Archive for the ‘movie food scenes’ Category

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NUTELLA: World’s favourite bread spread

June 2, 2015

I’m not a big consumer of the world’s most popular chocolate and hazelnut spread – preferring solid goodness like Baci or Ritter Sport, but I’m concerned about the future of NUTELLA and its devotees.

Baci chocolatesRitter Sport chocolate

This timeline shows recent disturbing facts. Perhaps the beginning of No-tella?

1946 – Italian pastry maker Pietro Ferrero creates a solid chocolate loaf, adding locally grown hazelnuts as an extender due to the short supply of cocoa post World War 11. Children decide it’s a great breakfast treat with bread.

1951 – Now a cream consistency, Supercrema Gianduja is a big hit with children when shopkeepers encourage them to visit their stores bearing slices of bread to be topped with the spread. This becomes known as ‘The Smearing’.

1964 – Re-branded as ‘Nutella’ (pronounced ‘Nootella’) by the founder’s son Michele Ferrero, the spread spreads outside Italy, becoming a favourite with French and Spanish children. My parents however offer me a chocolate bar in a buttered sandwich.

1973 – The Italian film Bread and Chocolate is released. The bittersweet story about an Italian immigrant seeking work in Switzerland includes an outdoor scene where main protagonist Nino Manfredi bites into a bread roll filled with a chocolate bar. The crunching noise is so loud it stops the scene’s string quartet mid sonata.

1978 – Manufacture begins in Australia at Lithgow, about 140 kms from Sydney.

1983 – I discover Nutella and cream cheese sandwiches while studying in Florence.

2007 – Chocolate/hazelnut spread aficionado invents ‘World Nutella Day’ on 5 February.

2013 – Chocolate/hazelnut spread aficionado receives a cease-and-desist order from Ferrero-Rocher who claims their permission was not sought to officially celebrate the spread globally. Over 46,000 social media followers express outrage.

2014 – Nutella®, now available in approximately 160 countries, turns 50.

2014 – Unseasonal weather in Turkey, the world’s leading hazelnut exporter, creates a global shortage. My idea (in a previous post) of combining smashed sugared almonds with chocolate to make almond bark seems inspired.

2014 – Warnings issued of a future global cocoa crisis due to crop failure, disease and adding chocolate to EVERYTHING including gin, vodka and potato crisps.

2015 – Michele Ferrero – owner of the Nutella empire and the richest man in Italy – dies aged 89, with rumours his son is not so interested in the business and takeovers could follow.

2015 – French court bans parents from naming their baby daughters “Nutella” after judge rules “it’s not in the best interest of a child because of the risk of abuse.”

2015 – A friend (let’s call him Gus) announces he’s giving up Nutella because of the nasties it contains, including palm oil, vanillin (MSG) and soy lecithin.

2015 – I hear about a healthy, organic alternative called Nocciolata but it’s not available in Australia. Still wanting a sugar fix, I buy a breadstick and chocolate variation instead called Nutella & GO. Close examination of ingredients list reveals breadsticks contain palm oil.

Nutella & GO

If you love Nutella but want something healthier, try David Leibovitz’s recipe. For an adults-only version, do what renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria does – add salt and an olive oil drizzle to melted chocolate on a bread roll. Or add it to cream cheese in a toasted sandwich.

Start stockpiling now!

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Rise of the Vending Machine Pizza

August 31, 2014

The announcement two weeks ago that Australia’s first vending machine pizza was available in Sydney sent me into sampling mode.

Just as people remember their exact whereabouts during significant world events, I remember my first taste of homemade pizza: it was Italy, mid 1970s and my non-pizza eating parents and I had been invited to a special family lunch. By contrast, would my first taste of vending machine pizza this week in a stadium-sized shopping mall be memorable? 

Bracing myself for the bland surroundings of a food court, I instead imagined myself somewhere a little grittier. The opening scene of Saturday Night Fever came to mind. I couldn’t recreate 1977, nor request the Bee Gees, but my black pants and oxblood boots had me channelling John Travolta/Tony Manero strutting Brooklyn’s streets eating pizza.

Oxblood Boots

 

Giorgio Pompei, owner/chef of Pompei’s pizzeria/gelateria at Bondi Beach has invested considerable cash into perfecting what he describes as “the world’s first artisan pizza vending machine”. He is confident his pizzas are superior to the mass-produced ones from vending machines in Italy, France and the USA. His Pizza Gio product is partially cooked at the Bondi restaurant, then chilled and transported across town to the Chatswood food court. The Italian-made machine – which holds 42 Margherita and 42 hot salami pizzas – then dispatches them in three minutes.

Pizza Gio machine

 

I really wanted to be at the takeaway window of Lenny’s Pizza in Brooklyn to say “Two, gimme two … that’s good” just like John/Tony did, and then slap one slice onto the other. Instead I stood in front of a 2m x 2m beige box, swiped my credit card and waited for Pizza Gio to give birth to a $12 Margherita.

