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Gourmet Movies &
Blockbuster Meals

We've paired fourteen of the greatest films of all time with delicious, sometimes unexpected, menus that will be boffo with your guests.

 

On TheMovieChef.com you'll find complete menus inspired by movies we love to watch. Within each menu you'll find dishes that compliment each other, so you can use them as the core for a night's entertainment. Alternatively, you can use The Movie Chef as a traditional cookbook, picking individual meals by cuisine, course, or primary ingredient: each one of our recipes is illustrated step-by-step, making them accessible to all levels of cooks.

 

Whether you're looking for a best meal in the category of drama, comedy, or foreign films, we've got you covered.

 

Romantic dinners, family get-togethers, even double dates and full-fledged feasts. You'll find them all here at The Movie Chef. Click on any of the film titles on the left side of the page to begin browsing our collection!

Three Romantic Dinner - Movie Combos

There is something about food and romance that goes together. Perhaps it is the sensuality of the the meal. Or, maybe it is the tender-loving-care that goes into a delicious dinner makes a meal transcend its utilitarian caloric value.

 

If you think a romantic movie has to be a chick-flick, I think I've found a few selections that appeal to guys and gals alike - and they range from very easy to a higher level of difficulty. Our step-by-step illustrated approach makes all of our choices very "do-able" by romantics of every level of cullinary expertise.

 

I've picked three of my favorite romantic films and given them TheMovieChef.com makeover: Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, Woody Allen's Annie Hall, and Casablanca. The films explore different sides of love - yet each share a certain understanding that "love" is best understood through myth.

 

In Beauty and the Beast, the myth is explicit - a fairy tale for grownups that asks what really counts in a relationship, a movie that inspires us to look beyond the surfaces.

 

Woody Allen's love letter to Diane Keaton, Annie Hall, explores the nature of love - the good and the bad - with humor and insightful pathos. He elevates his relationship with Annie to a mythic level, creating a universe studded with archtypes and stereotypes, to explore the fundimental question of what it is to love, what we risk, why we bother.

 

Finally, in Casablanca, personal relationships are subordinated to a greater love: a love of freedom and the greater good that yanks at our heartstrings.

 

For dinner, I've designed three types of romantic dinners: an elegant, but oh-so-easy, meal for two (Beauty and the Beast), a French-Morrocan feast that might work for an anniversary celebration (Casablanca), and a meal that scales from small to large (a shore dinner inspired by Annie Hall).

Shrek 3 Recipes for Kids:

Click here for Shrek Recipes

Direct from the Source

The publicity department from Paramount has sent us a mini-cookbook of free recipes inspired by Shrek the Third (available now on DVD) designed for kids to cook (with adult supervision). The recipes include Green Sugar Cookies, Green Grape Surprise, Donkey's Far Away ParfaitOgre Punch, and Swamp Surprise.

These were not written by us, but there's no question the Shrek movies and green recipes would make for a great kid-prepared party. Click here to download the Shrek recipes.

A Note of Thanks

Creating this site has been a labour of love over the past 18 months. Thanks to all who have been involved in its creation, from the sous-chefs to the taste testers to those who have tested the recipes in their own kitchens.

I want to especially thank author Jack Harrington for an excellent article on Ajax that explainedthe basics in a way that several multi-hundred page books had not. All of the flaws of this site are my own, but any Web 2.0 goodies that work, come from his insights and examples. I highly recommend that you look at his books.

 

About The Movie Chef

TheMovieChef.Com is a production of Acme Computing Inc. - 150 West 55th Street, Suite 7E, New York, NY 10019.

Looking into the ontological void

At first glance these films couldn't be more dissimilar: The Coen brothers No Country for Old Men is superficially a modern western; Coppola's Youth Without Youth spins a yarn using sci-fi's time travel conventions. One is set in the modern Wild West, the other in Europe. One centers on gunplay, while the other on philosophy and dreams. But, the films (both issued as fall turns into winter), are the views of mature film makers looking back, grappling with the big question: What is the meaning of life?

Youth Without Youth

Those looking for the instant gratification of The Godfather saga, or even the visceral excitement of Apocalypse Now or Dracula, be advised. Coppola's homage to German Expressionism "feels" more like a Pynchon than Puzzo or Bram Stoker. It is non-linear and weighty, giving little spoon feeding along the way. But, it is also beautiful, Romantic, and challenging; in short: a great ride.

As in many time-bending tales, finding your way through the plot can sometimes be difficult. You know you're not in for an easy ride when a film poses so fundamental a questions as "What is the meaning of life?"

Notwithstanding the visual clues it takes from surreal films like Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, Coppola's message comes from the heart, putting it more in line with Frank Capra than Franz Kafka. Life does have meaning and purpose, though it may be very different from what we perceive in our day-to-day pursuits.

