Archive for the ‘musicals’ Category


And All That Jazz

June 10, 2009


The last time a musical won best picture was Oliver! in 1968.  It took the academy 34 years to honor another musical, 2002’s Chicago. They picked a great one.  The tale of Chicago is an oft told tale from different sources: Originally a Broadway play from 1926 called Chicago, Hollywood made it into a Ginger Rogers film, Roxie Hart. Kander and Ebb and Bob Fosse brought the musical to Broadway in 1975 with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera (who for a brief, brilliant moment is in this movie.  Chita is a goddess.  It’s a shame Gwen Verdon passed away in 2000, I bet they would have fit her in, too.) where it did ok, but withered in the shadow of 75’s monster hit A Chorus LineChicago was revived on Broadway in 1996–where it’s still playing–go see it! and finally made it onto the screen for 2002.

A treat from youtube!

The 1950’s and 60’s were rich in musicals.  Although a lot of the great ones (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) used the singing talents of Marni Nixon for the leading ladies.  What’s amazing about the current crop of musicals is that the actor is not dubbed.  That’s really Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta Jones singing.  And not too badly, either.  Not too surprised about Richard Gere’s singing chops, though:  he has a musical past–He played Danny Zuko from Grease in London.  All the performances are great in this movie.  Chicago’s own, the busy John C. Reilly is perfect as Amos.  Lucky penny Reilly is in three of 2002’s best picture nominees Chicago, Gangs of New York and The Hours, but the movie really belongs to the mesmerizing  Zeta Jones, she deserved her best supporting Oscar, and how!

The last time a movie set in Chicago won best picture was also a 20’s 30’s period piece 1973’s The Sting.  Chicago the city is an interesting place today, too filmmakers.  We’re more than gangsters and pinstriped suits and liquor and jazz.  And hot dogs and pizza.  To prove how cool Chicago is today I prepared a meal from recipes from a current crop of Chicago based but internationally renowned top chefs.  For a delicious fruit salad I went with this great Charlie Trotter recipe :


Serves 4


3 tablespoons key lime juice
pulp of 1 vanilla bean
7 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, vanilla bean pulp and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


1 cup large-diced cantaloupe
1 cup large-diced mango
1 cup large-diced Asian pear
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup watercress, thick stems removed

In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss with Vinaigrette and serve.  Delicious and your hands smell great afterwards, too–all lime and vanilla-ey.

For dinner I was surprised to find this simple but exquisite Macaroni and Cheese dish from Mr. Molecular Gastronomy himself, Grant Achatz.


  1. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  2. 6 thick slices of bacon (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  3. 1 medium onion, minced
  4. 2 bay leaves
  5. 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  6. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  7. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 6 cups whole milk
  9. 1 pound elbow macaroni
  10. 1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (5 cups)
  11. Salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.
  2. Add the onion and bay leaves to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, and cook until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes, whisking frequently. Discard the bay leaves.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and boil until pliable but undercooked, about 4 minutes. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot.
  4. Stir 4 cups of the cheddar into the hot sauce, add the bacon and season with salt.Add the sauce to the macaroni and mix well. Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining 1 cup of cheddar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

For dessert I went with the queen of Chicago pastry chef, Gale Gand and her cream cheese stuffed chocolate cupcakes–I was amazed that these turned out so good–there’s hardly any egg in the batter–but the recipe worked great!

  • Filling
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cupcakes
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. hot water
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant cofee crystals (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the filling, in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl often, and then blend in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the sugar and chips and mix for a few seconds on low to fold them in.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 (12 cup) muffin tins with cupcake paper liners.

To make the cupcakes, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee, and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are a few lumps).

Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full of batter. Drop a heaping tsp. of the cream cheese filling into the center of each.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cupcakes have puffed on top and are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the tins.


