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Jan 26 / aguse

Explosions In The Saganaki

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Explosions in the Sky have just recently wrapped up in the studio and are preparing for playing their first ever show at Radio City Music Hall on April 6. Drummer Chris Hrasky dished on local Austin favorites such as migas, Mexican food, Greek flaming cheese, and recalling the horrors of having to eat bland foods at childhood friends’ houses. For those of you planning on attending SXSW in March (perhaps for the first time), be sure to take note of some spots he mentioned within.

Growing Up With Cooking

Chris Hrasky: My mom and dad are both great cooks. My siblings and I were spoiled. I dreaded going to sleepovers at my friends houses because their parents weren’t as good cooks. It was difficult for me. A lot of food being wrapped up in napkins.

Comfort Food

CH: There is a Greek restaurant in Chicago called The Parthenon my parents took us to a lot. It’s still there and pretty famous I think. When I was there as a kid it was always insanely busy. Kind of near downtown Chicago. When I think of the staple food that was made at home, that’s what I think of (Greek food).

Epicurean Musician: What was your favorite dish from there?

CH: When I was a kid I didn’t really venture out too crazy with it. I would get a big gyros plate. I remember their table bread being incredible. But the greatest thing they have is called saganaki. It’s cheese that they light on fire at your table and there’s a big explosion…(laughing)…it’s basically just fried cheese but it had a lot of citrus flavors in it. That was always very exciting and delicious. Flaming saganaki. Basically it’s cheese they light on fire and then the fire is put out and you eat it and it’s kind of amazing.

Favorite Mexican Restaurants in Austin

CH: Curra’s, which is a nice mix between interior Mexican food with some of the TexMex staples. Mi Madre’s which is a breakfast taco place, there’s an old lady that owns it. Breakfast tacos are huge here. I also really like Trudy’s. It’s not that I REALLY like it, but they have this Texas breakfast dish called migas you can’t really find anywhere else. Scrambled eggs with jalapeño and Serrano peppers with fried tortilla chips served with potatoes and beans. It’s weird I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It’s pretty spicy…a good way to get the day started. Or maybe not.

Veggie Dim Sum, Kabobs, and Avocado Cones

EM: Are there specific cities you really look forward to when eating on tour?

New York is a pretty obvious one. There’s a veggie dim sum place in Chinatown. I can’t remember the name but we’ve been there 30 times in the 10 years we’ve been going to NY. I can’t remember the name but I think it’s just called Vegetarian Dim Sum. It’s a tradition for us to go there. It doesn’t matter how long we’re in NY for, but we always go. I don’t know what it is about this place. There’s only one vegetarian in the band too, but it’s a place we all just love.

In Europe we really like getting kabobs. They don’t really have taco or burrito places like we do here. We always like testing the kabob sandwiches in different countries. We found that France has the best kabobs so far.

EM: What’s on their kabobs that makes it the best?

CH: The bread is amazing. It’s pita bread that you can tell doesn’t come from a store. It’s really warm and fresh. It wasn’t in Paris; it was this really small town that we played in. We’re constantly searching for kabobs that have that level of quality but we haven’t found it. Worst kabobs were in Austria. I don’t even know what was wrong with it, it was just miserable.

EM: How about festival foods? Or is that pretty hit or miss?

CH: There are usually catering for the bands, which is pretty good. But in terms of festival foods here, in Austin the food trucks are pretty popular now. There’s this place called The Mighty Cone, and my favorite things from there is the avocado cone. They take an avocado, peel is, deep fry the two halves in this batter with almonds and I think other nuts. They wrap it in a tortilla and they put this weird sauce on it. It’s pretty amazing. The first time I had it was during Austin City Limits.

Breakfast (or lack thereof) and Ethiopian Brunch

EM: Morning food routine?

CH: A cup of coffee and maybe some toast. I rarely eat a big breakfast. I know that you’re supposed to. But then we go to band practice around 11:30 and have lunch. I’m sort of a two-meal-a-day kind of guy which I know you’re not supposed to do.

EM: How about brunch?

CH: There’s actually an Ethiopian place in town we really like that has brunch. Apparently the main part of the brunch is really strong Ethiopian coffee and popcorn. I guess the common breakfast food in Ethiopia is just really strong coffee and popcorn. We’ve been there many times for lunch and dinner. My wife really wants to go for brunch, but for some reason the idea of popcorn…I don’t really want to go somewhere and pay for popcorn. I mean we have popcorn in the house right now. I guess that’s the traditional Ethiopian…or so I’ve been told. The name of the restaurant is called Aster’s. Certainly they must serve more than that at the brunch…we’ll have to test it out.

