Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Nov. 1st, 2010 - Andy Goes to College!

Well Pixar fans, this is THE week you've been waiting for. You can finally get your ugly mitts on the most beloved animation movie franchise in motion picture history, on high-definition Blu-ray no less. Yes, folks, Toy Story 3 will be released this Tuesday (Nov. 2nd) and I'm sure parents will be making a bee line to the store to pick it up, either for their kids or most likely, for themselves! How can one not love Woody and the gang? For its Blu-ray debut, Toy Story 3 is coming to stores in more than one flavor and I'm here to sort it all out for you. So let's get to it, shall we?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daikon, Cucumber & Carrot Salad - Simple, Clean, Delicious

Here's a great idea for a simple, refreshing and clean side salad that goes great with much heavier dishes that may contain chicken, beef or pork. This salad is of course, Japanese-inspired and contains some of the most refreshing vegetables available, including daikon radish, cucumber and carrot.

So here's what you'll need (and it is not much) to make a side salad for maybe 10:

1 medium daikon radish
1/2 cucumber
1 small carrot

Julienne all three vegetable into thin matchstick-size slivers and set aside.

Now let's work on the salad dressing. You'll need:
2 tablespoons ponzu (Japanese citrus soy sauce)
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of sugar (if needed)

Mix all the ingredients above in a mixing bowl and set aside. Add a little sugar if it tastes too tart.

Now, toast some sesame seeds (black and white) together with some nori (roasted seaweed) paper, cut into strips. The nori and sesame seeds can be used as garnish. As the nori adds a little smokiness to the salad, you can either use it or leave it out.


Movie Openings: Week of October 29th, 2010

It's Halloween weekend and to my surprise, there are only a couple of horror films opening this weekend. One is a monster movie that has received quite a lot of pre-screening buzz and the other is a new 3-D incarnation of an old friend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Host (South Korea): Blu-ray Review - Surpassing Godzilla

South Korea´s domestic box office has always had to rely on foreign-made--mostly Hollywood films--for its profits. In Asia, Hong Kong-made films are the most popular, with most other Asian countries lagging far behind in terms of quality. However, in recent years, it is the locally made films that have been making waves and raking in the money in South Korea. This remarkable resurgence in South Korean cinema is not only affecting the domestic film market in a positive way but also the international one as well. As of now, the box office king in South Korea is 2006´s well-received monster film, "The Host." This feat is made more remarkable by the fact that this movie is a special effects-heavy extravaganza that was made on a relatively limited budget of approximately $10 million (a huge sum by local standards but a tiny drop in the Hollywood pond).

The first questions that might pop into your head would be, "A South Korean-made monster movie? Wait, does it use stop-motion photography to animate the monster?" Very funny but I´m here to tell you that you would be surprised what $10 million can buy you away from Hollywood. Various pieces of the special effects on this film are actually produced by some of the biggest names in the business including Weta Workshop, The Orphanage Inc. and John Cox´s Creature Workshop.

Easy Steps: Chicken Parm Sandwich

For some reason, I am in two minds about recommending chicken parmesan. On the one hand, it is quite delicious as a snack when turned into a sandwich. On the other, it is a heck of a lot of work for something that looks so simple. But no matter. Let me try to simplify it by breaking down the main steps so that once you get the big picture, it may not be so daunting.

Just in Time for Halloween: Original Darth Vader Costume Up for Sale

If you are a big "Star Wars" fan and if you are looking for a great costume for Halloween to impress your other geeky friends, then get ready for this. You can now have in your possession one of the most iconic costumes in film history as auction house, Christie's will be putting the original Darth Vader costume (from 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back") up for bidding next month in London. The sale would be part of the "Popular Culture: Arts and Entertainment" auction on November 25th. Here's the catch: the costume is expected to fetch between $250K-$365K. Some serious Galactic-size money for sure. So, unless you have that kind of cash just lying around collecting dust, I suggest you look elsewhere.

The Force can be with you......but for a price.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steelhead Trout with Braised Red Cabbage & Roasted Potatoes

To tell you the truth, this dish actually turned out better than I had expected. It is so colorful, I almost think it looks too good to eat! I had wanted to do a braised red cabbage side dish for a while now but never found the right protein to go with it. Fall and winter is the season for red cabbage and after seeing steelhead trout on sale at my local grocery store, I thought this would be the best time to execute on my plan.