Hot Pockets

December 18, 2007

1968’s Oliver! was the last blast of all the big overproduced successful musicals of the 1960’s to win Best Picture. And, oh boy, it’s a humdinger. Great musical numbers galore like “Consider Yourself” and “I’d Do Anything” and, of course, Oscars in Orders favorite “Food, Glorious Food” come from this musical. And great performances, too. Oliver Reed is perfect as the threatening Bill Sikes; no one could do slyly evil villains like Oliver Reed. He’s the best part of the 1975 Ken Russell extravaganza of bizareness that is Tommy. Ron Moody ‘s portrayal of Fagin is a nice nod to Alec Guiness’s (1948’s Oliver Twist). But my favorite character, the one who makes this movie really sing, is Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger.

I saw this movie during it’s first run in theaters when I was about 7 or 8, I guess. And I completely flipped out over Jack Wild. While other girls had Tiger Beat posters of Bobby Sherman or Donny Osmond adorning their walls I had as many pictures that those teenybopper mags would print of Jack Wild scotched taped everywhere.

It somewhat disconcerting, and really, really sad to know that Jack Wild passed away in 2006. It makes you feel old, and the world becomes a little heavier, when your find out your childhood crush has died.

Here’s a great video from YouTube with Mark Lester (Oliver) & Jack talking about the film:

Food, Glorious food:

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!

For a starter we had some Hot Sausage with mustard –slice and saute some Amy’s Apple Chicken & Gouda Sausage serve with honey mustard.

For dinner we had Jamie Oliver’s (how nicely apropos) Roast Guinea Fowl

I couldn’t find a Guinea Fowl, so I used a roasting chicken. The local Dominick’s was out of blood oranges, so I substituted tangerines.

For dessert we had a simple Chocolate Custard pudding, so easy:

  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup chocolate, grated
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  1. Melt the chocolate with a little hot water.
  2. Add the milk, mix well, put on fire and bring to a boil.
  3. Mix eggs and sugar together.
  4. Add the chocolate and milk and mix well.
  5. Fill a pudding dish with the custard mixture.
  6. Set pudding dish in a baking pan partially filled with water.
  7. Bake in moderate oven for about 30 to 35 minutes.
  8. Chill

Serve with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.


My Favorite Things……

November 6, 2007

Raindrops on roses….

The Sound of Music is one of those movies that, when I can come across it on TV I’ll watch it no matter what. I ashamedly, unabashedly love this movie. I know it’s sacchrinely sweet and treacly and way too big and kinda stupid. But it’s wonderful. Filmed on location in Austria, it’s as big an epic as Lawrence of Arabiat But at least it’s got wonderful music, a nice romance, feisty nuns, excursions to Salzburg and just a touch of Nazi. It’s Lawrence of Arabia for girls.

Whiskers on kittens…

Interestingly, in an arcane way , there are two best picture winners that have scenes where clothes are made out of the curtains. I wonder if Maria Von Trapp stole her idea from Scarlett O’Hara? She could have, you know.

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woolen Mittens…

A few years ago I dragged my family to a sing-a-long version of Sound of Music at the Music Box theater in Chicago ( as mentioned before, great place). The Sing a long Version was kind of like a tame Rocky Horror; although one funny party I remember: someone saved their firework popper for the scene where the 17 year old Nazi holds a gun on the Von Trapps. It was brilliantly funny at the time, trust me.

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String…

I just ordered Inside Oscar 2 from Hopefully, it’ll be here soon.
When the Dog bites….

Eleanor Parker is marvelous as the bitchy Baroness…

When the Bee Stings…

Julie Andrews surely should have won her second best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Maria. She is the movie. She brings so much life to the character. And besides, does anybody remember the movie Darling with Julie Christie?

When I’m feeling sad…

The Sound of Music is my go-to DVD when we’re testing the sound system on our Bose speakers. That amazing opening helicopter shot up the alps also has some great sound. The birds chip on all the channels. It’s very cool. But, then I have to remind Jim to turn it off quickly or I’ll be there for three hours.

