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Two of the most wonderful things in life are music and food. I’m on a quest to find the best ‘fest’ food at festivals and concerts, tasting everything from hand picked Oregon blackberries (The Gorge) to carrot cake with chocolate frosting (Superball IX) to macaroni slathered Philly cheese steaks with bacon (two words: Gouda Boys). One of my favorite parts of seeing Phish is exploring the rich and diverse food culture across America.
My culinary ethnography of food on tour started the summer of 2011 when I volunteered for The Waterwheel Foundation, driving across the country from the Midwest through the south, up the east coast and back via Cleveland and The Hotdog at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even though I had no real plans for this trip, I was warmly welcomed all along the way. Southern hospitality combined with the amazing community surrounding Phish assured that I always felt at home.
Raleigh was the one night when I knew no one and had nowhere to stay. My best bet seemed to be sleeping in my car at Wal-Mart and hoping I would not be raped and/or murdered. Wandering down Shakedown after the concert, I was very bummed, extremely hungry and had zero cash. A dude appeared with the mustache worthy of a Confederate general (though he turned out to be a New England Yankee) and we started chatting. Within seconds he offered me a falafel wrap he had bought from one vendor who used real chickpeas, then brought to another for a slather of special sauce. My kind of guy! After he crushed a couple more sandwiches, Anthony (aka Pic for Piccirilli) came to my rescue, offering his hotel room with 10 boys sleeping on the floor. Fast forward three years later: we now live in Boston together with our two dogs, an 100lb Italian mastiff and a Welsh Corgi named Gumbo. That night in North Carolina I was looking for a post show snack and ended up with true love!
After three summers blogging about the best food on tour, last fall it was finally time to become a vendor myself. We were doing catering gigs with a smoker the size of a small tractor. It was time to take our act, known as Smoking Ted’s BBQ, on the road to Worcester for the second night of DCU.
We planned and prepped for a week, making lists and multiple shopping trips just like we would catering for 50 people, except this time the plan was selling pulled pork to 300 Phisheads. Pic cooks the meat and I make sides, so I wanted to be sure we had something for everyone – vegetarian, vegan, even gluten free.
That morning Pic went to the venue early and called home to report a crisis- we would not be allowed to vend on Shakedown, as we didn’t stake out a spot the first day. I started to panic – up to my elbows in coleslaw – thinking about the hundreds of dollars we just spent on food we couldn’t sell. Miraculously, Pic saved the day by finding a spot to vend next to an Irish pub right across from Shakedown!
Flames roared in the firebox and spice rubbed chickens sizzled as we heated up trays of pork butt that had been smoked for 18 hours the day before. We laid out vats of my famous slaw (Mom’s recipe), vegan sweet potato salad with black beans and edamame, gluten free corn bread and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. There was hot apple cider with shots of Ten High whiskey and an array of condiments. Pic always makes his own sauces – a classic BBQ along with his signature Blozz Glozz, the ultimate mustard glaze.
Just as we knew they would, the fans absolutely loved our BBQ! Sandwiches were flying along with vegetarian combo plates. That night we sold every single sandwich. Someone even asked us to cater their wedding! After packing up in the rain at 2 a.m., I left Worcester knowing Smoking Ted’s served not only the most delicious food at that show, but some of the best BBQ on lot anywhere. That pride was even better than the big wad of cash we made for our Phish fund.
I love food and music so much because they bring people together for new experiences and unforgettable memories. This summer is sure to be one of the best yet and I can’t wait to hear mind blowing music while eating my way across the country on tour. Stay tuned for more stories here and follow @festfood on Instagram or @festfoodinfo on twitter for food porn from the road!