Levon's Obsessions

A gal whose obsessions lie within fat, sugar, carbs, caffeine, and beverages that could strengthen the heart or seal up a womb.

Archive for the category “Celebrities”

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen

Just the other night I was talking about how I wanted to do more than just hashtag the global initiatives and mega charitable organizations my company is affiliated with.  Raising dollars at food shows and corporate sponsored silent auctions, and donating food and dry goods from our warehouse that are write off’able are great, but I want to have that indescribable level of humility attached to hands on community outreach.  I want to see, feel, and understand firsthand the underserved’s struggle, like I did growing up with my dad years ago when I was little. My dad not only knows about food from running a soul food restaurant when I was an unborn baby, but he also started a grassroots program for the homeless and underserved communities in Charlotte, NC that spiraled into a two decade long tradition at his old church of feeding thousands of homeless families every weekend.  That level of commitment and love is immeasurable.

Too many times do I go out to eat and too often do I bask in the enjoyment of a home cooked meal by my own hands, rarely remembering that other smaller population, and considering what life would be like if I wasn’t afforded these second nature luxuries. Just the other week I very randomly purchased a two pound lobster from the seafood section of the grocery store.  Mind you, in all my frugal glory, I still only paid $15.. But in many families $15 is a huge luxury and could do so much, and go so far.  It’s easy to take these automatic luxuries for granted.  Hashtag Lunchbag, an NYC based initiative I just learned about recently by a good friend, both inspired and intrigued me. The $25 I donated on their site is said to have fed 15 people.  See how that works? Amazing right? I offered to join as a volunteer, and instantly thought of another organization that I had started researching a while back that I wanted to join after my brother sent me a link – Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation.  He has a few programs that fall under the umbrella.  One of which is his restaurant – Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen that operates under the premise of pay what you can, or not at all and just volunteer. I absolutely love to see celebrities paying it forward.  The smallest gestures in life can go an immeasurably long way.  JBJ Soul Kitchen is a very very long way. Awesome to say the least..

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Taste of the Nation NYC 2014

Sponsoring the annual Taste of the Nation NYC event, I assumed we would have some sort of laborious obligation prior to the event.  Which was perfectly fine given the dynamics.  No Kid Hungry is an ongoing initiative and close affiliate in which the overall objective is to raise awareness, engage the public, and raise money to feed hundreds of thousands of children. We arrived hours in advance to help load in the vendors’ food and materials.  Since that was my heaviest ordering day of the week, I spent the majority of my time taking orders on my laptop in my makeshift office space in the wardrobe room.  Hours after everything was strategically set up, we were given wristbands and asked to stay for the VIP cocktail reception.

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This was bittersweet since I was far from fabulous that day and not at all dressed for the occasion. I had to suck it up and go to the ladies room to primp myself into the most presentable shape possible.  I figured I’d just lurk around the event looking like the overworked journalist in all black and grey, and knee high, flat boots, yet chic and smart looking enough to be present.

There were countless restaurateurs and vendors displaying their trendiest creations possible, in addition to falling into the theme of healthy cuisines.  From the delectable crab puffs at one booth, to Nios‘s seared scallop and crispy pork belly, accompanied with white sweet potato puree, pickled ramps, and fava bean salsa..

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..to Red Rooster Harlem‘s jumbo lump crab salad Ssam with Yuzu mayo and pickled chili..

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There were several notable moments that put a euphoric look on my face like the shrimp on shrimps moment I experienced at Alder NYC‘s booth with
Maine sweet shrimp, green papaya salad, and peanuts on an amazing skin textured shrimp cracker..

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There were other moments where your true food knowledge versus your personal palate were tested.  Like the Quail egg en gelée with American caviar from Balthazar. Balthazar has some of the most amazing pastries in the neighborhood of Soho, as well as countless other locations.  So I was curious to try something on the complete opposite end of the sugary spectrum, which is what led me to the golden speckled egg.

quail

Poached quail is truly an acquired taste, as are certain types of cordials and spirits, as are everything in life that comes on a plate, or in a styrofoam bowl at a $200 – 400 ticketed charity event.  If this were a Paris Fashion Week show, let’s just say this would’ve been the Lanvin finale piece that made every bit of since to the Parisiennes in the tent that watched the entire show/collection and knew the entire story.  To the street pedestrians however, it would’ve left them in a slight state of bewilderment.  Let’s just say after swallowing the egg and wandering off to the next tent/I mean booth, if I weren’t on such a strict diet I would’ve downed the first shot of bourbon in sight..

