This Is New Scottish Cuisine

If you read Rocky Casale’s recent BlackBook story, “The Mists Lift On a Burgeoning Scottish Culinary Landscape,” you know that Scottish chefs have finally put haggis behind them, instead focusing on the amazing bounty of meat, fish, and vegetables available in their fertile country. I happened to edit that story right before I took a trip to Edinburgh with my wife, so I decided to check out one of the restaurants it featured, The Kitchin, a favorite of author Irvine Welsh along with a few anonymous Michelin Guide agents. It was my wife’s birthday, and I wanted to take her somewhere special. I can’t pat myself on the back enough for that one, because The Kitchin was amazing, one of the best restaurant meals of our lives. But in addition to our precious little memories, the restaurant was a perfect example of the latest thinking in upscale Scottish cuisine. We decided to put our trust in Tom Kitchin and ordered the "Chef’s Land & Sea Surprise" tasting menu (I was too cheap/poor to do the wine pairings, but we had a great, semi-affordable bottle all the same). It was the right call, as we swooned over all seven courses. On the way out, they gave us a copy of the menu to take with us, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. So, for those of you wondering what, exactly, modern Scottish cuisine is, read on. (And for those who can’t make it to Scotland, I recommend Highlands on West 10th Street in New York for tasty Scottish food.)

Chef’s Land and Sea Surprise

Tasting Menu @ The Kitchin

Tuesday, 28th August 2012

Appetiser (sic)

Jellied chicken consommé with a leek cream, crispy bacon, and croutons.

Mackerel

Tartare of mackerel from St. Abbs Head* served with a Newhaven crab cream, cucumber, and capers.

Razor Clams (Spoots)**

Razor clams from Arisaig, cooked to order and served with diced vegetables, chorizo, and lemon confit.

Pig’s Head & Scallop***

Boned and rolled pig’s head, served with seared hand-dived**** Orkney scallop and a crispy ear salad.

Hake

Seared fillet of North Sea hake served with a red pepper piperade***** and confit garlic.

Rabbit

Saddle of rabbit from Burnside Farm stuffed with spinach, served with sautéed artichoke and a ragout of rabbit kidneys.

Strawberry & Crowdie******

Millefeuille of Blacketyside Farm strawberries served with Highland crowdie mousse, pistachio, and strawberry sorbet.

* St. Abbs Head is a National Nature Reserve not far from Edinburgh, and it looks like a very pretty place, at least when the sun is shining.

** Ha ha, spoots. I like saying the word spoots. Try it. Just turn to whoever is sitting next to you right now and say "spoots" and nothing else.

***Our favorite dish of the meal. No, it didn’t look like a pig’s head, the meat was shaped into a hockey puck. A delicious, pink-hued hockey puck.

****Hand-dived? What a job. Scottish scallop diver. Let’s get one to do a Reddit AMA.

*****Maybe you knew what a piperade was, but I had to look it up. It’s a Basque dish popular in France made with onion, green peppers, tomatoes, and Espelette pepper. And Espelette peppers are a type of chili pepper cultivated in the Pyrenees.

******Crowdie is Scottish cream cheese. Gimme a bagel with a schmear of crowdie. 

The Mists Lift On A Burgeoning Scottish Culinary Landscape

Haggis has probably done more damage to Scotland’s culinary reputation than either deserves. But to dismiss a country for a single dish is poppycock. Gastronomes and intrepid travelers have long been aware that the country’s food and drink scene transcends offal (though even haggis is staging a comeback), but a crop of well-established restaurants is beating the drum loudly these days and drawing attention to the copious pantry of the Scottish moors.

Each year, Edinburgh’s gentrifying coastal district, Leith, seems to add another Michelin star to its roster. Farm-to-table eateries like Martin Wishart and Plumed Horse (with a star each) are booked out for weeks at a time. But the crown jewel remains The Kitchin. It was, after all, Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela who forged the way for food and wine excellence in Edinburgh back in 2006, when they opened their auspiciously eponymously named restaurant Kitchin. And it’s no surprise that a reservation here is still the most coveted in the capital. Chef Kitchin is emphatic about the provenance of his ingredients, so much so that he actually presents you with a map of Scotland that details where they are from: scallops from the Orkney Isles; mushrooms and berries from around Pitlochry; langoustines

and winkles pulled from the waters near Mull. His small tableside geography lesson adds a delightful dimension to the land and sea menu that features dozens of bright, tangy sauces to accompany a seemingly endless supply of lamb, venison, and razor clams that find their way to the table. The restaurant’s interior—a long sunken dining room and glass– enclosed, quay-facing bar and lounge—was revamped this year in shades of dark green and heather, and Tim and his wife are releasing before Christmas their second cookbook, Kitchin Suppers, in the U.S.

