Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

How To Cook Your Life

November 9, 2007

Watched a very charming, feel-good documentary the other night called How to Cook Your Life. I think it’s worth watching if you’re into food– some of the scenes have stayed with me and I really enjoyed it.

Directed by Dorris Dorrie, who is German, this film follows an American Zen monk and master chef. This guy was really sort of emotionally high-strung- he would preach serenity and Zen, while getting angry at his students about not following his cooking directions. But that was sort of the charm of this guy– he may be a monk, but he’s human too.

And I never really felt that Zen was being exotified or stuffed down your throat needlessly, which was a relief. It was more about the food, and what we can learn about ourselves through cooking. Dorrie weaves in the monk speaking and cooking, with images and clips of “how the rest of the world eats”, which worked both for and against the film (sometimes very random and hard to follow).

There was some really interesting footage though- like the dreadyhead lady who hadn’t bought groceries in 2 years (egads!), and instead forages fruit trees on the street and collects the supermarket’s “garbage” behind the store of expired eggs and whatnots. Self-proclaiming “locavores” could learn a thing or two from this woman- she truly helps reduce waste on a grass-roots level, I loved her.

My film companions and I duked out our differing opinions about the film over ramen afterwards at Menkui-Tei in midtown (best ramen noodles in town– the actual noodles that is). We agreed that it was all over the place and edited poorly, there was not enough cooking, and the angry monk was a bit disturbing. But all in all, I thought that the it was full of colorful imagery and poignant moments.

We also agreed that the ramen was satisfying and we all went home happy.

I do recall a great line by the monk: “is food important to you? Are you important to yourself?” He was really all about making connections between cooking as a way to express yourself, and to make yourself a better person. OMG shoot me- I love this sort of spiritual self-help stuff.

If nothing else, the film made me want to go out and learn how to make my own bread, which is definitely going to be my new year’s resolution.

NYFF Opening Night Party at Tavern on the Green

October 3, 2007

Editor’s note: Wes Anderson’s new film, The Darjeeling Limited kicked off the New York Film Festival last Friday night with its lush annual opening night black tie affair at the ultra rococo, boho chic Central Park NY institution, Tavern on the Green (TOTG).

I was told that this was the “hottest ticket in town”, the NY film world event of events– I mean people were talking about it like Kanye was gonna show up (he didn’t). But I was most excited about finally going to TOTG- 5 years in NY and I still had never been. HELL-O! Everyone has a funny story about TOTG– Erin used to take pictures of people dining there as a side job, and Aya used to think it was just a hot dog stand. I’m serious.

Remember the part in Ghostbusters where Rick Moranis is being chased by the big monster wolf and he bangs on the glass windows of a restaurant for help? That’s TOTG! If it’s been in Ghostbusters, nothing else matters.

So I showed up in my frou-frou dress and got into my heels and dabbled in a bit of rouge. I sipped my cocktail(s), lost myself in the sea of guests, and became a professional people-watcher. Oh look, there’s Wes Anderson! Adrien Brody! Anjelica Houston! Willem Defoe! I waited for Schwartzman to tap me on the shoulder and whisper in my ear “Hey Margaret, let’s blow this popsicle stand.” Sigh. He will always be my Max Fisher, and I, his Margaret Yang.

Speaking of Ghostbusters and Rushmore though, Bill Murray was there too! This was a pretty big deal for me: Professor Peter Venkman hanging out at TOTG, eating the offensively creamy schmutz that everyone else was forced to pick at… 20+ years post-Ghostbusters in a tux! Fucking priceless! (If you look really really hard at the picture above, you can see the back of his head. Word).

Ok, ok, enough about me and my star-gazing– this is supposed to be a food blog, remember? Duh. My friend Steve wrote this post, and let me tell you that he did a fantabulous job of describing the food, TOTG, and the swank-studded evening in general. He’s quite a pro at navigating this opening night party, as he’s been to quite a few of these– so I especially wanted his seasoned insight. Thanks for a great post, Steve! All I did was take pictures (sorry they aren’t so mouth-watering, I was just pointing and shooting away). Enjoy!

