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today’s special


I always break for foodie films when surfing Netflix, but initially I zoomed right by Today’s Special, maybe I was too busy with the popcorn bin. But after another go around, when I paused it was Madhur Jaffrey’s name that jumped out at me, then the chef garb on Aasif Mandvi made me smile and the spice bowls next to him hit me. It was food starring in film at my fingertips!

During a visit to Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco, somehow (and not so far fetched really being it is a bookstore) Jhumpa Lahiri, an author who’s work I deeply appreciate, came into conversation. That soon lead to a recommendation to read Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey’s name vaguely tickled my memory, but regardless, fascinated with Indian cuisine and culture, I couldn’t let go. Climbing the Mango Trees ventured home with me. Not long after that, I stumbled upon one of Jaffrey’s cookbooks and that too made it’s way to my overstuffed bookshelf. With Jaffrey’s memoir and cookbook on my mind, discovering the movie all within a short time span was a little bit like serendipity.


The Movie: Today’s Special

While the art of crafting authentic Indian food takes a bit of serious persistence, there’s plenty of laughs coming out of the Today’s Special kitchen. The film shares the story of Samir (played by actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi) a sous chef at a fancy New York restaurant. Rather content with his work, it wasn’t until he was passed over for a promotion that he impulsively decides to quit his job. Samir whips up a plan of apprenticing in Paris, and then attempts to pursue his dream. Fate has other plans though. Samir’s father Hakim (Harish Patel), turns ill and is unable to manage the family business. Samir’s mother Farrida, (played by legendary cookbook writer and actor, Madhur Jaffrey) reaches out to persuade her son, despite his rocky relationship with his father, to help manage Tandoori Palace. The restaurant is nearly bankrupt, has a disorderly kitchen and practically no customers to serve, a sharp change from what Samir is accustomed to. Despite his own heritage, Samir is not at all familiar with preparing Indian dishes. Luckily, he crosses paths with a cab driver named Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah, an icon of Indian cinema) who happens to be a passionate cook. Samir finds himself doing a little persuading of his own and entices Akbar to head back into the kitchen along with him. Both Samir and Tandoori Palace are eventually inspired and transformed.

Akbar and Samir shopping for Indian spices.

Akbar and Samir shopping together for Indian spices.

The film was thoroughly entertaining, and had me craving Indian food by the end of it. Luckily there’s an abundance of Indian restaurants and markets within reach here in Silicon Valley. Even our farmer’s markets on the weekend host stalls with fresh made Indian curries and hot naan bread. Here’s my recipe for a fun evening and great way to enjoy the film.

Cook Together
There’s nothing more fun than cooking in a group. Celebrate Indian cuisine with one of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. There’s a recipe on Yumivore from an Indian friend for a dish called Chayote Squash Subzi, it’s delightful. Or visit Deb at Kahakai Kitchen who’s hosting a Food’n Flix evening with lots of special dishes on the menu.

Make It Movie and Moves Night: Go Bollywood
Invite friends over to dress up in traditional Indian garb before coming over to watch the movie together. Afterward, play the soundtrack from Today’s Special or your other favorite Bollywood-esque movies such as Slum Dog Millionaire or Monsoon Wedding and you’ve got a party going.

Dish Up Something Delicious
Whether you cook together and or dress up for the occasion, you’ll want food at this affair, otherwise the movie will leave you famished. It’s customary in Indian to eat with your hands, so finger foods is a great option. Small size potato and pea samosas is a tasty way to start. Consider using a cookie cutter to cut small rounds out of the naan bread and place your favorite curries on top for small appetizers. Or serve a medley of Indian dishes on a silver (okay metal) platter for each guest. Mango lassi is a wonderful drink along with the meal, and festive when poured into a shot glass. End the meal with Indian sweets and you’ve just hosted a perfect food and film date.

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Be sure to visit Kahakai Kitchen for delicious Today’s Special inspired recipes and dishes, along with Food’n Flix for more wonderful food and film evenings.

What would you serve with Today’s Special? And your favorite Indian dish?

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Take a scrumptious looking pie, put it on a movie poster along with the word Toast, add in Helena Bonham Carter to the starring credits, and voila, you’ve got my attention. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Nigel Slater prior to seeing the film, but all those above mentioned factors were tempting enough for me to add the movie to my Netflix streaming queue and then sit back and enjoy the show.

