I Love New York City. Oh Yeah. New York City II. I.



I am no stranger to the Ace Hotel. Having stayed here a couple of times for Roadrunner-related things and Moscot-related events, it is the hotel I usually want to be holed-up for the night. The room this time around was a wee bit smaller than last time, but it's still a great place. The benefit to staying at the Ace is that they have really great food and drinks at every corner of the downstairs area: a wonderful sandwich to-go spot, Stump Town Roasters Coffee (for that good cup), 2 sit-down restaurants (one New American, one seafood I believe), and a bar that makes righteous cocktails. Don't let the dressed-to-the-nines kids or the 90's/60's-fashion-amalgamation-adorned hipsters scare you off, they don't bite (typically). 

Birreria is a new Italian restaurant (could it be called "New Italian"?) that resides on the rooftop of Eataly in the city. Ashley and I decided to go see what the buzz was all about. The interior is open and welcoming: natural light comes in from the windowed-ceiling, the visible beer tanks greet you on your entry, the bar is on one end of the restaurant with tables surrounding. We tried a couple samples of their pretty darn good house-made beers; I ordered the Gina, a house brewed cask ale. We also ordered a traditional American pale ale with fresh thyme from the hills of Borgorose, Italy - a twist on a classic. 

Famished, we went for: Olives, Ricotta Fresca, Asiago Fresco, and Gorgonzola Dolce to start; the mains we chose were the Biroldo (Toscana-inspired Blood Sausage with Mustard and Krauti) and a Brussel Sprout and Wild Mushroom Risotto dish; the former obviously my pick. 

The olives were meaty little footballs. If one is a fan of olives, be prepared to be in love with Birreria's. The cheeses were all sourced from North Eastern small-farms; you can taste the time, energy and love put into these morsels of goodness. Each of the three brought such a diversity in taste and texture; the fresh honey and house-made bread elevated the flavor spectrum to whole new levels. Honey and cheese and bread are quite a trifecta of taste. 

Our mains' were spectacular. If I recall, we both didn't share… a rarity for sure. Blood sausage is one of those great things in life. If you're scared and haven't tried yet, you must try it in a reputable spot. It's a meat-in-tube-form item of godly stature. The blood sausage here is laid on top of cabbage that has flavors reminiscent of Polish and German cuisine; the mustard again a nod to those cultures. 

Intelligently, we decided to skip desert due to the feast to come later in the day: The Breslin. 


(Me playing John Petrucci's live 7 string; with John and Corey B. Photo by Jordan Rudess)

John Petrucci and Matt Heafy guitar lesson episode 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEexr-OCbvk

John Petrucci and Matt Heafy guitar lesson episode 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg0xAJzpeKw

John Petrucci and Matt Heafy guitar lesson episode 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgzVutGffSo

John Petrucci and Matt Heafy guitar lesson episode 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG4CdqO9Uvg


I Love New York City… Oh Yeah… New York City (part II)


I play hard, because I work hard. It ain't all hours of gorging and drankin' and feasting all the time… but that's the stuff that I work towards. We woke up after our night of extravagance and headed to Josh Wilbur's studio in New York. That's where we'd be attempting some new clean vocal parts over the pre-existing "In Waves." 

We caught up with Josh at his really-rad old-building turned renovated-studio space where he played us some of the new Lamb Of God well before it's release. Goddamn is that stuff good.

I warmed up vocals with no real game plan in mind for what I'd be attempting on the track, headed in and laid down the best thing that it could have been. I sang quite brutally for a few hours - trying out some options. It sounded pretty killer, but didn't top the original; but you never know a definitive answer until you try something out. 

We packed up shop, let the engineers do their thing and headed to lunch.

This was a Monte pick this time: Bon Chon. A Korean fried chicken joint. I was familiar with Korean traditional, with Korean tacos, but not Korean fried chicken. Apparently this style of chicken is spreading across NYC (and now the rest of the world) and man is it good. Bon Chon double fries their chicken. That means double the delectable, crunchy, not-good-for-your-body-but-great-for-your-soul outer crispy skin. 

We had the Bon Chon Drums Large: crispy double fried drum stick with soy garlic sauce. We also got some of the Wings, medium with hot garlic sauce. Kimchi Coleslaw was our side. 

