In Good Food, Rocks, we track down bands serious about their grub — usually because they’ve had jobs in the foodservice industry. Up next, Ambassadors, right out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Ambassadors, Brooklyn-based rock ‘n everything band (do I detect a hint of gospel with that electronic?) sound like they’ve been playing together forever. In fact, they pretty much have. Brothers Sam and Casey Harris, Noah Feldshuh and Adam Levin joined their lifelong musical powers in Williamsburg, like so many great ones do, to resounding success and lots of totally enjoyable touring in a van.
In fact, Ambassadors are still touring in support of their early 2012 release, the acclaimed Litost (check out the title track below). During a rare break in touring, we grabbed a few dozen oysters, some lobster sliders, some fried stuff and two pitchers of Lobster Ale at Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Lobster Joint, because these guys love food. Well, talking about the food that’s not on said van-based tour rider or provided by the sponsor. Frontman Sam was a server at DUMBO wood-burning heaven Vinegar Hill House, so he knows his way around a pork chop, and his brother has the ability to eat Indian food at 3AM.
Sam, you worked at the Vinegar Hill House. How did that come about?
Sam: Gene, who owns Vinegar Hill, offered me a job as a busboy, then I moved up to waiter, cause they all thought I was really handsome. They hired me right away. It’s their only requirement, really. I ended up having to leave because after two years because I was doing so much in the band and I was also in a play that went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Vinegar Hill is probably still one of my favorite places to eat.
What’s the best thing on the menu?
Sam: The Red Wattle pork chop with cheese grits.
Adam: And the cast-iron chicken.
Sam: Yeah, but the pork chop!
Adam: They took the cast-iron chicken off the menu.
Sam: No, it’s still there.
Adam: The cast-iron chicken? Not there.
Sam: Dude, I checked yesterday, it’s there.
Adam: I will check right now. (*The dish is indeed still served.)
Noah: I read online that modern-day pigs don’t have enough fat to keep the meat juicy.
Sam: Regardless, the pork chop is the best thing ever, it’s so good, amazingly moist. The color of the meat looks like a steak and eats like a steak, too. Super-tender.
Any mishaps in Serverland?
Sam: The funniest was when I turned around really fast with a tray and this girl had a glass of prosecco in her hand waiting for the bathroom and the whole thing just splashed all over her face. I felt so bad, but it was absolutely funny. And once I spilled some cold tea on this dude’s jacket and he freaked out.
Noah: I worked room service at the Soho Grand for a while. Only once did anything really bad happen…actually twice…but only once did I drop a tray where I literally had a tray, red wine, entire 3-course meal, and I just dumped it all over this person’s bed. The kitchen had to remake everything, they had to come change the sheets. The other time also had to do with a champagne mishap. Nobody was hurt besides me, there was just emotional hurt. And then all this champagne came pouring out of this bottle.
What’s your favorite city to tour in for the food?
Casey: We always go to Tony Luke’s in Philly.
Noah: There was great food in Pittsburgh too, awesome sandwiches.
Adam: But now it’s like a tradition. Anytime we’re even close to the Philly area we make a detour to go get cheesesteaks.
Do you guys have a tour rider?
Casey: It’s super poor.
Sam: Yeah, it’s really poor.
Noah: Wonder Bread, peanut butter and jelly, sweet and salty nut bars, anything we can take with us that’ll last a while on the road.
Casey: Tostidos. It says “assorted meats and cheeses,” though.
Adam: I think I updated it to say “organic meats and cheeses.” We’ve had some bad eating experiences. Last tour we were sponsored by Taco Bell.
Rest of the band: Oh god.
Adam: Thanks, Taco Bell.
Sam: Nah, it was great. But you probably wouldn’t want to be in a car with us during that tour.
Adam: Fresca Menu.
Sam: Yeah it’s all about the Fresca Menu.
Adam: If you eat Taco Bell two or three meals a day, you crave the vegetables and you need the Fresca.