To visit Scotland and only see its cities is to miss the point. A good place to begin is Oban, the gateway to the Scottish Isles, three hours from Glasgow by train. Today its name is inseparable with the nearly 300-year-old Oban Scotch whisky distillery that sits on the port in the middle of town. There is a busy harbor where yachts are moored in pretty rows, and ferries chug in and out, shuttling people between islands. The Oban distillery is the town’s main attraction, and the £7 tours explaining how barley becomes golden scotch are fascinating. You could spend half a day here learning about Oban’s tasting notes; the 18-year-old is mildly smokey, and tastes of orange peels and honey. Better yet, stick around the gift shop and sample some of the vintages at the distillery’s tasting room. Then stumble five minutes uphill to Dungallan Country House, a small B&B tucked away in woodland overlooking Oban Bay. The Victorian stone house recalls a tiny castle, and its owners, Mike and Marion Stevenson-Coates, who entertain behind their bar, make the stay here worth every cent.

A five–hour drive north brings you to the sparsely populated Isle of Skye where a well of gastronomical talent exists in a setting that recalls Avatar but with kilts. Much like Oban, the Talisker distillery is a big draw with its How It’s Made tour, chased by a tasting of rare vintages. This year, the company is releasing its 35-year-old vintage single malt. There’s a good selection of hotels and private cottage rentals on Skye, but the finest of the lot is Kinloch Lodge. Each room has a beautiful view of the serene private lake, and you can attend one of Claire Macdonald’s famous cooking classes. Macdonald is an award–winning self-taught cook and food writer who teaches wildly popular quintessential Scottish cooking at the lodge. If her classes are booked, try Marcello Tully’s tasting menu at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s like a tour of the island: soft lamb, sweet langoustines, and the freshest vegetables, all found close to home and paired with tipples like Bollinger Special Cuvée. There’s not a wee bit o’ haggis in sight. 

Five Days in Edinburgh

We were on vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland last month, and it was a blast. Being there really brought home the fact that Edinburgh is truly Britain’s second city of culture. There’s so much history, art, music, and, oh yeah, whisky, that we barely scratched the surface after five days, yet we did so many fun things while we were there. Here are few highlights from a week of imposing castles, cobblestone streets, cozy pubs, and lots of beer. 

 
Birthday Blast
I was there with my wife, Jenn, to celebrate her birthday. We picked Edinburgh somewhat randomly: neither of us had ever been, and we like fun towns with good nightlife. So after an uneventful flight on KLM, we were ensconced in the back of one of those uniquely British taxis speeding into Edinburgh proper.  The weather was cool and wet, and we were ready to be Scottish for a week. 
 
View from Hotel of Edinburgh Castle
 
The Hotel
There are many nice hotels in Edinburgh, and we stayed in one of them: The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh. It recently emerged from a major renovation, and it’s as spiffy as they come. We could have stayed in a cute B&B in some poorly-plumbed  17th century building in the old town, but we figured we’d be so deeply immersed in history while sightseeing that we’d be glad for the modernity when it came time for bathing and sleeping. 
 
And modern it is. The Sheraton Grand’s lobby, restaurant, and common areas are posh, elegant, and seemingly designed for discerning business travelers, the kind of well-dressed people you see in in-flight magazines carrying briefcases and chuckling over some classy joke. Dark wood walls, polished chrome, and a massive old black-and-white photo mural of Edinburgh Castle create a welcoming atmosphere for guests arriving from the four corners of the earth. It’s dignified. 
 