By: Steve Batman

So another NYFF opening night party at Tavern on the Green, and there were very few surprises on the menu. Of course, I’m not exactly sure what it all is — the buffet table has neither signs identifying the food, nor attendants nearby for an easy Q&A. Generally, you have an inoffensive fish like salmon swimming in a hard-to-define sauce, and then a staggering array of pastas. This year’s selections: penne in red sauce, tortellini with sun-dried tomato, and ravioli ruined by mushrooms. For 2007, something special — capers or olives, hard to tell which — making the penne dish a little snappier than usual.

You’d think this would be enough starchy carbs, by the way, but who doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Dauntingly, they were sitting at the end of the pasta line-up. The vegetable was exactly the same from 2006, a medley of string beans and carrots, all long and thin, and a challenge to get on your plate, since they’re served with a shallow spoon more appropriate for peas. Note for next year: Provide tongs.

The desserts are visually impressive, and heavily guarded. Here, as always, you need to request your selection from the attendants holding sharp knives. The usual variety — chocolate, something white, and something dense-looking. Although I didn’t partake, I heard the “ice cream bar” was a big hit… I don’t remember this last year. It may be an option when the temp is over 75 at party time, which isn’t always the case in late September. Only two disappointments here: 1) The attendant mis-identified a fluffy mango cake as cheesecake. 2) For the first time that I can remember, no chocolate-covered strawberries.

In the end, I feel a bit haughty complaining too much, because it’s very hard to get into the event (the reflective, prismed, impossible-to-forge invitations are akin to Willy Wonka’s Golden tickets), and the Tavern on the Green is a such visually impressive and sumptuously pleasant place for a party. True, it’s shockingly easy to get lost in there, what with the oddly-angled rooms off of rooms, the mirrored, winding hallway, and the garden foliage infringing on the outdoor space. And that’s when you’re sober. But it’s an annual event not to be missed. My primary advice for how to make the best of it: Skip the movie, and get there early…

NY Premiere of Kamome Diner at Japan Society

June 26, 2007

In my day job, I work in the film department at a non-profit “cultural” organization, Japan Society, in Midtown East. So this means that my work consists of movies from Japan: watching them, writing about them, promoting them, blah blah. It’s pretty neat- I’m not complaining one bit.

Ryo and I have been slaving away for the last few months in organizing Japan Society’s first annual larger-than-life film festival, JAPAN CUTS, which runs from July 5-15. That’s 11 days; 18 US and NY premieres of feature films (all excellent) ; over 60 shorts (some experimental, some artsy); 5 special guest directors flying in from Japan; 2 fabulous parties. Can you dig this? As EMF put it, IT’S UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Of course my absolute favorite movie of the entire festival would be about FOOD!!!! KAMOME DINER (above; directed by Naoko Ogigami, who will be here in person!) is about a cute little woman who moves to Helsinki and opens a simple diner serving traditional Japanese comfort foods. I won’t bore you about it, as you can just read about it here, but don’t miss it!!! It’s just a delightful, peaceful film filled with delicious dishes and wildly colorful Marimekko prints that will warm your heart, tingle your spirit, and keep your stomach grumbling for more. It will make you truly believe in the power of food and how it brings people together. La-di-da.

There are two screenings: Thursday 7/12 at 8:10pm and Saturday 7/14 at 8:15pm. The Saturday screening will be followed by the ONIGIRI PARTY, where we will feast on rice balls with director Ogigami and just bask in the joys of her blissful film. I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I truly am a fan of this movie. Please join us!

Other food-related films during the festival to enjoy are:

Fri. 7/13 at 9pm
Sun. 7/15 at 6pm

A bizarre, entrancing, gorgeous film. Art direction by the guy who worked exclusively with Seijun Suzuki. Lots of food talk and beauteous shots of a typical meal during dinnertime in Japan. They even talk about and slurp down shiokara, which is salted, preserved squid. Doesn’t get much more Japanese than that. Dig it!

Saturday 7/14, 2:50pm

This little guy is a PEA!!! Monsieur Greenpeas, a little clay-like figurine, prances around a gloomy metropolis in search for his briefcase, stolen by the evil Joker.

The director, Yasuo Kurita, will be here as well, with Monsieur Greenpeas live!, giving us a demonstration of how he makes his fantastical animation films. It took Kurita almost 5 years to make this film– he sculpted and shot all of these characters and sets himself! AMAZING!!!

