Tangerine (Sean Baker – 2015) A-

I love these “surprise” movies (which after the fact I found out it was filmed on an iPhone! pretty cool). Every Christmas Eve I stay up very late and watch a random movie, usually and indie and possibly unknown to me. This has a bonus that it is also set in one day on Christmas Eve in L.A. It’s an energetic emotional and sometimes very funny film about a transgender prostitute who is on a mission to get to the bottom of who her pimp/boyfriend is cheating on her with. We also get a related and intertwining story of an Armenian cab driver and his family issues along the way. The way everyone performs and how the movie is shot, almost in a different Los Angeles that we have never seen before, is fantastic. It all makes sense and the final scenes are a logical and sweet payoff.

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino – 2015) A

I got the chance to see this as part of the Special Roadshow Engagement. The experience is a homage to the grand film exhibition styles of the 50’s and 60’s when going to see a film was a big deal. The movie includes a musical overture, a souvenir program and an intermission. The movie was also filmed on Ultra Panavision 70 with a huge aspect ratio that made it look spectacular on the huge screen. All in all it was a fantastic experience.

The movie itself is another great entry in Tarantino’s record. It’s a tight multi-act play with long stretches of his trademark dialogue interspersed with those beautifully composed shots and sets, great score (by Ennio Morricone) and very strong  bloody violence. Throughout we listen to these men and woman talk scheme and murder while trying to figure out who will make it till the end of the night alive. More than any of his films I think here Tarantino plays it mostly straight. This is a rough and harsh western with a bit of mystery thrown in. The cast does a very good job especially Kurt Russel, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams – 2015) B+

The best thing George Lucas has done since the original Star Wars trilogy is sell it to Disney. Episode VII might not be the most original story-wise but it is a lot of fun, with cool characters that we care about and several great set pieces. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are so good as Rey and Finn, two new characters that carry the whole movie. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them.

Buzzard (Joel Potrykus – 2015) B+

This is a portrait of Marty, who really is a buzzard of sorts. He scavenges for food and runs scams. Nothing big or major heists. He’s not smart enough for that. He takes whatever he can get away with from 15 cent coupons to fraudulent checks for 20 bucks. Marty is a parasite who at first I thought might be going crazy but I don’t think so. That’s who he is, a guy who wears a Freddy Krueger mask in public and makes his own glove with blades for fingers! He’s a scavenger with no moral compass, friends or aspirations. He exists only to survive. When he thinks he might be in real trouble after stealing checks from his temp job at the bank he goes on the run. It’s sad seeing him try to hide and eat while he thinks he is being pursued for the 100 dollars or so worth of checks. Really high props here for Joshua Burge who plays the character of Marty. He does a great job.

Mugaritz: Dried Tomato Salad, a Bunch of Garlic Cloves and Herbs

Mugaritz Dried Tomato Salad6

Soaking a fruit or a vegetable in pickling lime or Calcium Hydroxide is a theme in the Mugaritz book. Soaking any vegetable in a mixture of water and pickling lime binds the cellulose and makes the fruit firm. The longer it is soaked the harder a shell it forms. The reason pickling lime is sold is -as the name suggest- keep those bread and butter pickles from getting mushy in the pickling liquid. Vegetables soaked in lime can withstand a good bit of cooking while remaining firm and never turning mushy. Chef Aduriz uses it in many recipes from making “calcified” branches of salsify to the traditional candied pumpkin cubes. The flavors here are very familiar. We have tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and herbs but the texture and look are certainly not what your typical tomato salad is like.

Tomatoes-Soaking

I blanched the tomatoes and peeled them first. I then soaked them in a mixture of water and pickling lime for several hours. The lime has a tendency to settle, so I needed to stir it every so often. By the end of the soaking time you could feel how firm and rough the tomatoes are on the outside. Next step is to cook them in a mixture of sugar and water.

After the tomatoes are cooked they get hollowed out from and all the soft pulp is removed. It’s pretty cool to see how the inside is still all soft and pulpy but the entire outside is basically a tomato shell with the texture of a soft-ish apple. It really could be battered and fried at this point and it would not fall apart. We do not fry it though. Instead the tomato shells go in a very low oven to dry for several hours. By the end of the drying time the tomatoes are like giant hollow deep red raisins!

Tomatoes-Soaked
Mugaritz Dried Tomato Salad7

While the tomatoes were dehydrating I worked on the filling and the garlic. The filling is made from large beefsteak tomatoes. The recipe had some slightly vague instructions to roast the tomatoes over fresh coals. I decided to broil them and roast them instead to get some char on them and also get them very soft. When fully cooked I got rid of the seeds and mixed the tomato pulp with olive oil, salt, minced garlic to form a good emulsion.

Mugaritz Dried Tomato Salad-Mise
To go with the tomato salad we have a whole boatload of slow roasted garlic cloves. This is just like it sounds. Gently roast garlic heads wrapped in foil in the oven until soft and deliciously sweet. I peeled them and tossed them with a good amount of olive oil.

Roasted Garlic
To plate, I stuffed the tomato shells with the tomato emulsion mixture and “closed” each one with a reserved tomato stem. a bunch of garlic cloves go on the side along with a few small herbs. I whipped the dressing from olive oil, cider vinegar, white miso and parsley and drizzled it all over the salad. It goes without saying that the flavors are excellent together. The texture was terrific and new. The tomatoes were not like sun-dried tomatoes but had a nice soft chew to them that was very nice. I was worried that the syrup the tomatoes are cooked in would make them too sweet but that was not the case. The flavors were perfectly balanced with mild sweetness, acidity, very deep tomato flavor (from all the roasting, drying and concentrating) and fragrant garlic and herbs.

Mugaritz Dried Tomato Salad5

Spectre (Sam Mendes – 2015) B

We have been spoiled by the fantastic Casino Royal and Skyfall. Had Spectre come at the heals of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies it would’ve fared better. That being said I very much enjoyed the movie. It’s closer in tone, absurdity and machismo to the older Bond movies. Still, Craig is a the best Bond in my opinion and I’m happy to see him in the suit and car.