The guest rooms, on the other hand, are party-ready. You’ll find all the amenities present in any high-end hotel, of course: plush bathrobes, well-stocked mini-bar, writing desk, sitting area, etc. There’s a TV, and do I really need to mention that it’s a high-definition flat-screen TV? Of course it is. What contemporary hotel has old-fashioned tube TVs these days? In any case, we used our TV to watch a funny British show called Balls of Steel.
 
Room 529, which I could easily remember thanks to an old Eddie Murphy skit about Chinese food, was a lot of fun. Not only did it have a view of the castle (see above), it had a couple of amenities that we fooled around with for longer than we should have. The lights, for example. There’s regular white light, of course, for dressing, reading, and double checking your dinner reservation. But there’s also colored light, for those nights that call for a backdrop of pink, blue, red, violet, or green. You cycle through all the colors until you find the one that suits your mood. Even the bathroom had its Technicolor dream coat. And with the interior lights on, the bathroom became a lamp of its own, since it’s essentially a frosted glass box located within the guest room itself. Turn on the blue light in the bathroom, and the whole room glows blue. Everything else in the room was of high quality too—nice big bed, more pillows than any human could reasonably need—but it’s time to go see the city. 
 
First Impressions
We asked the front desk agent to recommend a casual pub for beers and a bite. The suggestion: The Red Squirrel on Lothian Road, pretty much across the street from the Sheraton Grand. It’s a laidback, modern pub filled with well-dressed workers from nearby office buildings. Jenn and I shared a cutting board of assorted cheeses and charcuterie along with a pair of locally-brewed beers, and we liked it.
 
About Those Beers
I know that beer is enjoyed all around the world, but I expected Scotland to be Scotch-land, with everybody sitting next to roaring fires sipping some ancient single malt while swapping stories of the latest fox hunt.  But Edinburgh’s like New York in that they’re crazy for craft beers these days. There are many great beers brewed within a couple of hours of town, and the Red Squirrel had a couple dozen of them on draft, including a few cask ales. Most other bars we visited (particularly BrewDog on Cowgate) had an impressive selection of great, delicious, innovative, and just plain weird beers. 
 
Spa Time
Did I mention that we were exhausted from our overnight flight? We were, so much so that when we kipped down after hitting some bar I can’t remember on the Royal Mile, we slept for damn near 11 hours, which made us 15 minutes late for Jenn’s massage appointment at the hotel’s One Spa. Even though it was her birthday, they wouldn’t budge on that, saying, not unreasonably, that if they gave her extra time at the end, it wouldn’t be fair to the other clients lined up that day, as if we cared about them. But in any case Jenn had her abbreviated spa treatment and reported that it was very good and that the spa was lovely. While she was getting kneaded and prodded and pampered, I took a stroll down the street to buy some provisions (beer, seltzer, “biscuits,” “crisps”) from the local shop. I went to a discount store called Pound Stretcher, as well as the grocery store Sainsbury’s, and dropped a few quid on essentials. I always enjoy going to the local grocery store whenever I travel somewhere. It feels like a more accurate picture of what life is like there than some tourist site. 
 
Shopping
I don’t love clothes shopping, even for myself, but it was Jenn’s birthday, so we wandered over to Princes Street and into a shop called House of Fraser, where she found a leather jacket and a dress that she loved. Later that week I ran out of clean clothes, so instead of incurring laundry charges, I bought a shirt from H&M. I wanted to get something from TopShop, but apparently F/W 2012 is all about tacky sweaters, and I can’t get into the Huckstable look. 
 
More Spa Time
Jenn may have had a proper massage, but we both had passes to visit the Hydropool and Thermal Suite on the top floor, which we did after shopping. The Thermal Suite is a collection of about a dozen different saunas (hamman, rock sauna, bio sauna, etc.), showers, and steam rooms, and you put on your bathing suit and guide yourself through them all, in order. And so we did, availing ourselves of everything except the part where you’re supposed to rub crushed ice on your body. In the process, I discovered that I really don’t like aromatherapy. What’s the point? It reminds me of incense in church, which reminds me of church. But everything else was great. The best part of the Thermal Suite experience comes last: the Hydropool. The Hydropool is a big rooftop swimming pool/hot tub where you sit back and relax on subaquatic chaise lounges while mineral water bubbles around you and you look up at the clouds and think about how nice this all is and you should do things like this more often and if only you had one of these things to use every night you’d be the mellowest person. Stress doesn’t have a chance against the Hydropool. Anxiety drowns like a wharf rat, leaving you relaxed and happy. You’d be daft to stay at the Sheraton Grand and not take a dip. 
 
