom St. jazz club while Philadelphia legend Joey DeFrancesco and his trio ripped through two sets of standards and originals. But the anxiety melted away as I tucked into the warm slices of roasted beets, sweet and tangy with creamy dollops of goat cheese and the surprising crunch of hazelnuts. This was followed by a humbly sublime bowl of mac and cheese. Little pockets of al dente shells were the perfect vessels for an indulgent three-cheese sauce, sprinkled over with spunky cracked peppercorns. The cold wind was raging outside, but inside it was the definition of hygge.

Saw Joey Defrancesco Trio last night and it was one of the best performances I have ever seen.

A video posted by Don King Sunoco (@officialdonkingsunoco) on

May 8th / “Philly’s Phinest” at The Knitting Factory / Arepas at Caracas

Several of my friends were booked for an installment of this Philadelphia music showcase in Brooklyn so I made the trip with them, hoping for a bagel for breakfast and an arepa for lunch. Caracas Arepa Bar is one of my mandatory stops whenever I’m in Williamsburg – I first ate there before seeing Johnny Flynn at the now-defunct Glasslands in 2012 (now part of Vice’s new HQ). It was a beautiful day so we sat in the lush, potted plant-lined courtyard out back of the small wood paneled main room. You can’t beat the $10 lunch special, which gets you an arepa and soup or salad. I skipped my usual Pabellon option – hold the beef, add avocado – and went with the Volvere. A cool slice of mozzarella-like Guyanese cheese topped with tomato, avocado, warm sauteed peppers and spicy chimi-churri sauce, all wrapped in a toasty, nutty grilled corn patty. The meal was followed with music from Friendship, Roof Doctor, Left & Right, and Mumblr, a night topped only by a surprise comedy set by Hannibal Buress in the Knitting Factory’s front room after the gig.

Friendship | photo by Julie Miller

Friendship | photo by Julie Miller

June 20th / Dead & Co at BB&T Pavilion / a slice at Lorenzos

This one was a regular occurrence whenever I had to travel from points north or east of the Ben Franklin Bridge to my house in Point Breeze. If it’s after midnight and you’ve got a couple of dollars in your pocket, there is nothing better than the giant slices of pizza at Lorenzo’s on South Street. Even better if you’re coming from a show at The TLA across the street. But this night I needed a nightcap after seeing John Mayer play guitar with three of the four surviving members of the Grateful Dead over in Camden, a setting that paired perfectly with the Strawberry Moon that rose over the skyline. $3.50 (cash only) gets you a slice that’s probably twice the size of your face. Sprinkle it with hot red pepper flakes, a little Parmesan, garlic powder, and oregano and you’re eating the midnight snack of champions. Bonus points if the guy in front of you is several beers deep and insists on paying for your slices because you’re his “new friends.”

Dead & Co | photo by Julie Miller

Dead & Co | photo by Julie Miller

September 30th / James Blake at Radio City Music Hall / pizza at Alligator Lounge

There’s a bar in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn that is so unlike its counterparts on the other side of the BQE that I’m holding my breath for when it gets swallowed up in whatever trend it is that caused DIY spots like the aforementioned Glasslands (and 285 Kent, and Death By Audio) to transform into corporate playgrounds (however edgy those playgrounds may be). The bar is Alligator Lounge and its gimmick is free pizza. We stopped here after seeing a spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall – James Blake supporting this year’s The Colour In Anything, joined by Vince Staples and Moses Sumney. You buy a beer (a $4 Rolling Rock, a $7 craft, your choice) and you get a ticket for a free personal pizza. Crunchy, thin crust; slightly sweet, slightly spicy sauce; just the right amount of cheese; and while you wait for the cook to spin it out of the oven in the red-lit front room, why not shoot some pool or roll some skeeball in the back? Then head to the bar again for your next cheap beer and free pizza – it’s a wonderful, dizzying cycle to get lost in.

James Blake marquee | photo by Julie Miller

James Blake marquee | photo by Julie Miller

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