Making Beautiful Music and Food Together

Growing up during the Seattle sound explosion, Marc Forgione’s formative years were shaped by Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. “I always wanted to be in a rock ’n’ roll band. Before Seattle bands, I was into Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, and Poison. I even dabbled with a guitar, but I wasn’t anywhere talented enough.”

Today he approaches his guitar playing a little more seriously, taking lessons and making practice a part of his morning ritual. And his musical tastes have evolved too. This week you might find “The Stable Song” by Gregory Alan Isakov on repeat on his iPod, or the likes of the John Butler Trio and Mumford and Sons. “With today’s technology, music is so easy to find. I am constantly discovering new artists.” And he’s constantly updating the music in his restaurants. At American Cut, the soundtrack runs a little more on the classic side, from the Doors to Bruce Springsteen.

Certain songs take us back to specific points in time, but while working on his current cookbook, Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant, Forgione used music to recall exact recipes. “I had to write at home, where there were fewer distractions, and music was key. If I was trying to remember a recipe from, say, 2008, I would go back to my iPod, look for a playlist from that year, and play it to help jog my memory about the recipe and the stories around it. It was a very cool process.”

Given his love of music, would it be cliché to expect him to have a theme song? Forgione says, grinning: “There kind of was one for a while: ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ It’s always great to play something right before a crazy night to get everyone amped up. We used to play this one every day before dinner service when I first opened my own restaurant. It was when we were ‘struggling,’ and so it was a subliminal message to everyone not to worry!’’

He recalls the intensity of a specific evening at American Cut in Atlantic City, all because of a song. “It was the end of a really busy night, and a live version of ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen came on. We had just served the last table, and I remember looking around the room, packed with people, hearing the music playing low and full with the crowd singing just a whisper of it. To be in Jersey, hearing Springsteen, seeing the people singing like that—it was intense. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.”

Forgione has seen his fair share of rock stars grace his tables, from the Kings of Leon to Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles. “I once had a band come in and ask if they could shoot a video in the restaurant. Sure! What I didn’t realize was that they were going to whip out a camera there and then and start shooting,” he laughs. He loves the idea of the collaboration of music and food and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t see more of it out there. “Music and food are a perfect fit. Most musicians appreciate food as an art form, and most chefs I know love music.”

Deep I Don’t Mind Stealin’ Bread Salad
local heirloom tomato salad, thousand island dressing, bread chips, basil

FOR THE THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbs chopped cornichons
1 tbs sherry vinegar
1 tbs brandy
2 tbs chopped tarragon
salt
black pepper
Mix everything and set aside.

FOR THE BACON VINAIGRETTE
3 each red onions
extra-virgin olive oil
salt
black pepper
4 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs chopped parsley

Slice onions 1/4-inch thick. Season with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill on high heat until charred on both sides.
Chop until almost a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add balsamic and parsley. Mix well and season. Set aside.

FOR THE BREAD CHIPS
4 each bread (stolen, if you have to) sliced on slicer as thinly as possible
extra-virgin olive oil
salt
black pepper

Season bread with oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 300°F for 4 minutes.

FOR THE GARLIC SALT
1 each garlic clove
1 cup Maldon sea salt

Pulse garlic and salt in food processor 3 times for 3 seconds each. Lay on a plate and keep in a sunny place for 2 hours.

TO FINISH
4 each local heirloom tomatoes cut in 1/2-inch slices
garlic salt
black pepper
onion vinaigrette
Midnight Moon goat cheese peels (or crumbled fresh goat cheese)
micro basil (or young basil tops) extra-virgin olive oil
thousand island dressing
bread chips

Season the tomatoes with garlic salt and black pepper. Spoon some onion vinaigrette on each slice. Lay some goat cheese
on each slice. Sprinkle some basil and olive oil on each slice. Spoon some thousand island dressing on 4 plates and stack the tomatoes on top. Place bread on top and top with more basil. Drizzle olive oil around.

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