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The Menu(s)

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INTRODUCTION: (Rote, Unimpressive)

Today, on Donation Day, I’m gonna get let my co-bloggers talk to you about politics and history, and then I’m gonna hit you with the real meat of this site: movie and food reviews.

First, I wanted to talk about The Menu.

It’s about a group of rich jerks who go an extremely exclusive restaurant and end up having the worst night of their lives.

Slightly muddled messages aside, I enjoyed this film. While I originally rated it a 3 on lettrboxd, I amended it later to make it a 3 1/2. The reason is because this film stayed with me, long past its viewing, and I think that if a movie stays with you, it’s an indication of craft.

And there is certainly craft here. While it is about 15 minutes too long, it’s also engagingly tense and funny. As I said in an extremely truncated review on twitter, the darkness and humor stayed with me.

I think that’s because Mark Mylod did an amazing job of creating an extraordinarily claustrophobic atmosphere. Everyone is trapped in a restaurant that is fronted by a huge glass pane, overlooking an island. Freedom is always a mere few feet out of reach, because the glass is impenetrable. It’s that knowledge that made me itch throughout the film.

The cast is fantastic. Ralph Fiennes is incredibly menacing as Chef. Equal parts tension, anger and despair are just wafting from him at all times. Anya Taylor-Joy is amazing as Margot, the spunky sex worker who does the best job of sparring with Chef. John Leguizamo was perfectly cast as a smarmy actor in the twilight of his career. And Nicholas Hoult is perfection as the obnoxious foodie who brought Margot to the island-restaurant.

This is certainly not a perfect film. As I mentioned earlier, I think its politics are a bit muddled. But there is a sense of suffocating bleakness–punctuated by surprising humor– that really got under my skin. And I think that makes it a film that’s well worth your time.

FIRST COURSE: Deconstructed Buffalo Wing Salad (But Unpretentious)

I wrote an entry about Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To) before, but I’ve only made one dish from the book, and I wanted to delve back into it, because the way she cooks is super interesting to me. Ali uses very few ingredients, but uses them in ways that make them work harder, so you don’t have to. Also, all her dishes have a tiny hint of sophistication, but are gloriously unpretentious.

I’m so happy I took a chance on this Buffalo Salad with Blue Cheese Toasts. It’s almost…fun…to make. You’re doing something a little fancy like deconstructing a beloved dish, but really it feels like you’re just playing with your food.

I have one note, and that is that the dressing (along with the lemon) is VERY savory and acidic, so I would add some sweetener to dressing, like sugar or honey. Aside from that, this salad feels like a work of genius. It’s easy to make, attractive to look at, and really delicious. I cannot wait to try more of her recipes.

MAIN COURSE: Pasta of the Sea (Pasta with Shrimp)

This is now one of my favorite Milk Street recipes, which is saying something, as I am huge fan of their catalog.

The beauty of Lemon-Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti lies entirely in its simplicity. I was extremely tempted to top this with some hard Italian cheese, but opted out because I wanted to experience the dish as it was intended. I’m so glad I did, because cheese might have marred how clean and bright yet so savory the pasta was.

Garlic slivers toasted in oil is what grounds this dish, so that all you need to round it out is plenty of seasoning, fresh herbs, and lemon. It’s SO astonishly satisfying. And it comes together in no time.

I honestly believe if you served this to Chef, he’d let you live.

DESSERT: Shameless Self Promotion with Vanilla Foam

One final thing. If you happen to be passing through North Dakota, and let’s face, it nobody’s doing that…you can pop into the Alerus Center in Grand Forks and check out my artwork.

Barring that, you can always see my stuff here.

Please tip your servers:

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