Jane Lerner is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who also runs BK Swappers, a bimonthly food-barter event.
What was the food highlight of your year?
The most exquisite meal I had in 2013 was a one-off dinner at Aska in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as part of the Scandinavian-themed North Festival. Aska’s Danish chef, Fredrik Berselius, and Esben Holmboe Bang from Oslo’s Maemo collaborated over nine courses, with not a dull dish in the lot. Even the details that could have been weird or pretentious (lamb aged for eight years, something called “meadowsweet”) ended up delicious and delightful. It was exciting to see two talented chefs in action, whirlwinds of creativity. There was a lot of spooning of butter sauces from perfect copper pots.
The single best bite I took all year however, was the mushroom-and-cheese taco at La Cuernavaca in Ventura, California, a classic Southern Cali Mexican place. It’s a table-service spot, not just a taqueria counter, but their Veggie Taco #2 (mushrooms, pasilla, cheese) was insanely good, shockingly so. The taco al pastor, topped with a huge chunk of pineapple, is also high up in my rankings.
Honorable highlights were had at Zahav in Philadelphia, where I went on the Fourth of July (because it’s patriotic to eat the best hummus ever made); at La Vara, Alex Raij’s fantastic Spanish-ish restaurant in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; regular dinners at Buttermilk Channel, where I truly feel like a local; and the meals I cooked with my friends in the wood-burning pizza oven in the house we rented in the Catskills.
What was the music highlight of your year?
I saw a lot of live music this year (shoot, I saw four great concerts this past week alone) but without a doubt, my best show of the year—possibly the best show of my life—was Prince at City Winery. Yes, I saw Prince play unannounced in a club that held just a few hundred people. The minute he stepped onstage I pretty much exploded with joy, and the energy in that room was more electric than anything I’ve ever experienced. I was so close to the stage that my friends and I were in the spill of the spotlight—at one point I even caught eyes with him, and he smiled at me. Prince smiled at me! Months later, can hardly believe I had the good luck and great fortune to show up at this random New Power Generation show. I hit the concert jackpot, not sure where it goes from there.
I also had the honor of working for the Red Bull Music Academy New York 2013, which was so epic and extraordinary that as a whole, it surpassed any professional or personal experience this year, this decade, beyond. I met artists and writers and producers and personal heroes from all genres and eras; I saw once-in-a-lifetime live performances that will never be repeated. I edited a daily newspaper, went out dancing for a month straight and gave restaurant recommendations to Giorgio Moroder.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
There are many ways in which music and food intersect in my life, but my best story is from just a few weeks ago, when I traded tickets to a Kim Gordon show for a bounty of smoked salmon and Jewish delicacies from Russ & Daughters. Here’s how it went down: I bought two tickets to see Kim Gordon at Issue Project Room to go with my friend who is a longtime Sonic Youth fan. My friend had to cancel, so I posted on Twitter that I had two tickets to trade—not to sell for cash, but my offer was, what will you barter me for them? The first response was from the events director at Russ & Daughters, who offered me an equal-value shopping spree in the shop in exchange for the tickets. Sold! She had a great time at the performance, I went home with three kinds of smoked fish, latkes, babka, beet-herring salad, chopped liver and my signature Russ & Daughters sandwich (belly lox, scallion cream cheese, wasabi roe on a poppyseed bagel). I feel confident that I got the better end of the deal here.