The film begins with Dominic Matei (Tim Roth), an octogenarian writer seemingly incapable of finishing his life's work, work he is obsessively devoted to - even when it costs him the love of his life (played by Alexandra Maria Lara). He has decided to kill himself when fate takes a hand. He is struck by lightening, a blast that should have killed him.

Miraculously, Matei doesn't merely survive electrocution. He emerges from his bandages as if from a chrysalis, transformed decades younger, a man in his forties. What we are observing is nothing less than an unseen Faustian bargain. While the Devil never makes an on-screen appearance, Matei receives all the benefits he might have wished for: limitless intellectual capacity, sexual prowess, immortality. Now, with his superior intellect and seemingly endless time to pursue his studies, what could possibly go wrong?

However, his inner world is fractured and nightmare like. He speaks to schizoid images of himself, not mirror versions, but alternate trans dimensional persona. These sequences borrow heavily from Caligari, and also echo the surrealism of Ingmar Bergman's Hour of the Wolf. What is real? What is reality? How can any of this be happening? Is any of this happening?

As word spreads of his rejuvenation, Nazi doctors (who have been conducting frightful experiments with megajolts of electricity as a means of finding a way to immortality) want him for their experiments. Matei is pursued, first in his native Romania, and then to Switzerland by a Mata Hari (Alexandra Pirici) and fanatical Nazi "scientist" named Mabuse (a nod to Fritz Lang's menacing agent).

Decades later, Matei rescues a woman from an accident, a woman he realizes is a modern incarnation of his old love (also played by Lara). With her he finds not only great romance; she is also holds the key to solving his life's work. This is where fate deals a cruel blow - he discovers that not only is his research killing her, his very presence in her life is toxic. For all of the "gifts" he received from the electrocution, Matei is brought to a chasm of unspeakable unhappiness that can only be bridged by giving up everything he thought was important or desired. Ultimately, he must choose between realizing his intellectual endeavors and sacrificing everything, even his own relationship with her.

For all of its philosophical and ontological dressing, Youth Without Youth is sentimental at its core. The life worth living is not measured by our "work", but through our commitment to "love", no matter where that takes us, no matter the cost.

 

 

No Country For Old Men

The Coen Brothers' latest film, No Country For Old Men, stands as a rebuke to Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth. Brutally unsentimental, the Coen Brothers, scoff at notions of redemption, love, and optimism. It is a world where Paladins give up, where lesser men and women are corrupted greed, and Death is the only sure answer.

This is a mighty change for the Coen Brothers. They have never shied away from looking at life's underbelly, but usually - even in the most dreadful of circumstances - they have found humor, sympathy, and (sometimes) hope, you betcha. In this American Gothic there is little room for even dark humor, and hope - Abandon all hope ye who enter her.

So you're warned. This is a film that looks at death unflinchingly. It is not for the faint of heart. Yet, it is brilliant, disturbing, and the most haunting film in years.

Tautly edited, the film is set in the "new" wild west of the 1970's. While hunting deer, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers 2 million dollars from a drug deal that has gone horribly wrong. Knowing that he is jumping into a vortex of danger, he decides to keep the money. With this fateful decision, the hunter becomes the prey, as competing killers attempt to recover the cash: Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson). If Harrelson's flashy cock-sure character is a professional killer, Bardem's unforgettable character is a force of nature of an uncaring world. He is more than the bringer of death, he is the bringer of random, brutal, death. He is a new take on Bergman's caped figure of Death in the Seventh Seal: using an air gun rather than a scythe, he has a similar pale moon of a face, giving off no emotion. Like a black hole, light and life can not withstand his total darkness.

Set against the Brolin/Bardem/Harrelson dance of death is the story line involving the sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. Himself the son of a lawman, he is weary of his battle with evil. He is outgunned, literally and spiritually; death is winning this chess game - he is always a move move behind. If he grew up thinking that he and his family of lawmen were locked in a yin/yang embrace with evil, he now wonders if the battle has already been lost.

Silence pervades this Western. Unlike other Coen Brothers films, which have relied on thoughtful soundtracks, this drama unfolds in the ambient sounds of the wind blowing down the plain. There are no "tunes" to make the journey easier. No Fargo-like "you betchas", either. What dark humor exists only reinforces the unrelentingness of death.

Perhaps the most nihilistic Hollywood film ever made, it is a tribute to the mastery of the Coen Brothers' artistry that the film works both as a "drama" and a philosophical statement. No Country for Old Men is easily the most haunting film of the year.

