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Gastro Non Grata brings the Leftover Love to the Triple Rock

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Gastro Non Grata's Craig Drehmel and Jeff Mitchell know food, booze, and rock and roll, not always in that order. They aren't rookies, either: Craig has been a lifelong music fan and spent close to the last ten years working as a wine representative and in other alcohol-sales capacities; Jeff, the former guitarist for Volante, has been a server and bartender almost as long as he's been playing guitar. Heck, the two even met at Bulldog NE. Suffice to say, they think about these things a little more than the average person, so when the idea for Gastro Non Grata sprang from their heads, it was almost inevitiable that they had to make it happen.

In the over three years since their first food + drink + local rock and roll event, they've paired bands like The Evening Rig, Birthday Suits, and Hunting Club with chefs like Tor Westgaard (Town Talk), Dawn Drouillard (Fabulous Catering), and Pat Starr (The Wienery) at venues like Triple Rock Social Club, the 331, and even The Furthermore Beer Barn in Spring Green, WI.

Still going strong, this Sunday they return to the Triple Rock for "Leftover Love," featuring chef Doug Flicker of Piccolo, Left Hand Brewing of Colorado, dessert by Sheela Namakkal (Miel Y Leche Catering/Cake Eater Bakery), and bands Bitch And Brown, Bella Kosha, Unknown Prophets, and Montana's Noise Noise Noise. We pulled Craig and Jeff out of the kitchen to answer a few questions.

Gimme Noise: Where did the idea for Gastro Non Grata come from? What's the main idea or driving philosophy behind GNG?

Craig & Jeff: The purpose of GNG is to provide a showcase for better eating, smarter drinking and talented as heck local musicians. It's a live show built for and by a community of passionate people working together to put on a glorified kegger. We were tired of seeing good restaurants close while crappy national chains were swooping in and stealing flavor from our palates. So we decided to show people that dinner isn't meant to be defrosted and beer can be better than the frat jokes you see on TV.

It started as a more serious talk show format with in-depth discussions and social value, which we soon found out was pretty damn boring. Talking for 45 minutes gets pretty boring, there were moments that felt great, and sometimes where all we could do was keep drinking. It took us about seven or eight shows to get to a format we feel works pretty well. It's faster paced, informative and a gosh darn good time with really talented bands. We're trying to create a comfortable atmosphere where you're going to drink, eat and/or hear something completely unique and available locally with just a little bit of legwork.

GN: Do you think there's a lot of crap being served up in the food and music industry these days?

Craig: Yes.

Jeff: Of course. I like chicken rings, am I out of the band?

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GN: Does doing an occasional event, and rotating venues, free you up to be more creative with your ideas than a set night at the same place every time? Why is doing Gastro better than opening your own restaurant?

Craig : We like doing shows on Sunday because it's an industry night and we wanted to keep it early and low key. But we'll basically throw a party anywhere anyone will let us. Each event is unique and different like a snowflake melting into Jeff's chest hair.

Jeff: The Triple Rock is Gastro Non Grata's home. They took a chance and gave us the lab to create the monster. It's comfortable and we love it. But like Craig said, we will do this anywhere, because people all over the place are doing incredible things and we want to be there, drinking.

Craig: We only do Gastro Non Grata when we want to: four times a year at the Triple Rock, and side events that fit into our schedules, so there's not too much pressure involved. In a restaurant it's a constant daily grind, whereas what we do is concept, drink wine while taking notes every now and then, and send out craploads of emails. We aren't trying to drive a bus here, it's more like riding a wave. We're big believers in letting our guests do what they do. They know how to cook their food or brew their beer, not us. We leave it up to them to get their point across and just try to be silly sideshow monkeys that give away Clancey's Dead Meat.

GN: Why does food go hand in hand with rock and roll?

C&J: Because in most bands there at least one person working in the service industry. It's a focused, seedy underbelly of people that stay up until 3 in the morning on a regular basis creating music and/or food. There's a shared mischief between them that usually results in something highly entertaining.

GN: Do certain types of music go with certain types of food?

C&J: No. If we were to even start to answer this question, there is no way we wouldn't look like assholes.

GN: Okay, bonus "shipwreck" question: You're trapped on an island, and you can have one food item, one record, and one drink. What are they?

Craig:  Pig, my Steppenwolf Live double LP, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Jeff: Cheese, my 1996 pizza delivery mixtape, and bourbon.

GASTRO NON GRATA takes over the Triple Rock Social Club this Sunday, February 28 with performances by Noise Noise Noise (Montana), Unknown Prophets, Bella Koshka, and Bitch N' Brown; food by Doug Flicker Of Piccolo & Cake Eater Bakery; and beer by Left Hand Brewing (Colorado) & Northern Brewer.