For those of you who don’t know me, the only thing I love as much as good eats is good cinema. For me the only equivalent of biting into a juicy tender filet is sinking my teeth into a Scorsese film…
Danny Boyle? Tyler Florence.
French cuisine? French New Wave cinema.
The Godfather series? 6 course tasting menu.
So, in honor of my two loves, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 meal/movie combos. 10 exceptional films prudently paired with some of the tastiest eats. Think of it like wine pairing. I’m like the sommelier. But less snobby, more biased and not quite as qualified. You should know upfront though, if your idea of a good pairing is a pint of chocolate bon bons and The Notebook… you are probably in for a rude awakening. And you probably admire Ryan Gosling’s abs more than his outstanding acting ability (see #6). And you probably just got dumped (see #9 if that is the case). But I digest. I mean digress…
#10 Garden State / Baked Goat Cheese Salad
Intimate, real and laden with Frou Frou tracks. Garden State boasts a superb soundtrack and a melancholy, but lovingly hopeful story of death and love. So I paired it with something light, warm, and refreshing. A baked goat cheese salad with caramelized pear, walnuts and cranberries. And you thought I was gonna say Garden Salad.
#9 500 Days of Summer / Caramelized Banana Pancakes
Another Sundance Film, another great soundtrack, another quirky cute girl. This is arguably my favorite romantic comedy. A lot of un-appreciated cinematography. And un-eaten pancakes (see pancake scene). Speaking of pancakes with caramelized bananas, organic maple syrup, and crispy bacon (Source: The Table). This is delicious enough to save any relationship.
#8 Clockwork Orange / Kobe Steak in a Marchand du Vin Sauce with Potato Mousseline
Disturbing, poignant, pretty damn heinous. Stanley Kubrick is simply brilliant and so is this film. Good movies keep you thinking long after the credits roll. This one haunted me. If you haven’t already, give this a watch (and make sure it’s the grisly X-rated original, none of that weak, R-rated bullshit). And when you do, shove a butter-filled bag of Redenbacher’s in the microwave and indulge in salty popcorn bliss. SIKE. Shame on you. A vicious classic set to Beethoven tunes deserves nothing less than a tender, juicy, bloody steak with lots of tangy sauce and some taters.
#7 Slumdog Millionaire / Chicken Tikka Masala, Garlic Naan
I’m going to preface my praise for this film with praise for it’s director. Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors and his cinema (i.e. 127 hours, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) could have easily saturated this list. Nuff’ said. Draped with some not so subtle undertones of poverty, gang violence, prostitution and corruption, this film emerges as a feel-good piece. I know my Indian friends will scoff at my selection of anything but traditional Mumbai cuisine, but this British staple is about as heartwarming and comforting as the movie itself. Recalling my emotions from my first view of Slumdog and the tastes of my first serving of masala… bring a nostalgic, salivating smile to my face.
#6 Blue Valentine / Moroccan Bastilla
Blue Valentine is a rattling, turbulent romance. I like to think of it as the aftermath, the epilogue to The Notebook. It’s the gritty nuances of love so keenly captured by Gosling and Michelle Williams that force me to appreciate this film over any other sugar-coated, rom-com fluff. Gosling’s performance, much of it unscripted, was real and displayed enough talent for me to respect him as an actor (not just a piece of meat, okay ladies?). Since dining at his well received Beverly Hills restaurant, Tagine, I’m also on board with his taste in food. The modern twist on Moroccan flavors is nothing short of spectacular at this intimate joint. So I’m pairing my favorite Gosling movie with my favorite dish at Tagine; phyllo dough filled with cornish hen meat and scrambled eggs, topped with saffron and powdered sugar. F***ing amazing.
#5 High Fidelity / Habanero Burger
This is my most casual pick for this list. It may not deserve to be here. But I know John Cusack does. In my opinion, this is his best performance (with Being John Malkovich a close runner-up). The characters, the story are so relatable. Not to mention it’s world premiere dose of Jack Black. But mostly I love this film because it pairs two other passions I have; music and women. This is a man’s rom-com, so I’m dishing up a manly meal; habanero burger and fries, courtesy of GBK (burger joint in the UK).
#4 City of God / Brazilian BBQ Beef, Fried Plantains
This cinematic indie masterpiece effortlessly sneaks into my top 5 favorite films every time. When you share a connection with a film so deep, you almost feel stifled, overwhelmed with emotion. There are scenes in this film so palpable, so provocative I actually get riled up. Li’l Zé is a character I feel so perilously helpless against that I even catch myself yelling expletives and throwing things. The movie is set just outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and well, I happen to be a fan of Brazilian BBQ. I think you know where this is heading. Whenever you get all hot and bothered, just take another skewer off the grill and release your pent up rage to gnaw on some tender, marinated beef. When you’re done, feel free to chuck the skewer at Li’l Zé’s face.
#3 Goodfellas / Ravioli, Meaty Tomato Garlic Basil Sauce, Red Wine
Well I could sit here all day, we could hold hands, and we can rave about Scorsese together. Or I could get your panties in a bundle by telling you I think Goodfellas is better than any of the Godfather movies. The progression, the desperation, the power and money complex of the Ray Liotta character I can empathize with so much better than the muffled groans and Sicilian roots of Marlon Brando. Goodfellas is slick and ticks along at a good pace (I really think the Godfather drags). Now I know Godfather fanatics would have a long-winded harangue on cinematography and nuanced subtleties. But I’m looking for entertainment here and the truth is when I popped my Godfather cherry at 14, I fell asleep. But back on topic, what other cuisine could I serve up here but Italian? Obviously. Just make sure that garlic is cut with a razor blade. So it liquefies in the pan with a little oil. 🙂
#2 Into The Wild / Alaskan Salmon, Baked Beans
When you pair a tragic but incredible story with a genius like Sean Penn you get one of my favorite films ever. Into The Wild is a quiet but resounding commentary on society, an aspiring and awesome rendition of nature’s beauty, and a personal journey of self-discovery. My graduation is quickly approaching, do I begin my swivel-chair-bound job or embark on a two year epic journey to the humbling wilderness of Alaska? Hopefully some butter and brown sugar marinated Alaskan salmon and campfire-style baked beans will give me the fix I need. But if not, any suggestions for an alias? No, Alexander Supertramp is already taken!
#1 Shawshank Redemption / BBQ
Predictable, I realize. But also necessary. Like a song you have to sing to, like a good friend you can come back to, like that feeling you get when you curl your toes up on the carpet, Shawshank is comforting and familiar. It was regrettably overshadowed during the 1994 Oscar season (7 nominations, 0 wins) by another favorite of mine; Forest Gump. It is the quiet simplicity, the mellow, raspy narration by Morgan Freeman (which drew inspiration from Goodfellas), the crafty escape, the haunting adagios, and the resonance of hope that makes me love this film. The iconic rooftop scene when the inmates enjoy a bucket of ice-cold beer as the sun kisses the prison walls reminds me to enjoy the simple pleasures, the moments of satisfaction, no matter how fleeting, isolated, or trivial they may seem. For the ultimate feel-good, the best comfort food; BBQ. And for those of you who made it through this list; my highly-touted concoction for the best ribs, grilled corn, and potatoes on the planet:
And of course, don’t forget to pay homage to Andy and the crew with an ice-cold beer.