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By Scott Sinemus
Carbonated chocolate ice cream!Something from Willy Wonka? NO!Alton Brown!! I recently had the unique opportunity to experience the Edible Inevitable Tour with a VIP package our friend Bob set up for us. Autographs, meet & greet, amazing seats, and access to the lounge before and during intermission.
We decided to make a weekend event of it and booked the Stay, Valet & Breakfast Each Day package at the Fairmont in Pittsburgh. It was a great deal, and I don’t believe there is a more dog friendly hotel in the city. Upon arrival, our Presidents Club Concierge told me I won the bid for a suite upgrade for $25; however, for just a little more we could have the Presidential Suite, as it was still available! Who could say no to that; especially after she said there would be so much more room for Basel to run around in . . . boy was there ever! From the marble foyer, kitchen, massive living room, dining room, bedroom and immense marble bathroom with shower, soaking tub and a television in the mirror! The wall of floor to ceiling windows made for one of the most breathtaking views of the city I can remember. It was more spacious than the ground floor of our house; so Basel definitely had the extra running room.
It had been ages since we’ve stayed over in the ’burgh for a function; so, feeling nostalgic, we made reservations at The Carlton for dinner Saturday night. I am pleased to report it is still very good dining, and the wine list is as spectacular as ever.
Sunday we had an early dinner at the Capital Grille because we needed to be at the meet & greet by 7:00. It has been a very long time since I’ve been able to say that every single morsel of food exceeded any of my expectations. The 24 oz dry aged Porterhouse was so tender I was literally able to cut it with my fork, and the flavor was phenomenal. Everyone’s meal was an extreme delight; truly the perfect way to send us off to meet Alton.
We’ve had the tickets since June of last year. I tried not to be too anxious because the last time I was to meet Alton at the Greenbrier several years ago, he had to cancel his appearance at the last moment. I was, of course, devastated – it was the heyday of Good Eats, and I was entranced by his ability to meld fun, science and cooking together so seamlessly.
I’m almost pleased now that I missed it. The performance of this first stage tour was beyond compare. When there was a mention ponchos would be required as our seats were in the “splash zone,” I knew it would be. The press release before the show touted it as part stand up, part multi-media lecture, part music and part food experimentation: those four parts made for a whole lot of fun!!
There were two cooking spots where a member of the audience was selected to be his assistant (alas it wasn’t me). The first was the Jet Cream, an impressive contraption to say the least: several five-gallon water bottles linked together with fire extinguishers at each end. After the audience selected chocolate as our flavor, the fun began. Goggles, lab coats, ponchos being thrown into the splash zone . . . I could barely sit still.
When the valves were turned, I could feel the rumble of the carbon dioxide churning and freezing the chocolate milk into carbonated ice cream!Moments later I could smell the chocolate in the air as I felt tiny frozen flakes falling on my head. I was overwhelmed. How is it possible to be in 2014, and we are just now figuring out how to make carbonated chocolate ice cream?!?!
The second experiment came after a subtle driving rock tribute to Spinal Tap about Easy Bake Ovens. I’ve met several male chefs in my life that also asked for an easy bake oven, even though they were geared for girls. No matter your gender, who wouldn’t want to bake a cake in your bedroom? Just like Alton and my other chef friends, I modified the oven with bigger bulbs to bake whatever I could fit through that tiny slot. The Mega Bake used so many massive lamps, lighting at the Benedum had to be turned down to use it. The conveyor belt used a ship’s wheel to roll it back and forth. We could feel the heat four rows from the stage. The second lucky volunteer got to make pizza in under five minutes that smelled and looked delicious.
The show ended with Alton picking up an acoustic guitar and playing a lullaby about cooking that he sang to his daughter while she was growing up. It was cute and clever, and the perfect way to close the performance.
Although I didn’t get the one on one time with Alton that I got once with Julia [Child], it was still an absolute joy to meet one of my idols. Now all I have to do is begin to collect all the parts needed to make the ice cream!
