#foodporn

Many apologies for such a long time between posts! I actually wrote this post almost a week ago while over caffeinating (surprise surprise) at a shop in Dublin and when I hit Save & Publish *poof* the server kicked me off and into the fire pits of college essay hell went my post. Ah well. The upside is that the original post only contained food from Austria and Norway but this version will also include my first taste of Swedish meatballs! Gird your... uh... lips.

Can we talk for a minute about the lost art of cake and coffee? The scene: a European café, marble tables, a socially polite level of humming conversation when you walk in, waiters in well pressed and matching uniforms, smells of coffee, pastries, cognac, and the occasional waft of laughter that seems to fit rather than annoy. This happened to me in Salzburg at Café Tomaselli. Why is this place special? Oh, just because Mozart happened to write about it in his journal. I was taken there by my long time friend from ASU, Chris who recommended I get an "Einspänner" which basically could have been the only thing I had there I would still be happy. This little beverage puts any espresso con panna to SHAME. Picture a double shot sized mocha, not at all sweet, topped with a little layer of soft whipped cream which resembles more coffee foam than actual cream. I died. But then a woman came back with a massive tray with every iteration of cake imaginable. My brain immediately turned to mush as I tried to frantically decided between slices of Sachertorte, Linzer Torte, Kardinalschnitte, Charlottentorte, rolls of sponge of cream, fruit tarts, stacks of Victoria sponge with fruit preserves and chocolate, and that's barely scratching the surface. In the end I went with Chris' suggestion once again and was not disappointed. A multiple layer slice of cake consisting of a walnut cake brushed with coffee, filled with thin layers of coffee pastry cream, all wrapped in a layer of walnut fondant and topped with a toasted walnut. DEAD. There is so much more to write regarding how Salzburg stole my heart. But for now, let's have the focus just be on cake.

To be clear, there was a lot of great food on this trip. Remember that life saving jam? Rachel gave me an entire sealed jar of it... *sheds a tear of joy* Also, while visiting my friend Jackie at her new home in Graz, she introduced me to world of pumpkin seed oil. Apparently this is a staple in the Styrian region of Austria and is a hold over from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I plan of pouring this liquid gold over everything that doesn't already have Rachel's jam on it. Or maybe both. Omg... vanilla gelato with black currant jam and pumpkin seed oil?? *dead* Then came London where, let's be honest, I really didn't care about having some amazing dining experience. Sure, there are some amazing restaurants in London that had I an expense account I would love to try. But really, I was there for less than a day and all I wanted to eat was opera and pints of malty pub temperature beer. So I did. 

This now brings us to Bergen, Norway where my buddy Tyler has just relocated to be the first tenor in the Edvard Greig Kor (yay, Tyler!). The first thing to mention is that Bergen is STUPIDLY BEAUTIFUL. The sun never came out while I was there and it didn't matter. It was still stunning. Picture the grey misty feel of Seattle except add fjords, a lot more trees, and a much higher percentage of beautiful people. Those Norwegians have some secret to beauty, I swear. The next thing to mention is that Norway is cripplingly expensive. No really. The cheapest beer I had was about $11. Yeah. A beer. That being known, I did budget for at least one meal out and of course I wanted it to be Norwegian. Here's to Tyler for knowing exactly where to take me for such a meal. Bonus: it was one block from his flat. We decided to split two dishes so I could have more to try - again, amazing friends are amazing. First dish: plukkfisk. Ok, full disclosure: I typed that word and just had to stop writing for a moment to savor the memory of how glorious this dish was. Basically it was a giant mound of mashed potatoes mixed with white fish, onions, bechamel sauce, more butter than a Paula Deen pound cake, and topped with crispy chunks of slab bacon. Guys, it was like everything I have ever wanted. My German heritage got all the levels of fat and simply carbs it loves while the fish plot twist was SO WELCOME. I will dream of this dish for a long time. The second dish was kind of a combo plate of mashed turnip, smoked reindeer sausage, brined pork, and the most dense potato dumpling I have ever eaten. This dumpling literally laughed in my face when I tried to cut it with just my fork. Even adding a knife didn't really do the trick. I swear I am still digesting this behemoth of starch. 

After a quick return trip to Dublin, I then headed back to Scandanavia with Anúna to perform in Gothenburg, Sweden. Again... everything cost an arm, half a leg, and if you want a beer with your meal then you can just kiss that first-born goodbye. But I came prepared for this. While I was in Dublin I went to TK Maxx and purchased a $9 bento box and used it to hoard food from the breakfast at our 4 star hotel (it was seriously amazing and we all had private rooms - thanks, Church of Sweden!). So I had one meal out while in Sweden and turned the rest of my per diem into profit. How's that for a pro tip? The meal was of course Swedish meatballs. Confession: I have never had Swedish meatballs. Yeah, I know. All y'all who swear that the meatballs at IKEA are bomb.com will scoff. But I don't care because my first taste of Swedish meatballs was IN SWEDEN. (Seriously, where is Molly Shannon running in yelling, "SUPERSTAR", when I need her?) They. Were. Glorious. Four dense meatballs surrounded by a salty, rich gravy, a mound of mashed potatoes (I don't even like mash but these were like a cloud of butter laden heaven) and rather than the traditional lingonberry jam to accompany, they served it with local blackberry compote. While the meatballs and gravy were amazing on their own, the compote made the dish. All that salt, butter, and meat were taken up several levels when the sweet kick of the blackberries took a machete straight through all fatty richness. $22 later, I was fully, happy, and so glad that I had a 25 minute walk back to the hotel. Between that and the potato dumpling in Bergen, I might be hungry again by the time I return to America...