White Hart Pub
 
More Beer, Not Much Food
It was Monday, and, strangely, most fancy restaurants in Edinburgh were closed, so we decided to save Jenn’s official birthday dinner for Tuesday night and keep it casual with beers and snacks. The beers were easy. We found our way to BrewDog, a "post-punk apocalyptic motherfu*ker of a craft brewery," which came at the recommendation of the beer guy at The Ploughman back home in Brooklyn. BrewDog is a paradise for beer geeks, and I had a pint of Never Mind the Anabolics. After that we moved on to a much older pub, the White Hart (above), a 16th Century (!) pub located on the Grassmarket, where public hangings once took place. We had waited too long to order food (kitchens close mighty early in these parts) so we enjoyed a packet of chips, er, crisps with our beers before heading back to the hotel and ordering room service. A man and woman were having a heart-to-heart talk at the bar while we were there. As we left, the woman was in tears. 
 
Scotch Whisky Experience
 
Experiencing The Scotch Whisky Experience
Part of the reason we chose Edinburgh was because we like drinking Scotch. It’s delicious, complex, and has an interesting backstory. That meant we had to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience, an educational/entertaining tribute to the “water of life” located next to the castle. It starts with a hokey little ride where you sit in a barrel and go through a series of exhibits as a gregarious man with a mustache and top hat describes the miraculous process that turns water into whisky. (He really pronounces the H in whisky, like hhhwhisky.) After the short ride is over, you go into a classroom where a guide explains the different whisky regions and the characteristics of each type. Based on what you’ve heard, you tell him what region you’re interested in tasting (you can also say you like blended whisky) and he’ll pour you a dram. You get to keep your tasting glass as a souvenir. 
 
The next part is simply the coolest. You get to walk through the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, 3,500 different bottles and counting. The whole room is bathed in a golden glow. You sip your whisky there and think about how much you like whisky. After a few minutes they shoo you out into a bar located at the top of the building. Since we had golden tickets, we were each entitled to a flight of four whiskies, one from each major whisky-producing region, and let’s see if I can name them from memory: Lowland, Highland, Islay, and Speyside. Yup. Since there are so many different distilleries in each area, they serve a different brand every day. No playing favorites here. We sat at the bar, gazed out over the slate-gray rooftops of Edinburgh, and sipped our way up and down the country. That’s my kind of tourism. 
 
Edinburgh Castle War Monument
 
Castle Time
Comfortably numb but far from sloppy, we dropped a not insignificant amount of cash on admission to Edinburgh Castle, which looks out over the city from Castle Hill. There’s not nearly enough space to go into detail here, and I couldn’t outdo the history books, website, or Wikipedia entry. What I can say is that the highest parts are the oldest parts, the part that looks like a chapel is actually a memorial to war heroes, we enjoyed looking at the Scottish Crown Jewels, and there’s a great view of the city from up there. And everybody makes a joke about crawling into the cannon.
 
Stepping Into The Kitchin
For Jenn’s birthday dinner, I made a reservation at The Kitchin, possibly the nicest restaurant in Edinburgh (some say the nicest in the British Isles), although technically it’s located in Leith, a.k.a Trainspotting territory. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and enjoyed cocktails in the lounge. We were soon ushered to our table, which afforded a nice view of the elegant dining room and its collection of well-heeled diners. Kitchin is big on using locally-sourced ingredients, and our tasting menu – the Chef’s Land & Sea Surprise—was full of them: jellied chicken consommé, tartare of St. Abbs Head mackerel with Newhaven crab cream, razor clams from Arisaig, pigs head with Orkney scallops, North Sea hake, Burnside Farm rabbit, and Blacketyside Farm strawberries with Highland crowdie mousse. The wine was divine, the service impeccable, and, while it was hardly cheap, it somehow wasn’t as expensive as I had feared. It’s a meal we’ll remember for many years. Happy birthday baby! We made it back to the hotel just in time to catch Balls of Steel
 
Glenkinchie
 
Visiting the Nearest Distillery
Most Scotch Whisky distilleries are several hours north of Edinburgh, but Glenkinchie, a lowland malt, is just over an hour away. I made arrangements to visit. If you want to visit Glenkinchie, which is located in the village of Pencaitland, there are a few things you absolutely need to know, so read this next part carefully. 
 
