Saturday, January 2, 2010

Julie & Julia--movie review

This movie reflects screenwriter Nora Ephron's attempt to bring together two memoirs: Julia Child's My Life in France and Julie Powell's Julie & Julia. Julia Child, of course, needs no introduction. She revolutionized American cooking and pretty much launched the TV cooking show. Julie Powell, as a young writer living in a tiny apartment in NYC, decided to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. What she called "the Julie/Julia Project" became a popular blog that turned into a book and then into this film.

Ephron (When Harry Met Sally ... and Sleepless in Seattle) does a masterful job of revealing two parallel lives separated in time and space but joined by a love of cooking. I'll be surprised if Meryl Streep doesn't win an Oscar for her remarkable portrayal of Julia Child. She is the main focus of the film, and her performance is the main reason to see it. She actually transforms herself into Julia Child. She has the voice and mannerisms down pat. Wow. How can she play such disparate roles as Miranda Priestley (in The Devil Wears Prada), Donna Sheridan (in Mama Mia!) and Julia Child? Here's the most amazing thing. Meryl Streep is only 5' 6" and Julia Child was 6' 2". Yet Meryl Streep comes across looking "tall." How did they do that? One trick is to surround her with even shorter actors. At 5' 8", Stanley Tucci is a good choice for her husband, Paul (and he gives yet another solid performance). The other trick is to choose the right camera angles--and really high heels for Streep. In some shots, they are obviously using a stand in. Actress Jane Lynch, who plays Julia's sister Dorothy, is 6' tall, yet somehow when she stands next to Streep, they appear to be about the same height. (Jane Lynch was relatively unknown when she made this film, but now she has a cult following as Sue Sylvester on Glee.)

Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, and although she is certainly a fine actress, she is overshadowed by Streep. This isn't entirely Adams' fault. Julie Powell's story just isn't as compelling as Julia Child's. Child wasn't much of a cook at all, but she knew that she loved to eat (who doesn't?). She started taking cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and then her larger-than-life personality took over. With Streep and Child, you get two legendary figures.

This is a great film, and I would recommend it as a good "date night," but I have to give a PG-13 warning. Movie ratings now allow one use of the "R-rated" swear word (in a none-sexual context) before the film receives an R rating. There are so many movies now that have little objectionable content except for the one use of this word (Stranger Than Fiction is a good example). Without this and a few other remarks, the film would probably be rated PG.

A warning, however, about Julie Powell's blog and book. These both have many uses of strong language (she is a New Yorker, after all) and some pretty explicit sexual content. Just a heads up before you select this book for your Relief Society book circle. Stick with Julia Child's My Life in France or one of several biographies about her. If you want a book that is not as daunting as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, check out Julia Child's *Julia's Kitchen Wisdom* (only 160 pages).

What did Julia Child think of the blog? Judith Jones, Julia Child's long-time friend and publisher reported that Julia didn't consider Powell "a serious cook" and thought the blog was a flimsy stunt. She also objected to all of the harsh language (and rightly so). Jones wrote, "Flinging around four-letter words when cooking isn’t attractive, to me or Julia."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pizza Pie Cafe

A bit of Rexburg has found its way to Provo. Pizza Pie Cafe, a pizza buffet, opened recently in what used to be a Chi Chi's Mexican restaurant (hence the Aztec-looking building), then a Tony Roma's, then another BBQ place that never got reviewed here. I was starting to think that this was another of Provo's retail "black holes." But I'm predicting that PPC will become a Provo tradition.

PPC is modeled after Craigo's Gourmet Pizza in Rexburg. This began as a student pizza dive just off the campus of Ricks College. Then it went upscale (as upscale as a pizza buffet can) and moved to the north end of town on the highway. Now there is PPC in Provo. Inside, the restaurant is all shiny and new--the expensive remodeling really paid off. There are flat screen TVs (thankfully with the sound turned down) in strategic locations--even in the bathrooms.

PPC offers a wide variety of pizza and pasta, and it's always hot and ready. The crust is thick and chewy, and I think it's a sourdough. Sometimes the crust tastes kind of sweet. Pizza purists may not be happy with it, but it's a great family place. (Much better than Doc's Pizza Buffet, which is now out of business. Doc's started to get a little run down towards the end.) You know you've got a bit of Idaho when you try the Spud-o-licious pizza--pizza with sliced potatoes on top. (Hey, purists, when I was in Italy this summer, I also had authentic Neopolitan pizza with sliced potatoes. So is it Idaho or is it Italy?)