As with most movies that put food in the staring role, it’s hard not to work up or rather passively acquire an appetite while watching this one. A simple slice of toast slathered with butter may very well suffice for the first bite of the film, but sure enough, I was quickly craving home-cooked lavish Sunday suppers, and of course lemon meringue pie for dessert. Toast’s food stylist Katherine Tidy shared her Very Yellow Lemon Meringue Pie recipe for those who just might have the urge to whip one up. Working on movies such as Pride & Prejudice and Gosford Park, Tidy herself has what seems to be a sweet role in the film industry.

After watching Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger I was intrigued to learn more about “Britain’s best-loved cookery writers“. One tidbit I found was an interview with Nigel Slater by local San Francisco food blogger Cooking with Amy. The interview took place around the time the film was being released.

TOAST is the ultimate nostalgia trip through everything edible in 1960’s Britain. Based on the heart-wrenchingly bittersweet story of food writer, Nigel Slater’s childhood, and set to the songs of Dusty Springfield, TOAST is a delicious love letter to the tastes and smells that a young boy associates with his journey into adulthood. Nigel continues to hold on to the belief that making something delicious to eat for yourself or for others can lift the spirits in a way little else can.

Photos and movie details care of the official Toast movie site
For more about the film and Nigel Slater visit:
Nigel Slater
BBC Food Chefs Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater on the film of his life
‘Billy Elliot’ by Way of Kitchen, With a Pinch of ‘Sweeney Todd’

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the grocer’s son

In my high school and college years when I found myself renting movies on my own, I fell in love with the films Jean de Florette and the sequel Manon des Sources. The films spoke to my heart. The foreign movie genre in general didn’t at all seem foreign to me. In fact these films seemed to often present life as I envisioned it.

From my perspective, the French films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing thus far, place great emphasis on sharing a story and developing it. These films don’t dazzle with pyrotechnics but instead with technique. While in life the French seem to embrace food and wine in a healthy fashion, their reverence for food and from where it was sourced is a motif that’s often found in their films. Food is rarely the pièce de résistance in their movies, but can be found woven into the story they’re trying to tell. It’s not to say all French movies live up to this expectation or that all are even worth watching. But as a foreigner, French films do impress me.

The Grocer’s Son, Le fils de l’épicier, is set in Provence, France. I won’t critique the film, I leave that to the critics, but if I’m sharing it, that should indicate that I do recommend it. The title piqued my interest, and the charming setting and fact that it appeals to a Francophone’s ears turned it into a date with Netflix. The film focuses on a son’s obligation to his father, the family store and the intrigues of family members. Sure enough food is not the emphasis of the film, but it has a role to plays.

If you’re searching for something satisfying to watch, and even a date night paired with food, this movie is for you. I recommend sitting down with a bite of French comfort food such as a cassoulet or ratatouille, or even baguette and pâté and then sit back for a comfortable and pastoral film. Of course, we are talking about a French-themed evening, so don’t forget the wine. Enjoy!

What wine and comfort food pairing would you recommend for this film?

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wine, dine and a movie

Looking at a glass half-full, but full of beautiful buttery Chardonnay that is, film choice for this week is Bottle Shock. Having just celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris and a few days later International Chardonnay Day, Bottle Shock pairs beautifully with, and continues the theme of both celebrations. Released back in 2008, even if you’ve already seen the film, it makes a cozy wine, dine and movie evening. I recommend putting together a cheese board, selecting a few bottles of wine from Napa and settling back to take a trip back to 1976 through wine country. If you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s available on instant streaming via Netflix or even on Amazon.

Wine aficionados or oenophiles – pause for a side note – the word oenophile is of Greek origin, philia love of oinos wine. An oenophile is a lover of wine. Though I’m a wine enthusiast, admittedly I’m not an enthusiast of the word.

Back to our vinophiles or vinos (insert your own favorite term of endearment) and history buffs will be quick to point out the movie has historical inaccuracies. But I stress the point it’s a movie, not a documentary, and I personally welcome the opportunity to spend an evening with actor Alan Rickman. In addition, I soaked in every moment of blond blades of grass, miles of open Napa Valley hills, tranquil settings, rustic old wineries, pick-up trucks you want to hop into and grapes growing on the vine. By this point you may have figured out I’m a bit of a romantic. If you enjoy being swept away by scenery, with an entertaining story to go along with it, you won’t be shocked to discover you’ll enjoy this film. It always comes down to a matter of taste, but Bottle Shock is at least my taste in movies. Cheers!

Bottle Shock Fan Page


Bottle Shock The Movie

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