Thursday, May 25th is National Wine Day! Celebrated every year it’s an excuse (like you really needed one), to have a glass or two of your favorite vintage. It also seems like an appropriate time to consider wine on cinema.
An Autumn Tale (1998) This French film is directed by Erich Rohmer (My Night at Maud’s, Triple Agent) and is the fourth of Tales of Four Seasons cinema quartet. Magali (Beatrice Romand) is a forty-something widowed winemaker. Magali loves her work but has been lonely since her husband’s death and so her two best friends secretly scheme to find a husband for her. It won the Golden Osella Prize for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival as was selected as the Best Foreign Language Film by the National Society of Film Critics.
Mondovino (2004) Written and directed by Jonathon Nossiter (a former sommelier from New York’s Balthazar), this documentary examines the impact of globalization on the world’s different wine regions. In competition are the ambitions of giant multinational wine producers like Robert Mondavi with the interests of single estate wineries who pride themselves on wines with individual character. Nossiter also explores the impact of critics like Robert Parker on determining an international ‘style’ of wine. Along the way Nossiter visits wineries in France, Italy, California, and Brazil. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival as well as a Cesar Award and holds a 70% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Sideways (2004) Alexander Payne (Election, Nebraska,) directed and co-wrote this adaption of the Rex Pickett’s novel by the same name. Depressed teacher and would be writer Miles Raymond (the one and only Paul Giamatti) and his best friend, Hollywood Has Been Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church in the role that launched his career comeback) take a week-long trip to Santa Barbara’s wine country to celebrate Jack’s upcoming wedding. Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Virginia Madsen (Ghosts of Mississippi, The Prairie Home Companion) make memorable appearances as well. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, grossing over a $100 million on a $16 million dollar budget. Sideways won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for four other awards including Best Picture.
Bottle Shock (2008) This comedic drama directed by Randall Miller is based on the notorious 1976 wine competition termed the Judgment of Paris when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test. These results sent shock waves through the industry, putting Californian wine on the map and signaling the downfall of French domination of the wine industry with new contenders coming from all corners of the world. Bill Pullman and Chris Pine play a father-son team of winemakers but the MVP of the team is the late great Alan Rickman as British wine snob Steven Spurrier.
Red Obsession (2013) This Australian documentary was narrated by Russell Crowe and co-directed by David Roach and Warwick Ross. It takes viewers on a journey from China to Bordeaux as it examines the trends of the global wine industry interviewing winemakers, wine critics, and wine lovers. It won the AACTA awards for Best Documentary and Best Direction in a Documentary and currently holds a 100% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.
Top photo: Bigstock
Pity the poor chicken. It gets a bad rap in the U.S. It’s been relegated to fast food status with chicken nuggets, Colonel Sanders, and Boston Market. These take out options may be filling and satisfying for many, but those seeking a higher quality meal often find that even chicken dishes in restaurants are disappointing. Why bother? Better to prepare chicken at home and order steak or fish when dining out.
Leave it to the French to solve the problem. Chef Antoine Westerman, whose restaurant in Strassbourg, Le Buerehiesel, celebrated the cuisine from his native Alsace, moved to Paris and opened Coq Rico, which won rave reviews from the critics and a loyal following. Last spring, Westerman opened Le Coq Rico, in New York’s Flatiron District and now chicken lovers have a new place to dine. We decided to visit for an early dinner on Sunday and were not surprised to find the restaurant fully booked.
Le Coq Rico’s upscale decor emphasizes that this “bistro of beautiful birds” is on a mission to elevate the lowly chicken to another level. Subdued lighting creates an intimate feeling. Colors are also low key with white walls and ceilings, gray banquettes, and black tables. Whimsical touches – framed squares of white feathers on the walls, and eggs on shelves outside the restrooms, accentuate the chicken theme.
Unfortunately, we were only two people, so didn’t order one of the restaurant’s whole birds. (Next time, we will definitely come with a group.) We did, however, watch other tables enjoy an entire chicken. On the menu, these are listed by breeds and the number of days they enjoyed farm life before being “harvested.” (Servers avoid using the term “slaughter.”) The choices also differ depending upon availability. Possible choices include: Brune Landaise (110 days); Plymouth Barred Rock (90 days); New Hampshire (120 days); Rhode Island (120 days); and the Catskill Guinea Fowl (130 days).
