Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan – 2017) A-

On an IMAX screen this looks formidable and all-immersive as we follow three timelines leading up to the evacuations of British soldiers from Dunkirk during the early years of WWII. It opens with a spectacular shot of pamphlets falling from the sky letting the soldiers know that they are surrounded. That’s all we need to know. It ends with another great shot of a plane gently gliding and landing on a beach…yes this was made for a huge screen and it is worth it. We have a soldier on the beach, a fighter pilot providing some air cover in amazing dogfights and a small boat with a father and his son heading to help with the evacuations. War really sucks and we feel it in every moment here. Dialogue is sparse and the plot is very simple. The Germans bomb the beach, sink the ships from the air and from u-boats and there seems to be no way off.

Lion (Garth Davis – 2016) B

We meet a lot of people in this emotional and sweet true story but it really is about one person and his search for himself. Good performances and good pacing serve the story very well. He was 5 or 6 when he was lost in Calcutta and by various miracles and luck he managed to not get nabbed by the seedy underbelly of that place. He ended up in an orphanage and soon after adopted by a very nice Australian couple. As an adult Saroo has these memories of a brother and a mother in a poor distant Indian village. He keeps telling himself that he is Australian but the memories keep seeping through and he spirals into depression. It’s not that he does not care for his mom and dad but it’s like an itch that needs scratching really bad. To go back, to try and find that place whose name he cannot even remember correctly.

Pierre Herme’s Awesome Rich Chocolate Cake

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Pierre Hermè makes desserts with flavors that really pop. If it is a fruit dessert then it sure tastes like that fruit. If it’s a rose litchi macaron then it is the essence of the flower and the tropical fruit.  His book on chocolate desserts with Dorie Greenspan is a classic and I’ve been cooking from it for years. This one is pure chocolate, deep rich cocoa flavored moist cake for real chocolate lovers.

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The original recipe is for what is called a Pavè. This literally means a paving stone or large brick. It refers to the shape of the smallish cakes. Instead of making two cakes I went with one round cake. It’s more convenient and less labor intensive and it was to be taken to a friend’s house for a dinner. So it made more sense and it worked out great.

The cake layers are made with whipped egg whites, egg yolks, all purpose flour, cocoa powder and potato starch. The potato starch is not essential but it is that extra layer of precision I mention with Hermes recipes. It has no gluten and no real flavor. So it helps make the cocoa flavor pop and contributes to a lighter more tender cakes. I think it also helps the cakes suck up more of the caramel syrup.

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Seems odd to have caramel syrup in the cake. Wha??? Well, again, it’s a building block. The cake does not taste of caramel. The sugar in the syrup is cooked to almost burnt and then loosened with water and enriched with a bit of butter. When brushed over the cakes and allowed to soak they add bitterness and richness that makes the chocolate more “chocolate-y”.

Apricots are not the first fruit that I think would go with chocolate, black pepper though makes sense. Turns out combined together they both work with chocolate. I simmered dried apricots in water for a few minutes then diced them up. Then I tossed them with ground black pepper and lemon juice.

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Last component to make is the rich chocolate ganache. This one is made with a mix of bittersweet and milk chocolates and whipped with a good bit of softened salted butter. Now the cake is ready to assemble.

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I sliced the two round cakes in half to get four layers and brushed them generously with caramel, then a layer of soft ganache. I sprinkled some of the apricots over the frosting topped it with a layer of cake and kept going.

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The frosting is very rich and gets trickier to apply if it warms up. So before frosting the outside I put the cake in the fridge to let the ganache set very well then I spread the remainder on the outside. After another rest in the fridge I used a fork to “decorate” the edges of the cake with some neat striations. One apricot that I saved after poaching got glazed with a touch of syrup and sat on top of the cake. The cake is best served at room temperature when the ganache is at the perfect creamy texture.  So, we let it rest for a bit and dug in.

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The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates – 1973) B+

He has no friends. Robert Mitchum plays Eddie perfectly as a chameleon who is trying to survive and who is the ultimate example of a guy who know his audience. He is a small time criminal selling guns to the mob for bank heists. He is also trying to stay out of jail since he has a hearing coming up and needs favor with a Boston detective who can help him out. He strong arms the guy who gets him the guns, shows respect to the guy who is robbing banks and pleads with the detective that he will get him information to collar someone for something hoping that would help. It’s a film about this one guy and those who are using him or being used by him. It’s a cool 70s film with good performances and sparse film-work (in a good way). what we learn ultimately is that there are a lot of circles of people around Eddie and they all want something. That cannot end well.