Other dishes on display included L&W Oyster‘s smoked cantaloupe oyster shooters which were delightful and refreshing..

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..Minton’s North African spiced lamb loin was a pleasure to digest, along with the pleasant culinary staff that I spoke to about their location and their sibling restaurant The Cecil..

..my favorite art piece at The Cecil (artist unknown..)

..my favorite art piece at The Cecil (artist unknown..)

I also had the opportunity to chat with Chef Banks White as well, mainly about distributor stuff. Chatted up to the point of forgetting to take a picture of the savory loin..

Miss Lily’s and their incredible jerk chicken chutney dish was, very Miss Lily’s..  It was was piercing in flavor and colorful.  No different than what I’ve experienced at their restaurant in the West Village. Their staff at the TONNY event were replicas.

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..and this extraordinarily, naturally flavorful and robust dish which was a vegetarian’s sanctuary.  I believe this was the Hamachi Crudo from Bill’s Food & Drink ..

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..situated next to its sibling restaurant The Lion, with their cocktail explosion.

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I was in heaven and hell at this show due to my gluten/glycemic free diet I’m on for the next few weeks.  I did however triumph not having a single cocktail, wine, or shot of caffeine the entire evening.  They looked amazing though..

Overall it was a successful event and I had a great time and appreciation for the limited dishes I was allowed to indulge in.  Anything involving food and passed hors d’ouevres from the top 80 restaurants in NYC, and the notion of donating 10 meals for every dollar raised with the various proceeds and silent auctions, I’m all for it. It definitely warrants my stamp of obsessionista approval, and I definitely look forward to doing it again next year..

 

 

 

 

 

Burgers and Beer Joint – Packing the Miami Heat, NBA Finals

I walked into the Brickell Village complex in Miami the other night to meet a dear friend of mine from NY.  New Yorkers have a habit of traveling in packs or randomly running into each other thousands of miles away.  My old friend that I was linking up with directly from Miami International, I haven’t seen since we were at the Coffee Shop in Union Square years ago.  Yeah, that rare but not at all surprising moment in Manhattan when you very easily run into a celebrity, or in our case have one sit at your table at an outdoor cafe.  Let’s just say the last time I saw my dear, former Heart and Soul Magazine staffer / friend – Dave Chapelle walked up to our table and sat down and rapped with us for an entire five minutes.  In fan world that’s equivalent to about an hour and a half…

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Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

So that was the first thought that came to mind when I walked in Brickell looking for the Burgers and Beer Joint my dear friend had designated as the meeting spot.

Moments later I entered a not so surprisingly packed bar full of anxious Miami Heat fans watching the NBA finals on all one million and two of the big screens across the bar.  I was pleasantly greeted by my friend and the entire table.  The magical moment was very gracefully interrupted by the waitress who was more interested in obtaining my order than the long time no see formalities of a newcomer to Miami.  I ordered my drink, chatted it up with the table, got them up to speed with my life as they did theirs, and then landed on a couple of ideas for snacks.  To my surprise, not only did the waitress have the disappointing announcement of running out of the popcorn shrimp that I ordered, but five minutes later after coming up with a consolation order of the Wagyu Sliders, she further destroyed the moment with the same announcement.  I thought it was actually pretty humorous.  My FPIC on the other hand didn’t once he was confronted with the same issue with his tuna sandwich.  In my foodie book, ordinarily strike three and you’re out.  I have to say though, the nostalgia of being around an old NY friend, and being in the midst of such great company with the others, laughter was the only option.  It was simply a good vibe, and I didn’t want to destroy it.  We were having a good time, and my foodie instincts told me that this place had really good burgers.

About nine trials of ordering and availability shenanigans later, I was proven correct.  The most massive onion rings soon landed on our table, enough to feed a family in Sudan.  Between that, the incredulous burger, the awesome company, and the energy from the Miami Heat fans absorbing the Finals, it was truly a perfect storm evening in Brickell Village at the Burgers and Beer Joint.

Damien Woody of NY Jets Eats 2,500 Wings

In the midst of the “Rex Ryan losing control of his NY Jets” rant today on ESPN Talk Radio, the conversation took an interesting turn when the topic of food came up. They were interviewing former offensive lineman Damien Woody, and somehow the conversation diverted from play politics to him and the entire offensive line once eating 2,500 wings. Wings as in the chicken wings at the bar that occasionally given the right day one can shamefully admit to orderering 12. Well try 250. 250 for yourself and not for the entire bachelor party later on that day. That’s exactly how many were portioned off for each of his teammates. So who has the ultimate chicken wing obsession??? The former NY Jets offensive tackle whose weekly grocery bill is probably over a thousand dollars. That’s who.

