Friday, July 25, 2008

AHG – The Alcohol-in-the-Movies Issue.

Okay, you’re right. A little alcohol talk seeps into most of these newsletters. This one is just going to be a little more saturated than the others. Why? Well, because the truth is that Al and I had no time to rent any movies at all, what with our hectic travel schedule.

First there was Seattle. On the plane out west, though, Al made me watch 27 Dresses. I told him it was a chick flick and I didn’t want to, but he was pretty insistent ‘cause he said he wanted to have somebody to discuss it with afterwards. So I did. It was pretty well as bad as you’d expect – with the exception of a charming scene where the couple gets drunk and sing "Benny and the Jets" and get all the lyrics wrong.

That, of course, advanced the plot, since they were so drunk that they got over their inhibitions and slept together. Fairly cheap trick, but a tried and true screenwriter’s fallback, which I noticed was the entire premise of What Happened in Vegas, the movie Al made me watch once we got to California. I don’t know what it is with him.

Now my friend – we’re going to call her “Danielle” – had seen it already but by total accident. And she said that since she’d had no expectations, it wasn’t that bad. Well, unfortunately, that raised my expectations to a level perhaps ever so slightly higher than they should have been.

It’s like somebody wanted to re-make Doris Day-Rock Hudson again. Now I’ll even admit to really liking Doris Day movies but I see no need whatsoever to make modern versions of them. And if we must remake them, can’t they just keep re-making them with Kate Hudson? ‘Cause I could just stare at her for ninety minutes thinking about how damn much she looks like her mother. But, really, if I just want to see that kind of thing, I’d actually rather just watch Lover Come Back, in which the happy couple gets together after eating VIP cookies – each
of which packs the wallop of three martinis.

The gag seemed a lot more original back then.

But I digress. After that, Al went to Edmonton but, I, funnily enough, was too busy to join him on that leg. No, really, I was. For one thing, I had to watch Auntie Mame again to prep for Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. What a great movie. It happens to fit in with something I’ve been wanting to write about – progressive 1950s movies versus reactionary 1960s movies. I’m not going to give you the whole list because then you all could go ahead and pitch this article somewhere but what I’ve noticed is that, while we call the 1950s
“candy floss,” the darkest, most progressive, most controversial films which contained biting social commentary were all produced in that era.

By contrast, in the really radical 1960s (which the boomers can’t shut up about), we have, well, Doris Day. Okay, you’re right – Annette Funicello did some stuff back then, too. And that muscle beach stuff was pretty poignant.

Anyhow, Auntie Mame was great. And the epic drinking going on during the film was great, too. Oh, and the epic drinking on-screen was amazing also. It all takes place during prohibition, though, so I wondered if it wasn’t something of an anachronism that people were drinking so much. Surely people didn’t drink during prohibition?

That reminds me. I did a seminar earlier that day and we were going to play a bit of The Untouchables as people walked in. It’s hard to find a video rental place in the French Quarter, though. So we didn’t. But
that would be another great booze movie to watch. Or Some Like it Hot. That’s always fun. Or any movie you can find with WC Fields in it.

Anyhow, we got home and, frankly, were a little cocktailed out. It was time to give my liver a rest and switch to wine. Fortunately, Al had the perfect movie to watch for our new, sedate life: The Secret of Santa Vittoria.

It was really pretty great. It started off a little goofy, but was an entirely entertaining story about wine and Italian bravery during WWII – not a story you hear very often!

So that’s your hidden gem for the month. (Or Auntie Mame, if you prefer.)

Al`s Corner

Okay, so first off, I don’t make the fabulous Christine watch anything. Mostly, I just make her laugh. Like when I fall asleep on the couch with my mouth open and she sticks a piece of food in there. She gets particularly hysterical when it’s a piece of food the cat had been playing with.

Two, I don’t remember that plane ride.

And, three, it wasn’t 27 Dresses but 25 Dresses and a Couple of

I can’t even type ‘mumu’ without thinking of Homer Simpson. And I
can’t tell you what I’m thinking when I see the name Annette

Best thing about Seattle: Downhill.
Best thing about Anaheim: I don’t live there.
Best thing about New Orleans: Air-conditioning.
Best thing about Edmonton: Again, that I don’t live there, but also
that I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep with my mouth open.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In case you all were wondering how things went at Tales of the Cocktail, here's Stephen Beaumont's version. He likes me, he really likes me!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hard to imagine there are yet more food memoirs coming out. (And I'm in the middle of reading another one today.) Anyhow, reading the three for this article got me very hungry for Chinese food.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

As many of you no doubt know, New Orleans` Tales of the Cocktail starts tomorrow. With all of the excitement, some of you may have missed the fact that one of Al`s future Hidden Gems, Auntie Mame will be shown on Saturday, July 19th at 3PM. It`s a really exciting event, seeing as it`s the 50th anniversary of the film, I`ll
be hosting and our special guest is Jan Handzlik, who actually played young Patrick in the film!

Where is this event, you ask?

At the W Hotel New Orleans, 333 Poydras Street. A chance to check out
another venue, too!

Of course, I can fill you in on all the details when we see each other earlier that morning at Bottoms Up! A Spirited History of Drink in Canada - 10:30AM at the Hotel Monteleone. I repeat, that`s Saturday morning at 10:30.

This is a one and only chance to see Kevin Brauch, James McCartney and I (three for the price of one!) discuss the lurid history of bootlegging, Canadian whisky and a whole lot of other fun stuff. I know it`s early in the morning but we have pretty pictures and Crown Royal Cask 16 to wake you up. Come find out how Americans drank Canada dry during prohibition!



Friday, July 11, 2008

Here's the latest at Gremolata. Hey, how do I not have Gremolata on my blogroll? Have to fix that soon. A bit busy preparing for Tales at the moment.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

AHG 21

You'd think that in the summer Al and I would be out engaging in all the X-TREME outdoor activities you naturally associate with us. You know, like gin smackdowns, opossum-raccoon matches, outdoor movie marathons and crokinole tournaments. But, as you may have noticed, there's been remarkably little summer this far. What there has been of it has been rainy. Or maybe it just feels that way to me since I spent
the first part of it in Pittsburgh.

Anyhow, 'cause of the weather and/or Pittsburgh, we're pretty much in the process of calling off all summer activities and retreating into what can only be described as our more typical winter activities – reality TV, movie rentals and sparkling wine. I hear good things about Cordoniu Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose that the LCBO is kind enough to let us have – I’m dying to try it.

That said, other than Living Lohan, there's a real dearth of good reality TV out there this year. Some of you may already be crying
oxymoron with the notion of “good reality TV” but I'm willing to bet a good percentage of you folks out there have, like us and “Chris,” spent a fair share of time watching Gordon Ramsay screaming at underpaid line cooks, incompetent owners and wannabe chefs. Yes?

And so “Chris” suggested I write up a Ramsay vs. Ramsay Smackdown. He
said this:

"I love RKN. I hate H'sK. I think it's because the first one has the whiff or reality to it, along with the garlic and scallions and real-gravy campaigning. The latter is reality-TV rubbish. But I would love to hear what Mantequilla and the rest of the AHG crew say."

Now about two months ago, I would have agreed with Chris on this. But, truth is, Al and I kind of overdosed on RKN. And, I'm hoping I'm not getting too pedantic here but I wonder if we shouldn’t also draw a distinction between Brit RKN and Fox RKN. As my friend "Rod" pointed out, the American version is a caricature of its former self.
Sensationalized? Well, yes. Producers playing up a winning formula of Ramsay abusing folks? In spades. But in the early episodes of the British version, chefs seemed to get genuine help from Ramsay. Now they pretty well only get fodder for a lawsuit.

Say, speaking of lawsuits, the new season of Restaurant Makeover has been running and, boy, is it ever toned down. The chefs almost never abuse the menu and the producers have refrained from running shots of filth and everyone talking about what a disgusting mess the restaurant is. It's way kinder to the owners and chefs. Unfortunately, it’s also almost unwatchable, seeing as there's practically no conflict or humiliation.

No danger of that with Ramsay – ever. And what kept me watching it was the way he would utterly humiliate the owners and/or chefs – but never the front of house staff. It's cathartic therapy of a sort – all bartenders and wait staff living vicariously through Ramsay who tells every idiot owner from our collective traumatic past exactly the same things we wanted to scream at them but couldn't 'cause of the way they
held that $125 weekly pay over our heads.

Like the time Ramsay said to the big Italian lug:

"I have never, ever, ever met someone I have less confidence in."


Then the tide sorta started turning for me. "Emma" pointed out that Ramsay isn't nearly as tall as he thinks he is, Al started noticing that he takes his shirt off at least once per episode and I started to grow tired of the term "rustic."

I think it comes from watching too many in a row. So we turned to Hell's Kitchen which, in a weird way, is kinda interesting to me because of the hopeless hopefuls. I mean, sure, “Chris” is right. It is certainly reality-TV rubbish. And he's also correct to point out that there's no learning about food in HK or even any food porn. But I really like shows where you start to root for the bitchy girl to get
her come-uppance – Ramsay style. (Jen, I'm looking at you.)

I do admit it’s going to run pretty thin pretty soon and then we’ll be
out of food reality-TV shows. Gasp. Fortunately, while we were in the States, we were introduced to a new show: Top Chef. They were running a marathon and it was great – more like the top designer shows, wherein genuinely talented people compete with each other. I'm happy to say Chicago Top Chef has begun airing in Canada – thus solving our what-to-watch-this-rainy-summer dilemma.

Anyhow, that's it for that. I'm going to try and keep AHG short this month. But before I let you go, I need to direct you to this month's gem: Kenny.

"Emma" recommended it, mentioning that she saw it on a plane and actually had folks asking her to keep it down. It was really funny – I can totally see getting into trouble on a plane with a few cocktails and Kenny. You may not want to watch it with polite company, either. It's about a port-o-potty operations manager. The first bit is replete with plenty of bathroom humour. It was, in retrospect, a mistake to
watch it while eating dinner. I'm not even a fan of bathroom humour, generally, but this is really quite a fine film.

Special thanks to “Ron” who managed to find it for me. It's not at the local video store – it's an Australian film and doesn't seem to have had a North American release yet. So use whatever means necessary to track down Emma's pick and watch – after dinner.

Al's Corner

Oh, yeah, “Kenny.” Definitely worth looking for – no shit. Of course, took me some doing to pick up on the accents. Aussies, eh? Once I got that down – ditto for my lunch – I remember Kenny consoling a buddy who was starting to fret about his upcoming wedding. Our hero advised that you could always cut out the middle-man, namely marriage, itself. Simply: “find someone you hate and buy them a house.”
As for Mr. Ramsay’s fabulous entertainment packages, I mostly tend to enjoy the smokes practically every “chef” must have after a rough night at the office. Much like how I enjoy my own after taking a shower.