My friend once commented to me that EVERY Japanese film he ever saw involved eating or food in some way. Wouldn’t that be pretty amazing if it were true??? *k*


June 14, 2007

Over the weekend, I saw the cheesy but lovable flick ” Waitress“. It has inspired me to make pies and give them as gifts everywhere I go.

My first attempt at this was an open-faced blueberry pie from Delicious, and so easy. I decorated it with a dried orange slice and berries. So much more fun than lattice.

Happy baking!

NYC Food Film Festival

May 24, 2007

What could be better than eating great food while watching a free outdoor movie in the summer on the water?

The first Annual Food Film Festival is hitting New York City June 14-23rd at Water Taxi Beach. The films are free! Food is for sale. (Food must be purchased in advance through an online ticketing system. Tickets will be ready for purchase May 30th.)

Put it on your calendars! I think I’m most excited about “Asparagus (A Stalk-umentary)”. Hope to see you there!

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10

April 3, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3, 4 & 5
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 6 & 7
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation

Friday 3/30
Total Spent: $0

LUNCH–> $0

i boiled some penne in the morning and married it with some of the puttanesca that i had left over from last Sunday’s batch. seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than dumping a handful of dry pasta into a pot of boiling water, even at 8 in the morning. desperate times call for desperate measures! and the sauce flavors were a lot deeper after letting it sit for a few days. shave some parmigiano on top, and you have yourself an easy peasy lunch.


we had plans to travel to Jersey City to visit this historic Loew’s theater, where they were showing Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity on their gigantic screen (excellent film, Raymond Chandler is such a GREAT writer). it really is a magical, gorgeous theater, very gaudy and ornate, but it was abandoned for a long time so it has this brooding, dilapidating, Death in Venice morbidness to it. love it– totally worth the trip out there. we got a tour backstage and boy, what a labyrinth! the place is HUGE! it’s been around since the 20’s, and the community banded together in the 80s and stopped the city from tearing it down– volunteers basically run the place and are continuously restoring the theater as we speak. incredible!

so anyway, i think i sorta found the trick to how to stay out late without starving. it’s all about food conservation. i ate about half of the pasta for lunch, and saved the other half of it and ate it at around 5pm right before leaving for the night. that’s it! i didn’t get hungry for the rest of the night! brilliant!

it was sad though, when i had to say no to a meal in Koreatown back in Manhattan with my friends. i HATE saying no! especially to Koreatown!!!


Saturday 3/31
Total Spent: $0

i wish i could be more exciting, but i randomly came down with a bad fever on Saturday so i ended up really not eating anything or going out the entire day. i even missed Dawn’s birthday party. so sorry Dawn! happy birthday!!!!


Sunday 4/1
Total Spent: $10

Lunch–> $0

still feeling pretty groggy, i just had some instant miso soup.

Key Foods
Washington Ave., Prospect Heights

grocery shopping in my neighborhood is not something i really look forward to. i basically have to walk about 15 minutes for the nearest DECENT store, which saddens me because there are few things that i find true pleasure in then grocery shopping (i know, it’s weird).

whenever i walk in, there is always this slight medicinal smell. it’s so not ok. but really, i can’t complain, their produce isn’t all that bad (i’ve definitely seen worse), and they carry good yogurts, which is all i can really ask for.

so i came out with a quart of Brown Cow maple yogurt (at $4.50, pricey as hell, but i’m sick so i splurge– Brown Cow is creamy and rich and so so good), broccoli, organic eggs (on sale, otherwise, i don’t generally care if my eggs are organic or not, although i do like them brown), scallions and bottled marinara sauce (on sale for $2.50).


i was planning on just chilling out Sunday night, maybe go to see a movie, maybe just stay in, when i got a phone call from Troy, my old landlord (not to be confused with Troy Division). i talk about them a lot, him and his partner, Kumiko– they are basically my surrogate family out here in NY. i found my first apartment off of Craigslist in Sunset Park, and since i moved here without knowing anyone, Troy and Kumiko, who own the building, welcomed me into the neighborhood and into their home. they truly are wonderful people, and some of my dearest friends here in NY– they really take care of me and look out for me. it’s nice to have that in such a lonesome city, and i truly think that if i didn’t have them here, i would have left NY long ago. even though i’ve moved away, i still try to see them a few times a month.

ok, so back to my dinner. Troy knew i was sick and told me that Kumiko was making nabe, which is a traditional japanese stew, perfect for cold winter nights. this is EXACTLY what sickly Kayoko needed. and on top of this wonderful dinner invitation, Troy said he would pick me up. LUCKY ME!!!!