First of all, Bus #113 only comes once an hour, so before you go, check the bus schedule, especially since it will be cold and raining while you’re at the bus stop. It just will.  
 
Second, the bus driver will tell you that there’s another bus at Pentcaitland that takes you to the distillery. There isn’t. You have to take a taxi from where the bus drops you off. It’s barely two miles down the road, but the taxi company will charge you eight pounds for the ride, which is about $350 American (my estimate). It’s best to identify who else on the bus is also going to the distillery and split the cost with them.
 
Third, the guy who works at the Spar gas station by where the bus drops you off is a total dick, even if you buy something from his store. The way I see it, you can hate out-of-towners, or you can take their money, but not both. You sure don’t want to ask him to call a taxi for you (“I charge you five pounds!”), nor do you want to ask him to make change for the pay phone. Instead, bring enough change with you and use the pay phone across the road. The phone number for the taxi is posted on the wall outside the store. 
 
But okay, fine, you’re two hours later than you had hoped, but you made it to the Glenkinchie distillery. You start off in a large exhibit area that gives you the basics of lowland malt production. There’s an impressively-detailed model of a distillery in an adjacent room. The tour itself is fun, taking you through the inner workings of the distillery, where the grain is mashed and boiled and the resulting liquid is distilled and all the magic happens. There’s a tasting room at the end, of course. As for the whisky, I enjoyed Glenkinchie very much. It’s a fine pour. To open up the flavors of your Scotch, it’s customary to add a little bit of water, but only a little bit. For that reason, they had eyedroppers at the bar, so you wouldn’t overdo it. Now I need a special eyedropper for home drinking. 
 
Jamie's Pub
 
Miss the Bus and Go to the Winton Arms
After we left the Glenkinchie distillery, the taxi driver took his time, and we just missed our bus back to Edinburgh. The driver suggested we wait for the next bus at the Winton Arms pub.  Jamie’s place. It was a few minutes after 3:00 in the afternoon. Let me tell you, the Winton Arms is one of the best bars I’ve ever visited, and one that really drives home the idea that Scottish people—certain petrol station proprietors notwithstanding—are the salt of the earth. We walked in to find Jamie tending to about five older guys at the bar. We were greeted warmly and took our seats.
 
Thing is, we’d just run out of British currency (eight-quid taxi rides will do that) so I asked Jamie, naively, if he takes credit cards. He does not. But in the time it took to count out all the coins and pocket lint in my possession, Jamie had already poured us a round on the house. Ringo down at the end of the bar offered round two. We spent the most enjoyable hour in their company, with Jamie (pictured at right) telling us how he has a team of guys who participate in the Highland Games, a Scottish Olympics of sorts that includes games with roots in Scottish history. Their sport is tug of war. He also told us that despite Glenkinchie being down the road, most local drinkers order the cheap stuff, and the kids these days are all into vodka drinks. Crusty old guys downing single malt Scotch? Not so much. It was with reluctance, deep appreciation, and exchanged email addresses that we finally left and took the double-decker back to Edinburgh. If you visit Glenkinchie, make a point to miss the bus and spend an hour at the Winton Arms. And if you do, can you give Jamie five quid for our beers? 
 
View from Arthur's Seat
 
Sit on it, Arthur
One of the main things to do in Edinburgh if you’re fit is to climb the hill, er, massive mountain next to town called Arthur’s Seat. From its summit you’ll enjoy views that stretch from the castle to the ocean and beyond. We did it, and it wasn’t an especially grueling climb, but it does take a while, and the grass is always wet, so my super-slick two-year-old Doc Martens were a problem. I slipped several times going up, and fell smack on my bum once on the way down. But it was worth it for the amazing vistas. Watch your step close to the edge. 
 