 

Featured Cookbook

 

A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain's Secret Jews

by David M. Gitlitz, Linda Kay Davidson

Just a month ago my daughter visited the Jewish Museum in Girona, Spain. What struck her about the place were not so much the artifacts of medieval Jewish life until 1492, but the exhibit's complete silence on why the historical record ends in that year. There was no mention of the inquisition and the expulsion. The museum's point of view seems to be that suddenly and without reason worth mentioning, Jewish history simply ended.

A Drizzle of Honey, tells some of the rest of the story. These are the recipes of the Jews who stayed, practicing their religion secretly, while hiding their faith.

Can a cookbook have an emotion? I've read ethic cookbooks, regional cookbooks, historical cookbooks (and A Drizzle of Honey is all of those), but I don't remember any previous cookbook in which every page seems to have been dipped in tears. You see, every recipe in this book has a sad history.

The source for these recipes is, predominantly, the actual record of the Inquisition. The historian/authors of this book discovered that food customs were watched by the Church and were offered as evidence against defendants at the inquisition. The recipes were taken down in the transcripts. While there is no cookbook of the Sephardic Jews of the period, the Inquisitors preserved a snapshot of the Jewish culture they sought to exterminate. In nearly every instance, the cookbook provides an introduction to the recipe that tells us about an actual person who prepared the meal, what they were charged with, and their brutal punishment.

A Drizzle of Honey is, therefore, not your typical feel-good cookbook. It is a window to a horrible time, witness to unchecked abuse of power, to a historic persecution of a people that sadly did not end in 1492, or even 1945. The authors have done a remarkable job of translating the transcripts of the inquisition into dishes that can be prepared in modern kitchens. Many staples we take for granted were unknown to the medieval pantry: you'll find no tomatoes, potatoes, or paprika here.

There are no photographs of the foods, yet the book makes the most of small illustrations of herbs, spices, and animals as accents, and an intelligent use of typography. Some may argue with the designer's choice of brown ink on a cream background; sometimes the lack of contrast makes reading a bit challenging. On the other hand, the book is imbued with a sense of warmth through these choices, the colors of the honey, Spanish tiles, and candlelight. The layout choices are more than form; they set the stage, taking us down a historical road.

These were truly "foods to die for": people were banished, whipped, public ally humiliated, and even burned at the stake for cooking these foods. Their pigment heritage gives them place at my Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Sabbath celebrations, where they become more than mere food.

 

 

Featured Cookbook

Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews

by Poopa Dweck, Michael J. Cohen, and Quentin Bacon

"The world", according to one book critic, "is divided into people who like cookbooks with pictures, and those who treat them with disdain." Any reader of TheMovieChef.com knows that I believe that pictures are an essential part to learning new dishes. We need to see the finished dish, how to present it at the table, and the steps of preparation. Too often, however, and this was the gist of my critic friend's argument, in picture-centric cookbooks the illustrations are merely selected for their intrinsic beauty, and the recipes are incomplete, inaccurate, or poorly conceived.

Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jew, flawlessly maintains the balance between "beautiful" and "informative". It is a quintessential cookbook: fascinating, detailed recipes illuminated by enticing photos in a gorgeous layout. It is a cookbook with a point of view - a story of a culture, unknown to most, of us revealed though a celebration of food.

If your perception of Jewish Cuisine is limited to New York Deli or dishes from the shtetle, like flanken and kasha, you're in for a treat. Since the destruction of the Temple in 586 b.c.e., the Jews have spent much of their history living in the diaspora, scattered across the globe, and their food has "picked up the flavor" of the lands of their journey. So, here we have a Jewish (and Kosher) take on traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, the reduction to text and photos of a an oral cooking tradition centuries old.

More than a cookbook, reading through the text gives you a sense of a people, its history, its customs. It is as if you are invited into the authors' homes and allowed to watch, to experience, to understand.

 

 

Essential Chef Tools

Review: All-Clad Stainless Steel 4 Quart Sauté Pan with Lid

As an apartment dweller, I have to choose my kitchen tools carefully. I have no room for an extensive pot collection; everything should do at least double-duty and reflect my no-fuss approach to cooking. Copper pots may look good, for instance, but I don't have patience for the cleaning involved.

Aside from my knives, the cornerstone of my kitchen toolset is my All Clad stainless steel sauté pan. I love this pot: It is versatile, cleans up well, and takes a beating.

What makes this pot so indispenable? First, its size, weight, and balance. Unlike smaller sauté pans (that often come packaged with multiple pot sets) the sides of this pot are tall enough to contain most family size recipes. I can use it for making stews, frying, or even steaming. All this versatility comes in a reasonable weight; I don't have to break my back to pick it up.

Although not a "no-stick" pan, it does an excellent job of releasing food. Remembering to pre-heat the pot for a couple of minutes over a low heat before adding food and oil is important. It causes the microsopic gaps in the steel to swell shut, creating a low-stick surface without the need for teflon or other coatings.