Kumiko is an excellent cook– she just puts stuff together and creates the most inventive, tasty dishes. this night, she said she threw in whatever she had in the fridge and freezer: fresh shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, scallions, carrots, crabmeat, shrimp, chicken breast, tofu and ground pork balls that she had used to stuff cabbage the night before. amazing. this was all simmering in a soymilk based broth that really brought out all the flavors of the ingredients in the pot. mmmmm… so hearty and soulful!

and in the japanese tradition, once you eat to your heart’s content, you add rice or noodles at the end to finish it off. we had ours with udon. slurp!

Tweezy, their bratty yet darling french bulldog, was one happy lad after our fabulous nabe feast– he eats everything!

$10 + $73.25 (Day 1-7 total) = $83.25

$100 – $83.25= $16.75

i’m gonna make it!!!


$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3,4 & 5

March 28, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2

Sunday 3/25

Total Spent: $2.50

LUNCH –> $0

everyone, meet Ruby, Ruby, everyone.

i bought Ruby as a christmas gift to myself just this past December– she is a 3 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, in a deep emerald green. i named her after my favorite jazz composition by Thelonious Monk, “Ruby, My Dear”. she is gorgeous, i adore her, and i try to appease her by cooking at least one big dish with her every weekend, so that i also have enough left over for lunch during the week.

this week, i made pasta alla puttanesca.

i was introduced to puttanesca in italy, and often crave it. its origins lie in Napoli (named after local prostitutes, says wiki), and it is a simple sauce of capers, olives, garlic and anchovies. i remember i had been wandering around the grocery store a few months back, trying to figure out what to cook. i randomly found the recipe on the back of a can of italian pureed tomatoes (shown above–honestly, don’t ignore these random recipes, sometimes you’ll find something worth cooking), and bought the ingredients right then and there- all very cheap. i somehow never got around to cooking it though, so everything was just lying around my place, calling for me, begging me to cook with them. the time had come!

let me first apologize- it seems as though i have accidentally thrown away the can with the recipe. i am a horrible food reporter. so i’m just going to link you to Emeril’s recipe (i know i always reference him, but honestly, i find his recipes to be really simple, straightforward, and accessible, he’s not about the fancypants stuff. i like that). this dish is incredibly easy. the hardest part was pitting the kalamata olives. really.

a few adjustments i made to the recipe:
– i did not have an onion, so i put in extra garlic
– watch out when you add the salt- the capers and anchovies are already quite salty, so don’t overdo it
– i didn’t have basil so i added bay leaves
– as an afterthought, i could have added some red wine i had in the fridge- but then again, the capers have enough acidity to them so maybe it wouldn’t have made much of a difference
– anchovies are completely optional- don’t put it in if it’s not your thing (although i hope it’s your thing)
– i only had a box of linguine, so used that instead of penne

altogether, prep time plus cook time was about 45 minutes to an hour. you want to simmer the sauce for at least 30 minutes on low low heat, covered. when done, dump drained pasta into the sauce and mix till each strand is completely coated. i needed some cheesiness, so i shredded some parmigiano on top. not sure if the italians would have approved of this. chopped fresh parsley would have been good to sprinkle on the top as well, but i didn’t have any off hand.

i was a bit skeptical while cooking this, but it turned out quite good, i think. i love this dish for it’s saltiness, with the tarty tang from the capers. the anchovies are incredibly subtle, almost perfumy, and really brings the sauce to life. they didn’t name it after prostitutes for nothing! i have been watching a ridiculous number of Shohei Imamura films lately at BAM–according to him, all women are destined to prostitute themselves at some point. hooray for puttanesca! this one’s for the Insect Woman!

