The Theory of Everything (James Marsh – 2014) B+

A straight forward biopic about the brilliant Stephen Hawking. It chronicles his life since about 1963 in Cambridge when he was diagnosed and given 2 years to live until the time he writes A Brief History of Time. We get a very good idea of how important his wife was throughout his life. She was his support, nurse, lover and biggest champion. This takes a huge toll on her of course and I love how their relationship matures, evolves , ends and remains loving. The performance of Eddie Redmayne as Hawking is perfect . He effortlessly portrays Hawking as frail, brilliant and charming even if he has to talk through a computer for half the film.

The Maze Runner (Wes Ball – 2014) B-

The core story is interesting about a group of kids stuck in the center of a large maze. The goal is to figure out how to get out. Well, there are a few more wrinkles and I am not sure I buy or understand completely what the point of the exercise was but the film was fun, kept me interested and I enjoyed watching it with the kiddos.

Chicken, White Wine and Porcini Fricassee, Simple Risotto with Verjus


I cooked this when mom mom was visiting recently. I’m glad she loves Italian food as much as I do and especially risotto, pesto sauces and any form of pasta. Really, who doesn’t? I have a nice pasta dish coming up soon but for now it’s a soul satisfying dish from one of my go-to Italian food resources, the late Marcella Hazan. I flipped through to her chicken section in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and settled on this homey fricassee.  Since mom loves risotto I chose to make a simple one to accompany our chicken dinner.

Chicken Porcini Fricasse Risotto

The chicken dish is based on dried porcini mushrooms and white wine. I soaked the dried mushrooms in very hot water while I got the chicken pieces browned in a hot pan. That pan gets deglazed with white wine and then I add the mushrooms along with their strained soaking liquid and some chopped canned San Marzano tomatoes. The chicken pieces cooked in this mixture while I worked on finishing the risotto.



The risotto is a traditional and very straight-forward preparation. I cooked onions, carrots and celery in a mixture of butter and oil before adding the rice and cooking it for a few minutes. I add wine to that and then gradually add good flavorful chicken stock. I wanted to give the risotto a bit of tartness. So, all the way at the end after adding butter and Parmesan cheese I flavored the risotto with a few splashes of verjus.


Rich, flavorful chicken and a perfect risotto made for a delicious meal. More importantly earned mom’s seal of approval.

Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen – 2013) A-

Cate Blanchet as Jasmine is fantastic in this tight drama. Jasmine fell from Park Avenue grace when her filthy rich crook husband got put in prison. She is forced to move in with her sister and her two kids into a small one bedroom apartment in San Fransisco. This is one of those movies that is tough to categorize or describe it’s “plot”. I love those. They force you to look at each character as a real person and consider their choices, motivations and dialogue. We have the sister, her ex-husband (really good performance by Andrew Dice Clay of all people!), her current possibly-loser boyfriend and Jasmine’s husband who we see in flashbacks.

Woody Allen tells the story in two parallel lines, mostly from Jasmine’s perspective. We have the “now” with her trying to “learn computers” so that she can get her interior designer degree online. We see her dispensing advise to her sister about the kind of man she needs to date. Meanwhile, she can barely maintain her sanity as she tries to catch a new husband. We also have her flashbacks as we learn about her previous life, her husband, their extravagant lifestyle and his many affairs. I recently criticized an older Allen movie for trying to do Bergman and the attempt coming off as just an imitation. Here I see characters and dialogue that remind me of Bergman as well. However, this is unmistakably Woody Allen’s film and not an imitation. It’s funny at times but really tragic as a whole. It’s the portrait of Jasmine fading as she hopelessly tries to hold on to her prior glory with alcohol, Xanax, stories and nice clothing.

Mom’s Cooking

Stuffed Chard

It’s been longer than I normally would like to wait before posting a food related item here. However, I do have an excuse. My mom was visiting from Lebanon. We were busy, had a good time and really enjoyed some fantastic Lebanese cooking from her. I do have a couple of posts that I will be putting up soon but wanted to put up this blurb to highlight some of her food.


My mom enjoys her time in the kitchen. That’s very good for us as we enjoyed some of the dishes that I rarely make or if I do make them they never seem to come out as good as hers.

In an attempt to recreate some of them, I actually sat with her and took some notes about the recipes including her kibbeh with yogurt sauce, mujadarra, stuffed chard leaves (siliq) and even her very simple but damn delicious braised green beans with onions.

Fatayir Jibn (cheese pies)


Kibbeh done in three variations, fried, baked and simmered in yogurt (after frying)

kibbeh-3 ways

Siyadiyeh, the name vaguely translates as “fishermen’s fish”. This one has fried and flaked fish, spiced rice cooked in fish stock and the dish is topped with fried nuts and served with tahini sauce.


She also ventured into the sweet side of things and prepared a couple of her specialties. She made the Atayif (yeast-risen pancakes stuffed with cream) and the decadent Chocolate Cake with Whiskey.

chocolate whiskey cake