Interviewed by Megan Fuller
A childhood in Southwestern PA provided Eric DeFade with a solid background in and enduring love for music. Now with over thirty years of professional experience he is in demand as a performing artist and studio musician. For the past ten years Eric has been a featured performer for the My Music series on PBS. This program is internationally broadcast and features such artists as Patti Labelle, Isaac Hayes, the Temptations, Robert Goulet, Wild Cherry, The Platters, and The Commodores to name a few. Eric has played with music greats Rosemary Clooney, Josh Groban, the New York Voices, Gary Burton, John Scofield, Dave Liebman, Ahmad Jamal, and Benny Golson and has toured internationally with The Artie Shaw Band and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Eric has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show accompanying legendary jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson. On February 20, Eric will be playing a show sponsored by the Westmoreland Jazz Society at the Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center at 100 Harrison Avenue in Greensburg at 7:30 PM. Doors open at 6:30 PM. Tickets are available at the door: $10 for WJS members, $15 non-members, $3 students (age 21 and under). Call 724/837-1500 ext. 127 for membership information or email@example.com.
A McDonald’s All-American, multi-instrumentalist, and graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in Clairton, PA, Eric received a scholarship to study jazz performance at the University of North Texas and was the lead tenor saxophonist with the Dallas jazz orchestra. After working extensively in the Dallas club and studio scene, Eric relocated to Tokyo to lead his own jazz combo. Upon returning to the U.S. Eric began a busy freelance schedule including performances with the Pittsburgh Ballet theater, the Civic Light Opera, The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops, the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild All-Star Big Band, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, Billy Price, and Benny Benack. Most recently Eric has been touring North America with international singing sensation Patrizio Buanne. With dozens of recordings to his credit, most notably with Nancy Wilson, and the New York Voices, Eric has played on two Grammy award winning projects and won an Emmy for his work on the music special, “Live From Studio A”. In the fall of 2012 Eric was inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame. In addition to a year round performance schedule, Eric is an artist\lecturer in saxophone and director of jazz ensembles at Carnegie Mellon University, visiting artist at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, adjunct professor of saxophone at Seton Hill university, director of jazz studies at CMU pre college, music chair of the Henry Mancini Arts Academy, and clinician for the Pennsylvania Arts on Tour program.
Would you please share with us some of your musical background and memories of growing up in Pittsburgh?
My father was and still is a prominent player/composer/arranger in the Pittsburgh area. Our house was always filled with great music, both live and recorded. He would often bring me along to rehearsals and until I was four or five years old, I thought that everybody in the world was a musician. As I grew up in Pittsburgh I quickly became aware of the incredible history here.
Who were your biggest influences either musically or in life?
I would have to say my parents were my biggest influences. I still learn things from my Dad as we get to play together fairly often. My parents both in their own way, impressed upon me the importance of realizing that money isn’t everything and most certainly can’t buy happiness. They gave me the confidence and support to ‘go after it’ and provided calm and sensible guidance, particularly early in my career.
What inspired you to become a professional musician?
Miles Davis is quoted as saying that serious musicians play out of a need to play. This was certainly true in my case. In many ways, though it may sound strange, I feel like I was a saxophone player before I ever picked one up. I always thought that the act of standing up and improvising a dynamic, and hopefully moving, musical statement was just so cool. Still do.
Will you share with us how some of your opportunities came about -like leading a jazz combo in Tokyo or playing with Nancy Wilson, and/or teaching at CMU?
I have been blessed to be a part of some truly memorable performances. When I was quite young I had the opportunity to play a number of dates on the Ginza in Tokyo. It was such a great experience to play in front of such attentive and knowledgeable crowds all the while trying to communicate with the other players. A truly exciting time in my life.
My first gig with Nancy Wilson was on the Oprah Winfrey show. It was part of a Christmas music special with Ms. Wilson, Beyoncé, and Charlotte Church. We had rehearsed our parts beforehand without Nancy and when it came time to tape, and she walked out it all dawned on me at once. I was seated a few feet away from a genuine jazz legend that I had admired for years, getting ready to play in front of several million people. When she started to sing, I almost forgot to play! Such beautiful phrasing and distinctive style. I was blown away.