Fortunately, there are other choices for those dining as a pair or solo. (A bar overlooking the kitchen is a favorite place to perch for single patrons.) We began with the Offal Platter (above), which included a liver, apple and heart brochette, glaced wings, roast chicken liver on horseradish toast, and spiced croquettes. Don’t be put off by the description of these ingredients as “offal,” defined as “waste,” “byproduct,” and, in general, parts of the animal many consider inedible. Trust Westerman to transform this appetizer into something not only edible but quite incredible. Each item was unique in taste and texture. Presentation added to the appeal of the dish.
For our main course, we shared the stuffed Brune Landaise Chicken for Two, served with sautéed pumpkins and spinach. Our server correctly described the dish as a chicken breast with stuffing. Truth be told, this earthy bird and its accompaniments reminded us of Thanksgiving dinner. This was a dish we would order again. A green side salad was all that was needed to complement this entrée.
With our meal we enjoyed several glasses of wine: a rosé, Domaine de Grangeneuve Grignan-Lès-Admémar; a California Charnonnay; and Cabernet/Merlot, Château Fourcas Dupré.
For dessert, we went with L’Ile Flottante, a soft meringue with red praline and creme anglaise. This floating dessert was light and refreshing.
Service throughout our meal was polite and professional. The sommelière told us that many members of the staff had come from the Paris restaurant. Their enthusiasm for Le Coq Rico was apparent. And from everything we saw and experienced, that enthusiasm is spreading. Le Coq Rico has landed in New York at just the right time.
Le Coq Rico
30 East 20th Street
Interior Images: Asia Coladner
Cuisine Images: Sideways
Father’s Day is coming up, and besides the obligatory gifts of ties, coffee mugs, and socks consider watching one of the following movies with dear old dad.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) The film adaption of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning work starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as his daughter Scout in what is possibly the most adorable father-daughter pairing ever on screen. It also features Robert Duvall in a legendary turn as Boo Radley. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with fatherhood, race, prejudice, the limits of the legal system, and more. It won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Peck, was nominated for eight more including Best Picture and is nearly universally considered one of the best films of all time.
Paper Moon (1973) This American comedy-drama directed by Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) starred real life father-daughter pair Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as Moze and Addie. Moze is a shady grafter who takes on the nine year old Addie (who may or may not be his biological daughter) as his mascot/sidekick/protégé on a madcap road trip through plains country during the Great Depression. Filmed in black and white it was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay and Tatum O’Neal won for Best Supporting Actress making her the youngest performer to ever win an competitive Oscar.
Field of Dreams (1989) Phil Alden wrote and directed this fantasy drama starring Kevin Costner as novice farmer Ray who becomes convinced that he’s supposed to turn his corn fields into a baseball diamond. The movies ostensible focus is on letting Shoeless Joe Jackson (among others) play ball again but the not so hidden underlying theme is Ray repairing his relationship with his own now deceased father. Co-starring Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta, Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards and “If You Build It, He Will Come,” is now part of the cultural lexicon.
Finding Nemo (2003) The Pixar Blockbuster about how Marlin (Al Brooks) the clownfish sets off on a voyage through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to find his lost son Nemo encountering Dory (Ellen Degeneres) a regal blue-tang who suffers from short term memory loss, sharks trying to kick the fish eating habit, and surfer dude turtles was an instant classic that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated in three other categories including Best Original Screenplay. It also inspired a long-gestating sequel Finding Dory that opened on June 17, 2016.
The Descendants (2011) Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska) directed this film adaption of the novel by the same name. George Clooney stars as land baron Matt King whose wife Elizabeth is in a coma and then learns from his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley in her breakout role) that Elizabeth had an affair. Matt’s emotional journey is momentous and important decisions are made but the movie’s ultimate focus is on Matt’s struggle to form a stronger bond with his daughters. The Descendants won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as two Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture-Drama and Best Actor-Drama for Clooney.
Top photo: Bigstock