Cream colored ponies…

On of the things that makes Sound of Music so great is it’s screenplay. But it’s greatness is not truly not surprising because it was written by that workhouse screenwriter, Ernest Lehman (take a gander at some of his credits: Sabrina, West Side Story, North by Northwest, Sweet Smell of Success).

And crisp Apple Strudel…

Ok, I’m kinda going out of order a bit to follow the lyrics, but when was the last time one of the movies gave me meal ideas within lyrics? Hmm? West Side Story & My Fair Lady I’m lookin at you! Settle down, Oliver!, I’m already fairly sure we’re having your sausages and mustard.

This is a marvelously easy recipe. And marvelously delicious.

2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.In a medium bowl, toss the sliced apples with the lemon juice until the apples are thoroughly coated. Add the raisins, 1/4 cup sugar, and the 2 tablespoons cold cubed butter and toss well. Set aside.

Lightly dust the counter or work surface with flour. Lay the puff pastry on top and dust the rolling pin with additional flour. Gently roll the puff pastry to 1/8-inch thickness.
Spread the apple and raisin mixture over the bottom half of the puff pastry square leaving about 1-inch of space along the side edges. Fold the top half of the puff pastry over and pinch to seal the edges together.

Brush the entire strudel with the melted butter and then sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar. Using a serrated knife, make 3 diagonal slits across the top of the strudel.

Place the strudel on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Yum.

Door bells…

Halloween was this past Wednesday. Yay! Roxane went as Neely O’ Hara from Valley of the Dolls. Natalie was a devil.

And Sleigh bells…

I can’t believe that even before Halloween I saw several stores with Christmas decorations. I hate that.

Wild Geese that Fly with the moon on their wing….

Oscar Hammerstein was truly a lyricist for the birds. Witness the above lyric. And Showboat’s Fish got Swim Birds gotta fly… Oklahoma’s Curly rhapsodizing about that “Lazy Hawk Making Circles in the Sky” And, from Carousel, after you walk through that storm with your head up a high there will be that sweet silver song of a lark. But I flove Oscar Hammerstein. Did you know that he was Stephen Sondheim’s mentor?

And Schnitzel with noodles.

The hardest part about weinerschnitzel is finding the wiener I needed. Because weiner is veal. I’m a little ooked out about veal, it being baby cow and all, but it is quite delicious. And easy to make. I used (my go to gal) Rachael Ray’s recipe: I substituted goldfish pretzel crackers for the cracker meal–it seemed more Bavarian that way.

4 large (6 to 7 ounce) veal cutlets
Waxed paper
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
A drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup cracker meal, found near bread crumbs or at fish counter in market
Butter, for frying
Whole nutmeg
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cover work surface with a sheet of waxed paper. Arrange cutlets with a few inches between them on paper. Top work surface with a second sheet of waxed paper. Pound cutlets out to 1/4-inch thick using the bottom of small heavy skillet or a rubber mallet.Heat a large skillet over moderate heat.

Set veal aside and set up 3 disposable pie tins and a plate in a row. Place flour in 1 disposable tin and season with salt and pepper. In the second disposable tin, beat eggs with a drizzle of oil and season with salt. In the third disposable tin, pour out about 1 cup of cracker meal.

Bread veal in flour. Coat the veal evenly with egg on both sides. Gently press veal into cracker meal and rest coated cutlets on a plate. Add a drizzle of oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter to the skillet.

When butter foams, add 2 pieces of veal and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown all over. Remove to a warm plate and grate a little nutmeg over hot schnitzel. Repeat with remaining 2 veal cutlets. Garnish veal with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.


For There’s No Where Else On Earth That I Would Rather Be

October 3, 2007

My-Fair-Lady is the best movie, ever. Kinda.

Okay, it’s just nice to have a fun one pop up amongst some of these dreary overblown epics. This is just a beautiful, perfect film. The costumes are gorgeous, the set designs fantastic. The actors, spot on. The music’s pretty good, too. I know there was much controversy giving Audrey Hepburn the lead role over Julie Andrews but, Audrey is magical as Eliza. And I don’t think Julie would have looked half as good in those Cecil Beaton designed outfits.Although, whoever designed that weird faux-hawk hairdo the Audrey sports at the Embassy Ball should have been shot.