PizzaGioCountdown_2

 

The 11-inch pizza comes in an open box – uncut. Although hungry, I didn’t fancy pushing it into my mouth whole. What would John/Tony do? Probably fold it into a calzone, but not wanting the mess, I began a desperate hunt for a knife. A couple of laps of the food court later, stolen knife and serviette in hand, I’d earned my lunch and Stayin’ Alive seemed an appropriate song to eat to.

PizzaDelivery_2

 

I gave a big tick each for the crispy crust, the fresh tasty tomato and mozzarella topping and the distinguishable basil aroma. No ticks though for its lukewarmness after the mad food court dash looking for something to cut it with. Perhaps it’s aimed at pizza lovers who live or work nearby, or people who carry knives.

Compared to the original, very good Pompei pizzas in Bondi, these stack up remarkably well. But will customers favour Pizza Gio over the cheaper, well-known pizza brand on sale a few metres away? I’d hope so, as there are plans to expand the business throughout Sydney and beyond in the future.

(The writer paid for her own pizza.) 

And now, here’s the real Tony:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okpCx87orOA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Trip to Italy: Food Capers

June 2, 2014

“We’re not going to do any impersonations are we?” Steve Coogan asks Rob Brydon early on in The Trip to Italy.

The sequel to 2010’s cult hit film The Trip is a delicious excuse to again offer the two comedians an opportunity to outperform each other during a culinary roadtrip. Of course there will be impersonations.

It’s true they can be insufferable at times, but the exchanges reach such levels of absurdity it’s hard not to admire the comic interplay of the mostly improvised script. I guffawed harder than I imagined I would.

Steve & Rob still

 

The premise – that they travel from the northern Piedmont region down to Capri reviewing six fine dining restaurants for the Observer magazinedoesn’t stray from the first film’s successful formula. I desperately wanted to eyeball more Italian food while re-aquainting myself with Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Humphrey Bogart, Woody Allen, Anthony Hopkins, Roger Moore and many more.

Al Pacino and Marlon Brando make a welcome appearance as the Corleones (in Cooper and Brydon’s double act). Given The Godfather is rich with scenes of family dinners, I was craving their dialogue be delivered from mouths packed with ravioli. Coogan suggests that Brydon stuff a bread roll in his mouth for his Marlon Brando impression but Brydon demurs as he has a yeast intolerance.

The summer roadtrip in a black convertible mini continues through postcard vistas down the Ligurian coast through Tuscany, Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Capri. The non-stop banter takes in literature, art, family and the word “cumquat”, with Brydon the perfect alfoil for Coogan.

Dishes incorporating rabbit, quail, guinea fowl, squid, bonito, octopus and something scarily called ‘scorpion fish’ are served. I wanted more lingering food shots – and bigger reactions to those first mouthfuls. On the Amalfi Coast, Coogan tastes the main course and moans in ecstasy “oh, oh my God”. Not as memorable as the Meg Ryan/When Harry Met Sally scene, but not to be sniffed at.

One of the film’s rewarding themes is director Michael Winterbottom’s “homage to Byron and Shelley”. He has Coogan and Brydon retracing the romantic poets’ footsteps to the beautiful ‘Bay of Poets’ in Liguria where Shelley died and Byron’s house in Genoa.

Coogan and Brydon have admitted in interviews they don’t know much about food. Brydon backs this up with this gem on a hotel terrace – “Eggs for breakfast. Can’t top that … except with brown sauce”.

They came, they ate, they cracked jokes.

Black Ink RavioliThe recipe below comes courtesy of Australian distributor Madman who sent me a tantalising selection from the film. 

Pictured left is Black Ravioli stuffed with Mussels on Potato Cream, Candied Tomato and White Tomato Foam. It’s from the two Michelin-starred Ristorante Oliver Glowig in Rome.

 

The Trip to Italy is currently screening Australia-wide.
Images courtesy Madman Entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ice Cream, You Scream: the Tutti Frutti story

December 16, 2013

Little Richard, Pat Boone and Elvis sang about it in the mid 1950s, but where is it now?

When quizzed about ‘tutti frutti’ my friends mostly knew it as a flavour for lollies or icy confections, but confessed to not having heard of it for decades.

In Italian the words mean ‘all fruit’ (in a word-for-word translation) but are not used in the Italian language at all. In fact, the correct way of saying it would be ‘tutti i frutti’ or even better: ‘tutta la frutta’.

