The New York Diet

Musician Ted Leo Perks Up With Jameson and Emergen-C

Leo chows down in front of his fridge.
Leo chows down in front of his fridge. Photo: Melissa Hom

For vegan musician Ted Leo, eating well while touring isn’t much of a problem. “If you want to find something in your immediate locality, you just go on Google Maps and type in ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ and see what comes up,” he says. “I actually eat a little better on the road than I do at home. Lots of vegetables and a grain or two, and since I’m not doing the cooking and the portion control is up to someone else, it’s just great.” A veteran of Coney Island’s annual Siren Music Festival — he played in 2003, D.J.’d in ‘08, and is headlining this Saturday’s lineup — Leo doesn’t always find much luck there once he gets offstage. “It’s not easy to get vegan boardwalk food,” he says. “Pizza, frozen custard, funnel cakes — it’s pretty rare that you’re going to get a hot-dog place that also has veggie dogs.” Find out what he’s eaten lately in this week’s edition of the New York Diet.

Friday, July 9
For breakfast, I had a glass of hot drip coffee poured over ice, and an approximately one-by-one-by-half-inch chocolate-chip-cookie bar piece from the freezer — I was at my parents’ house in Bloomfield, New Jersey, for a wake and a funeral. My mom made the cookie and she assured me it was vegan. It was actually pretty good — she does a decent job.

I was in Manhattan later that day and I had a medium actually iced coffee from the Roasting Plant on Greenwich Avenue.

I was back at my parents’ in New Jersey for lunch, where I had half of a leftover half of a spinach burrito from the night before — essentially a quarter of a burrito. Then I had a shot of Jameson. Then I had an afternoon wake to go to, and between the afternoon and evening wakes I had one slice of cheese-less pizza from a place called Vinnie’s in Bloomfield with a lot of veggies on top.

Later that night, I had three glasses of some cheap-looking Sauvignon Blanc that I thought would be crappy and was actually pretty good, and a handful of Old Dutch–brand hard pretzels with some hummus. I had another shot of Jameson before I went to bed.

Saturday, July 10
I am a pretty hard-core non-believer atheist, but this being a big family thing I decided to be part of the community and I took communion at the mass. So the first thing in my mouth was a communion wafer and a sip of wine. I don’t really care — I don’t believe in hell so I don’t think I’m going there for doing this — but taking the communion, I thought it would be an appreciated gesture to be a part of the rest of the family and do that with them. After the internment, I had a grande iced coffee at a Starbucks and one of those really expensive granola bars that they sell there. I was about to get on a plane, so I knew I had to have something in my stomach.

I had a cup of ice water on the plane from Newark to Columbus, Ohio. In Columbus, I had a veggie burger. I’ve been vegetarian since 1988 and a vegan since 1998, and after all that, you hit a certain point where the idea of a veggie burger is really not appealing to you anymore. It’s been a good ten years since I ate veggie burgers with any consistency. This particular one was made of rice, black beans, and beets, and that sounded appealing to me, and I went for it and it was really good. With the burger I had a Samuel Smith’s lager.

At sound check at the venue, I had a Jameson. I took a nap and when I woke up I had a post-nap PBR. For the two days before I hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep and had all this funeral stuff to deal with, so I was pretty tired that night, and over the course of the next few hours I had two cans of Red Bull, two shots of Patron Silver, and an Emergen-C mixed with a shot of Jameson. It’s a really good, quick pick-me-up: mix, say, two fingers of Jameson, a packet of Emergen-C, and a dash of hot sauce. You’re best off doing the orange or tangerine flavors; anything else doesn’t work so well. It’s not the tastiest thing in the world, but it gets the job done. And then at 2:40 a.m., before I went to bed, I had another beer.

Sunday, July 11
I started my day with an Optimum Rebound energy bar and a shot of hot sauce in warm water. That capsaicin gets your metabolism going.

When we got to this festival in Louisville, I had two cups of some kind of beer that came out of one of those kegs that’s through, like, a plastic cooler, so I have no idea what it was. It was backstage beer.

I had a small bowl of some veggies in tomato sauce over yellow rice, which was advertised as a vegetarian curry. I know what curry tastes like, and this literally contained no curry at all. It was yellow rice, chunks of tomato, some corn, probably some previously frozen cut green beans, and it cost me $6. I’m still a little angry about that, especially because that was my one real meal of the day. Along with that, I had another no-name beer.

Monday, July 12
We were driving back to New York, so the day started with us leaving Louisville at 9 a.m. I had a Bragg’s apple-cider-vinegar drink — I’d never seen their drinks before, so I thought maybe I’d try something new. It was a little disappointing. I like vinegar, it’s not that I have anything against vinegar, but this being advertised as “ginger spice” flavor I’d expect it to taste like a little more than watered-down vinegar.

I had some fixin’s from Whole Foods that I’d bought in Louisville to eat later on on the road, and at about 1 p.m. somewhere north of Charleston, West Virginia, I made a big sandwich out of them. There was some smoked-Cheddar-flavored Sheese — that’s a non-dairy cheese — and some romaine lettuce, some baby spinach, some tomatoes, oil, and vinegar. It was like a sub.

I got back to New York, at which point I had two slices of Tofurky and another shot of Jameson.

Tuesday, July 13
We were at the WNYC studios in Soho that afternoon, and James, our guitar player who lives in Greenpoint, brought me a vegan Cubano sandwich from Boneshakers. It was great — with a Cubano, it’s really about the pickles.

That night I went back to my parents’ house to tie up some loose ends there and I ate some rice and vegetable concoction of my mom’s with a green salad and a Cooper’s Sparkling Ale that I found in the back of the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 14
I started the day at Bagels on the Square, where I got an everything bagel with olive tofutti, lettuce, and tomato.

And then I didn’t eat anything until about 8 p.m. when I made this dish for my wife and myself of gemelli with shallots and portobello mushrooms that I cooked risotto style. That was my treat, because after these few days of running around eating crap I was like, “Yay, I can finally cook!” The process is a little more labor-intensive than usual pasta — you start it off with a minimal amount of water and you keep adding water and white wine. Meanwhile, in another pan you’re doing up some onions and some sliced portobello and oil and you eventually add them to the pasta. What I usually do is take it out, put some Italian parsley leaves on top, and serve it with some broccoli rabe — I blanched it and then sautéed it. We had a vinho verde with that — the perfect summer humidity cutter.

Musician Ted Leo Perks Up With Jameson and Emergen-C