dinner and a movie

Hable con ella - Alicia

I’ve been slowly making my way through the Pedro Almodóvar library, and one thing I’ve found that even in his most straightforward of films is that he always manages to include at least one good WTF moment that changes the whole path of the narrative. There’s always this element of the unbelievable, but to spin an oft-quoted English saying, one must keep calm and trust Almodóvar because he always manages to work himself and his characters out of any overly odd plot twist. The twist in Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is one I won’t give away as it’s pretty disturbing, but just when you think a character suddenly becomes completely unlikeable, redemption comes about in a strange way.

Hable con ella is one of those films in which the titular women are not present; they are in the past, and they are potentially in the future, but they primarily exist as coma patients during most of the film. Instead, the story is told from the perspective of the men who love them and care for them: the clownish Benigno and the standoffish Marco. It’s a story of men trying to understand women they love: Benigno thinks he understands Alicia because he talks to her, and has been doing so in the four years she’s spent in a coma; Marco is seen as someone who was open and could not stop talking to Lydia during the idyllic period prior to her accident.

They talk because they think that is what a good lover does; the problem, of course, is that they were pretty horrible at listening to the women they loved. Read More

Quasi-Bouillabaisse with Copper River King Salmon, Pacific Cod and Littleneck Clams with Rouille-Sathered Croutons)

People used to stare at fires. Now they watch TV. We need to see moving images, especially after dinner.

–Francois Truffaut, Day for Night.

Day for Night (click through for source)

Day for Night, simply put, is an amazing film. It’s joyous, hilarious, sad, and absurd. It’s a triumph of love and dedication and personal expression, and true to its tagline,  it really is a film for people who love films. The narcissism of the actors, the bullshit propelling the crew–it’s so incredibly timeless that you can easily ignore the fact that it was filmed in the 70s and therefore looks immediately dated. But it was also one of those films that I hadn’t thought about in a while until I shoved a random CD into my car’s player (yes, I have a zillion mix CDs in my ’04 Jetta, shut up) and its wondrous theme by Georges Delarue filled my car as I was making my way to the Westport train station, and suddenly I was craving to see it again, preferably after eating a big bowl of bouillabaisse.

This thought struck me in early May. I wasn’t able to actually give in to the craving until Saturday, and it ended up being an apt pairing of food and film, what with the reminder of the importance of rolling with the punches. Read More

Oysters with Fresh Horseradish

We hear a lot about the great social mobility in America, with the focus usually on the comparative ease of moving upwards. What’s less discussed is how easy it is to go down. I think that’s the direction that we’re all heading in. And I think that the downward fall is going to be very fast—not just for us as individuals—but for the entire Preppie Class.

–Charlie Black, Metropolitan

Is it weird that  the Nineties have been on my mind quite a bit lately? Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’ve been researching trends as part of my job for the last few months, but quoting Reality Bites and Clueless has come up more often than normal  for me (oh, who am I kidding–I always quote Clueless). When I was making my little wishlist on Amazon of various media I craved a few months ago for the holidays, the film Metropolitan called to me from my big master wishlist (yes I have one, mock me if you must) as something that I had to get and watch and fall in love with. After reading on Criterion’s website that it’s another perfect modern-day take on Jane Austen in the vein of aforementioned Clueless, albeit more verbose and less Valley Girl, I had to see it–and I must say that it takes on what’s arguably considered the least-loved of Austen’s novels, Mansfield Park, and modernizes it in a way that’s credible, funny, and true to all of the characters contained therein.

Outside Horn & Hardart (screencap mine)

Also: the characters visit an Horn & Hardart automat towards the end of the film. Automats were dying out by the 80s, but a small few clung on in New York until the last one shuttered in 1991, a year after this film was released. It’s such an anachronistic touch; the only other time I’ve personally seen an automat referenced on film was in That Touch of Mink from 1962.

