Pop vocalist Daryl Hall cooks up a convivial good time on his internet series
Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren are up to their elbows in raw meat. Here among the Miele and Sub-Zero appliances in the kitchen of Hall's rustic 18th-century home in Dutchess County, N.Y., the two men, plus members of Hall's band, are making sausage under the direction of Vinny Lamorte, owner of Vinny's Deli and Pasta in nearby Pawling. As the group digs into ground pork and chicken, Lamorte explains seasoning choices, pointing out the bowls of chopped cilantro, chili pepper, and fennel that cover the cooking island. The men crack double entendres as Hall's drummer, Shawn Pelton, dumps his blend of chicken and fiery spices into the canister of the sausage stuffer and Lamorte pulls the pale lamb casing from a dish and slides it gently onto the machine's nozzle. "It's a boy," someone jokes, as the casing begins to swell with meat. The jokes get more ribald as Rundgren and Hall man the machine, before the scene cuts to the barn where the band, plastic gloves removed, sunglasses still firmly in place, launches into a rendition of Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends," with Hall and Rundgren trading lead vocals.
While Hall is best known for his 40-year musical partnership with John Oates, it's his latest venture, the monthly internet concert series Live From Daryl's House (livefromdarylshouse.com), that's the stage of this gastronomic and musical collaboration. The show began airing in late 2007; now, two plus years and 30 episodes later, music is still the focus (each show features a guest who jams with Hall and his band in the studio barn), but food has become an integral element. Part concert, part cooking show, call it Rachael Ray for the pop music set.
The show's cooking segment, as Hall has begun referring to it, grew gradually. In early episodes, Hall showed off gadgets such as his cider press or his Big Green Egg charcoal barbecue between performances. Later episodes, such as the one with Rundgren, have evolved to include artists in hands-on cooking demos with local artisans such as Lamorte (who has also custom made sausage from Hall's estate-raised hogs) or Warren Norstein of Big W's Roadside Bar-B-Q, who demonstrated both barbecue and how to make shepherd's pie from burnt ends during Eli "Paperboy" Reed's visit. Hall reports that the cooking segments have become so popular that artists show up for taping asking, "Who's cooking today?"
But despite Hall's gourmandise, it's really basic hospitality that's the impetus for this melding of food and song. "Like everything on the show," Hall explains by telephone, the cooking segment "stems out of a very natural thing. Because you know, you have people to your house, what do you do? You have a glass of wine and something to eat. And very early on I realized that that was going to be a significant part of the show. And it went from there."
Hall, 63, says he grew up Chester, Pa., in a family where everyone cooked. "We ate things like scrapple and pork products, Pennsylvania Dutch stuff," he recalls. But Hall's further interest in food and wine, he says, has been honed by decades of international travel and touring and "eating very well and very eclectically." He recalls a Christmas dinner in Munich, "unbelievable restaurants in Japan," and "amazing Thai food in Bangkok."
"My memories of places I've visited all relate to food," he says, and in many ways Hall is creating--and recreating--more food memories in Dutchess County, such as when Hall's sister and 91-year-old father supervised Hall demo-ing a family recipe for a Pennsylvania Clambake, a combination of chicken and clams cooked in beer broth. Or the May 15 episode, a tribute to Hall's friend and late music director Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, who died suddenly of a heart attack Feb. 27. Hall makes a pilgrimage to Wolk's favorite pizza joint, and then to Wolk's father in Yonkers, who presents him with two homemade meatloaves and some "kielbasi."
"I want to give you all this in appreciation for what you did for Tommy," Wolk's father, Whitey, says, adding, "All that good food. I hope you enjoy it." Hall responds that they can't do a tribute to his friend without the food he loved, and later, over dinner, Hall's band and guests--including Oates and former bandmate G.E. Smith--tell tales over glasses of wine, meatloaf, and platters of broccoli rabe prepared in Wolk's signature style.
Live From Daryl's House didn't always include footage of dinner. But Hall added it when he saw how folks relaxed and opened up over wine and food. "A lot of great stories come out [at the table]," he says.
Of the many artists Live From Daryl's House has hosted, perhaps no one is more transformed at the dinner table than Smokey Robinson. The epitome of professionalism during musical taping, he relaxes over the meal, shares stories about Motown, becomes more playful, and less of a performer--all over a plate of falafel. Hall says Robinson, too, felt the special vibe of that dinner and confides that after taping, Robinson took him aside and told him, "I can't believe you got all of this on tape."
On June 6, Hall joins his former partner Oates for a concert at Pier Six in support of their 2009 box set retrospective, Do What You Want, Be What You Are. And while there might not be a food component on stage, you can bet that Hall will eat well after the show.
"I'm a crab freak," he admits. "If time allows, I'll be diving into some crabs."
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