Tag Archives: food porn

Ramen Shop

Masato is a young man working in his father’s successful ramen shop in Japan. Though it’s just been the two of them since Masato’s mother died, their relationship is strained. Masato thinks the only way to get his father’s attention is to be a steaming bowl of noodles. After work, Masato’s father disappears to drink alone; at home, they’re like two ships passing in the night. But then one day his father dies, as all fathers must, and Masato is alone in the world.

Curious about his mother, Masato (Takumi Saitoh) reads the old diaries she’d left behind and for the first time discovers the inter-racial courtship between his father, who was Japanese, and his mother, who was Chinese, and understands the source of the rift between his mother and his grandmother that prevented them from reuniting even as his mother lay dying.

Masato decides to travel to Singapore where he’s introduced not just to long-lost family members but secret family recipes as well, and through food, culture.

Ramen Shop is slow to start. I didn’t feel emotionally invested until about half-way through, but once the delicious, 10 hour pork rib soup starts to simmer, so did my heart. MV5BYmM0NjkxZWItOTI4MC00ZWZkLTk3ZTItZTBjNGYyZWYxMjA5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_The cast is endearing, and I love how director Eric Khoo blends together race as if it’s fusion cooking. The Japanese and Chinese people have had an uneasy past and you can see that Masato has a hard time reconciling the two parts of himself. However, grief is a powerful motivator, and when he understands how his father honoured his mother’s memory by incorporating her culture into his cooking, Masato is inspired to do the same.
Since Masato and his uncle and cousins speak different languages, they communicate primarily in their shared third language, English. His grandmother, however, does not speak English. Masato speaks to her on a more elemental level: food. He cooks for her and hopes his dish will prove not just love, but the link that’s been missing between them all these years. This detail felt so familiar to me. It may not always be ramen, but almost all families across many cultures have some dish they call their own, a dish that tastes like home.

For me, it’s my grandma’s molasses cookies. She’s been gone 15 years but one of my most treasured items is a recipe for them in her own hand. I make them for my niece and nephews who never met her but still enjoy the same treat I did growing up, and I know her love is in each bite. My other grandma, who I call Nanny, stood by my side in her kitchen and taught me how to make her apple pie when I was a girl. Today pie crust comes out of my hands instinctually. I don’t need to make Nanny’s apple pie because we’re lucky to still have her with us (though we did lose the apple trees in her backyard). She assures us that her chest freezer is well enough stocked that we’ll have apple pies well after she’s gone. I’m pretty sure she means that to be comforting. What’s the recipe in your family?

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SXSW: Paris Can Wait

paris-can-wait-F72057I’ve been to France twice and would go back in a heartbeat if we got the chance.  It’s a beautiful country with so much history, and their climate is warm enough that their spring feels like summer to Canadian visitors like us.   And above all else, the food in France is wonderful – the French do gourmet dining as well or better than anyone else in the world.  Eleanor Coppola seems to have similar feelings in France but instead of wistfully looking at pictures of Paris (which is what I’m doing right now), she got to work and made her own chance to spend time there, by writing and directing Paris Can Wait.

One thing that is readily apparent is Coppola’s background in documentaries (most if not all of which have chronicled her family members’ films).  She captures some beautiful shots of the French countryside and intersperses some well-shot photographs into the movie (courtesy of Lane’s character’s convenient hobby).  The photos were a good way to show off the food, and Paris Can Wait features so much delicious-looking food.

I can’t fault Coppola for taking the opportunity to sightsee in France on other people’s money, and tagging along on the journey was enjoyable even though there is nothing particularly memorable about it.  Diane Lane plays the same role she always does as the hopeful and optimistic woman who is taking stock of her life, Alec Baldwin appears for about five minutes total as Lane’s husband before jetting off and leaving Lane with his business partner (played by Arnaud Viard), and that basically takes care of all the speaking parts in this movie.

Paris Can Wait is simple and straightforward with no surprises.  You get exactly what you’d expect, which may or may not be a good thing.  I think you will enjoy this movie if: (a) you like traditional by-the-numbers rom-coms; (b) you are a member of Diane Lane’s fan club; or (c) you wish you were in France eating gourmet meals that cost 800 Euro and up.

If you’re not in that last category yet then get there!  My advice?  Instead of reading about romantic comedies, take a date and your chequebook to a Michelin-starred restaurant immediately (preferably one that brings individual carts to your table for the cheese and dessert courses, like we were treated to at Guy Savoy).  And then post your food porn pictures in the comments (bonus points for pictures of the carts in all their glory)!