Having never done crack, but ever-cognizant of it's metaphors applied to all walks of life - Bon Chon's fried chicken is exactly what I imagine crack to be like to a teeth-grinding addict. The smell alone sends a magical whiff of soy sauce, garlic, fried mystery-batter - all to the olfactory glands, sending your brain into a ravenous shock. The hot touch, and inviting glaze of the just double fried chicken drumsticks tease you all the way into your first bite. 

Imagine the crispiest crispy fried chicken outside/skin you've had… double that - in an almost tempura-battered-ice-cream shell. That's what it's kind of like. I could just eat that exoskeleton - all day long. The meat however, is perfectly cooked - moist, juicy, not dry. This is too much of a good thing. Haven't had Korean fried chicken? Go eat a bunch - it's insane.

Ever the health-conscious man, Paolo didn't eat all his skin - I picked up all his scraps and inhaled that shit. Mine!

Blindingly full and ready to get on with the day… we headed to Roadrunner NYC with Darren and Monte in tow. Today's events outside of the NYC show and trek to the airport hotel (we were due to fly to Japan for about 2 and a half days to play the Loud Park festival, then fly back to finish up the Dream Theater North American support run) were some press videos alongside John Petrucci.

For those of you who don't know, John Petrucci is the lead guitarist of Dream Theater, but also my favorite guitarist of all time. I religiously studied his "Rock Discipline" VHS and manual as a kid - it taught me everything about my disciplined guitar technique. I still use most of the exercises to date for every single show we play as warm ups. 

Now before that… Monte said "If you're a true foodie… you're going to eat some Roberta's next!" Now - I was completely, blindingly, unconsciously full - but here was my long time friend and A&R foodie-buddy calling me out to eat something else great. 

Roberta's is a pizza place in Brooklyn, but there was a mini food-festival going on, right outside of Eataly NYC. They had a mini-pizza oven at their booth, and Monte called me over as he ordered away. 

Montel ordered me the Speckenwolf: white pizza, onion, mushrooms, speck and truffle oil (we think truffle oil at least - not totally sure if it was on there). If pizza was always like Roberta's… if all those shite-sorry-excuse-of-Italian-sort-of-descent-delivery places around the world could do pizza with this sort of care and attention to detail… I don't know - we wouldn't have war… or something. 

Crisped and charred on the outside, personal-sized (if you were actually hungry), minimal, great ingredients. This stuff just worked together. This pizza was a work of art. I since have been attempting to duplicate it at home. NYC just has it all man. 

The video lesson stuff went amazingly - me and JP traded off teaching things to camera, to each other - and were really able to break the ice for the first time. From there - we started hanging in little bursts occasionally - trading music ideas, guitar tips, and all that goodness. My life is pretty surreal at times… at most times, really.


I Love New York City… Oh Yeah… New York City (part I)


I've mentioned before how my memory is pretty bad. It's odd - at times I can't remember bits of my life; on any given day - I usually don't know what time/date/month/year it is. I forget my age, I forget things I've said, I forget who I've met (this one usually bums people out and creates an awkward Curb Your Enthusiasm-theme-song-queued moment). 

We played.. somewhere… before the NYC show on the Dream Theater tour. It was either in Jersey or Pennsylvania. In a neighborhood-esque town in an all seated Theater-hall. The show was alright - the crowd took a ton of effort to get em into it. Me and Paolo were to be picked up by car immediately after the set to drive into Manhattan, grab a bite with Monte (our A and R at Roadrunner and serious-foodie friend of mine) and Darren (our co-manager at 5B management who is also a serious foodie-buddy of mine).

We did the show, piled into a car, got into the city - and checked into the Ace hotel. 

The Ace hotel is the definition of cool. When one merely walks into the lobby - that person will be immediately swept with a sense of: "Oh shit. I am underdressed and far less-cool than everyone in here." At any given time of day or night at Ace, it's the trendiest of trendy kids - dressed in the most current of cool trend-style, either drinking cocktails or working on something on their Macs. I am not exaggerating or criticizing - I wish I looked that cool all the time. Those kids are hip.

The Ace has quickly become a favorite hotel of mine - The hotel itself has multiple things on location that are mind-blowing: The Breslin restaurant, Stump-town (or was it Blue Bottle) coffee, a gourmet sub-shop, clothes stores, accessory stores… everything there is amazing. There's even a killer bar that serves some righteous cocktails and micro-brews. The interior lobby is somewhere along the lines of a cross-between restored-industrial, modern, dorm, rock and roll, and huntsman-lounge (just a dash). It's all sleekly lit, very nicely designed, and welcoming (aside from the fact if you're feeling underdressed and all that by the hanger-outers in the lobby). 

