Though his mighty Roots crew just released an especially complex concept album, drummer ?uestlove premiered his tastiest work yet at New York's legendary Blue Note last night: Love's Drumstick, an origami-wrapped buttermilk chicken drumstick served in a Bento Box. It was all part of "?uestlove Eats... A Night of Food and Music," the first event for his new catering service?uest Loves Food. Serving up Korean and Creole-inspired comfort grub with locally sourced ingredients, ?uest Loves Food promises a buttermilk chicken food truck in New York's near future and servicing at "high-profile, exclusive events" like the night's $80-a-head three-course dinner concert starring ?uest, Bobby McFerrin, Rahzel, Black Thought and Brass Heaven. But, even in a room packed with luminaries and legends, the real star of the show was the one that had us licking our fingers.
So, how was Love's Drumstick?: In a word: Unreal. It has a weight and a heft and a substantiveness; as the Biz would say, it would weigh a good pound if you tried to weigh it. The creole seasoning is mellow and smoky, and juice (note: not grease) explodes from the meat upon your first bite. As a textural experience of hot juiciness and crunchy skin alone, it's better than Momofuku's buttermilk fried chicken, which is no small feat.
How were the sides?: The fresh, healthy(-ish) sides served as a perfect counterbalance to the fried chicken which had us wiping grease all over our jeans and reporter's notepad. Some raw Kale bristled with the brittle feel of freshness and the black eyed peas were punctuated by the crunch of raw veggies — both very lightly touched with oil that didn't overpower but certainly didn't leave 'em dry. Even the breaded mac & cheese on a stick felt refreshingly light for what could have been a decadent and fat-soaked savory treat.
Constructive criticism that we hope is useful: The flimsy sticks holding up the mac-and-cheese couldn't bear the weight of all that macaroni. Drummer's aside: C'mon ?uest, that's like filling in for Metallica rocking Vic Firth 7As!
Most awesomely WTF moment of the night:: Bobby McFerrin making dubstep wub-wubs with his mouth.
Best joke of the night: Unable to resist playing off the title of ?uestlove Eats, the drummer sat down and said, "OK, for my first number I'm gonna eat cereal."
Sleeper joke of the night: The "will.i.ams" on the menu turned out to be black eyed peas, a joke I didn't get until they were on my fork. Thankfully they were not holograms.
Time it took ?uestlove from hitting the stage to meandering through the crowd tap-tapping on random things: Seven minutes.
Things ?uestlove drummed on besides drums: mic stands, music stands, amplifiers, tables, chairs, bannisters, glasses, a bottle of still water.
Best exchange: ?uestlove, "Yes I'm tweeting, you would be too." Bobby McFerrin, "Tweet this: adooblydooblybooblybooblbolbo....."
A selection of thing a visibly geeked Rahzel said about being on stage with his hero Bobby McFerrin:I just wanna say, wow...The hip-hop Bobby McFerrin? I'll take that, That's like being called Jesus...This is the best Christmas present I ever had. There is a black Santa, I told ya!"
Best Rahzel beat of the night: "Otis"
Best unintentional Heavy D tribute: The mighty seven-member Brass Heaven joined ?uestlove for a furious run through The J.B.'s "Pass The Peas," which we never been able to separate from the Hevster's The Overweight Lover's in the House. Nothing but love.
Traditional Spanish tortilla with smoked paprika aoli
"Love's Drumstick," signature buttermilk-fried local Lancaster County drumstick with homemade creole seasoning
Questo's Raw Kale a la Chiffonade, with shredded parmesan
Mac on a stick, with sea salt
Will.i.ams, with smoked Lancaster County turkey
Love's Pumped Panna Cotta, seasonal pumpkin with toasted pecans and whipped cream