A Food and Film Affair

10 Feb

This is mostly for my Texas friends and readers, although anyone is welcome to make the journey to the utterly charming town of Fredericksburg, Texas!


Fredericksburg, Texas

Friday, February 19th, I’ll be in the glorious hill country of Texas hosting a “Food in Film” benefit for The Hill Country Film Society, a terrific organization I’ve had the pleasure of working with for the past 5 years.


Bluebonnets of Texas Hill Country

In partnership with Hoffman HausOtto’s German Bistro and Pedernales Cellars, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite “food in film” clips and discussing film while we all share in a multi-course meal designed with the clips in mind. The menu is incredible, it’s going to be delicious.

Better yet, your ticket will help benefit a great organization dedicated to supporting Texas filmmakers, independent film and children interested in filmmaking. (Proceeds benefit the Hill Country Film Society’s year-round programming: the Hill Country Film Festival, Indie Film Series and Summer Film Camp.)

Five Star ranked Hoffman Haus is offering 20% off accommodations if you are not local. 


Hoffman Haus

So come out and join us for what should be a blast of an event. Click the link below for more information and tickets. Feel free to contact me as well! Would love to see you there.

For tickets and information click here: 



Clemenza teaches Michael how to make Spaghetti Sauce



Bacon Guacamole

4 Feb

Yes that’s right. Bacon Guacamole. When you have two of the best tasting wonders in all the universe, why not combine them for something even better? And just in time for SuperBowl Sunday.

Bacon Guacamole

Bacon Guacamole

I wish I could say I thought of the idea. But when I can make and eat a dish this incredible… who cares? My friends Jeff and Owen introduced me to a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Studio City called Cascabel. They have Bacon Guacamole as an appetizer. Jeff and Owen said it was a must. They ordered it and the waitress brought it to the table.

After I pulled my face out of the bowl and wiped the remains out of my eyebrows, I realized I would have to try my own version. So here it comes. 

Note: This isn’t rocket science but like any good dish, the better the ingredients the better it tastes. 

May I first ask please for a moratorium on Applewood Smoked Bacon??? I am so tired of that flavor and sometimes that is the only type of bacon I can find, even if the store carries 12 different bacons. (Hello Trader Joe’s!) Enough.

If you are a Costco member, I am presently addicted to this bacon:


So get a good quality bacon, thicker the better, and slow fry it up. This means put the bacon in an unheated pan, then turn the stove on medium and start from there. You will get much crisper bacon… and you want crisp bacon for this guacamole. Wait for a few minutes before you flip, then flip your bacon a couple of times. This takes patience, a good ten minutes or so. Then drain on paper towels.


As for the guac? Why you can find a recipe for the best guacamole in the world right here:


But if you can’t even be bothered to click, it’s easy. Just mash together:

5 or 6 ripe avocados

3 cloves garlic minced

1 diced Jalapeño or Serrano pepper (the seeds make the fire, so go easy)

juice of one lemon

diced onion or shallot (small handful)

minced cilantro (also a small handful)

salt and pepper

a shake or two of cumin or cumin seeds

No bacon yet

getting ready for the mix and mash


Mix, mash and taste, mix, mash and taste.

Then add the bacon, in small crumbles, just before you serve it. 

Bacon Guacamole

the final product

I usually do not add tomatoes to my guac, but here they work well. If you want. But no need. It will still be divine. 

You paleo/ketogenic diet folks? (And cross fit fanatics)… this is perfect for you! Fat and protein in the perfect combination.

So make some Bacon Guacamole and enjoy! And don’t forget another supremely amazing dip for this Super Bowl Sunday. Click right here for the new favorite of everyone who wanders into my kitchen:


Pim Cheese corn dip

Pimento Cheese Jalapeño Corn Dip


What will you be having for the Super Bowl??



Best of 2015 Pt. 2 (Books & TV)

15 Jan

Last week I posted my favorite films of 2015. Here is part 2 of my ‘best of’ list:

Only 3 of the many books I read this year make the list… but wow, are these three terrific:


No other narrative in 2015 affected me as deeply as this heartbreaking, brutal yet beautiful novel. My good friend Shay handed me A Monster Calls, recommending it highly, and, with no other warning from her, I made the mistake of reading it on a plane. I can’t imagine what the passengers in the surrounding 5 or 6 rows were thinking when, during the last third, I audibly fell apart and then could not pull myself together when I finished. And I don’t cry. (Too much a man… you know…) Patrick Ness’ exquisite prose with deep emotional insight and stunning illustratations by Jim Kay create a book, an experience, that will be with me a long, long time. I will return to it often.

