Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quick Hits

Quick Hits in a true quick-hit manner.

1. Enough Said occupies a rare place in film, particularly of late. It shows all the natural sloppiness, resulting terribleness, and enduring hope that comes with...existing. And living with the history of being yourself for so long, a unique thing in an age where constantly reinventing yourself and TEDTalking your way to happiness seems to be the path to...something. Enough Said is genuine without ever shining a light on its attempt to portray that. I've always thought, in the discussion of older women not being able to land juicy roles in Hollywood, that looking to Juliette Binoche and Kristen Scott Thomas (who's done amazing work in a slew of smaller films) should be the template. Both have aged so damn gracefully as actors by taking roles that never shy away from being juicily complex and flawed as characters. James Gandolfini is very good here, and gets much of the press as this was his last film, but this is a star turn for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She lets so much in and, as a result, gives so much.

2. The Spectacular Now, watched back-to-back with Enough Said, leading to the best double-feature I've seen since My Winnipeg and Man On Wire a few years ago, runs in a similar vein. An honesty oozes from this film as well without trying too hard to create such a thing. By hitting its turns so well when so many films of this nature don't, it sheds its teen-movie veneer to become more than the sum of its adolescent parts, never missing a broader, deeper beat. In many ways, it's a über right-of-passage film. Alcohol, social structures, addiction, parents, the future, the unknown, ambition and lack of, basically everything that comes with high school are its superficial markers. But this one is about the pivot from adolescence to adulthood and what it takes to embrace that pivot with heart, honesty and gratitude.

3. This farro and green olive salad with pistachios and raisins (skip the honey in the recipe - doesn't need it) with a bottle of 2012 Charles & Charles Rosé Columbia Valley ($12 - Whole Foods) was the pairing winner of the week. We both didn't think this farro salad was going to have enough enoughness to make it a right and proper end-of-workweek lunch. Wrong. It does in spades. Flat-out delicious salad that's more than just a salad. With our current favorite-cheap, cheap-favorite rosé, this was such a happy lunch with the syrah blowing up in this syrah-forward blend. Dirt and violets all over the place. As good as the bocadillo pairing a couple of months ago.

4. Sole meunière with braised red potatoes and almond green beans with 2010 Domaine Servin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons ($30 - Vin Chicago) suffered from cooking with a migraine and the fact that butter was included in every component. We're not butter people. But this recipe for braised red potatoes is quite delicious, especially if you omit butter in everything else on the plate. The Domaine Servin was precise stuff with oodles of green apple skin and papaya framing a huge mineral core. Not a hint of oak, good value and tons to like. Oddly wasn't looking for a reason to reach for the glass though. Could have been all the butter in the food.

5. When wonton wrappers become a gluey mess as you try to defrost them, substituting phyllo for a riff on Bill Kim's lamb pot stickers works rather well. Served with a farro and rice salad (leftover farro from above lunch - there was A LOT of it), arugula salad and a bottle of 2010 Neyers Vineyards Carignan Evangelho Vineyard Contra Costa County ($33 - Vin Chicago). What was thought to be a "weird" meal before eating turned out to be happily weird and delicious. But the stunner was the Neyers Carignan. It's getting to the point where we'll buy anything from Neyers. Such good stuff. This one enters like ripe raspberry jam but immediately changes to a savory wonder, with alternating notes of burning leaves, bright earth and unsweetened floral cherry jelly. Great lift, huge middle and a long finish that ticks off in smooth, welcome ways. Two-hour decant and needed it. A second bottle of Trader Joe's Carignan Lot #87 Mendocino County ($10) just couldn't keep up with the Neyers on the table.

6. Greek-ish veggie explosion with 2011 Domaine Douloufakis Malvasia Femina ($13 - Vin Chicago). Golden beet salad tossed in this gremolata, cucumber-yogurt-dill salad, shallot-garlic white beans, skordalia and pita. Too. Much. Fiber! But this was better than I thought it was going to be while making all of this over the course of four hours. Big helping hand in that flavor realm come in this wine from Crete. Looked and tasted dead and gone right away, without food, only to perk up and enliven and come back together quite nicely with it. Fresh and zippy apricots much of the time with a similar woolliness that we loved the last time we had it. And a bottle of the unfortunately labeled but completely acceptable NV Louise d'Estrée Brut ($10 - Trader Joe's) was all delicious, sparkly white raspberry with the beets.


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