Teaching at CMU has been a wonderful thing for me. Teaching is gratifying in ways that had never occurred to me when I was strictly a freelance musician. It has improved my playing and approach to the business in a variety of ways. I also love to see the students grow and excel.
To what can the audience at your February Westmoreland Jazz Society performance look forward?
I will be playing with some of Pittsburgh’s finest rhythm players including the phenomenal Tom Wendt on drums. We will play a good mix of jazz classics and originals (classics in waiting ha ha) in a variety of styles. I will be playing tenor and soprano saxophones and flute.
Are there any personal or professional goals that you are currently working towards?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on the second release of a collaboration between myself, Tony Depaolis, and London-based guitarist Francesco Lo Castro. We have tour dates in place for the summer in Lon-don, Paris, and Rome to promote our new project, “Into the Unknown”.
What advice do you give to students in their search for success?
I always tell my students that the time to go out and experience the world as a musician is now. Keep your over-head low and try not to take on too much debt. Network as much as possible and never stop working on the things that you don’t do well. Versatility is the coin of the realm in this era.
5 Reasons to GET MOVING…TODAY!
1. Activity boosts endorphins! Struggle through your first workout…but walk out feeling GREAT!? This is an endorphin ‘rush’ or a ‘runners high.’ An endorphin rush may be likened to the after feeling of a funny conversation or a warm embrace. Those who exercise regularly have found that this ‘high’ can nearly be addictive! With a mild, sustained elevation in your heart rate, endorphins (natural hormones) are released in the body, which trigger a euphoric sensation! A great reason to be active…a natural ‘pick me up!’
Avid exercisers have reported in clinical research that YOGA and ZUMBA are two of the greatest ‘endorphin’ endorsers around!
2. Activity decreases your risk of disease and need for prescription medication! Although the decrease of disease risk seems too logical to discuss, just remember that your body was meant to be active…we were NOT meant to be couch potatoes. Among ailments and diseases that have been repeatedly proven to lessen with activity are diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, headaches, vascular disease, heart disease, heart attacks, obstructive sleep apea (OSA), dementia, high cholesterol, and more! Although medications may be necessary for many individuals we have proven time and time again, that regular activity can markedly reduce the need for prescription medications (esp. Lisinopril, Lopressor, Lipitor, HCTZ, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Insulin, Glucophage, and more). The studies are out there! And the proof is in print (http://buildingbodeez.net/proven-results.html).
3. Activity increases the likelihood of healthy relationships! A regular endorphin rush, as well as less aches and pains, and ultimately more energy will likely reduce depression, and increase your relationship satisfaction! Moreover, if you pick the right activity, with healthy folks, you may just find a new friend or a new community to enjoy.
4. Activity leads healthier joints! Natural range of motion and aches and pains slowly come about with age and sustained workload. Therefore, activity is imperative to keep the joints lubricated and functioning at a high level. Stretching after exercises is a fantastic way to decrease aches and pains! Try a JUMP STRETCH band for stretching post-workout or even at the end of a long day of yard work. You will be surprised that aches and pains lessen AND your range of motion will increase over time.
5. Activity doesn’t mean long hours on a treadmill! With recent wordlwide focus on fitness and wellness, activity no longer means mandatory hours spent walking on a treadmill! Daily chores is activity. Walking the dog is activity. Chasing your grandchild around the yard is activity. Fortunately, fitness centers are now renowned for a wealth of differing activities including group fitness, circuit and crosstraining, personal training, buddy training, outdoor training, and much, much more. Just ask us how to find ‘your fancy’ at Building Bodeez Fitness. (http://www.buildingbodeez.net).
Activity shouldn’t be thought of as a chore…its a priority. Put down the laptop, and get yourself moving…TODAY!