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Friday, April 17, 2015

Old Captiva House

     Blind Pass Bridge is a magic portal that swiftly transports you from the well-to-do Sanibel Island to the obscenely affluent Captiva Island on Florida's west coast. Sadly, many of its palatial homes stand abandoned this late March weekend because the snowbirds that own them have flown North. What a waste!

      Old Captiva House is a staple of Captiva Island dining located on the grounds of the 'Tween Waters Inn. White linen, bamboo chairs and European-looking servers succeed in giving this restaurant the Continental air intended. They even have a dress code, although it's not heavily enforced. It definitely caters to the wealthy tourist population that roams these parts. On our way to our table, I eavesdropped on at least two separate conversations in which people were reminiscing about their latest trip to this or that section of Europe. The area is full of Grand Tourists of the 21st century.
     John ordered a beer, but now I think he's just trying to outdo himself at picking the craziest name because neither one of us can remember what it was called. I ordered a Tropical Dream to satisfy my craving for a sweet cocktail. It had mango, pineapple, coconut, orange, even peaches, I think, and yet with all those flavors working for it, I still wasn't drawn to the taste. I don't even remember what type of alcohol was in it. Rum. Yes, that's it, rum! Fruity and pleasant but forgettable.

      The much coveted bread basket arrived and it didn't disappoint. It contained three different varieties of bread, all satisfactory. John was happy with the French baguette which was meaty and moist, as we like it. The honey wheat was also a gracious companion to the olive oil on the table, but top billing must go to their Kalamata bread. The oil heightened the flavor of the olive chunks, and the dough indulgently soaked up the cream sauce in my dish, but even alone it was addictive with those big, bold pieces of olive that infused the bread with flavor.
     For entrees, John chose the veal porterhouse, and I the shrimp and scallops linguini. John's veal was generous and cooked well. However, it was a letdown for him because he only heard porterhouse when the server offered the specials, and he thought it would be beef. My shrimp and scallops were cooked well and along with the pasta, they were gently folded into a velvety garlic cream sauce.
    Any meal can turn out to be ordinary, but redemption can come in the form of a great dessert, and this one did. We were full to bursting this evening, but still wanted our sweet finale. It had to be something light and refreshing, however. We ordered the Florida Orange Pie and were quite pleased. Each bite had layers of flavor. At first, the orange is sweet and tangy, but the after-taste is sour and piquant, evocative of Key lime pie. A citrus feast for the palate.
     I wished for the first dinner of our Spring Break getaway to be casually elegant and this place fulfilled that wish. Too bad the entrees and drinks fell just short. From the 'glass half full' perspective, I choose to focus on the majestic sunset and the sumptuous dessert.
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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Hundred-Foot Journey

     I'll confess I'm a movie snob and not a fan of the movie-going experience- standing in line, paying $13 and hoping no one tall sits in front of me. In fact, I make a list of the few films that interest me and wait until they're available on Netflix so I can watch them in my PJs while eating Twizzlers and Whoppers.
     This film intrigued me because the hero is the food. Every other character exists to make the hero look good. I'm taking a little detour from writing about my gastronomic adventures to delve into this cinematic character development. It's a departure from the theme of this blog, but I believe I'm justified based on the fact that the film is an ode to food, to cooking it, to eating it and to adoring it.
    Based on the book of the same title written by Richard C. Morais, the film is the story of an Indian family who lose their restaurant in a fire and move to France to start over. The son, played by Manish Dayal, is a culinary genius, although he calls himself  'a cook'. The family opens the new establishment in a small French town right across (exactly 100 feet) from an exclusive Michelin-starred restaurant run by a stiff teacher played artfully by Helen Mirren. Naturally, competition gives way to cooperation and a happy ending for all.
     My intention is not to write a critique of the film, the acting or the adaptation from the book. What I want to write about is the love story embedded in the movie. The central relationship is a passionate love affair with food. The cooking scenes are visually provocative. The sensual colors, the deliberately dramatic shots of enticing ingredients and rare spices, the Indian music, all intermix to create a seductive mood. People fall in love with each other too in this film, but those relationships are completely secondary to the hot-and-heavy romance everyone has with the food.
     The enchanting sensory experiences are stimulated by the striking presentation of dishes like chicken Korma from Northern India, the classic Boef Bourguignon, Indian lamb stew, Tandoori chicken wings, Omelette aux Fine Herbs, and glazed fish fillet with curry sauce. The preparation of the food also entices with slow-motion egg-cracking and whisking, loving hands kneading and folding accompanied by a score of gentle violins.
    The film starts a little slow and predictable, but then it develops into a surprisingly well-told story with food as the catalyst for love and self-discovery. A finger-licking-good piece of cinema.

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