Hoky Smokes! they made a Barbie doll out of it.

Stanley Holloway is absolutely marvelous as scene stealer Alfred P. Doolittle. He really should have won the Best Supporting award, not Peter Ustinov. But this movie really,truly,and madly belongs to the one of greatest (and certainly the greatest Shavian) actors, ever: Rex Harrison. He *is* Henry Higgins.

Almost twenty five years ago I went to London and saw Mr. Harrison in the George Bernard Shaw play, Heartbreak House. Easily, one of my most treasured theater going experiences.
There’s some really great My Fair Lady trivia tidbits over at the IMDB:

What else was nominated in 1964? Who cares? The right one won for a change.

For dinner we moved our bloomin’ ass and had some Dover Sole.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a sauté pan with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to smoking. Coat the fish (1lb feeds 4 nicely) with some cracker crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat crackers). Saute the filets about 1-2 minutes per side, until golden. Put the pan in the oven for about 4 minutes to finish the fish. For the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons butter until it starts to turn brown. Add the juice of 1 lemon and about a tablespoon of white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Add about 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley. Drizzle sauce over fish. I served this with some boiled new potatoes flavored with just a little bit of luck, er, paprika (to make it a little Hungarian too).

Lots of chocolates for us to eat: For dessert, I picked up some mini-chocolate cupcakes from, where else, Trader Joes. Loverly.

p.s. Tonight (October 3rd) is the season finale of one of my favorite TV shows <a href=””Top Chef. I met Top Chef’s Dale last Friday night: he’s a real sweetheart. Good luck, Dale on tonight’s finale! Go, Dale!


When You’re a Jet You’re a Jet All the Way From Your First Pinot Grigio to Your Last Chardonnay

August 23, 2007

West Side Story won the Oscar for best picture the year I was born. Yay 1961! Wait a minute, suddenly all of these “old movies” aren’t so old anymore. Because, dammit, 46 isn’t old, is it?


I think West Side Story is a beautiful and amazing adaptation of one of Broadway’s finest. Although at first, West Side Story wasn’t so well-revered: it didn’t win the Tony Award for 1957’s Best Musical, The Music Man did. But, it’s not a perfect stage to screen adaptation, either. For example, the song “I Feel Pretty” opens up the second act of the play, after the rumble (and Bernardo and Riff are killed but the girls don’t know it yet). I think they should have done it this way for the movie as well: it’s much more jarring, more ironic that way. However, I’m glad they swapped “Officer Krupke” for “Cool” for after Rumble. But the “America” number in the film version really shines: Instead of all the Shark girls singing about the pros and cons of America it Shark boys vs Shark girls. The insanely talented Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, who don’t have all that many scenes together, are particularly brilliant and they have *tons* of chemistry. They both won supporting Oscars (and we’re each others’ Oscar dates, too). I almost wished the movie would have been about Anita and Bernardo–they’re more fun than dopey sweet Tony and boringly pure Maria. But I wish that a lot about musicals–usually the supporting characters are *much* more interesting than the leads (See Guys & Dolls, Grease, Annie). Sorry, Natalie Wood. Sorry. Richard Beymer.

Not only is West Side Story one of the better selections the Academy has ever made, it is also a favorite of mine on a personal, somewhat intimate level. The last time I watched this movie, actually just the end credits, was about 11 years ago. For some bizarre reason I started sobbing uncontrollably. At the credits. Two days later I found out I was expecting. Cut to eight months later and my little Natalie was born. Thanks West Side Story!

For dinner we sided with the Sharks and went with a staple of Puerto Rico: Arroz Con Pollo

1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes including juice
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1 bay leaf (not California)
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, coarsely chopped
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken on all sides, about 12 minutes total. Transfer chicken with tongs to a plate.Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet and add onion, bell pepper, and salt to taste. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, paprika, and rice, then cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine and boil, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, chicken broth, saffron, and bay leaf. Nestle chicken in rice, adding any juices from plate.