More Beers
After climbing Arthur’s Seat, we went shopping on Princes Street, then ducked into yet another pub, the Kensington Arms on Rose Street, for haddock and chips and mushy peas, and a couple of beers. If you’re looking for a good bar street in Edinburgh, you needn’t limit yourself to the Royal Mile, Cowgate, or the Grassmarket. Rose Street seems like a strip where real (if somewhat affluent) Edinburghers go for a night out. Like so many Edinburgh bars, the Kensington Arms has a great beer selection. Jenn ordered a barrel-aged Innis & Gunn, while, on the recommendation of a guy named Albert who was sitting next to us, I had a pint of Alechemy Five Sisters Cask Ale, which was great. Albert said the Alechemy brewery was recently launched by a couple of friends from university who wanted to get into brewing, which is the kind of thing that happens in the States all the time these days. 
 
High Culture
Since we were in Edinburgh at the tail end of the Edinburgh International Festival, I thought it appropriate to take in a performance of some kind. And that’s how we found ourselves in Usher Hall for a performance of the Philharmonia Orchestra, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen and supported by a comely young violist named Joscelyn Fox. Usher hall is an impressive concert hall, with multiple balconies and a massive pipe organ, so it was worth it just to see the place. When the orchestra really got into Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony – “The Romantic Symphony”—it was truly magical. 
 
Still More Beers
After the concert, we popped into the Shakespeare Pub next door. The Shakespeare is a cozy, if upscale, pub with “fruit machines” on the walls and plenty of couches and lounge chairs to sit on. We commented on how pubs in Edinburgh, like pubs in Dublin, are more welcoming to people of all ages and personal styles. People hang out as if they’re in no hurry, either to get drunk or to get going. All in its time. I drank my Guinness and most of Jenn’s beer, since she was sleepy. That’s what good husbands do.
 
Homeward Bound
And that was our trip, five days in the Scottish capital. It was time to head home. There was plenty we didn’t see, from the Camera Obscura to the underground tour, but we felt like we’d gotten the gist of the place and would love to come back another time. If you go, bring warm clothes, lots of money, and an affinity for great beer and whisky. And bring me too. 

Moby: “I Don’t Advocate Sobriety for Anyone Who Can Drink Successfully”

Who would’ve thunk that demure electronic music superstar Moby was a self-proclaimed raging alcoholic? We spoke to him to talk about his Last Night Remixed album, but somehow talk degenerated into drunk Lower East Side tomfoolery, timing cocaine use just right, and why he’s just not that into the debauchery at the Box.

Can you tell me about the Last Night Remixed album? The original one is a very eclectic dance record that on one hand looks at my last 20 or 25 years in New York nightlife, and the new one is all remixes done of the songs from that album.

Why did you decide to remix it? When we were putting out singles, in order to make them more club friendly, we got different people to remix them. And the way I chose the people was by picking those whose records I was playing when I was DJing. We ended up with a lot of really good remixes, and rather than let them languish on the shelf, we decided to mix them together and put it out as one cohesive record.

Let’s talk about New York nightlife. What is a typical night out in the Lower East Side like for you? It depends on if I’m drinking or not. A sober night usually sees me home by midnight or 1, and a drunken night usually sees me getting home around 6 or 7.

How often do you go out? I’d say on average at least three times a week.

Is that three drunken nights a week or just three nights in general? I’m currently enjoying a period of sobriety, but for the last 15 years that hasn’t been the case. And so I guess, a night out — in a weird way they’re all kind of the same, but sort of slightly different. Max Fish has always been a standby since 1991, especially on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. And the Mars Bar, I really love Mars Bar, on the corner of 2nd and 1st.

Yeah, I’ve met some colorful characters there. It’s even better in the afternoon. I have a friend who was working at a strip club in midtown, and she would get off work at like 4 or 5, and we would meet for a drink, I mean an after-work drink. The LES north of Delancey is a little too overrun for me. It’s like spring break meets Mardi Gras. For a weekend, the only place north of Delancey that I would go to would probably be the Slipper Room. It’s sort of like a burlesque theater, but its just has really interesting shows, and the people who run it are really nice. I’m one of the owners of the Box, but I don’t really go there too often. I like degeneracy, but for the Box you really need to be in the right frame of mind. I’m pretty comfortable with debauchery and degeneracy, but the things that go on there don’t make sense to me.