The Walking Dead - Zombies Crash Onto Your TV This Halloween

I've been so looking forward to this new TV series for a long time, ever since it was announced months ago. And now, the time is nearly upon us. This Halloween, AMC is premiering "The Walking Dead," a gripping story about a zombie outbreak and the survivors who must fight the new plague and themselves to stay alive. AMC is the cable channel where some of the best-written dramas reside, among them, "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and more recently, "Rubicon." And I have no qualms that "The Walking Dead" will be just as good. With the recent onslaught of vampire lore hitting our TV screens and theaters, it's about time another branch of undead gets the spotlight and this new series should do the trick (or treat!).

Zombie movies have been around for a long time and have evolved over the years. While he was not the creator of the genre, George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead is considered the starting point when the genre came to the fore. Romero followed that up with Dawn of the Dead in 1978 and later, Day of the Dead in 1985, completing his sort-of-trilogy of zombie movies. After Universal Studios released a remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004, Romero came back a year later with his 4th zombie film, Land of the Dead, which was positively received. Other notable zombie movies include Danny Boyle's excellent 28 Days Later, Andrew Currie's zom-com (zombie-comedy) Fido, another zom-com Shaun of the Dead and the recently released Zombieland, which features a hilarious cameo by Bill Murray. As you can see, the zombie genre is alive(!) and well and "The Walking Dead" will be a great addition to the zombie lore.

So set your DVRs this Sunday at 10pm ET and see Halloween 2010 go out with a bang, a crunch and a slow moan!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Oct. 25th, 2010 - The Ripley Edition

"Get away from her, you bitch!" - Ellen Ripley, "Aliens" (1986)

With that single line towards the end of the movie "Aliens," Sigourney Weaver's place in action movie pantheon was signed, sealed and delivered. Other than Linda Hamilton's gritty, muscular performance in "Terminator 2:Judgment Day," Weaver's unforgettable turn as the industriously lethal Ellen Ripley is simply, for the lack of a better word, divine. Female action starts are few and far in between and Sigourney Weaver's performance in all the "Alien" movies (yes, even the third one) symbolizes the best the movie industry has to offer when it comes to watching Hollywood leading ladies kick some alien butt.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Easy Sweet Potato Pancakes with Roasted Chimicurri Pork Chop

Potato pancakes are pretty common but I've yet to come across sweet potato pancakes. The sweet potato is a distant cousin of the regular spud and is sometimes referred to as a yam. In the commercial food world, it is often served as sweet potato fries, sweet potato pies, baked sweet potato or mashed sweet potato. Here, I am making sweet potato pancakes, a slight twist on the normal potato pancakes. The procedure is almost the same saved for the different ingredients added into the mix.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Legend of the Black Scorpion (The Banquet) - Blu-ray review

Ever since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” wowed audiences worldwide with its breathtaking brand of artistic martial arts, many period films from then on have tried to emulate or surpass that same formula, to a degree of success. Director Feng Xiaogang's 2006 period film, “The Banquet” or better known here by its international title, “Legend of the Black Scorpion,” is probably one of the more successful ones. It is a strikingly gorgeous film, filled with stunning sets, a highly competent cast of actors and actresses and of course, intricately-crafted fights and swordplay, played out almost like a deadly performance of martial arts ballet. It is definitely up there with some of the great period films to come out of China in recent years. Yet, there are some issues that I feel need addressing.

Bacon-Onion-Jalapeño Puree with Pan-Seared Scallops

I love scallops and every time it goes on sale, I'll be sure to pick some up. They are so easy to cook and the best cooking method is to lightly pan-sear them until slightly brown on both the top and bottom sides. And the best accompaniment for scallops? Ever heard of scallops and bacon? Yup, the fattiness in the bacon complements the lack of it in the scallops.

However, I'm not here to talk about scallops but actually a puree that you can make to accompany any scallop dish. It is a bacon-onion-roasted jalapeño puree that's just amazing with scallops. I know that some people may not like their food spicy, so you can leave out the jalapeños if you like.

