Fans of Canadian sketch comedy group The Kids in the Hall may best remember Mark McKinney as the Chicken Lady. Who better to chat about food before an upcoming Boston Kids in the Hall show than the troupe member who has spent a fair amount of time acting as a chicken-human hybrid? (In fact, his tastes are a bit more exciting than poultry, from goat to snails.) The group performs at The Wilbur this Friday, June 6, and Eater caught up with McKinney recently to discuss favorite food memories and more.
Have you spent much time in Boston — enough to talk specifics about the food here?
Well, we did a lot of touring in Boston when we were younger men in our 20s, so it was more about booze at really great bars whose names I can't remember, all full of mad Irish people. People I'd describe as professional drinkers in a part of town that I know is very rough.
I'm looking for food tips. As the weather gets warmer, what does Boston have for spring food...besides Boston lettuce?
Your best bet is probably seafood. We've had some recent openings that are outstanding, like Row 34...
I had a really great eating experience on the first stop of this tour, which was in Austin. There's a lot of street food. There was a street food place that had me literally in the washroom for the rest of the next day, and I still went back. It was so tasty. But a restaurant that I ate in that I loved was this place called Mettle, which was in East Austin. It's exactly what I was in the mood for. Big steaks, huge wines, stuff like that — those don't impress me anymore. I'm more interested in what I ate as a kid growing up in France, assiette composée — a little bit of this, a little bit of that, really well-balanced, and that's what Mettle had. Super crusty fried chicken with this assortment of pickled cauliflower...they knew exactly what they were doing, and it's something I always look for in a restaurant. Casual service but not trying to be my best friend, that kind of stuff.
What's your favorite type of food overall?
I like Indian; I'm sort of exploring it. And small plates. Lately, I'm a ramen fan. In fact, right now I'm wearing a t-shirt that says "Ramen Party."
Ramen's kind of exploding in Boston right now. Pretty much every week, there's a new place.
It's doing it everywhere. There were, like, three places in Toronto three years ago, and now there's around a dozen, including the David Chang place.
Do you put any weird food requests on your rider?
You mean like "no green M+Ms," that kind of thing? No, I think it's become more about fresh stuff — more fruits and salads and veggies. But after the show, it's kind of a pig-out. I seem to remember when we've done this on a tour bus, we get on and there's usually about a half acre of gourmet pizza and really well-chilled white wine, that sort of thing to lull us to sleep.
Any favorite food memories from your time in France?
The first time I tried snails, I was around 10 or 11. They were the best things in the world, and I thought I was just doing it on a dare. I think that was the same meal where we tricked my sister into eating calves' brains, and she hurled outside the restaurant when we told her. We just ate well all the time.
Is there a food trend that you've found while traveling that you wish was more prevalent at home?
Food trucks. Toronto's starting to have a few good ones, but it's not like in LA where I could get the best grilled salmon with insanely healthy brown rice between the parking lot where I parked in Venice and my home. The problem right now in Toronto is there's an insatiable demand for good food. If something's good, it gets hot so quickly that it's never relaxed. It's packed.
Any embarrassing restaurant stories?
Well, I've embarrassed people. The Kids in the Hall, when we were first starting to hang out — someone took us out to dinner, and I suggested that we send the wine back because it was corked. The other Kids in the Hall are peasants — it's really good that you're talking to me, because they would have drank that vinegar and been happy.
By the way, you're getting a Boston restaurant up in Toronto — Wahlburgers — a burger place from Mark Wahlberg and his family.
Are you kidding me? Really? That's so strange.
What should people expect from your show on Friday?
It's really fun. The hardest thing about touring is that we always want to do it, but getting our calendars to line up is kind of a miracle, so this is kind of a miraculous little tour. It's fun, and at least 60% of the show is new material that we wrote over Christmas. We've been having a really good time.
Kids in the Hall's "Rusty and Ready Tour" arrives in Boston this Friday, June 6, for two shows at the Wilbur Theatre — 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Tickets are $57.
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