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Food, music are key ingredients in the new show 'Dweezil & Lisa'

"Can you believe we're still hungry?" the tiny brown-haired rocker girl in the cat's-eye glasses asks the trim brown-haired rocker boy in the faded T-shirt.

"Yeah, it's weird," he says, pulling their car up to the Varsity, Atlanta's palace of hot dogs and burgers. In the past 15 minutes, we've watched Lisa Loeb and Dweezil Zappa eat banana fritters, peanuts, shrimp grits, butter bean hummus, chicken salad, a pimiento cheese sandwich, spicy carrot cake, and coconut birthday cake. Now they're about to dig into chili cheese dogs, grilled cheese, french fries, and onion rings.

It's all in the name of television. Loeb and Zappa, sweethearts and frequent musical collaborators, now also share a show; this is the first episode. It's not on MTV, where they met in 1997 (Zappa was hosting a program Loeb appeared on to promote her album "Firecracker"). This is the Food Network.

"Music is our business," Loeb says in a voice-over during the introduction for "Dweezil & Lisa." "But our passion is food," adds cohost Zappa.

The show combines both. Part rockumentary, part cooking program, part travelogue, it follows the hosts as they play in clubs, eat at their favorite restaurants, and learn techniques from professional chefs. Each episode takes them to a different city -- Phoenix, New York, Chicago, their hometown of LA -- and to different food adventures. It debuted Jan. 16.

The show is aimed at young people, says Kathleen Finch, vice president of programming at the Food Network. "It fits so perfectly on a Friday night," she says. "It's meant for people who love music and who love food. . . . But we don't want to limit the show to young people, because food and music do naturally go together. When you think of a fun meal, chances are there's music somehow involved in that. It's nice bringing together two of our favorite pastimes."

"It's a show that came out of our enthusiasm for eating food and cooking," says Zappa, who is obsessed with making the perfect tomato sauce. Loeb, a baco-vegetarian (even nonmeat eaters can't resist the crispy strips), is obsessed with lemon ice cream. They use the word "obsessed" frequently when it comes to food.

This love of the alimentary has its roots in childhood. Zappa is the son of the late musician Frank Zappa. "Traveling growing up I was exposed to a lot of different foods," he says, on the phone from LA with Loeb. "My mom was a good cook. It became something I was interested in based on that. It's not a unique story. People are surprised we would have a show on the Food Network or that we're interested in food, but I think everybody's interested in food.

"My dad cooked," he adds, "but not well. He had a record called `Burnt Weeny Sandwich,' which was named after his culinary creation of the same name. It was a hot dog filleted down the middle, skewered, burned over the stove, and eaten as fast as possible."

Loeb's family didn't name songs for their culinary failures. "My family was more `Leave It to Beaver' style," she says. "My mom was queen of the kitchen. She made dinner every night, and we all ate together. Food is really important in our family."

Musically, the two are pros: Loeb, 35, has released four solo albums, and anyone who listened to the radio in the mid-'90s has heard her hit "Stay" ("So I turned the radio on, I turned the radio up, and this woman was singing my song"). Zappa, 34, has recorded solo and with the band Z.

But when it comes to cooking, they're more like advanced beginners. Viewers who tune in looking for an indie Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, riffing on electric guitars as they flambe, will scratch their heads and change the channel. (In the first episode, Loeb asks a chef who is grating a cinnamon stick, "Can you chew on this?")

"The aim [of the show for the viewers] is the same as it is for us," Loeb says. "We're out to enjoy food and learn about new restaurants and learn cooking techniques and information about food to help us cook better."

The show is Loeb and Zappa's creation: They plan and produce it; the theme song is theirs, as well as most of the music heard throughout. "We're the ringleaders," she says.

"We always enjoy working together, whether it's TV or music," he says.

Their camaraderie is clear as we watch them kitchen hop. In between cooking lessons, they visit farmers markets, play golf, see friends, buy pans. Like any road trip, "Dweezil & Lisa" has its highlights and its dead stretches. Neither lasts long; MTV-style editing and lightning-quick cuts throw many scenes into overdrive. It would be nice to simply watch our hosts watch the chef, and learn with them and to hear them play a song from start to finish. But not on this show. Loeb, after all, once titled an album "Cake and Pie." The title, she says, is literal. "When people ask `Cake or pie?' I say `Cake and pie.' I want both. Philosophically it means you shouldn't have to choose. The world is open; you can enjoy all of it."

With "Dweezil & Lisa," the hosts haven't had to choose between music and food. She just finished a record, as yet untitled. He plans to release a new album called "Go With What You Know" in the spring. They have recorded 10 episodes of the show. It hasn't been determined whether more will follow, but, says Finch, "we have terrific hopes for its future." Loeb and Zappa head out tomorrow on a tour that brings them to Boston.

"We'll see what happens from there," Loeb says.

Whatever it is, it's sure to involve a good soundtrack and culinary adventures. "Everybody's gotta eat," says Zappa. "You might as well make it fun and interesting."

"Dweezil & Lisa" airs Friday nights at 10 on the Food Network. Lisa Loeb and Dweezil Zappa appear at the Paradise, 969 Commonwealth Ave., on Feb 22; call 617-423-6398 for tickets.

Devra First can be reached at

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