The invention of tutti frutti ice cream, with its small pieces of glace fruits and nuts, is attributed to Kentucky ice cream factory owner Roy Motherhead who named it after his daughter ‘Toodie’ in the late 1940s-early 1950s. However, I discovered an image of a bold neon Tutti Frutti Ice Cream sign on a building in Soerabaja (Surabaya, Indonesia) dated 1929-32. Am I questioning the Wikipedia editors here?    Tutti Frutti sign in Surabaya

Entertainment-wise, the expression appears in the 1943 Busby Berkeley film The Gang’s All Here when Carmen Miranda wobbles her bananas in the musical number ‘The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat’.  

CarmenMiranda sings 'Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat'  

It’s given the mangled Italian-English treatment in the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races filmed in 1937. In one of the film’s best scenes, Chico loudly invites punters at the racetrack to “getta your tootsie frootsie ice cream” while really trying to sell Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush) horse betting instruction manuals hidden in the ice cream cart.

Chico and Groucho Marx Brothers

So, what happened to tutti frutti? Apparently Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia (established in 1919) still sells it. And it appears to be one of the 50 flavours for a designer jelly bean brand. What a sad end to something that inspired so many magical moments.  Tutti Frutti Jelly Belly

But all’s not lost. The cassata siciliana, on which the tutti frutti flavour is surely based, endures. Usually a glace fruit, nut and ricotta mixture covered with cake and suffocated with marzipan, it’s a rich, sweet concoction. I prefer a simpler cassata-type gelato and recall having it for dessert at the dozens of Sydney Italian weddings I attended in the 1970s-1980s. This cassata recipe (from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible) reminds me of these (especially the cherry-flavoured top layer), but I’d substitute the commercial glace fruit with my own candied peel and Maraschino cherries (included in previous posts).  CassataGelato

Further viewing:

Carmen Miranda – The Gang’s All Here (The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gloYcISsyHA

Marx Brothers – A Day at the Races (Tootsie Frootsie ice cream racetrack scene) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LBIsDBC848

 

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The Lure of the Liqueur

June 29, 2013

With our backyard mandarin tree bursting with winter fruit, the Mandarin Queen needed to break away from the annual marmalade making. 

Enter the gaudy tea towel I’d bought from a local Italian deli a few months ago. The 100% cotton ‘Liquori d’Italia’ purchase was an encyclopedia of Italian liqueurs and winding my way down the boot, I found something enticing. Souvenir Italian teatowel with liqueur map

Mandarinetto is a Sicilian mandarin-based liqueur that uses the same recipe as Limoncello: fruit peel, vodka and sugar syrup. I can feel it doing me good already.

Italians love their liqueurs as either aperitifs or digestifs and have been making them since they were prepared by monks as herbal medicines centuries ago. Wind the clock forward to the 1960s and my mother (who was definitely not a monk but liked her cordials with a bit of kick) went through a homemade liqueur phase. Armed with pure alcohol, sugar and synthetic essences, she worked her way through Maraschino, Amaretto, Sambuca and something bright green as post-dinner party treats. But it’s the Strega that stands out.

Strega bottle with its namesake witch

Strega means “witch” in Italian and was so named in 1860 for the legends of witchcraft in its city of origin – Benevento, northeast of Naples. When I later studied Shakespeare’s Macbeth at school, nothing could wipe from my mind the vision of the three witches, the cauldron and the chant “Double, double, toil and trouble”. Commercially bought Liquore Strega which is made from 70 herbs and spices still boasts a witch on the label.

The liqueur has also been quoted in literature (A Farewell to Arms) and has a role in a few films including Kitty Foyle (1940) where Ginger Rogers (in one of her more interesting roles) is impressed with her beau’s smooth line: “If two people drink it [Strega] together, they’ll never drink it apart”.

For Mandarinetto, the line would be something like: “if you make this liqueur from home-grown fruit you will become intimate with citrus stinkbugs”. 

Speaking of bugs, I’ve always been fascinated by the liqueur ‘Alchermes’, said to contain a small parasitic insect that contributes to its scarlet colour.

I belong to a bi-monthly food club and the president occasionally brings along a bottle of surprising liqueur for us to try. My Mandarinetto will require a four week steeping period, so I’ll report back after I’ve tested it on club members.

Mandarinetto liqueur recipe from ‘Love from Italy’ blog

Related post: Maraschino liqueur cherries

Kitty Foyle Strega scene

 

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Pasta Shapes my Memories

April 25, 2013

Apparently, there are more than 250 pasta shapes available but I have no idea why.

I’m sure someone set themselves the task of sampling every single pasta shape and has probably written about it. Me? I’m happy to stick to the five or six I enjoy regularly because of my strong associations with them.

One of my favourites is maccheroni as it reminds me of the time my mother was hired for a cooking demonstration in a Sydney CBD department store in the late 1950s. Home-cooked pasta was unheard of among non-Italians and the store was keen to introduce it to shoppers. I was maybe four or five and remember going with her to the store with a family friend (my father was working). I helped her distribute the paper plates of pasta straight from pots of boiling water, topped with meat sauce (ragu) she’d prepared earlier. My mother spoke little English, so there was a translator on hand, but it didn’t seem to matter as the shoppers lapped it up. What concerns me, however, is the way I was allowed – as a young child – near the hot pots’n’pans and stove. Ah, those wacky days before OH&S took over.