Photo Source nypost.com

With this Nephilim type appetite along with his wife and 7 kids, their local grocery store is officially declared recession-proof and will probably never go out of business. So next time you think you’re being a badass by upping your 8 piece order of chicken wings at your local BW3s, BBQs or Wing Stop (depending on where you live), know that you are not..

Photo Source Helmet2Helmet.com

I see why my dad used to joke about me having the appetite of a linebacker..

Happy Hour Moment of The Week – Savoy, Pittsburgh

The happy hour moment of the week goes to Savoy in Pittsburgh, PA.  Although the urban elite flooded restaurant doesn’t have a happy hour menu per se, you can certainly indulge in happiness for at least an hour at this sexy bar with their lounge menu.

Trio Appetizer Plate – Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Arugula Salad and warm Vegetable Strudel $14

Although the food itself fluctuates from “ok I’ve had way too much to drink and I’m not sure how this affects my experience with this tilapia and braised asparagus” to mediocre, the experience is moreso about ambience..

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decent cocktails..

and celebrity sitings.

Tyson Beckford – courtesy of ppg.com

So if you wanna run into the who’s who in Pittsburgh, as well as indulge in a great martini while you’re in town on business and itching to not go back to the regular hotel bar, Savoy has what you need.

Ice Tea and Ice Cube

…literally.

From the Thrillist FB page

Marvin Gaye’s Belgian Soul Salvation in Washington DC

The Shaw neighborhood restaurant called Marvin is the designated go to spot on Monday night in Washington DC for a reason. The atmosphere and the vibe, combined with a little dose of my ‘former home’ nostalgia made for a great evening. It mentally took me back to the Republic Gardens, Howard U, Adams Morgan, and all things U Street days in the District. Along with the perfectly concocted martini the bistro level bartender cleverly created, my friend insisted that I try the Chimay.

Since I left beer behind with my yard days at NCA&T I was a bit hesitant. Curiosity along with his commercial ready background on the particular brand made me try it anyway. Need-less-to-say it was really good. Not to mention it is an authentic Trappist beer which translates to the champagne of beers, and is a part of the International Trappist Association. It also comes in the Red, the Triple, and the Blue Cap and has a line of cheeses perfect for pairing. Yeah this beer is kinda major and might quietly be a movement.

Courtesy of Chimay Official Site

It also ties into the history of Marvin and its Belgian marriage to soul. The story of Marvin Gaye and his journey to find solace overseas in Ostend, Belgium was apparently the inspiration behind this bistro, bar and rooftop establishment. This restaurant has a tremendous amount of history which is apparent by the décor the minute you walk in. The musical legend was born and raised just around the corner in this Shaw neighborhood and his spirit lingers on with the locals.  The Belgian culture plaid an integral role in his personal and spiritual development after his open and quite publicized inner struggles.  So frankly the beer makes sense, as does the menu, the theme and everything else.   I think the creators of Marvin have done a proper job of combining the cafe society of Belgium, with the proud soul of the Shaw neighborhood in DC. The next time I’m in town I will have to see if Chef James Claudio’s food is as good as the concept, because everything else is winning.  Truly an amazing place..

 

Michael Ealy’s Noodle Love Affair

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Photo by Nigel Parry/USA Network

..Suddenly I want Chinese.

The Great Googa Mooga Says Marcus Samuelsson

So in case you’re a NYC local and haven’t heard, or are a part of that NYC elite that can easily toss $250 for a street festival in Brooklyn that any other weekend would’ve easily been $10, get your black, gold or silver credit cards out because there are still tickets left to the Great Googa Mooga’s “Extra Mooga” food festival on Sunday.  Thanks to Marcus Samuelsson’s blog, I know Brooklyn will be housing the all inclusive food and drink lover’s wonderland at Prospect Park this weekend.  Although it’s said that general admission to the Great Googa Mooga is sold out or that registration has closed rather, you still can partake in the festivities that include a lot of food, a lot of drink, and don’t quote me, but I believe the legendary Roots headlining also.  So if it sounds like your cup of chai tea, just go to the site and check it out for yourself.  Oh and please do tell me how it was come Sunday.  I have a strange feeling I won’t be making this one.  Wouldn’t mind meeting Bourdain though..