Kitchen Classic Mixer On Sale at Kohl's for $120 (now till 10/27)

This is one heck of a deal for anyone looking to buy a Kitchenaid Classic 4.5 quart stand mixer. Kohl's has it on sale for $199.99. Not only that, if you are a Kohl's charge cardholder, you can apply a 30% discount by using coupon code SAVING30 when you check out and get $20 back through a mail-in rebate. This brings the price down to an incredible $120. Oh, did I mention the free shipping? The sale ends on October 27th.

So what are you waiting for? Go here to save.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Turning Flour Into Gold - Boston's Joanne Chang

Baker Joanne Chang's Flour Bakery + Cafe has been a Boston establishment for a decade. It just celebrated its 10th anniversary on September 26th, 2010. With 3 Flour outlets in Boston and Cambridge plus a funky diner called Myers + Chang (which Chang opened with her husband, Christopher Myers) all operating at the same time, you must think that she has enough on her plate to keep her busy 24/7.

Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe
Well, apparently not busy enough, as she found time to co-author her first cookbook: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe that just became available on Amazon and other retailers.

The Boston Globe just published a great article on Chang and you can read it here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Herbed Garlic Butter: Fit For Any Occasion

By simple definition, compound butter is the mixture of butter with any other ingredients. Of course, there are many examples, from the simple to the rich and delicate. In restaurants, it is used as a flavoring condiment that supplements a dish. The butter and the other ingredients are whipped together, formed into a desired shape (logs, rosettes, etc) and frozen. When it is time to serve, the compound butter is placed on top of the hot food  and be allowed to melt and add flavor to the dish.

You've probably made your own compound butter as well and don't know it. Garlic butter is a prime example of a simple compound butter. And I like to make mine with fresh herbs like oregano, thyme and chives. Here's what you'll need:

6-7 bulbs garlic
1 lb unsalted butter (softened)
1 teaspoon each thyme, oregano, chives (chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste

Leave the butter in room temperature for a couple of hours to soften it. Roast the garlic by cutting the tops off, pour a couple of tablespoons of oil onto the bulbs and roast in the oven at 350°F for about 45 minutes to an hour (or until soft to the touch). It should be done when the top starts browning (see image above). Let it cool and squeeze the garlic out of the husks. By now, they should be soft enough to be like a pasty consistency. Add the garlic to the butter, together with the herbs and mix well. Finally, finish it off with a pinch of salt and and a few turns of your pepper grinder.

And there you have it, herbed garlic butter. It goes great on a range of dishes, from toast and pasta to the decadent lobster.

Look Ma! The Celery is......Red!

Apium graveolens or more commonly known as the humble celery, is undergoing a makeover! We have all come to know celery as the cool, green, crisp stalks, in its root form or as seeds. We use it mainly to add flavor to our dishes. Now, how about adding flavor AND color to your dishes? A Florida farm, Duda Fresh Foods has come up with the Red Celery (here's a link to the producer's info page) seen above. According to their web page, it is a natural product that was grown from heirloom seeds. Hopefully, this is not a Frankenstein genetically-modified plant. So, if this thing takes off, we may find this product on our supermarket shelves pretty soon.

Chicken Soup For the Soul....and Tummy Too!

Mention chicken soup and images of home, comfort and curling up in front of a fireplace come to mind. It is also pretty easy to prepare and makes for a hearty one-pot meal. And best of all, my kids love me for making it for them! It's amazing how kids love the simplest things.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best Buy's Halloween Blu-ray Sale (October 2010)

As part of its Halloween movie sale, Best Buy has slashed prices on its Blu-ray movies (go here). Among the more notable sale items include:

Silence of the Lambs
The Thing, Halloween (John Carpenter)
Death Proof
The Lost Boys
The Saw collection
28 Days Later
An American Werewolf in London
Children of the Corn
....and many more

Blu-ray Releases This Week: October 18th, 2010 - "Apocalypse Now" & "Psycho"

A few interesting releases on Blu-ray this week consisting of a bunch of classics and re-releases plus one new release that may be of interest to action/sci-fi fans.