 

Eat Like an Oscar Winner

Sean and I are tragically removed from our friends this Oscar broadcast as we’ll be in Philadelphia for some odd reason, and it’s too darn bad because I would rock the shit out of this year’s Oscar menu.

694999267AP00011_89th_AnnuaThe “official” Oscars after-party happens at the Governors Ball, with a menu created by Wolfgang Puck. His Oscar staples include black truffle chicken pot pie, his famous baked mac and cheese, and smoked salmon served on an Oscar-shaped cracker.

This year he’s also serving new items such as Moroccan-spiced Wagyu short rib topped with a Parmesan funnel cake (yeah, you read that right); taro root tacos with shrimp, mango, avocado and chipotle aioli (I might consider caviar tacos myself); gnochetti with braised mushrooms and cashew cream; and lobster corn dogs (um, excuse me?).

Then there’s gold-dusted truffle popcorn, red velvet waffles, caramel cappuccino Oscar 694999267AP00007_89th_Annualollipops, and chocolate bonbons in classic “movie theatre flavours” such as Sour Patch Kids, Red Hots, and Goobers.

And don’t forget the champagne. Cases and cases of champagne, plus Francis Ford Coppola wine, natch.

Of course there are dozens of competing after-parties, and Oscar winners will likely make appearances at several over the course of the night, with the women likely making pit stops to change gowns (not into something more comfortable, mind you, but into something that hasn’t been photographed obsessively just three hours prior).

The decadence extends to the famed Oscar “swag bags” that the nominees receive (mind you these only go to the celebrity nominees in acting categories. An Editor doesn’t warrant one). What’s in the bag (theme: “Everyone Wins!”) this year?

  • 1487363798668a week’s stay at the Golden Door, a resort spa with an art collection, in-room massages, meditation pathways, citrus trees, and a “pain empowerment” “experience” that makes me want to punch someone in the teeth
  • personalized sommelier service, plus a boutique bottle of champagne hand-selected for each nominee
  • limited edition bling: designed for the nominees by Namira Monaco, they’ll receive a pendant and brooch in the Pole Star Constellation
  • a vaporizer
  • a box of Dandi patches, which you wear in your armpits to prevent sweat stains from getting on your nice clothes – probably comes in handy since most celebs just “borrow” their frocks from designers
  • a 3-night stay in an 18-bedroom California mansion that’s worth $40K
  • sweet cheeks cellulite massage pad – apparently you sit on it for 30 minutes a day and the cellulite just packs a bag and leaves voluntarily
  • a Hawaiian vacation on Kauai’s sunny South Shore
  • personalized crayons including a gold one inscribed with the nominee’s name
  • CPR lessons
  • Canadian maple syrup
  • a 10 month supply of Opal apples, which apparently never go brown

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

rockthekasbah_review_article32BC796E300000578-0-image-a-1_1440879836035Rock The Kasbah: a has-been (never was?) agent (Billy Murray) decides to cash in on his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) and have her tour the USO circuit in Afghanistan. A panic attack has her taking off with his cash and passport, which means he’s stuck in the middle east with his thumb up his ass. He meets a number of expats – Scott Caan and Danny McBride are war profiteers, Kate Hudson is a very profitable hooker, and Bruce Willis is “Bombay Brian” – but none are overly helpful (unless you count being hog-tied in a Marilyn Monroe wig, which I don’t) and some are down right exploitative. But then he comes across big talent (Leem Lubany) in a small cave in Kabul, and convinces her to seek fame and fortune on Afghan Star (their American Idol). The Rock-the-Kasbah-review-Billonly problem: women in her culture are forbidden to sing, or to even remove the face covering that would allow her to do so. Critics are savaging this as a one-note performance and I suppose they’re right. I kinda loved it though. I love Bill Murray, and I liked Kate Hudson very much in this too. I wish we could have seen more of Deschanel but Lubany was such an interesting discovery I couldn’t help but root for her.

Zooey Deschanel interviews Palestinian co-star Leem Lubany here.

Our Brand is Crisis: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play fictionalized versions of American political analysts brought in to our-brand-is-crisishelp rival parties during a Bolivian presidential election (based on a true story and a documentary of the same name). This movie goes straight to a cynic’s heart, not even bothering to pretend that politics are remotely about doing good or making change, or that elections are the will of the people. They have no respect for the electorate they manipulate so easily. I’m not always crazy about Bullock but she’s better in this than I’ve seen her before. Her talents are harnessed effectively, her comedic timing not wasted on idiotic movies nobody would ever watch if it wasn’t for cross-Atlantic flights (and this role was converted for her – it was originally intended for  man). That said, there’s a little something lacking in Our Brand is Crisis. It’s not biting enough. You can’t make a political satire and then go limp.