Long-dead restaurant concept references aside, Metropolitan‘s delightfully cynical tone was a perfect pairing with one of the dishes that the characters likely feasted on in spades during all of the debutante-related parties they went to in the course of the story: oysters.

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Onglet Garcon with Pommes Frites

[Ed.--And here's part 2 of our epic steakhouse dinner and a movie anniversary dinner. Michael elaborates on how things got...interesting.]

I love my wife. I know I do because I put up with this ass-ache of a meal to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. We began planning the feast with the noblest of intentions, and honestly, by the time the movie started everything was again right with the world. In the interim, things were tense at times, annoying at others. The fault, dear reader was not in our stars, but in our selves; the meal we selected was… ambitious to say the least, taking a snarky page- actually several snarky pages from Tony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook.

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Onion Soup de Les Halles with Honey-Glazed Onions

[Editor's note: this is another joint effort from the two of us, as we each took on a component of this meal. I'll be taking the first half, while I'll leave Michael to the steak.]


This all started with an email to Michael during the week–I had been flipping through our recent blog posts and noted with some alarm that they were all Mexican, pasta and/or Spanish dishes, and so I proposed that we make French food for something different and as part of our anniversary dinner…which turned into a weekend of anniversary dinners. What can I say–we know how to celebrate. Michael has been making noises lately about having steak, so out came the Les Halles Cookbook…and what happened turned things into an interesting evening. Read More

"Casi" Tlayudas Oaxaquenas con Chorizo, Guacmole y Queso Oaxaqueno ("Almost" Oaxacan Tostadas with Chorizo, Guaca-salsa and Oaxacan Cheese)

Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.

–Luisa, Y tu mamá también

Y tu mamá también, on the surface, is a road trip film: two teenage boys tempt an older cousin (by marriage) to a beach known as La Boca del Cielo (Heaven’s Mouth); problem is, they are pretty sure such a place doesn’t exist. But they go anyway, and as we travel with them from Mexico City to the rural coastline we learn about the code of the charloastro, empathize with the feelings of inadequacy that stem from being on display, and laugh when the inevitable happens and it’s not altogether satisfying. It’s also a coming of age film, both with regard to the two male leads (played brilliantly by real-life friends Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Benal) and to the country of Mexico itself; set right before the 2000 elections that saw the dominating party unseated after a 71-year run, we get glimpses of life in the country as it was then: random car stops, lavish parties, and the slow decimation of once-preserved natural coves. A balance of rich, poor, and those who fall somewhere in between–and a Spaniard who, like us, can’t always understand her companions and their youthful exuberance.

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Hibiscus Margaritas

My company follows the holiday schedule of the NYSE, which meant that I had Good Friday off for the first time since college.  Normally, a day off like this would mean that we’d be spending it in transit to visit our parents, but because Easter falls on a Sunday and therefore requires our presence at one of their houses that day for both church services and the traditional meal, our plans ranged from Saturday until Monday… Read More

It’s funny–neither of us are really serious Movie or Film people likely because we’re obsessed with too many television shows like Mad Men and 30 Rock. That said, I do enjoy a good-in-that-it’s-mockably-bad romantic comedy or watching a favorite Judd Apatow flick to make me smile, and I would be lying if I said that neither Michael nor I aren’t excited to see Iron Man 2, those count as escapist fun instead of serious artistic fare.  In the past year or so, however, the desire to immerse myself in foreign films has been strong:  ever since I brought La Dolce Vita with us to Italy (we watched it in our cozy suite over two nights and I swear it made our Italian slightly better), I’ve been slowly building a mini-library of Italian and Spanish cinematic treats. The latest addition to our collection was our long-overdue introduction to Pedro Almodóvar via his masterpiece Volver:

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by saying that it’s good; instead, I’m going to insist that you place it immediately on your Netflix queue and experience it for yourself.  It’s a truly delightful film–funny yes, but with so much heart that it seems almost impossible not to enjoy yourself while watching it.  Penelope Cruz is positively mesmerizing in it, which makes you realize that with the exception of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she’s been criminally underused in American film.