First, the classics:
Apocalypse Now (Three-Disc Full Disclosure Edition) (Apocalypse Now / Apocalypse Now Redux / Hearts of Darkness) [Blu-ray]Apocalypse Now (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]Psycho (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]The Rocky Horror Picture Show (35th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The napalm's smelling pretty good this week as it marks the first time the Francis Ford Coppola classic, Apocalypse Now, will be released on high-definition home video. Available in two versions: a fully-loaded 3-disc Full Disclosure Edition and a 2-disc Special Edition set. Both releases feature the two versions of the film, the 1979 theatrical cut plus the extended Redux cut that was released on DVD years ago. The Redux cut is a significant alteration to the original classic, adding a whopping 49 minutes of new and extended scenes. This extended cut received very positive reviews and should stand proud next to the original cut without question. The Full Disclosure Edition differs from the lesser 2-disc set in that it contains the acclaimed documentary, "Hearts of Darkness," which details the grueling shoot of the movie, in high-definition 1080p, plus a 48-page collectible booklet. So if you are looking to fill out your Blu-ray collection with classics, this is the week.

Also releasing this week are Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Psycho (50th Anniversary Edition) plus The Rocky Horror Picture Show (35th Anniversary Edition). This is October after all and studios are taking the opportunity to release many Halloween favorites. With the creepy view of the Bates Motel up on the hill and Janet Leigh's (in)famous shower scene, Psycho is the quintessential Hitchcock thriller and the film has never looked or sounded (with lossless DTS-HD Master audio) better. A film with a considerable cult following, The Rocky Horror Picture Show gets a remarkable Blu-ray treatment that will please all fans. On the surface, the movie doesn't really make much sense but the sheer onslaught of sight and sound will numb you into surrender.

Another classic on the hook this week is Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection). This is, I think, the third treatment of the film by Criterion but the first on Blu-ray (the other 2 are on DVD: Seven Samurai (Criterion Collection) & Seven Samurai - 3 Disc Remastered Edition). If you love Kurosawa, this is the best version of Seven Samurai that you'll ever find. So what are you waiting for?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ultimate Edition) [Blu-ray]
For all you Harry Potter fans, this week also marks the release of the Ultimate Editions of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, following the release of the same editions of the first two films last year (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone & Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). These Ultimate Editions are really marketed towards the really big Potter fans and they come in packed 3-disc sets. These editions feature extended cuts of the films plus plenty of collectible items like booklets, character cards, brand new documentaries, etc. So, rejoice if you are a big fan of the boy magician. Others need not bother.
Predators ( + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]
The only new movie release that is worth your time is the action/sci-fi film Predators, a cash-in of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, Predator. Like the original (plus the AVP - Alien vs. Predator films) see it not for the story but the relentless action and amazing special effects. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Special: World's Most Terrifying Foods

If you are a fan of Andrew Zimmern, the host of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," then you are probably familiar with the myriad types of really bizarre dishes our chubby host has tasted in his travels around the world. On the show's website, you can watch a slideshow of some of the grossest foods that Andrew has come across in his travels. Among them, bats, turtles, squirrel, etc.

Well, here's my own list of some of the more scariest dishes (in terms of taste, look and those that may cause physical harm), which I have culled from the wide world of the internet:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Pitfalls of a Celebrity Chef & The Media That Worship Them

Here's an article that appeared in The Atlantic, courtesy of writer Ike DeLorenzo. It is titled "Unsavory Food Writing: The Case of Marco Pierre White" and in it DeLorenzo blasts the Canadian media, specifically the writer for National Post, who gushes about grumpy celebrity chef Marco Pierre White (yes, the same one whom Gordon Ramsey and Mario Batali can count on as their mentor) and the Knorr bouillon products that he is hired to push. Celebrity endorsements can be a double-edged sword, often benefiting the company and if he or she is not savvy enough, crushing the credibility of the celebrity involved. Just read the article and you'll see what I mean.

Oktoberfest Dishes - Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

October is here (already!) and guess what, it is time to celebrate Oktoberfest, that most famous of Bavarian celebrations. This multi-week festival is held each year from September to the first week of October in various towns and cities throughout Germany. Visitors are able to partake in traditional German fare and of course, free-flowing beer. Lots of it. "Food & Wine" magazine recently showcased some German dishes that you can try at home. You can be sure that there is plenty of German sausages (Würstl), sauerkraut, schnitzel and spaetzle dishes to choose from.