Cook, covered, over low heat until chicken is cooked through, rice is tender, and most of liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in peas, olives, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover skillet and let stand 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf and serve.

I didn’t use peas. I. Hate. Peas.

For dessert I went Sharks again and made a caramel apple flan courtesy of Gale Gand. I also realized that this is the third time I’ve flambeed for this project. Hot stuff!

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup brandy
6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup half-and-half

Place the sugar in a saucepan, and moisten it with the water without stirring. Bring to a boil and cook until light golden brown. Immediately pour the caramel into an 8 to 9 cup mold (a cake pan will do) and swirl and tilt the mold to coat it with the caramel, including the walls.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and let it foam. Add the apples and cook on medium low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the brandy and flame it, then continue to cook, shaking the pan, for 2 minutes or so.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the half-and-half and the apples. Pour this custard into the caramel-lined mold and bake in a water bath for 50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Remove the flan from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Run a knife around the edge of the mold then turn the flan out onto a serving platter. Pour any caramel sauce from the mold over the flan.

For the Jet portion of our program, I discovered this Pinot Grigio named “Riff”. Hence the title of this post.


Gigi, Enfin

August 1, 2007

Thank Heavens!

Ooo la la! Gigi is lotsa fun. I can easily see why it won 1958’s best picture award. It was certainly the best of the bunch: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, too melodramatic–The Defiant Ones , too preachy–Separate Tables — uh, too, uh, ok, I never saw it. Auntie Mame –well, that would have been an ok pick, too. Cuz, I love Rosalind Russell, truly, I do.  Gigi was also MGM’s last, big, big  musical. And no one did musicals quite as big and quite as well as MGM. It was also shot on location (which was getting more common in the 50’s, but still unusual for a musical), in Paris. Great cast: no one does the charming roue quite like Maurice Chevalier. And Hermione Gingold is God’s gift to the musical comedy. And those Lerner and Loewe guys, not too shabby either. I actually caught a glimpse of the beautiful Leslie Caron on an episode of one of those Law and Order shows the other night. According to IMDB she’s about 76. She still looks great.

For dinner we did a traditional coq au vin–there are a lot of steps to this recipe, and you have to plan for it a day in advance. But it is so worth it!


For the marinade

4 stewing hen legs

1 bottle red wine

1 celery stalk

1 large onion

1 large carrot

1 head garlic, halved

1 bouquet garnie

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon peppercorns

For the braise

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups veal stock or chicken stock

For the garnish

1/2 cup pearl onions

4 ounces slab smoked bacon

1 cup domestic mushrooms (small)

Chopped parsley

Using a sharp knife, separate the leg and thigh at the joint. Cut the onion, celery, carrots into medium dice and place in a bowl or large container. Marinate the legs with the vegetables, garlic, wine, bouquet garnie, peppercorns and bay leaves for 24 to 36 hours.

To braise
Strain legs, separate vegetables and reserve the wine. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. Season the legs with salt and pepper, and brown evenly on all sides over moderate heat, about 8 minutes. Add vegetables, browning further for approximately 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Add flour, reducing heat to avoid burning, and cook another 2 minutes.

Deglaze with reserved wine, stirring to loosen any caramelized bits stuck to the bottom. Add veal stock and bring to a simmer, cover, and cook in oven or over low flame for 1 hour or until the meat is very tender, approximately 1 hour.

Once cooked, remove the chicken legs and set aside. Strain and discard vegetables, reduce the sauce further if necessary, and adjust seasoning. Return the chicken legs to the sauce and add browned onions, mushrooms and bacon lardons, simmer another 15 minutes.

Serve, topped with chopped parsley and accompanied by buttered noodles, rice pilaf or mashed potatoes. And haricots verts make a nice green vegetable side.