HAHAHA who am I kidding? I'm already dreaming of donuts.

Cheers friends!

Damn that jam

Let’s imagine that for some strange reason you are feeling sorry for yourself. Of course, this may be a stretch for some since we all know full well that humans tend not to be the kind of species who can be down on themselves or self-judgmental. No, of course not. Little burning suns of joy are we! But bear with me and see if you can stretch your imagination. If you happened to be in one of these black holes of joy sucking quagmires, you may begin to search for ways to pull yourself out. You may think back on a memory, or remind yourself of an upcoming event that you’ve been looking forward to, maybe sneak a square of chocolate, or seven. But still, you can feel that voice in the back of your head grow a little louder, a little more vicious. You begin to feel the despair. You feel like there’s no turning back now. That snow ball is rolling down the mountain that just an hour again was just a little hill and now has suddenly become the Mount Everest of negative human emotion. Well shit… what now?

There it is. Now. What can happen right now?

I woke up this morning with a sore throat. The kind that has no other symptoms (read: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED AND ALL THE MONEY THAT I THREW AT THIS INSANE TRIP LET NO OTHER SYMPTOMS DEVELOP) but is nonetheless there and makes your voice sound somewhere between a politician who’s on their 17th campaign rally in ten days (looking at you HRC), and someone who incessantly clears their throat even when there’s nothing to clear. Annoying. Kind of painful. Scary considering all the singing to be done. WHY NOW?? Damn. We’re back to “now”. This morning also came with waking up in my friend’s beautiful new home that they are so excited to have you in. In Holland. (Sam. YOU’RE IN HOLLAND.) A breakfast of porridge, yogurt, and homemade black currant jam, and tea. Oh, and you eat it all while looking at the bush where those currants came from. (Do farmers get the same kind of “this is lovely” feeling when they look out at their livestock while eating steak?) So, what did I do with now? I ate my breakfast, smiled uncontrollably, talked about dialectal accents of Holland, Ireland, and America with my friends, and never brought up the fear welling up in me because of this touch of pharyngitis I’m experiencing. Suck it up? No, that’s not quite right. Get over yourself, enjoy, appreciate, and take that hubris out the door like a smelly bag of trash? Absolutely.

Let’s be real, we all have the ability to feel sorry for ourselves. I’m surprised more infants don’t say “Why me?” as their first words. (Does anyone else wish they could remember how awesome it must have felt to be in the womb? It’s like the coziest B&B and you don’t even have to move to be fed. Bliss.) But sometimes, you get lucky and you can actually manage to catch yourself before you jump off that ledge of “poor me”. The next step is taking a moment to appreciate that you managed it rather than wishing you could manage it more often. Enjoy the small victory. After all, you still have to go manage that sore throat, that missed alarm, that snide comment someone made, that forgotten email to send. But a “bump in the road” moment doesn’t have to color the entire day.

By the way, this post was entirely inspired by how awesome that black currant jam was. I’m not saying jam saved the day but… jam saved the day.

Cheers from Arnhem, friends!

#giglife

It has been on my mind for a while to share with everyone what I'm up to as I jump from gig to gig... and when I'm not gigging. Sure, I could rely on Facebook updates, well filtered Instagram posts, and the occasional Tweet. But I would rather provide some banter that isn't solely based on the performances I'm preparing for, the venues I'm working in, or the areas I'm traveling to. 

Confession: I hate the word "blog". I think it sounds clumsy and kind of stupid. Hence why I called this section "By Sam" which I will fully admit to stealing from Hilary Hahn's website. Speaking of Ms. Hahn, she's also a huge inspiration behind me writing this section of my website. If you look at Hahn's YouTube channel, it's packed not with videos of her performing, but rather her greeting her fans from various countries, talking about pieces, talking to composers and other artists, and generally just being human. Like an attempt to remind the public that her life isn't a single dimension of performance art. 

Really I want a place where I can share the nonperformance highlights of my life. I love food so be prepared for lots of descriptions of local cuisine. I am an avid people watcher so I'm sure tales from public transportation, cab rides, and flights will make many appearances. I am fascinated by artistic culture at every level. How people prepare, how they interact, the expectations set by groups and individuals that are both voiced and unvoiced, how artists change between rehearsal and performance. If I can look past my own bias, it's a beautiful thing to observe whether it fits in with my own thoughts or not. 

So what am I doing now? I'm sitting at the dining table of my hosts in Dublin where the sky is remarkably sunny (Don't lie, Mother Nature. We know where we are and that this sunny disposition you've taken on won't last the day!) and drinking a lot of coffee. Did I mention that coffee is one of those subjects that will come up a lot. The first step is admitting you have a problem... or whatever. I have nothing scheduled today so my plan is to visit my favorite yarn shop in Dublin, The Constant Knitter, probably find some more coffee, and walk for as long as the weather holds out. *Update: I just scheduled an audition in Amsterdam for next Friday and they've asked for rep I don't readily have on hand so I'll be spending the majority of the day deciding what to sing!* This evening I am headed to a pub where my host's father will be part of a trad session. He's a brilliant mandolin player and I'm stoked to finally see him live in action and not just playing in the living room (which is still amazing to watch and hear). Tomorrow we're out early to head for Northern Ireland to perform for the final night of the BBC Proms! Just writing out those words is a little mind blowing to me.

Now that I've finally sat down and written out what I deem to be a mediocre at best post, I shall post it and let the world decide if it wants to read it. Or like it. I'll be over here sipping coffee.