Pizza purists will still want to walk over to Niccoitalia for authentic east-coast pizza, but if you want to feed a crowd of hungry teenagers, PPC is the place.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The In-N-Out in American Fork is Now Open

Two questions:

1. Who has been?

2. How have they managed the crowds in that parking lot?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eating Out for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we drove to Arizona to visit family. It worked out best for us to eat out for Thanksgiving, which was a first for me. We ate at Bill Johnson's Big Apple in Mesa, AZ, one of the few places where we could get a reservation. Bill Johnson's is a Western-style restaurant chain with locations all over the Valley of the Sun. It's mainly famous for steak, BBQ, and breakfast. The Thanksgiving menu was just OK, a step above cafeteria food. However, the wait staff was very friendly.
But we did have some excellent food elsewhere on the trip. On the way down, we stopped in Las Vegas ($29 rooms at Circus Circus), but we decided to forego the LV buffet. We had heard good things about The Egg and I (aka The Egg Works) for breakfast. They have great pancakes, waffles, and eggs served about every way you can imagine. We tried the mashed potato omelette, which sounds a little strange, but tasty and very filling. It was kind of like an loaded baked potato in an omelette. (The fact that there were garlic mashed potatoes made it even better.) The Egg and I (Las Vegas) should not be confused the The Egg and I chain based in Colorado (with a location in St. George and a new location opening in SLC). (I wonder if the Colorado chain is why the other locations in LV are called Egg Works.)
In Arizona, we were sad to see that Mama's Pizzeria (by ASU) had closed down. We used to hang out there when I was a student. We had dinner at Monti's La Casa Vieja (now run by Michael Monti). This place is on the National Register of Historic places. Still the same great steaks, but we're pretty sure that the spaghetti recipe is no longer Leonard Monti's family recipe. (It tastes like generic food service sauce.) And Monti's is much more expensive than I recall. We also stopped at The Golden Gate, a Henrichsen family favorite. This is a decent and affordable family-run establishment with the best hot and sour soup I've had anywhere (and we've looked).
The biggest surprise was The Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona's only olive farm and mill. We stopped here for breakfast on the day we returned to Utah. Here the Del Piero family produces locally grown artisanal olive oils using sustainable farming methods. (Yes, you'll feel like you're in Napa Valley. But it's Queen Creek.) Their "Tuscan-inspired" menu includes fresh fruit waffles, a variety of breakfast sandwiches, and eggs benedict. You can also buy a several olive products and other locally produced food products. If we lived in Queen Creek, everyone would be getting olive oil for Christmas.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Finally, something besides hamburgers. Salt Lake has always had a pretty strong Italian influence. The first Italians who came to Utah were protestants from Northern Italy who had converted to the Mormon church, but the bulk of Italians came in the huge wave of Italian immigration from 1890s to 1920s. These Italians came to work in the mines and on the railroads. Utah's "little Italy" is small relative to other big cities, but it has always been centered on the area between Pioneer park (which still has a farmer's market) and the Rio Grande station. That's where you'll find some true gems: Tony Caputo's Deli/Market and the fabulous, but somewhat expensive Cucina Toscana. (If you've got a special occasion, it's worth the money, and actually not a whole lot more for some dishes than Macroni Grill or other chains.) If you go to CT, you may never be able to go to Olive Garden again. In Salt Lake City, you will also find Settebello, certified Vera Pizza Napoletana. Downtown, by the Library, you will also find Cannella's, a Zagat-rated Italian restaurant in about the same price range as Macaroni Grill (family owned and operated since 1978).

This brings us to Fratelli (brothers). I was attending some meetings at Snowbird, and my wife and daughter and I drove down Little Cottonwood looking for a place to eat. We discovered Fratteli in the Quarry Bend Shopping Center (located at the old gravel quarry near 9000 South and about 1000 East). This restaurant is owned by Pete and Dave Cannellla (the brothers), whose uncle runs Cannella's. They have real-deal Italian food in a casual, family friendly environment (cups on the lids for the little kids). So although SLC has great Italian food, you can also find it in the South Valley, and a shorter drive from Utah Valley. (Check the Deseret News review.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Burgermania Begins

I drove past the Orem In-N-Out on my way to work today, and the line was already starting to form--two hours before opening. I'll be waiting a few weeks before I get in line, but stay tuned for my In-N-Out/Chadders burger challenge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Casualty in the Burger Wars

In-N-Out is here. So if Five Guys. EZ Take Out in Orem closed. Will Chadders survive In-N-Out?