Burnt: the Assholes were busy dancing with Dan Aykroyd so we passed our screener tickets along to a couple of conscripted assholes, Justin and Ben.  When I asked Justin what he thought 01-bradley-cooper-burnt-kitchen-in-movieabout the movie, about a nasty chef played by Bradley Cooper, he said “It was good.” So what do you think? Does he have what it takes to become a permanent Asshole? When prodded for further detail, he called it “decent”, which in a way is a win because half of all of Justin’s movie reviews consist of him making the retching throw up sound, but it’s also a loss because what he means is: it’s fine. If you’re curious to see Cooper play an asshole, then rent it when it comes out on DVD, but don’t waste your money on this one.

The Hundred Foot Journey

I only watched this movie because Helen Mirren was nominated as Best Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy by the Golden Globes for this very role. She’s a twelve-time nominee with four wins under her fabulous belt. I think she’s great, and not just in a girl-crush kinda way (though definitely in that way as well), but in that I find her elegant to watch on screen. She usually make good choices, and as the film is backed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Steven Speilberg, I was a little let down to find this one was more hamburger than filet mignon.The-Hundred-Foot-Journey-2014-movie-poster

It’s about Madame Mallory (Mirren), a restaurateur of a fine French establishment who is horrified when foreigners open up a curry shop not 100 feet from her front door. She tries to harass them out of business but eventually must admit that their young cook (Manish Dayal) is superior to her own.

The food porn is fabulous, and of course I watched it on an empty stomach (confidential to Matt: butter chicken tonight?) but it’s not enough to hurdle over the holes in the plot, which is dashed sparingly throughout the movie like so much spice, along with pounds of clichés and a good measure of cultural stereotype to boot. Not to mention the slow burn (but maybe you’re looking for a movie to nap to?) and the schmaltziness that Mirren and co-star Om Puri should be above.

It’s predictable and pompously-titled, and at one point I found myself really bothered by the score, which was overdramatic (sounds like Schindler’s List, is actually over melting ice in a bucket of fish). The cast is solid (Dayal is a serious cutie) but in Lasse Hallstrom’s cinematic food fight, baguette vs naan, all you end up with is a bit of sliced Wonderbread with the crusts cut off.

Chef

I liked this movie. I can forgive the saccharine subtext of the father-son roadtrip to reconnection because this movie is visceral and delicious and real. chef-movie

Brace yourself, Sean, because I’m about to pay Jon Favreau a compliment: he’s perfect as this chef. Really perfect. He’s fast-paced in the kitchen, ambling in the market, bumbling with his son.

This movie’s already available to rent or stream. It was passed to me by a friend who thought I’d like it, and I aimed to pass the recommendation along to another friend, only he beat me to it, which hasn’t happened since Snow Piercer (watch it). We watch A LOT of movies. About a metric tonne in the course of a normal week, and we talk about nearly all of them, but recommend very few.

Why did so many of us connect with this movie? The passion, maybe. You really believe in the love of food, the drive in your marrow to just cook food that will taste awesome. And you get a real sense of the struggle between the guy with the money, and the guy with the talent. Of course they clash. And there’s another struggle, between the chef, a man who dedicates his life to his kitchen but doesn’t know too much about life outside it, and the social media-enabled foodie culture that can prop him up or tear him down.

This movie definitely pays tribute to a certain amount of food porn, some of which already feels a bit dated (and I admit, I flinched, flinched, over the lava cake bit, having just served it to guests myself about a month ago). Scarlett Johansson is unnecessary in the movie and I can only imagine that Favreau was just looking for any excuse to kiss her (and who can blame him).

I loved the energy and pacing once we took to road in the food truck (another very on-point moment in food), even if it occasionally felt like a commercial for Twitter. John Leguizamo turns out to be a fun side kick. Robert Downey Junior appears out of nowhere. Or, you know, out of Favreau’s back pocket. But the whole mess just starts to feel fresh and real and relatable, no matter what you do for a living. You can’t help but feel his humiliation and then root for his redemption, and be tempted by his sandwiches.

The villain, a food blogger played by Oliver Platt, is kind of a great counterpoint to our protagonist chef. He becomes our scape goat for all the internet bullies, and there’s a not-so-subtle plea for a return to humanity, or civility, or fucking politesse. Even a big tattooed chef has feelings, and you can’t eat all of them away no matter how good the food.

So yes. The ending’s trite, but the passion’s back in his life, he’s rejuvenated, we’re rejuvenated just watching him spark. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s making me bloody hungry.