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness.


If you love 1) Old Hollywood 2) Movies and/or 3) F. Scott Fitzgerald, you will be in heaven reading this near perfect rendering of the last year or so of Fitzgerald’s his life as he struggles to survive in the film business and the world at large. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of author Stewart O’Nan’s novels but nothing prepared me for the beauty and craft of his latest, and best. The book is fictional, yes, but based largely on the actual facts of Fitzgerald’s life. Peppered with other real life characters such as Dorothy Parker, Humphrey Bogart and Hemingway, this was pure pleasure to read, even though recounting perhaps the darkest era in the famous author’s life.




Touted by critics as “this year’s Gone Girl‘, Paula Hawkin’s debut novel is even better and, if you can believe it, even darker. A stunning thriller with one of the most complex main characters I’ve encountered in a while, The Girl on the Train blew me away. I read it in two days then immediately read it again, knowing all the secrets, to appreciate Hawkin’s mastery at deception and the best use of an unreliable narrator I’ve ever encountered. Unsurprisingly, the movie is currently filming with a terrific cast, though the movie’s switch of locale from London to New York is baffling and irritating. Read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

As for television, I wish I had more time to watch shows, given the amazing golden age of television in which we happily find ourselves . That said, I was lucky enough to watch some of the best TV in years:


Hands down the best of the year. This critically acclaimed 6 episode mini-series was also the one HBO series no one seemed to watch. I can only hope it will slowly gain traction through word of mouth because this masterpiece absolutely slayed me. Based on the true story of a battle to create public housing in Yonkers, New York in the late 1980’s, Show Me A Hero is an unflinching, complex, thought-provoking drama about politics, race, ambition, betrayal, redemption… well, in its six episodes Show Me A Hero covers the gamut of almost every human emotion, foible and experience. While a period piece, everything in the miniseries has incredible resonance in our current climate. Spearheaded by The Wire’s David Simon, the miniseries showcases some of the best acting I’ve seen by an ensemble in a long time. With so many performers doing peerless work, I hesitate to single out actors, but mention must be made of Oscar Issac, who has become by far the most interesting and dynamic actor alive today. His work here is outstanding and holds the story together. And then there is Catherine Keener. I didn’t even recognize her for a couple of episodes. Her character, a woman fiercely opposed to the housing project, becomes the most fascinating character in the story with a subtle, beautifully realized arc that is one of the more surprising aspects of the series, which contains a number of shocking surprises. Given it is based on real life, nothing plays out as you would expect. I binged all six hours on a 14 hour flight and was transfixed the entire time. Whether you binge the series or, as I might recommend, take it slow to let the weight of the themes settle in before another episode, I encourage you to give this critically acclaimed but low rated series a look.



Until I saw Show Me A Hero, The Jinx was easily my pick as ‘best of the year’ and, honestly, I might as well give them both the top berth. A six episode documentary about a murder mystery, The Jinx is riveting. I’ve seen it three times and will watch it again. Each time, in fact, I’ve watched it, with friends, in one sitting. Not only is it a suspenseful and shocking mystery, it’s brilliant use of what I call ‘disclosure of information’… how each piece of information in the story is laid out for maximum effect. This is a narrative I will teach in my screenwriting classes for years. The director, Andrew Jarecki, also directed one of my favorite documentaries of all time, Capturing The Friedmans (a must watch) and he builds on his craft to create something even more gripping in this stunner.  You will not be able to turn it off.



Netflix dropped another stunning true crime documentary at the end of the year and as the Christmas holidays rolled into New Years, social media exploded as everyone binged the series and began to post theories about it. The less you know the better, and watch it fast as it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid spoilers. While I would say watch The Jinx if you are only going to watch one, you really don’t want to miss this either. Both The Jinx and Making A Murderer have created controversy by the manner of their storytelling and the real life implications that have erupted because of the narratives. More power to the filmmakers, I say. Both are brilliant. 

Oh and be ready to get angry. Very angry.


NOTE: If you, too, loved The Jinx and Making A Murderer, find Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, the best true crime documentary ever made. A movie that, by breaking the traditional form of documentaries, is the grandfather of every modern doc that came after, The Thin Blue Line is another stunner, a movie that truly changed my life when I saw it in the theatre. It, too, was controversial at the time and, like this year’s duo, it had an enormous social effect when it was released. 