I've only used the pan on my gas range, though All-Clad reports that it will work on induction stoves as well.

One of the best features of the pan is the metal handle. It stays cool during most stove-top operations, yet allows the entire pot to go into the oven when necessary.

The construction of the pot is superb and is backed by a lifetime warranty. The body consists of aluminum sandwiched in stainless steel. The alluminum core makes for a excellent heat distribution, while the stainless steel provides a non-reactive surface that (while not non-stick) is relatively easy to clean. Unlike many pans, these can even go into the dishwasher.

Easy to maintain, the All-Clad Stainless Steel 4 Quart Sauté Pan is an essential tool in my kitchen.

 

About The Movie Chef

TheMovieChef.Com is a production of Acme Computing Inc. - 150 West 55th Street, Suite 7E, New York, NY 10019.

Ultimate Ears Tri-fi Earphone Review

I was looking for earphones that could simultaneously deliver golden sound to me and golden silence to those around me. Although we share many interests, my significant other and I have very different movie and musical tastes. I was finding that the gunfire from computer games and movie soundtracks, not to mention my classic rock collection were putting a strain on our relationship.

My first thought was to invest in a serious set of headphones, but I found that traditional "closed ear" clamshell style headphones were uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. I tried open ear designs (like those from Senheiser and Grado) but found out that they out enough sound and high frequency chatter to drive my SO to distraction.

I also worked through a series of earphones at various price levels from the ones included with various players all the way up to the new premium Zune headphones from Microsoft. Frankly, not only was the sound quality unsatisfactory, but the ergonomic experience wasn't pleasant, either. I found that often the in-ear designs would pop out at the worst possible times; I couldn't keep the Zune earphones in, regardless of which ear pad size I used. (One thing I really liked about the Zune design, however, was the fabric wrap they use on the earphone wires. It keeps the effort required to untangle the wires, a problem common to earphones, down to a minimum by reducing friction and cinching.)

I looked at the Shure line of earphones. It was sure that really pioneered the field of in-ear hi-fidelity headsets. But, their price range was too rich for my blood - particularly in a product I couldn't try without buying. Also, the Shure line pushes sound canceling technology. Perhaps if I traveled more often this would be desirable, but it was overkill for my needs. Besides, I was concerned that the technology used to "cancel" the sound might add distortion and/or create listening fatigue.

Enter the Ultimate Ears Tri-fi earphones. At a street price of $350 they cost as much or more than most people's iPods, but compared to the high-end Shure's they were a relative bargain. Plus, their design featured three sound drivers compared to only two offered on the Shure's. In this case "more" means "better".

The phones look a bit like hearing aids, and are significantly bigger than any you're likely to find bundled with mp3 players. You might not think a manual would be necessary with earphones, but it is worthwhile reading since the earpieces are designed to be worn differently than most, and the step-by-step instructions are well laid out there. The wire exiting the earpiece points up and then is designed to wrap around the back of your ear like wire-rimmed glasses, rather than "wire down" as with iPod earphones. The first few inches of the wire are semi-stiff, designed to "fit" to the shape of your ear. This holds them in place comfortably (even when exercising) and also makes it possible to pop one out of the ear without completely removing it from your ear. The rest of the black cable is still significantly thicker than on any other earphones I've tried. I think this (together with the somewhat shorter length than you'll find on my phones) makes it less prone to turning into a tangled mess.

"Comfort" and "fit" are important and, ultimately, subjective factors. I find the Ultimate Ears to be more wearable for long periods of time than most traditional, over-the-ear headphone designs. On the other hand, I never become completely unaware of them, either. A certain amount of pressure is exerted by the silicone seals that is always there, even if only subtly. To me, this minor annoyance is less intrusive than bulkier, heavier, traditional headphones, and their obtrusiveness has diminished with use.

What about the sound? After all, at this price, my expectations were very high, perhaps overly so. Certainly compared to other earphones, these are the best I've tested. There's more subtle, nuanced, bass response than in most. The three transducers do an excellent job of porting the music faithfully to your head. The sound is neutral to bright, but the more I listen, the more I pick up details that I missed before, particularly in the mid to low range. Surprisingly, they are less bottom-heavy than less expensive models used for comparison, but this is probably a function of their better fidelity: You're not just getting the "thump", there is more transparency, greater clarity, and more detail.

The sound, however, is ported into your head. Perhaps it is a function of the pressure caused by the seal, or maybe it is the insertion of the earphones into my ears, but the sound feels very "internal". When I listen to my speakers the sound comes at me from the environment. Even with traditional headphones (particularly "open ear" models) the sound travels through the air before reach the ear. So, even though the music sounds very clean, it feels sometimes improbably "close" or "claustrophobic". Nevertheless, when (and where) I can't use my speakers, they provide an excellent alternative.