TEA TIME –>$2.50
met up with Alda in Soho for a cup of coffee. but where the hell do you go in Soho for coffee that isn’t overpriced, or isn’t Starbucks? turns out that pastry chef Iacopo Falai opened up a casual little place on Lafayette and Prince, Cafe Falai. i have been to fancy Falai restaurant in the Lower East Side, but wasn’t too impressed- “contemporary” italian. eh. but i do remember the inventive, peculiar desserts, i’ll give him that.

the original Cafe Falai is right across from Falai, so this would be Cafe Falai #2 in Soho. it’s a bustling little place with a small bar and about a dozen or so tables- serving coffee, exquisite cakes and pastries, and brunch/ light munchies. not really my scene, but our cafe au laits hit the spot, and at a $1.50, it may just be the best deal in Soho.

had this work party to go to at Josephina’s restaurant on the Upper West Side. i was really not looking forward to having to schmooze all night, but i knew there would be a buffet and an open bar. SCORE.

when i got to the party, the buffet line was so looooong, so i kept putting it off. by the time any of us were hungry, they had taken away all the food!!!! UGH- we are such amateurs!!! take a look at the cheese board- these people are animals!!!

it’s so sad too cause this was my chance to eat a “nicer” meal during $100/2 wks/NYC. sigh. needless to say, i was starving and only had one pathetic piece of ciabatta bread. we were able to catch some of the dessert action, but Troy Division can tell you about that.

about the food, Kyoko, film historian extraordinaire, said, “The food there was so-so (grilled salmon, pasta with tomato sauce, and I forgot the rest), but desserts were good (very soft chocolate cakes, fruit, creme brulee, etc.).”

so turns out i didn’t miss out on much in the food department. regardless, i had multiple (free) drinks on an empty stomach and was a bit tipsy by the end of the night. you know you’ve been at a party for too long when the open bar turns into a cash bar.


Monday 3/26
Total Spent: $34

LUNCH–> $0
Fumiko brought a leftovers that Jorge made (Fumiko and i have a regular lunch club together- probably for over a year now, we take turns bringing leftovers for lunch. we text each other in the morning to see who is bringing what. it’s really cute. people at work think we are sisters). he created this recipe of chicken stewed with cauliflower, preserved lemons and olives. it was very good. good work Jorge!

DINNER –> $27

ok, this is where my lack of discipline becomes overly apparent and shameful (and is how i got myself into this $100/ 2 weeks/ NYC predicament in the first place). when i have money, i blow it. over a quarter of it. on Blue Ribbon Sushi. but really, i just can’t NOT go to Blue Ribbon Sushi during Brooklyn Restaurant Week (3 courses, $21!)- they have this sushi/sashimi combo as one of the choices, which has never ever let me down. Blue Ribbon is probably one of my favorite sushi spots in the city.

i am a true glutton, so i said YES. i ordered. i ate. i threw down $27. do i regret it? hell no! Troy Division will be telling you more about the meal, so stay tuned.

Associated Supermarket
Park Slope, Brooklyn

after having spent $27 on dinner and feeling slightly guilty about it, i decided to really try hard to be strict at the grocery store. advice: don’t ever skimp on yogurt, no matter how poor you are. my absolute favorite is the Stonyfield Farms french vanilla (cream on the top- ooh la la!), but in a moment of overwhelming discipline, went for the cheapest stuff on the shelf instead. i used to actually get this when i lived in Sunset Park and there were no good grocery stores around- and i don’t remember it being this bad. i don’t even want to talk about it- the fact that i’ll be eating this for the rest of the week upsets me. it’s out: i am a yogurt snob.


Tuesday 3/27
Total Spent: $0.50

BREAKFAST –> $0.50
a banana and tangerine from my fruit stand man. he always gives me a discount, he’s great.

LUNCH–> $0
leftover pasta puttanesca, and i munched on Aya’s awesome grilled asparagus, rice and tomato/egg dish. yum!

came home “early”, at 8:30pm, planning to cook up some chicken that i had defrosted over the weekend. but god, it’s so damn HARD to want to cook after work!!! i ended up just steaming broccoli and making my tuna broccoli dish. it’s about all the energy i could muster to feed myself. i have however, managed to marinate the chicken, but it will need to wait to be cooked another day (gotta do it before it goes bad!!!).

$2.50 + $34 + $0.50= $37 + $10 (Day 1&2) = $47

$100 – $47 = $53

…i’m so royally screwed.


footnote: to answer Jeni’s question: yes, all this INCLUDES tax and tip. everyone, please pray for me.