July 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night HG reveled in an annual indulgent pleasure: Watching Tampopo, the 1985 Japanese movie directed by the late Juzo Itami. Tampopo is a self described “ramen western,” a deeply self-conscious and Japanese spoof of the “spaghetti western” genre. But, it is much more than a Blazing Saddles, much more than a big bowl of noodle soup. It is a sly, but hilarious, commentary on food, sex, cinema, Japanese corporate structure, culinary pretension…and more. Like a great dish, the film has many layers of flavor. The hero, Goro (Totumo Yamazaki), pays homage to Shane (he wears a cowboy hat and like that solitary, legendary figure, he rides off alone–in his truck rather than on a horse). The heroine, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamato), is lovable, lovely, innocent and funny. Brilliant. There’s a film within the film starring a gangster in a white suit, his beautiful girl friend and plenty of food, sex, violence. This satire of western romance and gangster movies concludes with a startling last-moments-before-dying elegy (given by the gangster) concerning a wild boar and sweet potato sausage. HG’s favorite section of Tampopo (which HG shares with SJ), is where The Ramen Professor (Ryutoro Otomo) instructs a neophyte in the proper, classic way of eating ramen. Deadpan hilarity (which also make you very hungry for a steaming bowl of ramen). Since the basis of the film is food and nourishment it ends with a beautiful image of loving nourishment: A mother suckling her child.


Movie Heaven — The Bronx Gets Slapped By Santa Fe

June 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Depressing fact reported by The New York Times: The Bronx, with a population of 1.4 million, contains two movie theaters (multiplexes with a combined total of 23 screens). When HG grew up in The Bronx, there were scores of movie theaters ranging from palaces (Loew’s Paradise, The Interboro, etc.) to intimate art houses (The Ascot). Fordham Road, in a six block expanse, contained The Lido, The Concourse, Loew’s Grand, The Valentine and The Fordham. “Going to the movies,” like rooting for the Yankees and eating pastrami and pizza, was an integral part of Bronx life. HG/BSK are fortunate to live in Santa Fe. “The City Different” has a population of 80,000 which supports three multiplexes (and another in a nearby community) plus three cinematheques. In terms of movie going, it’s almost like living in Paris. Santa Fe also has opera housed in a spectacular setting; live theater, dance and concerts at The Lensic (a beautifully restored old venue); live music in lots of clubs ranging from the raucous to the sophisticated. And, of course, Santa Fe has art: A dozen museums and numerous galleries plus world famous annual Native American and Hispanic art markets. And, the weather is great. Plus you are never far from a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile sauce. Heaven.


Celluloid Sole

February 23rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The coming Academy Awards reminds HG that dining is always treated in a perfunctory manner in films and television. Yes, there are elaborate dining room scenes in such Masterpiece Theater epics as Downton Abbey. The clothes are great and the service (butler, footmen, etc.) looks exquisite. But, what, exactly, are these aristocrats eating? And, is it any good? Drinking gets lots of attention. Much tippling but little tipsiness. Last night, however, HG discovered an exception to cinema’s superficial treatment of dining. After watching brilliant, funny Bill Maher, HG channel surfed. HG stopped at the film adaption of John Le Carre’s, The Constant Gardener. Here’s the scene HG watched: The film’s protagonist, played by Ralph Fiennes, is in London to meet with the aristocrat, Sir Bernard Pellegrin. Meeting place, of course, is the aristocrat’s venerable Pall Mall club. Nice camera work detailing all of the palatial spaces and antique detailing of the club. Into the dining room for lunch. Dark woods. Nicely spaced tables. Subdued lighting from chandeliers. And, here comes the great, cinematic food moment. Sir Bernard suggests sole. Mentions that it is available “Meuniere” or grilled. Fiennes’ character chooses grilled. There are some murmurs and then all action ceases as the camera focuses on an alluring still life. There is the sole, dusted with chopped parsley and glittering with melted butter. Nestled beside it on the plate are small boiled potatoes and what appears to be some fresh asparagus spears. The camera does not move. The food obsessed viewer has plenty of time to absorb this perfection. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the plot. Obviously, there was a food nut in the cutting room. If you want to experience a London Dover Sole experience, HG suggests J. Sheekey in the theater district. The dish will bend your credit card but is well worth it.

Film and Food

November 5th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK often settle down after dinner around the warming fireplace and watch a film courtesy of Netflix. A few nights ago the duo watched films on successive nights that were set in India. The films were Gandhi (overlong, talky, simplistic — but saved by Ben Kingsley’s remarkable performance in the title role) and The Man Who Would Be King (a rousing John Huston version of the Kipling tale with Sean Connery and Michael Caine — a critical success but, surprisingly, a box office failure). For fun, HG and BSK thought they’d preface each film with Indian food. So, a peek through two favorite cook books Vij’s Indian Cuisine and Vij’s At Home, revealed two splendid vegetable dishes Cauliflower Steaks and Eggplant, Tomato and Green Onion Curry. Lots of cumin and turmeric in the cauliflower dish. Cayenne and Mexican chile powder gave the eggplant dish heated zip. Warm naan, fluffy rice plus mango chutney and lime pickle were part of the meal. Good eating. Had some leftovers for the next Indian meal (and film). This time BSK grilled a juicy chicken breast rubbed with cumin, garlic and garam masala. Worthy addition. (If in Vancouver, B.C., do not miss the two famed Indian fusion restaurants, Vij’s and Rangoli.)

