David Byrne, Tom Waits, Michael Stipe, Willie Nelson: These are just a few of the melodic musical heroes of my generation. Music, it drives me almost more than food. There are so many similarities between the two, constantly pushing me to explore creativity in both arenas.
Food is a lot like the maelstrom of jazz music. You’ve got your bass notes (bum bum bum bum) or your proteins and starches, and you’ve got your high hats (ta ting ta ting) or your acids and spices. You don’t want every song to have a loud bass or high-pitched treble, just like you don’t want your dishes to have one note in every bite. I suggest including a song every now and then (every four songs or so) that reminds people they’re listening to great music behind even better food, company, and conversation.
When picking dinner party music, I’ve discovered that sticking to an Americana-themed playlist never fails. The same goes for the music playing as I prep the meal itself before my guests arrive. Do yourself a favor and add an extra half hour to an hour of songs that you can enjoy alone in your kitchen while dicing and chopping. This alone will get you in the mood for having friends over. Happy host, happy guests.
Inextricably linked, cooking and music are each other’s muses in my mind. I remember the first time I heard a Grateful Dead album all the way through. I remember the feelings that hummed in my body the first time Blondie blasted from our speakers at Babbo in New York City. And the happy buzz I feel walking past Electric Lady Studios, the mecca birthplace of great records, located just a block away from the restaurant.
I’m lucky to live in the greatest city in the world, so conducive to combining great music with great food, something you see and hear on just about every block. I hope this Americana playlist is a full reflection of that. Enjoy!
Mario Batali counts 25 restaurants, 11 cookbooks, numerous television shows and the 50,000-square-foot Eataly marketplace among his ever-expanding empire of deliciousness. His latest book is "America Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2014).