Last year, Season One of Fargo astonished most everyone by being the best piece of narrative fiction on TV in many years. Many critics found Season Two even better. While I myself don’t think Season Two quite reaches the dizzying heights of the first, this flashback to the 70’s and the life of one of the characters from Season One was still better than most of the other terrific shows on TV this year. Perfectly cast, audaciously directed and, like all things Fargo, hilarious and gruesome, if you have not seen either season move Fargo to the top of your binge list. You won’t be sorry.



Still the best TV show I’ve ever seen. ‘Nuff said.


Let us know your favorites! And, as always, thanks for reading. Here is to an equally terrific 2016!

Best of 2015 Pt. 1 (Movies)

10 Jan

I’m breaking my ‘end of year’ posts into Part 1 (movies) and Part 2 (everything else). Would love to hear your own favorites in the comments!


I loved this so much, I did a full blog post on the movie (click link below). Suffice to say, it is still the best movie of the year:




Tri Star couldn’t pay people to go see this incredible movie, which is a tragedy. Not the movie! But a tragedy people did not go see it. A glorious return to form by one of our best directors, Robert Zemeckis, who wrote the terrific screenplay with Christopher Browne, this magical, breathtaking recreation of  Philippe Petit’s death defying tightrope walk between the towers of the just opened World Trade Center was many things: a caper picture, an adventure film, a beautiful recreation of 1974 New York City, and a love letter to the buildings we lost on September 11th as well as moviemaking in general. I saw it three time and happily wept three times, particularly during the final moments and images. Made for the biggest screen possible, I can only hope it will work as well at home and that people begin to discover it. This movie fills me with joy.



Wow. A brutal, riveting thriller from director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan that had my chest tight from the moment it started all the way through it’s devastating conclusion. No director working today… and I mean NO director working today… can create and sustain tension like Villeneuve. I don’t quite know how he does it. Not only is Sicario a superb thriller, it is a deeply complex and thought provoking look at the drug trade, the border, law enforcement, and the human condition. A must see.




I love a great action movie as much as anyone. Unfortunately, most of the action films that come out are marginal at best. Thankfully, the MI series remains as strong as ever. I wasn’t sure anyone could match Brad Bird’s phenomenal MI:4 but damned if writer/director Christopher McQuarrie didn’t rise to the occasion. Extremely smart and suspenseful, with incredible set pieces throughout, this chapter was elevated further by a star-making performance from Rebecca Ferguson as a woman whose motives are continually difficult to discern. I love watching Tom Cruise, he is as strong and solid as ever in this film. And as Cruise did with Emily Blunt in the equally terrific Edge of Tomorrow (now Live Die Repeat), he gracefully gave this movie to his co-star, Ferguson. If you missed it, watch it. You will have an incredible time.




The phrase “They don’t make them like they used to” seems made for this lovely, beautifully crafted period piece about a young Irish woman immigrating to America in the 50’s. Pitch perfect performances and directing make this one of the best films of the year, as does something else… as ‘old-fashioned’ as the movie seems on the surface, it has a powerful modern-day resonance in its depiction of the immigrant’s life and our country’s magnificent history as an immigrant nation. Without trying to be political at all, this look at the life of an immigrant is, in today’s climate, very political. If that is a deterrent, ignore modern day implications and watch it for the gorgeous depiction of Brooklyn in the 50’s and the romance that is at the heart of the film.



Damn, you, J.J. Abrams!


This is very begrudging. I didn’t want to see it, I even swore I would not see it. The three prequel abominations from the madman at that ranch in Northern California killed my love of the series. I have a hard time watching even the original three, particularly since the madman has wrecked those with stupid changes as well. 

I do love me some JJ, though. I’ve been a fan for a long time. felicity remains one of my favorite TV shows ever, funny, romantic, smart and so filled with magnificent longing. I hesitate to mention LOST as I can go down a rabbit-hole of love for what IS my favorite TV show of all time. His Mission:Impossible kicked ass. And I am a freak for both Star Trek features. Still, I was very pissy about Force Awakens. I never watch trailers, I hate to see anything before I watch a movie… so I watched the trailer, thinking I would not go. When I saw Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford embrace, the damn trailer got me. So I went. And was misty-eyed at least 4 times. 