A few nights later Netflix delivered Under The Volcano, a film set in Mexico The novel by Malcolm Lowry is riveting but the film, despite a virtuoso performance by Albert Finney, is a fallure. With John Huston directing, the fillm, of course has some rewards — the eerie cantina-hell that dominates the last part of the film, Anthony Andrews’ plaintive singing of a Spanish Loyalist song about Madrid and the beautifully photographed Day of the Dead holiday. HG and BSK are unsympathetic to self destructive drunks and after watching Finney’s bravura self destructing they could only murmur: “We don’t care.” The duo had thought about Mexican food before the film but opted for pasta with broccoli di rabe and grilled Italian sausage. HG and BSK will save the Mexican dishes for a more rousing film set in Mexico — possibly Viva Zapata.

Almondina. Exemplary Cookie.

March 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG just discovered Almondina, This is a crisp, not sweet cookie filled with almond slices and dried fruit. Perfect with red wine or port. HG prefers it (Sorry, Italian pals) to biscotti. HG buys Almondina at Trader Joe’s but is sure it is available at many other grocers. As Don Corrado in “Prizzi’s Honor” (the John Huston classic) said to Angelica Huston: “Have a cookie, my dear.”

Random Thoughts: Paris/London

March 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Says HG: If you want great at-home dining lease an apartment in a less than posh neighborhood. Expensive clothing stores (Prada, Gucci, etc., etc. ) have pushed out the mom-and-pop bakers, butchers, cheese, etc. shops. In Paris’ 9th and 18th the little guys reign supreme and a baguette, fromage, a roast chicken with roast potatoes are always footsteps away.

London’s takeaway soup and sandwich shops are super good, super cheap. HG likes EAT in particular. Very good pho and hoisin duck soups. When counterman adds some extra chili, London damp disappears from the bones. Tea with scones, clotted cream and marmalade is a London blessing. In American terms, good French wine is very cheap. Britain’s Oddbins wine chain is what US needs.

Parisians have become obsessed with the American hamburger but, alas, they never seem to get it right. Besides scarf tying, Parisians (male and female) are expert in walking very fast while eating a baguette sandwich and talking on cell phone between bites. An American would choke.

Yes, HG is shrinking (vertically) but the French and English are surely getting taller. Very fat people are exported to the USA. One can still eat well in a modest Parisian bistro for a small price. A comparable London meal will cause the credit card to sizzle.

Canned baked beans (and tinned mushrooms!) are part of a proper English breakfast. Everyone must have a minor perversion.

Tourist or native, one is always met with courtesy in London and Paris.

An HG opinion: Paris movie audiences are hip, quiet and polite. Makes movie going a delight.

The Uncommon Common Cold: Paree Day Twelve

February 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK are spending their last days in Paris in a blizzard of Kleenex and a cacaphony of coughs. This didn’t prevent HG from visiting Welper the venerable, independently owned brasserie on busy Place de Clichy. There was a rumor that Wepler had gone downhill.  Couldn’t prove it by HG’s lunch of oysters and bulots.  Splendid.  Very dignified waiter,  HG pointed out that some of the bulot shells were empty.  Obviously, the sea snails had left their shells and were out looking for romance.  The ambassadorial waiter took care of the situation by bringing HG a virtual deluge of bulots and a big pot of fresh mayonnaise.  Typical of Paris–a classy and generous gesture.  BSK felt well enough to see True Grit.  Fun.  But the film didn’t have the usual Coen Brothers edge of irony.  Walking back to the loft HG was struck by the cold bug.  HG and BSK hope they shake off the nastiness before chunneling to London Saturday.

Paree Day Six (Part Two)

February 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on Paree Day Six (Part Two) § permalink

A stroll in the sun. Brief. Weather instantly reversed to pleasant violet-tinged gray. HG and BSK attended to late morning business and then off to late lunch at Chez Grenouille. Fabulous food. A gratin of escargots. Usually, ordering escargots is an excuse to convey a lot of butter and garlic to the mouth. Not at Grenouille. A score of escargots (no shells) in a reduced and fragrant wine sauce, covered with a chiffonade of herbs. Eggs with butter and cream baked briefly in a red cocotte. Slices of wild duck (rare) on a bed of tiny green lentils. The specialty of the house (possibly the best in Paris); Tete de Veau. Not an American favorite (but much loved by HG), this dish is a composite of all the tasty bits in a cow’s head –tongue, brains, cheeks, etc. At Grenouille, these perfectly cooked elements are combined with morels and enhanced by sauce gribiche. There was a big bowl of roast potatoes (flavored with flakes of Maldon sea salt) on the table. For dessert: A gently baked round of camembert with shavings of black truffle. The wine: St. Amour from the Beaujolais region. Perfect.

Movie night at the comfiest cinema in Paris—Pathe Wepler. Saw Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter.” Flawed but remarkable movie making. Very memorable tsunami scenes. Bedtime snack of Irish smoked salmon, creme fraiche and Sancerre. Just another day at the office, Paris style.

Morning Thoughts: Paree Day Six

February 17th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Can it be? Oui!! Mon Dieu!! (end of extremely limited French). Sunshine. A Parisian rarity. A sunny February day. Lunch scheduled at Chez Grenouille (so good… had to go back…a report later). Shall HG and BSK stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens and admire the Zadkine sculptures? Or Place des Vosges? Or Canal St. Martin? Wine authority and journalist/author par excellence Peter Hellman suggests visit to food court at Galeries Lafayette department store for Spanish ham and other outstanding items. His word is HG’s command so a visit is scheduled for Saturday. Tonight is movie night: True Grit. Coen brothers are HG and BSK faves. Delights abound.

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