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Moules portugais avec pommes frites

Moules portugais avec pommes frites

Because miles and miles of online and print type have already generated about this topic, all I will say about Julie & Julia is that you should probably see it if you have any interest in food, and/or love Meryl Streep.  You won’t be disappointed.  Our friend E was really excited about seeing it, and a few weeks ago over dinner we all made plans to see it opening weekend during the afternoon and then head to our apartment to make some delicious French food.

I must be honest, though:  we don’t own Mastering the Art of French Cooking, at least not yet.  It’s only been very recently that we’ve even tried making French food period, and that has been with the guidance of the Les Halles cookbook.  Will we eventually get a copy of the book?  It’s very likely, though I’d almost rather get a gently used copy to go with the vintage Better Homes and Gardens cookbook on my bookshelf, but we’ll see what we can find.  Besides, this is what’s great about cooking–there is always a new type of cuisine to learn, new techniques to learn and new challenges to take on as you become more comfortable and confident in your kitchen.

To wit:  while we had the fire extinguisher at the ready for this round of frites, no one had to be placed on duty to watch the oil as Michael had the situation well in hand, plus our floor didn’t become an oil slick from drops of the stuff dripping off strainers.  The moules were, as always, easy as can be, but this time we did the Pourtugese take on them, adding some chorizo to the mix that made everything just a touch fattier (and therefore more satisfying) and saltier without making it too heavy.  While bread would have been nice, all three of us were quite full from this simple spread, and the two bottles of wine that E brought made for delightful quaffing as we all toiled away in the kitchen.  (We were going to put him to work helping me debeard the mussels, but he lucked out as they were pretty clean by the time I got them, as we suspect that our fishmonger did the work for us, thus allowing E to sit back and watch as we worked on dinner.)

Though the recipe was not Julia’s, I hope that she would be proud of our enthusiasm, no?

Greetings one and all.  Today we (finally) get around to posting the next installment in our foreign film-inspired-dinner series.  This time, selected Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (originally la nuit américane).  Set in the French countryside, this movie-about-making-movies is a modern classic.  To mirror the flick that night, we opted for a French Bistro menu, straight out of Anthony Bourdain’s modern classic, The Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking.

There are plenty of clips from the movie available on the youtube, but below please find a loving tribute to the ideas and style of the film in the form of a hilarious AmEx ad by Wes Anderson.

We began with a simple mushroom soup consisting of little more than the beloved fungus, some onions,  butter, finished with a touch of sherry.

Mushroom Soup with Sherry

Mushroom Soup with Sherry

We found another pork shoulder recipe in this beloved tome, and dissatisfied with my first attempt, we struck out again (Avid readers may remember this trial being referred to already in the Cuban Sandwiches post.  Yes, this was the shoulder that born those self-same cubanos, consider this exposition for the sake of completeness or perhaps ret-conning, if you like.)  This shoulder wasn’t slow-roasted via oven, but rather simmered in our dutch oven for several ours with a crust of homemade breadcrumbs and mustard.  Pork Shoulder is a bit fatty, and a little on-plate surgery may be required when the finished product finally makes it to the table, but it’s completely worth it.

Pork Shoulder, browned and ready to stew.

Pork Shoulder, browned and ready to stew.

Breadcrumbs...before they were breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs...before they were breadcrumbs.

Pork Shoulder resting...

Pork Shoulder resting, breadcrumbs cooked on. Ah, the circle of life...


Pallette de porc à la bière, avec du couscous et des légumes braisés

Pallette de porc à la bière, avec du couscous et des légumes braisés

Above is the finished plate (consideration for authentic French titling provided by Elizabeth).  Onions, carrots and garlic from the roast pot decorate a little couscous, a holdover idea from the first attempt.  I highly recommend Bourdain’s book, Truffaut’s  film and any pig’s humble shoulder for a Saturday night that’s humble and exotic, relaxing and exciting.


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