What are some of the things that happen? The last time I was there, there were live sex acts on stage, and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but just suffice to say lots of crazy things. I’ve traveled around the world, and I’ve been to a lot of degenerate places, and rarely have I seen the level of degeneracy like I’ve seen at the Box.

How did you get involved with the Box? My old friend Simon [Hammerstein], well Simon and Richard [Kimmel] are the two main guys who own it, and when they were first renting the space they were looking for investors, so they went to old friends, and I thought to myself, it was right around the corner from where I live, it’s a place to go. And after I invested in it, I don’t actually go there that often.

Are you one a sobriety stint on purpose? If there were no consequences to drinking, I would drink all the time, but as you get older, the hangovers get worse, and I’m just tired of losing entire days to hangovers, so I’m enjoying some healthy sobriety for awhile to see how that works. I don’t advocate sobriety for anyone who can drink successfully.

Did you perform shows while being smashed? You know what’s funny? I started a rock band with some friends, and we’re all hardcore alcoholics, and whenever we play we all tend to get very drunk, and when I DJ I drink a lot, but whenever I do my own shows I never drink. Playing with the rock band, I just play bass and stand on the side, but with my own shows, there’s just too much going on, and if I was drinking I wouldn’t be able to do a good job.

What about other spots in the city? It sounds like a cliché, but going out in Williamsburg is still pretty fun. There’s Studio B, they have a lot of good shows there, and there’s a few new clubs in Manhattan that are pretty good, like Santos’ Party House where the DFA guys do parties, and there’s another one called Le Poisson Rouge. That’s put on by Justine D, who used to do the Motherfucker parties, which I think he’s involved it that.

Tell me about those. The Motherfuckers were started by Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti who are old old friends. He was DJing at Area in like 1982, 1983, and so they started this club called Mother. Mother was like this weird transgender thing, tons of drugs, and just craziness, and so the offshoot of that were like four times a year — these Motherfucker parties.

When you were younger, were you doing a lot of harder drugs? Everybody in this world dabbled. I have so many friends who were drug casualties. I knew people who were heroin addicts, people who smoked too much crack, people who did too much crystal meth. I mean you can’t swing a dead cat in New York without hitting someone who at one point wasn’t addicted to cocaine. I like drugs, but I never liked them enough to do that much. The main thing I liked about cocaine is that it made me want to drink more.

Would it sober you up? Yeah, so when I was doing coke, I would time it so that I would do the coke just when I wanted to start drinking more, which is not very healthy. But the opiates — I mean opiates are fun, but they’re not social. I’ve never really liked psychedelics and opiates, you don’t want to be on Vicodin in a nightclub.

So foodwise, what foods are good in NY? I think that the only reason I don’t look like I’m a 130 years old after a lifetime of touring so much and living in hotel rooms, and drinking too much, is that I’ve been a vegan now for 22 years. Normally friends of mine, when they wake up and they’re hungover, they go out and have bacon and eggs and smoke cigarettes. When I wake up, I have a smoothie and vegan burritos. So for anyone who plans on drinking a lot or taking drugs, I do advocate a vegan lifestyle to try and offset it a little bit.

Why did you first decide to become a vegan? I first became a vegan for the simple reason that I love animals and I just didn’t want to be involved in any process that made animals suffer. But then the more I found out about it, I realized it was good for my health, it’s good for the environment, and now at this point I don’t judge how anybody chooses to live.

Are you feeling healthy these days? When I’m on a serious drinking tear, my health kind of suffers, so that’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying this period of sobriety. But I have to say, New York is a difficult place to be sober. I walk from my studio to my apartment, and I literally pass 40 bars in a 10-minute walk, and they’re all open until 4 in the morning, and they’re all fun, and they’re all filled with interesting people. So I’m sure there are much easier places in the world to be sober

Are you able to go out sober at all? Sometimes it can be fun. When I’m drunk and I’m around other drunks, it’s the greatest thing around. But if I’m sober around other drunks, they’re just annoying. Drunk conversations when you’re drunk seem filled with realizations and epiphanies. Drunk conversations when you’re sober are just tedious.