It’s hard for the to distinguish if it is really that damn fine of a movie or if it is simply genius at using our nostalgia for the originals. Probably a lot of both. Abrams and company should be commended if nothing else for restoring the series from the last three jaw-dropping train wrecks. But they did so much more than that. The Force Awakens is a fun, thrilling, very clever movie that is one hell of a good time. I’ll humbly admit I’m going back. 


The Big Short, The Revenant, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Room, Inside Out, Ex Machina, The Hateful Eight, Spy


Spotlight, Anomalisa, 45 Years, Steve Jobs

The Best Meal I Ever Cooked

26 Dec

Fitting for the last post of the year, this week I cooked hands down the best dish I’ve ever prepared. It was so good part of me thought ‘Stop now, why keep trying?” Perhaps instead it will encourage me to bigger and better levels. Or maybe I will make only one dish now, over and over. Whatever happens, you must try my version of cassoulet.

It may not look like much right out of the oven, but… wow.

Cassoulet finished 1

As we discussed in the last post, cassoulet originated as a peasant dish, a way to combine a lot of pantry items and left over pieces of meat for a cheap meal that puts everything to use, no waste allowed. Great idea, right? Besides, who of us can resist a big old stewy pot of beans and meat?

Particularly when done well.

Over the years, I’ve cooked many versions of cassoulet and sampled other versions at some of my favorite restaurants. I’ve eaten a lot of wonderful cassoulet.

I don’t mean to be immodest, but it’s the truth: this was The Best.

Cassoule final 3

I have a small dinner for some friends every year the week before Christmas, so I tried it out on them. The consensus at the table was the same. “Felt like pure love”, “otherworldly” and “I never knew food could taste like this” were among the comments. (Thanks to my friends!) All of which is to say: give this a try! It takes some time but if you break it up over days, it is actually quite easy. Lots of steps, yes, but each step is simple. 

If and when you are ready, or for some great photos, click the link below for a page I created with the step-by-step recipe. With a little planning, you will be on your way to one of the most comforting, deeply satisfying meals of your life. 


A few of the ingredients…

And Happy New Year! I will return soon with my year-end wrap-up posts, more movie and food posts and, as promised, a quick-fire version of cassoulet from by friend Brian Gerritson that deserves a post all its own.

Until then, Christmas and Holiday blessings… and thanks for reading!

Cassoulet: The Recipe





Christmas Cassoulet Cookoff

11 Dec cassoulet-oie-frais

Who, me? All I want for Christmas is some Cassoulet!


Cassoulet in a cassole

Cassoulet is a marvelous dish, a slow-cooked, one pot meal with a little bit of everything that is as deeply satisfying as it is incredibly tasty. Named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, Cassoulet originated in the south of France as a peasant dish: let’s take a lot of leftovers or ingredients we need to use before they go bad, throw them together in a big pot and make a hearty meal. Which means, of course, what goes in a cassoulet differs from region to region and kitchen to kitchen.

Which also means with good ingredients, cassoulet is difficult to screw up! 


Cassoulet from Dartagnan.com

(For a brief and wonderful history of the dish, check out an excellent post on Dartagnan.com by clicking here)

Over the years, ‘definitive’ versions of the dish have emerged, with fancier ingredients than the peasant origins. I doubt, for instance, the first cassoulet contained Duck Confit and/or the expensive Tarbais bean. Nevertheless, for the adventurous cook, these more ‘upscale’ versions are a blast to make, with mouth-watering results. 


Thanksgiving Ideas

20 Nov

For regular readers, apologies for the lack of posts! This Fall has been crazy busy with four jobs running concurrently. The blog subsequently took a hit and I am working on getting back on track. In the meantime, I could not let my favorite day of the year pass without rambling on about something!

Below find my personal Thanksgiving favorites. This is a bit of a ‘best of’ but there are a couple of recipes new to the blog and I stand behind each, they will not do you wrong. Be sure to post some of your favorites in the comments section!


Cranberry Daiquiri

I wrote about this one for Christmas but it is perfect for Thanksgiving as well. Make the cranberry syrup now, it will keep in the fridge all through the holidays. I love this because it is not too sweet. Divine.

For the recipe, click here.


Russ Parson's "Judy Bird"

Russ Parson’s dry brined turkey is justifiably famous. The ‘Judy-Bird’ is hands down the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. Perfect crisp skin, delicious moist meat. It is also the easiest recipe imaginable. NOTE: It needs to sit three days with the salt brine so get your turkey now!

For the recipe, click here.



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