Food & Drink: February 2023

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Food on Film

In the movie “The Menu,” Ralph Fiennes plays authoritarian chef Julian Slowik, who oversees the kitchen at Hawthorn, a restaurant on a private island that is the ultimate hard-to-secure reservation. A chef’s tasting dinner is $1,250 a person, and the dining room seats only 12 people. With one exception – Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy – “each of the diners represents some of the worst types of people to serve” in a restaurant, according to an article in “Food & Wine.” Slowik is fed up with those types of patrons at his restaurant, and his actions at this meal show to what extent he’ll go to show his frustrations with the whole lot of them.

“The Menu,” released last November, is just the latest movie to prominently feature food, a practice which dates back to the early days of filmmaking. Louis Lumière filmed his brother, Auguste and his wife Marguerite, feeding breakfast to their infant daughter, Andrée Lumière. The film is less than a minute long and was shot some time between March 22 and June 10, 1895.

While we haven’t seen the Lumière brothers’ efforts, we have watched a great number of films that have been centered around food. Some of our favorites have been “Babette’s Feast,” “Like Water for Chocolate,” “Eat Drink Man Woman” and Waitress.”

But our favorite food-related movie has to be “Big Night.” Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub play the brothers Secondo and Primo, who own the Italian restaurant Paradise on the Jersey Shore. The restaurant is struggling, and much of the plot centers around the brothers’ disagreements on how to improve business. They’re finally convinced that a visit to their restaurant by Italian-American singer Louis Prima will bring the publicity the eatery desperately needs.

For this special meal, the brothers painstakingly prepare a timpano, an elaborate baked pasta dish. “This is a project recipe, to be sure,” New York Times food writer Frank Bruni said in an article that included a recipe for the timpano, which takes about three hours to prepare and bake. (The recipe also calls for 22 eggs. As of today, eggs are about $6 a dozen, making this an even more expensive dish than it would be normally.)

We’ve been tempted, but have never made a timpano. While the recipe appears to be complex but doable, the dish is made to serve 16, but in reality would probably feed several more, and the right occasion to have that many people at dinner just hasn’t come about yet.

Back in the day, we also enjoyed the TBS series “Dinner and a Movie.” A pair of hosts, usually Annabelle Gurwitch and Paul Gilmart, would introduce a film, talk about it a bit, and then create a dish or a menu that was loosely related to the movie, and then update the progress of the meal during commercial breaks. The Breakfast Club Sandwich accompanied the “Breakfast Club.” Male Chauvinist Pig went along with “9 to 5.” Kevin Bacon and Cheese Hushpuppies was featured during “Footloose.” A quick Google search will bring up a complete list of food-and-movie pairings.

For our meal today, we prepared our version of the World’s Greatest Sandwich, as featured in the Adam Sandler film “Spanglish.” The sandwich was created by the chef Thomas Keller, who was the food consultant on the film, in which Sandler plays chef John Clasky. He makes the sandwich after getting home late one night after a shift at his restaurant. He pours a tall glass of beer to go along with his sandwich.

Clasky’s sandwich is a cross between a BLT and a grilled cheese. To make it ours, we added sliced avocado and spicy mayonnaise. We paired the sandwich with a Tipsy Vicar stout along with popcorn mixed with plain M&Ms. In the book “Eat What You Watch,” the author Andrew Rea talks about combining popcorn with chocolate-covered raisins, a concoction inspired by the movie “Whiplash.”

The Recipes

World’s Greatest Sandwich (Inspired by “Spanglish,” with Adam Sandler and Téa Leoni)

  • 4 slices thick-cut applewood bacon
  • 4 teaspoons butter, softened
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • Spicy mayonnaise, to taste (recipe follows)
  • Lettuce
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated aged white cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices rustic sandwich bread
  • 2 eggs

Cook the bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Spread the butter on one side of each piece of bread, and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder. Toast the bread under the broiler until golden.

Spread the spicy mayonnaise on each slice of bread. On two slices of toasted bread, stack the lettuce, tomato, avocado slices, grated cheese and bacon.

Spread the other slice of toast with the mayonnaise, top with the cooked bacon, tomato, lettuce and avocado.

Spray a skillet with nonstick spray. Cook the egg to desired doneness. Place the egg on top of the bacon and top with the other slice of bread. Slice the sandwich in half and serve immediately. Makes 2 sandwiches.


Spicy Mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Sambal Oelek (or favorite hot sauce), to taste

Place the eggs in a blender, along with the mustard, lemon juice and 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse to combine. With the blender running on low speed, add the remaining oil, blending until the mayonnaise is thick and creamy. Scrape into a bowl and add hot sauce to taste. Stir to mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Makes about 1/2 cup.


Popcorn with M&Ms (inspired by “Whiplash,” starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons)

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon butter, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Plain M&Ms, to taste (or, to be true to the film, Raisinets or other chocolate-covered raisins)

Add the oil to a heavy-bottom 3-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Add 4 or 5 popcorn kernels to the pan and cover with a lid.

When the kernels have popped, add the rest of the popcorn, cover the pot and remove from the heat for 30 seconds, shaking the pot to coat all the popcorn with oil.

Return the pan to the heat and set the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape. Once you hear the popcorn begin to pop, give the pan another shake back and forth over the burner. When the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the butter to the pan and swirl until it’s melted, then pour over the popcorn. Salt to taste and give the popcorn a good stir. Add a handful or two of M&Ms and serve. Makes about 4 servings.


Chocolate Truffles (inspired by “Chocolat,” starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp)

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, 70 percent or higher; chopped
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Flavorings (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 5 mint leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Place a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water. Add the chocolate, cream and butter to the pan. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in one flavoring of your choice, if desired, and let cool at room temperature until the chocolate is firm, about 2 hours.

Pour the cocoa powder into a wide, shallow bowl. Using a melon baller or small ice cream scoop, scrape the chocolate into 3/4-inch balls. Moisten your hands with water and roll the chocolate ball gently until it’s smooth and round. Place the ball in the cocoa powder and roll until coated, then place on wax paper or parchment. Repeat with the remaining chocolate. Truffles will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week. Makes about 16 truffles.