Friday, April 2, 2010

Fabulously Fierce Friends, Rolf

Rolf writes: Rolf is the bassist half of the pioneering, award winning Vecchione/Erdahl Duo, with his wife, oboist Carrie Vecchione. They perform recitals around the country, mostly featuring repertoire written for them. As "Pages of Music with Rolf and Carrie," they present educational programs for schools and libraries. They are proud parents of daughters Ada, and Ella, and herd cats, Bear and Minnie, in Apple Valley, MN.

Rolf teaches bass at Gustavus Adolphus College, Luther College, and Lutheran Summer Music. He substitutes with the SPCO, Minnesota Orchestra, and Minnesota Opera. Previously he held bass positions in the Honolulu Symphony, Bergen Filharmoniske Orkester (Norway), and New World Symphony. Studies in Norway as a Fulbright Scholar culminated in his doctoral dissertation on Edvard Grieg. He's an alum of Peabody Conservatory, the Univ. of MN, and St. Olaf College, and studied bass with Eugene Levinson, Peter Lloyd, Bruce Bransby, Paul Ellison, Hal Robinson, and James Clute. 

1. Who are your role models - food related or otherwise?

Jesse Owens. I met him when I was in Jr. High. He asked what events I ran in track, and I said the 880 and the mile (somewhat dating myself!) He said, "Whew, I could never run that far!" What impressed me was a world-class, legendary athlete having the uncommon "common touch" to make an average-at-best Jr. High athlete feel that, in some way, he compared favorably with a quadruple gold medal winner.

Ming Tsai's my favorite food guy from the cool, creative mixes of style and culture he pulled off in his "East Meets West" TV show.

2. What is your drink of choice?

Cappuccino is my absolute favorite drink. I like it so much, I allow myself to only have it on special occasions, even though I work part-time as a Caribou Coffee barista.

3. What is your favorite cookbook or other food related book?

Better Homes and gardens -- it covers some good basics, handy when an unfamiliar ingredient crops up, or there's a need to crank out an old reliable (their overnight waffles and egg white waffles are great!) and gives you license to expand on their scaffolding.

4. What was your most memorable meal and why?

Eating out: Years ago – I believe it was called “5th Ave. Grill” in NYC – had an amazing family gathering in their private in-kitchen dining room. The food was great as was the spectacle of immaculate preparation and presentation. We shared a sampler of 12 different, amazing desserts at the end. It was a family gathering dedicated to enjoying good eating that surpassed any other experience I’ve had along those lines. It was special, unique, different, good food and fellowship, and memorable.

Eating in: Christmas Eve Italian fish dinner at Aunt Ann’s. Everything done with love and to excess. Incredible variety of fresh seafoods, amazing antipasti, breads, pastas and gravies, desserts, tastes, smells, and a great family vibe.

5. What is your favorite kitchen gadget or tool?

Hmmm, kind of hard to pick.
I love the salad hands that were the first implement my wife and I bought together (just used them again tonight, 12 + years later).
I also am fond of the very basic, but durable and versatile pocket wine bottle opener we got from a tasting of Dr. Frank's Wines in upstate New York (again, a practical and sentimental favorite).
For sheer durability, reliability and practicality, the swing-away manual can opener is indispensable.

6. If you had to make dinner with ingredients at your home right now, what would you make?

Breakfast is my favorite meal to fix, and as the morning person and way-outclassed chef in the house, it’s the meal I most often get to make. I like my “Apple-Jack omelets” Granny Smith, Haralson, or Honeycrisp apples and Monteray Jack cheese in the middle, and a dusting of cinnamon on top when done.
If it is to be dinner -- Pasta with home-made gravy, broccoli’s in the house now, but asparagus would be my accompanying veggie of druthers.

7. What kind of music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Generally the tunes in my head that I'm working on. If there's something seasonal or topical, I sometimes load 6 CDs in and randomize them. My favorite recent CD was the Crash Test Dummies Christmas album.

8. What is your philosophy on cooking and eating?

Anything done with love tastes better. When the cook/baker foresees the outcome of their efforts being enjoyed and enhancing life, it becomes a self-fulfilling (and, for others, filling and fulfilling) prophesy. It doesn't have to be fancy. My wife can make a store-bought brownie mix taste like the best dessert you've ever had. It's attitude that makes the food.

9. Are there any foods you can not stand to eat?

I have problems with Brussels sprouts. Kim Chee is also too much for me, though I like lots of other Korean foods.

10. If you could use any super power in the kitchen, what would it be and why?

Having the psychic ability to custom fit the dish to the tastes of the person the dish is prepared for, and the same time as stretching their culinary boundaries. Like the rodent star of Pixar’s Ratatouille!