The room has a dorm/rock and roll/renovated loft feel. Iron door, dorm-esque bed, simple, clean design. There is a road-case for a mini-bar, all gourmet snacks and waters and booze here - nothing standard; the bathroom has a European-flare to it - the room I had this time had a killer tub, nice fixtures; friendly little bits and design-charm can be found on the hairdryer bag, the laundry board, and even the take-able polaroid camera. A highly informative survival guide again has that school-feel to it - but in a really familiar, heart-warming sort of way. Free internet to boot. 

I am instantly reminded of school and touring combined in this room - but all in a good way. 

I dressed up a bit, took a deep breath - and headed down to get out with Paolo, Darren, and Monte. 

The whole reason for our trip up to NYC was to get over to a studio and attempt a "clean vocal" pass of the song "In Waves." I know it seems like an odd idea… singing over the chorus of "In Waves," but it was an idea worth not passing up. This would be our pre-party and strategy-dinner on ideas of how to try it out (or at least that's what we'd say to pass our feast off as a "business dinner").

Darren picked our dinner spot for the night, The Meatball Shop. A place that does just that - meatballs. But gourmet and amazing. We ordered the Cesani Chianti to share and began our ordering. Meatball shop is a tiny, newer restaurant with some serious wait-times. People flood the inside and outside. In the nicely lit, very-well designed restaurant, you can see the kitchen in back, chalkboards displaying the menu, specials, and drinks.

My plan of action:

- Chile Relleno Meatballs: pork, jalapeno, poblano, queso fresco, cilantro tomatillo salsa verde and a mother-frickin' fried egg.

- Risotto: porcini mushroom

- Mashed Potatoes (that Monte swears is some of the best damn mashed potatoes he knows of)

- Fennel with walnuts, raisins and parsley

- Garlic collard greens

- Bibb lettuce salad with radish portobella, tarragon croutons, with sherry vinaigrette

The mashed potatoes were creamy, buttery, milky and reminded me of Southern-style mashed potatoes. Those chile meatballs were a super-fun take on the meatball. It pretty much contained most of my favorite ingredients all in one dish. I am an avid-pork advocate, a huge fan of Mexican food (you can certainly detect a heavy Mexican-cuisine influence in this dish with the use of quasi and cilantro tomatillo salsa verde), and that fried egg! Such a great idea. Texturally, just right of what you want from a meatball - still a trip to get the green salsa verde on a meatball - but hell… it's always fun to see a new spin. 

The risotto had more of a thickness than the classic risotto-prep, regardless - I still really dug it. It had a creaminess paired with the cheese and porcini. Thick, fantastic mushroom-flavor. Garlic collards were as good as ever - another hint at some Southern-influence at Meatball Shop; The fennel with walnuts, raisins and parsley was a really interested grilled vegetable dish. 

Obviously, in my normal fashion - I had ordered far far too much food. The bibb salad was just as good as the rest. The vinaigrette covered everything nice and evenly - crunchy, hard, perfect tarragon croutons. 

We all caught up about other amazing meals we've had recently, chatted on the state of the music industry, shared our dishes with each other - and had a great night. 

Of course I had desert: Oatmeal cherry cookie with cinnamon ice cream sandwich. This thing was the size of a baseball. The chewiness of the cherries inside of the oatmeal cookie were beautiful. I love oatmeal cookies, my grandma on my dad's side makes a fantastic one - so I always long to be reminded of family cooking - this one was nice and chewy (no crumbling) and the cherries really added something special. Couple all that with some seriously friggon delicious cinnamon ice cream - and you have one of the best childhood-reminiscent ice cream sandwiches of my recent years. Insane.

We said our goodbyes to Monte and headed back to Ace for a final drink. I had the Voodoo Child: Kentucky bourbon with agave nectar, lemon juice, whisky barrel-aged bitters, ginger beer. When at the right place in NYC - you cannot go wrong. This cocktail was an embodiment of my experience at the Ace: familiarity with a spin of something new - done right, unpretentiously. 

I slept incredibly.