Join Marcus at Extra Mooga this Sunday.

http://www.googamooga.com/extra-mooga/

 

 

 

Kevin Hart Says No to Pineapples, I Say Yes

Although I’m nowhere near the point in life of being faced with athritic type issues, I say yes to pineapples.  Even though I’m known to reference drinks that strengthen the heart and seal a wound, and even though we’re fully aware of Kevin Hart and his disdain of pineapples, here are a few things to consider. Granted comedian man isn’t speaking in a literal sense, but none-the-less the topic of pineapples has been completely redefined through his comedic gestures.  While these spirit lifting cocktails and fermented grape beverages that I speak of can figuratively strengthen the heart, this illustration below will clearly prove that there are fruits that literally will do just that. In addition to wine of course, which would eliminate the fermented grape beverages line.  Anyway, you might want to print this one out and stick it on the side of your refrigerator, or cube at work, or simply store it in your brain for future reference.  I think it’s ideal for everyone, but more specifically people like myself who shamefully have no problem getting Betty Crocker in the kitchen and baking a cake at 1:00 in the morning depending on how the day is going. It’s no mistake that fruit curbs sugar cravings.  So I say go for it.  Print this baby out and fight the infamous sugar obsession monster that you know you have.Photo courtesy of David Sommers

Photo courtesy of David Sommers

Edible Treasures at Antrel Rolle NFL Draft Week Party

So as I waited for my fashionably late friends to show up to the TR Luxury Group’s first series of NFL Draft Parties of the week, I conversed with the lovely Ms. Vicky P of Cakes By Me Vicky P.  She was waiting on her staff and I was waiting on my friends, so we chatted it up about the important issues in life like red velvet, buttercream dream, carrot cake, and Antrel Rolle and how well he layers onto a cake.  I sampled her edible treasures and was delightfully surprised.  Her cakes were actually rich, moist and tasteful, and not just beautiful and dry.  Kudos to Vicky.  Although it would’ve been nice to have sampled the Philippe Chow passed hors d’oeuvres pre-Cakes By Me Vicky P, my palate was happy. 

 www.cakesbymevickyp.com

Lupe Fiasco’s Donut Burger

….I said the same thing. I’m just the messenger image downloader. I’m not sure what type of appetite would warrant this type of behavior on my end. Apparently TMZ forgot to report the Kick Pusher with the Go Go Gadget flow had a bun in his oven. That or some hella hydro in his system. Ah well, gotta love Lupe.

Levon Helm, My Dad’s Obsession

Frontman and drummer for The Band, Levon Helm passed away yesterday.  And although I didn’t know much about the musical legend and his group, I know he inspired Elton John to write the song that my dad was obsessed with before I was born.  I also know he made an enormous contribution to the musical world and gave a name for my dad’s newborn girl. He was interviewed with Modern Drummer describing the “right ingredients” for his work in music and film as “life and breath, heart and soul”, kind of like the ingredients that are thrown into some of my obsessions.  So I bid adieu to the legendary Levon Helm and ask GOD to allow him to rest in peace.  May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012

02 – Levon, Elton John

Justin Timberlake’s sexy is not back in his restaurant..

So I heard a lot about Justin Timberlake‘s restaurant Southern Hospitality, and had only visited the one on the UES NY for a private party.  And because I’m not one to always rely on other people’s judgement like I did with Idlewild, when everyone bashed that movie and I simply adored it and thought Bryan Barber was genius, I decided to formulate my own opinion.  Also we happened to conveniently walk by the Hell’s Kitchen location and therefore decided to give it a shot despite the not so rave reviews.  Although the astmosphere mentally completely took me home to North Carolina, the food on the other hand unfortunately didn’t quite match up.  The drink was weird but that could’ve possibly been due to me being fancy and modifying the ingredients.  The fried buffalo shrimp tasted and looked buffalo but was more like mush shrimp than fried.  The mac n cheese was a step up but wasn’t anything special to warrant an ooooooh moment. So if you want to go for the sake of saying you went to good ol’ JT’s restaurant, then by all means stop by.  But do just that. Don’t order the buffalo shrimp and don’t get cute with the drinks.  If you’re in the mood for BBQ’s but want something a quarter of a star fancier and minus the crowd, the inflated prices will definitely help you with that illusion.

Frank Ocean Coachella Live Stream

This has absolutely nothing to do with the remarkable insanely delicious slice of cheesecake in front of me right now, however I think I owe it to my readers to let them know that umm Frank Ocean is streaming live on Coachella right now. Why WP won’t allow me to upload the link is beyond me.  So it’s up to you to copy and paste the link into your browser at this point and enjoy the show like I’m about to do. Channel 2.

http://www.youtube.com/coachella

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