Do you hate being be sober around drunk people? Yea, I just get home a lot earlier. I get home a lot earlier, and I don’t have nearly as much sex.

A hot sweaty club is completely different world when you’re sober as opposed to drunk. Well, it all depends. I went to a hardcore show, because I grew up in the hardcore punk scene, and it was hot and packed and sweaty, and everyone was beating the shit out of each other, and being sober for that actually was good. If someone took me to someplace like Marquee, if I was in there at 1 o’clock on a Friday morning, I’d just want to shoot myself in the face.

Would you go to Marquee if you were hammered? Oh, if I was hammered it would be the best place on the planet. If you’re drunk anything’s the best place. When I’m drunk, the only place I don’t like being is home.

Who are two people you would love collaborate with? My ultimate dream would’ve been to have been in Led Zeppelin in like 1973 when they were touring, and they had their own private plane, and they were making a million records, and they just really knew how to tour. In the world of dance music, I’m pretty content letting other people make their records, and I get to play them and take credit for them.

Touring must have been really fun for you. There was a period when it was amazing. There was a period around 2000, 2001, 2002, where I had an assistant on tour who’s sole job was throwing after-show parties. We would walk offstage, and every night there would be 100 people backstage getting fucked up, and every night was a party. And that was really fun, until the hangovers got so bad that I couldn’t do it anymore.

What’s your favorite city in Europe? If I’m going out, my favorite place is Scotland because in Edinburgh and Glasgow, people are out of their minds. I mean really, they eat ecstasy for breakfast. They go out the way New Yorkers go out, but even a little more hardcore. Like a good night in Edinburgh doesn’t end until 9 a.m. And I have to say that Los Angeles can also be really fun if you have friends that own bars and clubs.

What are some bars and clubs in Los Angeles that you like? My friend Anthony has a place called Dragonfly in Hollywood. It’s a rock and roll club. He and I have been friends for 25 years now, and so he keeps it open pretty late for his friends, and there’s this other place that his girlfriend works called the Burgundy Room, which I really like, that’s right around the corner in Hollywood as well. I like weird, sort of dirty degenerate rock n’ roll bars. I tend to not like bigger, slicker places. The moment I hear about a place having bottle service, that means I absolutely do not want to go there.

Have you ever been to Beatrice Inn? Yea, Paul [Sevigny] and Matt [Abramcyk], the two guys who own it — Paul and I grew up together, I had my birthday party at Beatrice a year ago, and I hear it was an amazing party.

What kind of drunk are you? I’m very gregarious. I’m just always the last person to leave the party, without question.

So you were blackout drunk at the Beatrice? Oh, sure. After my birthday party there, for the next two weeks I was getting emails from people saying what a good time they had, and God as my witness, I don’t remember any of them being there.

You grew up in the 1980s. How has New York nightlife changed? Well, it’s become bigger than it’s ever been. There are more bars, more clubs, more people going out. It’s a lot safer, that’s a huge part of it. In the late 1980s, because New Yorkers were ravaged by the crack epidemic, you took your life in your hands just walking down the street after midnight. In the early 1980s when I first started going out, you would not walk through Union Square after dark, and no one walked through Central Park. Tompkins Square Park was a homeless camp. Everyone would have all these locks on their doors to keep the drug addicts out, and then the drug addicts started cutting through the sheet rock next to the door.

People say they miss the old New York. Do you like it better now? Only the things that I miss. It was cheaper. When you went out, you never expected to spend a lot of money, so this whole bottle service thing — when someone goes out and has to spend $1,000 for a good night out, that’s just absurd. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, everybody could afford to live in the East Village, so everybody lived and worked and went out in the same neighborhood, and it jus made everything a lot much nicer. So now, its almost like the New York diaspora has happened where some people live in Bushwick, some people live in Redhook, some people live in Jersey City, some people live in Inwood — so the good old days where everybody lives on top of each other, those are gone. New York is always going to be big enough to accommodate anyone who wants to live here. There’s always going to be some new derelict neighborhood where 20-year-old artists are going to move to. That’s what Soho was, that’s what the East Village was, that’s what Tribeca was, and that’s certainly what the Lower East Side was.