I like mafaldine too, which also brings back memories from the early 1960s and I can picture the long curly pasta strands covered in homemade tomato sauce flying through the air. A landlady without a great food repertoire ran the boarding house next door. She fed the six 20-something men – recently migrated from Italy – the same dinner every night. After the fourth day in a row of pasta, the men rebelled and the meal – pot and all – was hurled by the woman from the kitchen window into the backyard in disgust. Their loss was the pet dog’s gain.

Occasionally I’ll still cook creste di gallo (roosters’ combs) just to hear my grandfather’s voice denouncing them to my grandmother as shaped “like old folks’ dentures”.

But usually I reach for spaghetti, despite my first school kid trauma of discovering a tuck shop spaghetti sandwich was not the same as mamma made at home: what WAS this gluggy, sweet, orange coloured baby food?

Spaghetti, or sometimes linguine, is the pasta of choice in many film scenes. You just can’t convey some messages with any other shape.  TheApartment_strainingSpaghetti

Think about the steamy kitchen sink scene in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment when Jack Lemmon prepares dinner for Shirley Maclaine and strains the pasta over a tennis racquet. “You’re pretty good with that racquet” she says. Lemmon replies “Wait till you see me serve the meatballs!”  

Or the spaghetti-eating scene with the two besotted dogs in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp

But the last word goes to Walter Matthau (Oscar) in Neil Simon’s 1967 bachelor fest The Odd Couple during a nasty fight when he throws Felix’s freshly cooked plate of spaghetti (or linguine)* and sauce against a kitchen wall, where it slides down, strand by strand. That image just wouldn’t be the same with bow-tie or shell-shaped pasta.

* Watch the ‘Odd Couple’ clip for the spaghetti v linguine tussle    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDXSXkYoM5Y

 Lose yourself in the definitive Guide to Pasta Shapes 

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Food on Film: A Missed Opportunity

March 11, 2013

The Weekend Australian’s film critic Evan Williams wrote an entertaining piece last year about memorable food films citing Babette’s Feast, Julie and Julia, Tampopo and La Grande Bouffe, among others, in his story Reel Delicious .

Culling my mother’s old LPs a few weeks ago, I stumbled on an album by brilliant Italian actor/comedian Walter Chiari. He played the lead role in the popular Australian film They’re a Weird Mob (1966, Michael Powell) as Nino Culotta, a sports journalist who travels to Sydney by ship following the promise of a magazine job. Cut to the comedy of errors that follows and he finds himself digging holes as a brickie’s labourer working alongside three likely lads – all good-natured Aussie blokes who soon teach him the local customs.  They're a Weird Mob DVD

What surprised me about the film was the lack of food scenes or Italian culinary references. If They’re a Weird Mob were made in today’s food-obsessed world, its plot of an educated Italian immigrant finding himself in an Anglo-Australian mid 1960s setting could have been milked by the filmmakers for all its worth. The only exception is a restaurant scene where Nino politely advises a couple of sheilas “you can’t eat spaghetti with a spoon”.

In another scene he’s at home with his workmates after a hunting expedition. All they’ve produced from the trip is a miserly rabbit, which is rejected by one of the wives and a dinner of baked beans on toast with extra tomato sauce is eaten instead. Nino looks on in amusement. But jump to 2013 and what a wonderful opportunity to have him jump up and offer to debone the rabbit and stuff it with garlic, breadcrumbs and capers. Perhaps with some grilled radicchio on the side.

Nino is such a likeable character that he happily accepts two mugfulls of milky tea (or is it instant coffee?) from a workmate after long hours sweating in the hot sun on a worksite. Today, he would have offered his workmates an espresso made from the stovetop Moka pot he’s set up in the shade of the truck.  Drinking scene in pub - They're a Weird Mob

And wine? No way. Our ‘New Australian’ tries to blend into his new lifestyle by drinking far too many beers with his mates at the local pub. Where’s the Prosecco? The Pinot Grigio? Or a Vermentino from Sardegna?

These missed opportunities are more than compensated for however with some great Australian idioms used throughout the film.

Meeting a new drinking buddy, Nino is asked “Whaddya do for a crust?”

He’s also told in no uncertain terms that he’s “not right in the scone”.

More praise for the film: http://blogafi.org/2012/11/22/why-i-adore-theyre-a-weird-mob/

Italian-Australian chef Stefano de Pieri’s stuffed rabbit recipe that Nino could have made:  http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/17413/stuffed-rabbit

Images courtesy Roadshow Entertainment

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