I worry about bands on the road sometimes.
Adam: I worry about bands on the road sometimes, too. I worry about us on the road.
Casey: Me and Noah started eating lemons on the road, straight-up lemons.
Like, to prevent scurvy?
Noah: Pretty much.
Casey: It’s amazing how much better you feel after you eat a lemon on the road after eating fast food for five days straight.
Noah: It started with me eating a lot of sour candy, which I told my dad who’s a doctor. He said, “Noah, don’t eat that, it’s bad for your teeth.” So we switched to lemons.
Speaking of weird, between the four of you guys, what’s the weirdest thing in your fridge
[Incarnations of “there is absolutely nothing in our fridges”]
Adam: Everything is spoiled, or there’s nothing. Oh actually, there’s some old lasagna.
Sam: Nah, I threw it out. We did have this roommate for a while who did this organic popsicle truck in Williamsburg. He’d make these vegan organic crazy syrups in bottles that were in our fridge for the longest time, I finally threw those out too.
Noah: And it was all sticky in there, it would leak.
Sam: Yeah, it was gross. And weird. He was also brewing his own kombucha, with the enzymes.
Noah: That was a gnarly process. But he was a nice guy.
If it’s 3AM, what are you probably eating?
Noah: Oh god, pretzels. For me, I’m usually eating pretzels at 3AM.
Casey: Okay, for me I’m probably eating Indian food.
Indian at 3 a.m.? Do you have a cast-iron stomach or something?
Casey: Yeah! Or I’m really foolish. Actually truthfully if it’s 3 a.m. we’re probably beyond eating, just drinking.
Sam: Well our mom just got Casey all these liqueur-filled chocolates for his birthday. That’s what I was eating last time at 3 a.m.. That’s kind of both.
Okay, you guys just invented a sandwich called The Ambassador. What’s in it?
Noah: Olives, oysters, lobster, pretzels…
Sam: Awh dude, I don’t want this sandwich already.
Noah: (to Casey) A bunch of cheese, every type of cheese there is…
Casey: Everyone in the band makes fun of me because I hate cheese. I do not do cheese. I’ll do other types of dairy.
Noah: I’ve force-fed Casey cheese before. Well, not force-fed.
Casey: Yeah, they tricked me into eating cheese. Tell it like it is. It was a piece of extremely sharp aged cheddar.
Adam: Okay so olives, oysters, lobster, pretzels, cheese, mayo, hot sauce.
Sam: I can’t deal with spicy food.
Adam: I sneak hot sauce into his food sometimes. Like eggs, I put a bunch of hot sauce in his eggs once and he was like “damn these eggs are really spicy.”
So I guess you’re not ordering Indian at 3 a.m. with your brother?
Casey: You’re missing out. I’ve been getting into the dopiaza lately. It’s got onions and tomatoes and peppers in it, it’s one of my favorites. Get that, some samosas, maybe some of those vegetable pakoras.
What’s the earliest food memory from your childhood?
Sam: I was like, 5. It was kale. I really wanted to impress my parents and show them I had refined tastes, so I went “Mmm! I love this kale, it tastes like dessert!” And my mom was like “Word, okay, great.” So after dinner I’d get to watch TV and have dessert, and they fucking brought me kale. I was pissed.
So you tricked Casey into eating cheese, Sam into eating hot sauce and Casey and Sam’s mom tricked Sam into eating kale for dessert. Any other food-related pranks?
Sam: This band we were on tour with pranked this other band — I can’t say who — they got really close, and the last night you always prank the opening band. So the lead singer of the headlining band smeared the hottest hot sauce on the opener’s microphone, and it was NOT Tabasco, and the guy started throwing up uncontrollably. They had to go off-stage, they couldn’t play. In retaliation, when the headliner went on, the opener went behind their amps and cut the power cords so they literally couldn’t play either.
More Good Food, Rocks on Food Republic: