Posts Tagged review

Moonstruck

DVD (1987)  Written by John Patrick Shanley / Directed by Norman Jewison

(image: MGM)

You should never love  the man you’re going to marry. “When you love them, they drive you crazy,” says Italian mama Rose Castorini to her Italian daughter Loretta. The 30-something Loretta (Cher) is going to marry mild-mannered Italian Johnny Cammareri — not because she loves him (she doesn’t) but because he’s nice and sweet and why not? She was married once before, to a man she did love, but he died after being hit by a bus (Italian?). Now she just wants practical and easy — and that’s Johnny.  But things get messy for Loretta when Johnny has to fly to Sicily to attend the deathbed of his ranting, Italian mother. He asks Loretta to call his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and invite him to the wedding. Loretta does and, much to her dismay, she and Ronny connect on the deepest of levels.

Cher as Loretta is part girl-next-door, part Roman goddess, part Rocky Balboa. She offers up some deadpan brilliance and I like her character’s practical approach to all aspects of life: “I’m in love with you!” confesses Ronny. “Snap out of it!” Loretta instructs.  One of my favourite scenes has Loretta at the kitchen table with her father (Vincent Gardenia) as she tells him she’s getting married again. I love their timing, animated gestures, and the real sense of relationship.

As for Nicholas Cage, have you ever watched an ultra-weird acting performance and wondered “Wow, was that on purpose?”  A young Cage gives one of those here as Ronny, a tormented soul whose life experiences are the stuff operas are made of.  He works in the ovens at a New York bakery and stokes the fires like he’s fueling his hatred and bitterness. “I have no life! My brother Johnny took my life from me! And now he’s getting married!” he stews.  Moonstruck is my favourite all-time Nicholas Cage performance and he delivers two  priceless monologues, the kind that would seem so old-school and out of place in  21st-century film and television.  Ronny “ain’t no freakin’ monument to justice,” and you gotta love it.

As well as being a story about love and  transformation, Moonstruck  describes the joys and pains of being a part of a close-knit family. You can see the many ways in which My Big Fat Greek Wedding must have been inspired by this earlier film.  Greek Wedding,  however, is a light-weight compared to the more sincere and tension-driven Moonstruck. The film has a beautiful simplicity and if you like romantic comedies but doubt it’s a genre that can produce anything truly worthwhile, you should watch this.  The film won several Oscars: lead actress (Cher), supporting actress (Olympia Dukakis as Rose), and screenplay (John Patrick Shanley). It was also nominated for best picture and best director.

Sweet extras   The opening shot features the New York City skyline, with the twin towers as a prominent feature. It’s cool to see the city that way again, although it’s also a little startling, even nine years after they came down.

Good for who?  Moonstruck is great for couples, a night with girlfriends, or just watching alone. It’s inappropriate for kids (there’s mild sexytime scenes and conversation), and might be a little too daring  for the Baptist minister’s wife.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Opera and eggs

Ronny Cammareri, the sexy bread-baking drama king, loves to brood and suffer to the sounds of his favourite arias. His apartment is a shrine to opera, with framed posters,  an album collection, and musical scores affixed to the wall.  The opera featured in Moonstruck is Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 work La Bohème — the story of a poet and a seamstress brought together by chance in 1830’s Paris. They fall in love but, in the end, the seamstress falls ill with tuberculosis and dies in the poet’s arms. La Bohème is one of the most frequently performed (and most romantic) operas ever put into production. The poster for La Bohème shown on Ronny’s wall (and seen here) is a vintage Metropolitan opera poster from 1978, created by artist Jamie Wyeth. This poster pops up on various internet auction sites, selling for between $150-$350.

If, after watching Moonstruck, you are craving Puccini,  there are plenty of options to satisfy you. (If, instead, you are just craving “Eggs in a Nest,” see two paragraphs below.) I recommend working yourself into opera gently with a CD for the car or kitchen. Jumping too quickly into a full three or four-hour production on DVD or in person might ruin your opera buzz, or even kill you.  The Moonstruck soundtrack contains a contemporary film score plus two beautiful arias from La Bohème: Che Gelida Manina and O Soave Fanciulla. I suggest you go beyond the soundtrack and buy a CD completely devoted to operatic arias.  One that I enjoy very much as an opera newbie is Puccini Gold, recorded in 2008. It highlights pieces from an assortment of Puccini operas including La Bohème, Turandot, Tosca, and  Madama Butterfly and features opera house superstars such as Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, and Anna Netrebko.

Most classical operas will be in a language you probably don’t understand — like Italian or German. If that bothers you, you can google translations of your favourite vocal pieces. What I prefer to do is not look up a translation of the libretto but rather read an English synopsis of the entire opera (just a quick summary). It makes listening to the aria more like looking at a painting — a bit of background helps me appreciate the movement and emotion of the piece without my imagination being restricted by too much information.

Rose cooks up some special toast and eggs for Loretta one morning while they sit and chat in their big New York kitchen. Eggs made this way are often referred to as “Eggs in a Nest,”  “Italian Eggs,” or, yes, even “Moonstruck Eggs.”  I made them for myself this morning and, wow, they were so good I refused to share them with my dog Chach. (I always share my breakfast with Chach, so he wasn’t happy. I think he wailed out the entire last act of La Bohème while I ate).  I believe this was one of the first times in my life when I didn’t miss bacon with my eggs.  I can imagine that having some bacon with this — like having too much opera too soon — would just knock a person unconscious.

I need to stress that the key to this little breakfast delight is the fresh Italian bread and the olive oil. Using regular sliced bread and butter just won’t cut it. Many of the recipes online varied and so I took the elements I liked most and put together my own recipe. You’ll need: a pan, olive oil, fresh Italian bread, eggs, a green onion, and a red bell pepper.

1. Slice your Italian bread, about  a quarter-inch to one-inch thick. Make a hole in the center of the bread with whatever will work (I used the end of a little cylindrical grater). The hole should go clear through the bread. I made the hole while the bread was untoasted, and that squished the bread a little. It might work best to make the hole after step four.

2. Chop up a green onion, and cut long thin strips of red pepper.

3.  Heat olive oil in a pan and begin to stir fry the red pepper and green onions until the pepper is softening and browning a little around the edges. THEN:

4. Put bread slice(s) into pan and toast side 1, making sure there is enough olive oil still in the pan to absorb a little into the bread.

5. When side 1 is toasted, flip the bread over to toast side 2. Crack an egg and drop it into the hole to cook.

6. Keep stirring the peppers and green onions around the pan so they don’t burn.

7. For eggs over-hard: once side 2 is toasted, flip onto side 1 again for two or three minutes until the egg is cooked, then serve. For eggs sunnyside up with a soft yolk: do not flip onto side 2 again. Instead, cover the pan and the egg will cook to your desired consistency.

8. Remove toast from pan; put onions and peppers on top or on the side.

9. Salt and pepper to taste. Then let me know what you think!

Paula Jane

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Roman Holiday

DVD (1953)  Written by Ian McLellan Hunter / Directed by William Wyler

(image: Paramount)

I was raised on black-and-white movies. My dad is a film buff, and as for me, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what Ioh, oops, flashback, sorry, I mean I saw hundreds of old movies as a child. Yet of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she…no wait, I mean, of all the old movies I’ve seen growing up, I don’t remember ever being shown an Audrey Hepburn film. So it was really exciting when I recently got to watch my first Hepburn film at the Oxford  in Halifax — a classic theatre, complete with balcony.

The film was Roman Holiday, a 1953 romance-comedy which tells the story of a princess and an unscrupulous American newspaper man. On a tour of Europe, Princess Anne (“from a country which shall remain nameless”) seems to be on the verge of losing her sanity.  Unable to handle the pressures of her  exhausting schedule, she slips away from her guardians in the middle of the night and enjoys 24 hours of freedom in Rome. She meets reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who spends much of the day with her as she experiences life’s little pleasures, many of them for the first time. The catch is that she doesn’t know that he knows that she’s Princess Anne. He’s secretly recording her every move, and we’re cringing at the thought of what he’s going to do with the story once they part ways.

Hepburn has such likeability, and it’s no wonder she won an Oscar for this role. If you’ve never seen Audrey Hepburn in action, you’ll fall in love with her here. Her character’s sparkling personality and naïveté is such a great contrast to co-star Gregory Peck, who is tall, dark and kinda grumpy and bitter.  The story feels so fresh and clever, despite the age of the film. Watching Roman Holiday caused me to re-assess my definition of rom-coms, which I truly thought was etched in stone when I started this blog. So I don’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll just say the ending of Roman Holiday pleasantly surprised me. I loved how it played out, and it brought to mind the wise words of my screenwriting professor which I have since added to my article What’s a romantic comedy? Not this.

Sweet extras The 1994 film Only You referenced Roman Holiday in more ways than I originally realized. The most obvious, of course,  is the visit to the ancient sculpture La Bocca della Verità (“The Mouth of Truth”), a scene in which Tomei and Downey Jr. actually recite lines from the Hepburn-Peck film. Watch both films and see if you can spot the references to Roman Holiday in Only You. I found five.

Good for who? This is a movie for absolutely anyone, except those who really dislike black-and-white movies. There is a colourized version of the film available, but I encourage you to watch it in black and white—the way the good Lord intended it!

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

When life overwhelms you and drives you to little princess hissy fits, take a lesson from Princess Anne and shake up your routine. Explore your own city or a nearby town, or maybe just try something you’ve never tried before: a new hairstyle, gelato, or perhaps a little champagne with your lunch. The idea is just to get out, enjoy something new, and appreciate the little things each day has to offer. I’ve been working on a writing project for the past two weeks and yesterday decided I needed a Princess-Anne-inspired break. With a Pavarotti CD, a bag of roast chicken chips, and my smelly dog Chachi, I drove to Wolfville, a little college town I love about 45 minutes away. Wolfville is not Rome, and I am no princess, but you get the idea. This would be a nice afternoon to myself.

Since the whole experience was about exploring and trying something new, I’m proud to say that I learned two new things about my dog that day: one, he is not a Pavarotti enthusiast (see photo. His ears are back. I think they’re bleeding.), and two, Chach is a little Houdini. When we first got out of the car, he slipped his collar while my back was turned. I found him at the side of a pizzeria, a few blades of grass stuck to his face. I scolded him, but he seemed in great spirits and was jumping around happily. I think the little numbskull was having his own Audrey Hepburn moment.

We strolled for a half hour, enjoying the sun that had broken through the clouds. I then put Chachi in the car while I explored a few shops and ate lunch. I chose a creepy dark pub where I was one of three seated customers. There were two junkies at the bar. I watched a darts competition on the widescreen and admired a set of faux Greek vases next to the beer signs. I said to the waitress: “I want to try something I’ve never tried. Name some weird things you serve.” She suggested some sort of mundane sandwich with a pickle. I exclaimed “Seafood chowder! Got any?” My plan had been to go my entire life without eating seafood chowder (most seafood does not appeal to me) but heck, I’d do it for Audrey. The waitress said that yes, she had some homemade Nova Scotia chowder, but she looked very concerned as she said “It’s got lobster in it…it’s got scallops in it… it’s in milk…it comes with a roll…” She said these things as if it were a list of dire warnings. No matter, I said, please bring it to me with a Diet Coke.

The chowder soon arrived — with some of the sauce splashed around the sides of the bowl as if the haddock had been jumping mere seconds ago — and I was taken aback. “Lady,” I wanted to say to the waitress, “this fish soup smells like fish!”   But it was actually very good, although way too rich in taste for me to finish.  It was like a Hershey’s Cookies n’ Crème chocolate bar in that way,  only full of fish.  In the bathroom stall afterward, I was scrawling notes about the chowder and when I got  up, my pen dropped into the toilet. I would have left it there, but this was the last of my favourite pens (Basin Stationary has discontinued them). So the Princess put her hand into Rome’s Mouth of Truth and I put mine into Wolfville’s toilet water. Ah, sweet synchronicity.

The best discovery of the afternoon was an excellent used bookstore called The Odd Book which has a terrific history and classics section. I bought a book called Late Medieval Italy, and I could have browsed the store all afternoon had I not been required to return to my responsibilities and duties as princess of the Woodlawn subdivision.  I returned a better, more worldly woman.

Paula Jane

 

 

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Only You

DVD (1994)  Written by Diane Drake/Directed by Norman Jewison 

(Image: TriStar Pictures)

Damon Bradley. This is a name 11-year-old Faith Corvatch gets from a Ouija board one windy spooky evening. It’s the name of the man she’s going to one day marry. “My soul mate! My other half!” she exclaims. Cut to 14 years later: the sweet and slightly-flakey Faith (Marisa Tomei) is a school teacher who seems to have forgotten all about the mysterious Damon. She’s engaged to marry a practical podiatrist named Dwayne and although Faith still believes in true love and destiny, she has resigned herself to the fact that “life’s not like how it is in the movies.”

But 10 days before her wedding, she hears that name again — Damon Bradley. Chasing what she truly believes is her destiny, Faith flies to Italy in pursuit of the man she’s meant to be with, even though she’s never met him.  “It is irresponsible of me to marry the wrong person!” she wails. Faith is a bit self-absorbed (the kind of friend you’d love to monkey-punch now and again) but she is kept in check by her sister-in-law Kate (Bonnie Hunt) who joins her on this spur-of-the-moment trip to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hunt is the quintessential BFF and rom-com sidekick: she’s consistently funny and really knows how to work a chiffon scarf (see “Live this movie” below).

If you love romantic comedies, and you haven’t seen Only You, you must beg for my forgiveness and then rent this movie immediately. It’s the ultimate girl-trip movie with spectacular scenery, and it’s fun to see Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. when they were so young and unmarred by time, prison or Mickey Rourke.  Only You often rates just a “6” or “7” with most critics, but don’t listen to that nonsense. I agree with Roger Ebert: on the rom-com scale, Only You is easily a “9”.  I love this quote from Ebert’s 1994 review: “Only You is the kind of lighthearted romance that’s an endangered species in today’s Hollywood. It is total fantasy, light as a feather, contrary to all notions of common sense, it features a couple of stars who are really good kissers — and it takes place mostly in Venice, Rome, and the glorious Italian hillside town of Positano. What more do you want?”

Sweet extras  Two beautiful hotels in the film—the Hotel Danieli in Venice, and the Hotel Sirenuse in Positano—are real, and their exteriors and parts of their interiors were used in the making of the film (see “Live this movie” below).

Good for who?  This is a perfect girls-night movie – maybe not so much for the boyfriend or husband; it’s also a great one to watch alone. As for content, there’s a bit of quick groping and Robert Downey Jr. throws a couple of JCs our way, but it’s clean beyond that.  I have a friend who’s freaked out by Ouija boards,  soothsayers, and skeletons in old-lady dresses: this movie has two of those things, but only at the beginning and they are played out in a lighthearted way.

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

When taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to stalk a man you’ve never met, you’ve got to pack light. So how do you keep yourself looking fresh and sophisticated with a limited wardrobe? From Venice to Positano,  best friend Kate made genius use of a black and white chiffon scarf which reappeared with her time and again over the weekend.  Here’s how to do what Kate did while exploring la bella Italia.  You will need a square large chiffon scarf.

1. The hairband:  When that naughty Giovanni took Kate on a tour of Rome’s fountains, she wore her scarf this way with her hair down.  (a) Fold square scarf in half to form a triangle.  Continue folding along the bias like this to form a long band.  (b) Place band over the head and tie securely but not too tight into a knot behind the head. The knot should be  under the hair and at the neck. (c) Let the ends of the scarf drape over one shoulder.

2. The scarf  scarf: Dress up a plain sweater by just draping the scarf around your neck. Allow one end to fall to the front, and the other to the back.

3. The Grace Kelly:  This style is worn for drama or for protecting a hairdo. Kate wore the Kelly when the gang hit the coastal roads of Italy to Positano in an open convertible. It’s easy: (a) Fold square scarf into a triangle. (b) Place atop the head with folded side toward the front and the triangle point toward the back. (c) Cross the two ends in front of the neck and pull them to the back. (d) Tie the ends in a knot at the back, tucking in any loose edges of the scarf under the knot.

4. The shawl:  This style looks lovely with a sleeveless dress. Just fold the large square scarf into a triangle and drape it over the shoulders — either pinning it in front or allowing it to drape naturally.  Kate wore the scarf in a shawl style as she arrived at the Hotel Sirenuse in Positano.

 

Live the stalker lifestyle!  If you’re travelling to Italy, you can retrace the steps of Faith and Kate on their hunt for Damon Bradley. From Venice, down through Tuscany to Rome and then along the coast to Positano, you can stay in two of the actual hotels featured in the movie.

 

Hotel Danieli, Venice:  The girls alight from a gondola at the Hotel Danieli in Venice, but they’ve just missed the elusive Damon Bradley by an hour. The girls hang out in the lobby (featured in the film) and ransack a hotel room, looking for clues. This five-star hotel overlooks Italy’s Arno River.  For reservations, or just to drool and dream, visit www.danielihotelvenice.com. Rooms start at approximately EUR 550  a night ($700 US/CDN). The ever-generous Kate put the room on her credit card.  I’m sure your BFF will do the same for you.

Sirenuse Hotel, Positano: Faith and Kate stayed at the gorgeous Sirenuse Hotel overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Book online  or just watch the Positano webcam and wish you were there at  www.sirenuse.it. (photo: caprionline.it)  A two-bedroom suite with a seaview is just EUR 2,000 – EUR 3,400 per night — that’s approximately $3,000 – $5000 US/CDN per night.  Did Giovanni pay for this one, or did Kate put it on her credit card again?

Paula Jane

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding

DVD (2002)  Written by Nia Vardalos/Directed by Joel Zwick

Toula Portokalos’ family is full-on Greek and proud of it. “While my people were writing philosophy, your people were swinging through the trees!” shouts Toula’s father Gus at all non-Greeks. Though the family lives in Chicago suburbia, the father roasts lamb on a spit on the front lawn and the grandmother sleeps with a knife under her pillow to ward off invading Turks. Toula’s siblings and cousins are all in her face  24/7, and it has been predestined that she work at the family restaurant until she is dead. So it is no wonder that the frumpy, loveless 30-year-old Toula (Nia Vardalos) dreams of living a “normal” non-Greekcentric  life.

Enter all-American Ian Miller, his long John Corbetty hair (easy to achieve since he is played by John Corbett) blowing in the Chicago breeze. He is perfect, we will soon see, and Toula is smitten. But will her Greek family accept him as the man she wants to marry? We have our answer when Toula’s father yells  “Is he a nice Greek boy? No! A xeno with the big long hair on top of his head!”  “Xeno” is Greek for ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’ and that is what Ian will always be to Toula’s  family because he is not Greek. The father is not pleased with their relationship and the story moves on from there.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a relatively low-budget film, but it blew away the box office in 2002. The movie is full of warmth and humour, and you are guaranteed to laugh throughout. My only complaint about the film is that there is never truly enough tension between Toula and Ian—despite the fact that Toula’s family life is threatening to tear the couple apart.  Ian is just so understanding and wonderful that the threat to their relationship just doesn’t feel real. That being said, romantic comedies operate in the world of fantasy and what’s more unreal than a man who’d be willing to be baptized in a kiddy pool at the front of a Greek Orthodox church to impress the father of the woman he loves? Truly, it’s only something John Corbett or George Costanza would do.

I like this movie and the lessons it offers, one of them being that a loving family (no matter how intrusive or out to lunch they are) is something to be valued, not spit upon. (Although, the Portokalos family does plenty of spitting, too.  So maybe a loving family IS something to be spit upon? Don’t ask. Go watch!)

Sweet extras Learn the many uses of Windex!

Good for who? A fun pick for couples (especially ones about to get married!) or girlfriend get-togethers. Very mild language and only mild sexual references, so it’s great for moms with kids or for DVD night with the baptist minister’s wife.

Loved this movie? Live this movie!

If you’re heading to Toronto Dying to see the site of  Ian Miller’s kiddy-pool baptism and the big fat wedding itself?  Two churches in Toronto were used in the film:  The Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church (23 Henry Street)  provided the exterior shots of the church in the movie, and the interior comes from not a Greek Orthodox church but the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church (4 Bellwoods Ave).  Built in the first half of the 20th century, the church’s interior is decorated in the tradition of  medieval Byzantine Christian art. To see the inside of this gorgeous church, you can attend a Catholic church service on Sundays at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. or 6 p.m.  (I verified with the church that services are open to everyone who’d like to attend — although be mindful that the services are probably in Ukrainian.)  photos: saintnicholas.ca

Not just for windows Says Toula: “My dad believed in two things: That Greeks should educate non Greeks about being Greek and that every ailment from psoriasis to poison ivy can be cured with Windex.” I’m sure this Windex comment was a joke, but before dismissing it as such, I felt I should collect my own data. I sprayed it on my face before going to bed last night, and this morning I woke up like this:

 

 

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It’s Complicated

DVD (2009)  Written and directed by Nancy Meyers                                    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin  

(Image: Universal)

We meet the lovely Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) as the last of her three grown children is moving away from home. Considering the lonely days ahead on her Santa Barbara estate, Jane’s biggest dilemma is “Who will I watch The Hills with?”  She’s feeling a bit mopey, but overall, life is great: she owns a trendy successful bakery, and her kids adore her — not to mention she looks ultra-fab in her awesome purple reading glasses. It seems the only thing missing from this divorced woman’s life is a man, and it’s not long before she finds herself with two: her architect Adam (Steve Martin) and her intrusive-but-charming ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin). Jake’s married to the younger woman he left his wife for 10 years ago, but insists he never really got over Jane. As for Jane, she’s interested in her architect, but she’s also curious: would things be better with her ex-husband the second time around?

If you liked Something’s Gotta Give (also by Meyers), you will without a doubt enjoy this one too. Music and tiny snippets of familiar-sounding dialogue tie the films together in mood and tone without being too copycat. What I especially love about the most recent films of Nancy Meyers is that she takes me to places I’d love to be: the perfect beach house in the Hamptons (Something’s Gotta Give), a cozy English cottage at Christmas time (The Holiday), or Jane Adler’s terra-cotta tiled estate near the Pacific.  For Meyers, the homes must be gorgeous and the characters must wander about them, eating great meals and MarthaStewart-ing in the veggie gardens and markets. In Nancy Meyers’ world, not even the marijuana stinks. (I know that would have made Carl, my previous neighbour, a lot more tolerable.)

But what really makes It’s Complicated work is that the characters are all so likeable. There was even a moment when I felt for the hard-edged tiger-tattooed Agness (Lake Bell).  And as for Meryl, I never not love her—even when she’s as high as a kite or weirdly thrashing about in her Mamma Mia overalls.  The roles in this film seem tailor-made for the comedic timing of  Streep, Martin, and Baldwin, and the humour of this doomed love triangle is ultimately showcased in a second-act conclusion that is both gut-bustingly funny and deeply horrifying. I shall say nothing more except that it’s great fun.

Sweet extras  John Krasinski (The Office) plays Meryl’s soon-to-be  son-in-law. He’s too cute when he finds himself privy to information he wishes he never had.

If you liked this, you will also like Something’s Gotta Give, written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  An excellent choice for singles and couples, and a great one to watch with your spouse. If you’re watching in mixed company, be warned of the sexual content (frequent though not explicit) and some pot-smoking (though miraculously odourless).

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Croque monsieur

No, I’m absolutely not going to suggest you have an affair  with your married ex-husband, but I WILL tell you how to make a brilliant quick dinner, inspired by the movie. The dish is croque monsieur, which Jane makes for Adam one evening after meeting to discuss the architectural plans for her house.  Jane says she discovered the recipe for this toasted sandwich while living in Paris, and made the dish frequently because it was quick and cheap.

I combined several recipes to come up with one delicious and easy one.  It’s like a fancy-pants grilled cheese and very rich tasting and filling. Try it with a crisp side salad of grape tomatoes and romaine.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • several tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 slices firm white sandwich bread—can’t be too soft. (You might prefer fresh bread you slice yourself)
  • thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • slices of Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped green onions

Directions:

Have on hand a small saucepan and a large skillet. Preheat your broiler.

In a small saucepan, melt several tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir, and gradually whisk in milk for one or two minutes. Bring to a boil on medium-heat until the sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the crusts from the bread if you like (I did) and build four sandwiches with ham and a slice of Gruyère between two slices of bread.

Heat a large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon of melted butter on each side. Cook in the skillet until golden brown on both sides. Place the sandwiches on a cookie sheet, then smooth a light layer of sauce over the top of each sandwich. Grate cheese over the sandwiches, sprinkle with green onions, then broil until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown (should take about 3 minutes).

Tips:

  • Test sandwiches before you pull them out of the broiler. You want the bread to be toasty, not too soft.
  • To make the recipe cheaper, substitute a cheaper swiss or gouda cheese for the Gruyère.
  • While most recipes called for just a light grating of cheese on the top and slices in the middle, I put less cheese in the middle and more on top to get a nice grilled taste.

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When Harry Met Sally…

DVD  (1989)  Written by Nora Ephron/Directed by Rob Reiner                 STARRING: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

Back in the days when Farrah hair was sexy and grapes still had seeds, Harry Burns meets Sally Albright. It’s 1977 and these  so-opposite strangers (played by Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal) are sharing a drive from the University of Chicago to New York City, where both are starting new lives after college. The film describes the 12-year journey of their relationship, and central to the plot is this dilemma: can a man and woman truly ever just be friends? Given that this is a romantic comedy, I think we know what the answer will be for Harry and Sally—but the fun is in the journey, and in the developing friendship and love between the two.  Truly, this is the movie most other romantic comedies wish they were but, sadly, will never be.  The film is structural perfection, with great dialogue and two of the most charming  characters any New York love story has ever offered. Their priceless conversations in the opening 10 minutes set the stage for the rest of the movie.

Harry: Can’t a man say a woman is attractive without it being a come-on? Alright, alright. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it WAS a come-on? What do you want me to do about it? I take it back. Okay?  I take it back.
 
 
 
Sally: You can’t take it back.
 
 
 
 
Harry: Why not?
 
 
 
      
Sally: Because it’s already out there!
 
 
 
     
Harry: Oh jeeze, what are we supposed to do? Call the cops. It’s already out there!
 
 
 
   
Sally: Just let it lie. Okay?
 
 
 
    
Harry: Great. Let it lie. That’s MY policy. That’s what I always say. Let it lie. Want to spend the night in a motel? See what I did? I didn’t let it lie.
 
 
 
    
Sally: Harry…
 
 
 
    
Harry: I said I would but I didn’t. I went the other way.
 
 
 
   
Sally: Harry…
 
 
 
     
Harry: What?
 
 
 
    
Sally: We are just going to be friends. Okay?
 
 
 
  
Harry: Great. Friends. It’s the best thing.
 
 
 
   
<beat>
 
 
 
   
Harry: Of course you realize we can never be friends…

Also a treat is Meg Ryan’s famous “faking it” diner scene, which is a must-see for any self-respecting movie lover.  For me, there are just two other romantic comedies that even come close to  rivaling this one: Something’s Gotta Give (2003), and the Katherine Hepburn classic The Philadelphia Story (1959).  For those who don’t watch movies pre-1999, I imagine it’s hard for you to picture Billy Crystal as someone’s romantic love interest, but give this movie a shot. He’s terrific, as is Meg Ryan who is in her romantic-comedy prime here.

Sweet extras:  The film’s soundtrack features Harry Connick Jr.

Loved this movie? Live this movie!  

If you’re visiting  New York City, say Yes! Yes! YES! to Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 E  Houston Street.  The hilarious diner scene from the movie was shot there, and, says the Katz’s website:  “After dining here, you’ll understand why they chose this setting for the orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally…”   Visit their website:  www.katzdeli.com/presentation.html .

Also, have your photo taken under the 77-foot-high  Washington Arch, at the entrance to Washington Square Park in Greenwich village (5th Avenue and Waverly Place).  This is where Sally drops off  Harry when they first arrive in New York.  (“Well, it was nice knowing you,” Harry says.  “Yeah,”  Sally replies awkwardly. “It was … interesting.”)  The Washington Arch was originally constructed in the late 1800s to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration, and is modelled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

If you loved  Sally’s quilt, you’re not alone — it’s a re-occuring query on quilting blogs and websites. The pattern on this yellow, green, and white applique quilt is called “windblown tulips” and is a design of early 20th-century American quilt designer and historian Marie Webster.   If you love to sew and you’re looking for a project (or if you’ve got a lovely shut-in granny or a talented friend with no social life who’d love  to sew it for you), the pattern for the quilt can be found in the book Mountain Mist Quilt Favorites and is available online through Amazon. 

Take it to the extreme:  Make a man your platonic BFF and see how long it takes before the whole thing blows up in your face.

Paula Jane

 

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