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COUNTRY'S CAT IN THE HAT COMES BACK

They say the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and that apparently goes for concertgoers with the munchies, too.

Atlanta's Zac Brown Band has rapidly become the next Jimmy Buffet, the next Kenny Chesney - not just strummin' musicians but get-a-babysitter, call-in-sick-the-next-day party throwers, as well - by prefacing its roots-rock regalia with epic feasts. ZBB's culinary chops, a sly bit of music-biz marketing that bridges the backstage fame gap between superstars and diehard fans, have proved just as devourable as smash singles Chicken Fried and As She's Walking Away.

Heck, the sextet - which is also ferociously talented and can play any instrument, any song, many of their jams testing time, space and the Grateful Dead - even has a cookbook for sale. Southern Ground includes recipes for Farmer's Fried Green Tomatoes and Perfect Pocketknife Coleslaw, which sounds totally awesome.

The 2010 Grammy winners for best new artist should be extra welcome in Tampa Bay this year, as they cap Gasparilla Saturday with one of their down-home hootenannies. All-day revelers will need something to soothe their head, and soak up some sloshy spirits.

Fans can go to zacbrownband.com to find out more about those "Eat & Greets" and Chef Gary, ZBB's food ambassador, who works out of "Cookie," the traveling kitchen gussied up like a sexy World War II fighter plane.

sdaly@tampabay.com

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Zac Brown Band

The group performs with Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan at 7 p.m. Saturday at the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $31.50-$57. (813) 740-2446.

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