My Backstage Arepa with Zac Brown
by Joanna Prisco -

Life can take you so many surprising places if you let it. On Friday night, at the suggestion of my editor in chief, I went to the Dave Matthews Band concert at Citi Field to meet the openeróZac Brown, of the Zac Brown Band. Now, you may be asking yourself why someone who covers food would mix it up with a Grammy-winning alt-country star. And the short answer is that I occasionally cover music for PARADE.

But the longer one that I am about to get into is that, interestingly enough, the areas of music and food often converge. And in case you were unaware, Zac Brown is a big 'ol foodie.

You might not expect that of someone who sings about grabbing a Jaeger and a PBR, but it's true. In fact, Zac published his own cookbook last year, Southern Ground, full of recipes from his family and friends like "Fried Venison Medallions with Feta Dip," "Blue Ridge Mountain Cornbread," "Sinful Coffee Dessert Dip" and the cheekily coined "Stone Stew with Boston Butt." It's beautifully executed, with anecdotal introductions to each recipe, which are printed on cards that can be removed from the book if you don't have space on your counter for the entire tome.

Before we had even finished exchanging pleasantries, in fact, Zac started telling me about these "incredible sandwiches" that he had driven an hour and 45 minutes into the city earlier in the day to bring back to his tour bus. When the Zac Brown Band is not supporting another act like Dave Matthews, Zac typically holds "meet-and-eat" barbecues for his fans backstage, where he personally cooks and grills some of his favorite foods. But as this tour was somewhat of a different animal, he instead was able to indulge in some of his favorite haunts in the East Village. At one eatery in particular, Caracas, he had picked up a half dozen of their arepa sandwiches (stuffed with fillings like shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains), which he rhapsodized about for well over 10 minutes under the blazing midday sun in the parking lot outside of the arena.

"You need to try one," he said. "Would you like to?"

Would I like to join him and the rest of the VIPs inside of his air-conditioned trailer and eat arepa sandwiches. Yes. Yes, I would like to.

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