EM: According to epicurean.com (not affiliated with epicureanmusician.com), in Ethiopia a coffee ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopian culture. It is taken with plenty of sugar but no milk, and accompanied by a snack food, such as popcorn or peanuts.

Sloppy Joe Tacos

EM: What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

CH: A good friend of mine when I was a kid, his parents had no grasp on any sort of cooking. His mom would make tacos a lot. Even growing up in Illinois as a kid, that was my favorite food: tacos. I don’t know, maybe that’s why I moved to Austin. I remember she would have the tortillas, and the meat would be like sloppy joe mix, not fit for a taco at all. And then she would cut up Velveeta to put on it and topped with really warm lettuce. It was horrible. That’s kind of burned into my brain. My best friend’s mother’s tacos. I would be 10 years old eating scrambled eggs at their house that were burned. Even at 10 years old I knew that much (about what not to do). I’m not really a cook, I’m not good at it at all, but at 10 years old I at least knew how to cook scrambled eggs.

EM: When you grow up with parents who know how to cook, you definitely know how to pick up on people’s bad cooking. And fast.

CH: Definitely. It’s not even like my parents made anything fancy, they made typical American food but it was always great. My friends would even say ‘I love your mom’s cooking.’ With all of my friends, (for me), it was always, ‘Uhh, I’ve got to figure out a way to get out of this somehow and make plans to not eat this.’ It caused a lot of stress growing up. A lot of people just make really bland food.

Recording on Pecan Ranch

EM: I read that you have an album coming out sometime this year.

CH: Yeah we have an album coming out in April sometime. We’re pretty much done with it, at this point it’s in the labels hands of getting it manufactured. Our role in making the album is done, we wrapped up before Christmas.

EM: Do your food habits change while you’re recording? Do you guys order out a lot? Do you thrive on coffee and/or beer?

CH: There is a lot of coffee, but actually this last recording was pretty amazing. We recorded out in west Texas back in September when we did most of the actual recording. It was on this giant pecan ranch about 20 miles east of El Paso, pretty much right on the border of Texas and Mexico in the desert and mountains. I think it’s the biggest pecan ranch in the country. It’s 6,000 acres or something. It’s endless. The people who ran it said if you have ever eaten a pecan, chances are it has come from this ranch. It’s been in this guy’s family since the 1850’s, and this business has existed for over 150 years. Obviously a ranch of that size has brought in a lot of money, and so this guy who is the last living heir of this family, this 50 year old guy who is unmarried and doesn’t have any kids, decided to build these incredible recording studios on the ranch. There’s a house that you stay at and there are these ladies who would come over, I’m pretty sure they would come over from Mexico in the morning, because there was border crossing near the ranch, and they would make breakfast and lunch every day. It was typically burritos, enchiladas, and Mexican stews. It was pretty amazing; we’ve never been able to eat well before while recording because you don’t really have the time to think about it. It’s always just, ‘Oh let’s get a pizza.’ It was nice to have home-cooked meals every day. We were there for two weeks. It was pretty amazing.

EM: Did you get to have any pecans?

CH: We did. We had quite a bit of pecans. They sent us each a bunch of pecans as a Christmas package. That was really fun, it was just a really interesting place to record. You could go ride a bike or walk around through the pecan trees and watch them irrigate everything. I have a feeling we’ll continue to record there. A lot of other bands have started recording there now. I think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with their last record, and I believe Bright Eyes have recorded there a few times.

EM: What’s the name of the studio?

CH: Sonic Ranch. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, but it’s not too far from El Paso.

The Last Supper

EM: What would your last supper be?

CH: It would either be a Mexican or Indian food buffet. Probably Indian food buffet. I don’t think I could narrow it down to a specific dish. I don’t know if I’d be too hungry, I think I’d just be too upset about dying.

EM: Is there a particular buffet you like?

CH: There’s a couple in Austin I really like. One is called Taj Palace. Another one is called Madra’s Pavillion which is South Indian with all vegetarian stuff. I’d have to have my last dinner at Madra’s Pavillion. I think that’s the place my wife and I go to the most.

Tickets for the Radio City Music Hall show are on sale now.

-April Guse

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