Monday, February 18, 2008

Dolmas and Dreamgirls

Now that I'm writing on three blogs, you might see that the frequency of my posts has decreased somewhat. Bear with me, friends: between the Bethany Davies story site and my own blog, I've been invited to contribute to my sister Amanda's new site on teaching called TeachAble. Her focus is on "teachable moments away from the desk"---often the ones that stay with us the most. Look for it soon on my list of links.

Tonight we had one of our favorite dishes, namely a cold platter of tidbits: smoked salmon, goats cheese, dolmas and fresh foccacia bread. A sunny walk to Pastaworks this afternoon supplied us with the delicious bright green Castelvetrano olives, which are relatively new on the olive scene, as far as I am aware. They are from Italy and have a fresh look and flavor, much like the Lucques or Bella de Cerignola, but only with the salt that Italian food is so known for. These olives are not smooth skinned, but remind me of the green asian plums often served in the bottom of a glass of plum wine. As you can tell by my raving and drooling on the keyboard, these are a new favorite.

Over dinner we compared some thoughts about dolmas, those little finger-shaped stuffed Turkish grape leaves. Joe and I usually get the vegetarian ones at Trader Joe's; they come in a pretty, highly reusable jar, and are consistently good, tastewise. Our common complaint is the tough, fibrous stems that usually end up distracting from the flavor of the lemony olive oil they are stored in. We discussed the available offerings of dolmas around Portland. Both Hagen markets and New Seasons tend to make fat dolmas with walnuts, feta and onion flavoring the rice inside, but the again, the tough leaf issue is a deterent to enjoyment. Aside from the dolmas at Nicholas's lebanese restaurant, served warm with yogurt, and the ones served at Hodas and Riyahd's (the only Middle Eastern restaurant that also serves fries!), it was unaninimous: the best take-home dolmas are to be found at Pastaworks. They come from a can; I know this because once they were out and I inquired. It turns out that the "dolma makers were on strike". For real. I'm left with an impression of a dark-browed woman scowling as she arrives in to work, saying "Time to make the dolmas" just like that poor Dunkin Donuts guy. I know, I know, it's horrible, really, but that's what I conjured up in my overimaginative head. If you really want your mind blown, check out Dolmas on Wikipedia, where you will discover how frighteningly slim the collective common US knowledge of Middle Eastern, Turkish, Greek and Armenian cuisine is.

Along with indulging in some great food, we watched Dreamgirls this afternoon, taking breaks to play with baby, feed baby, and all other things baby. Two Decembers ago, I'd sat in Peets, reading the New York Times' review of the movie and absolutely riveted by the article. People who know me can attest to the fact that I'm very curious about music (admittedly, not all music) and 60's soul has always been of interest to me. The Times presented a storyline that fascinated me: the building of the Motown Sound, and all the players. Of course, a musical can only be at best a fictionalized retelling, an adaptation of the truth and characters must be composites, for so many reasons, many of them legal. Especially when some of those main "characters" are living.

At that point in my life, Dreamgirls was somewhat of a myth, something I'd heard about in passing, yet never experienced. I had wanted to see it on the big screen, but today we rented it and, my, it was soooo worth it. Much more compelling, in my opinion, than "Chicago", "Dreamgirls" felt like it had a more cohesive story and the music!--just amazing. I haven't heard much of Beyonce Knowles, having an aversion to most top 40 radio these days, but I came away very impressed with her talent as a singer. Most compelling, though, was Jennifer Hudson's role as Effie White. I'm sure you've heard all this before, but there was something jaw-droppingly thunderous in her ability to rip her character's heart out and lay it bare. Needless to say, a Big Boo Hoo for me. (translated, "cue the tears") An unerringly brilliant storyline and score were made to connect the viewer to the tale of an empire built and crumbling; the theme of family, and the disintegration of that family, proved emotional and connected viewers in an empathetic way to not just one, but many of the characters. And I never read about it, but the last two minutes of the movie are what really made it for me. The look on Jamie Foxx's face as he makes a monumental discovery gave me chills; his character suffers several comeuppences in the film, but in those last moments, you can see the gravity of his revelation. I loved that it was a film where no one appeared to be "acting", and where the craft of acting really shone through. I now understand why it was up for so many awards.

We topped this splendid evening off with a 2004 bottle of Coppola Diamond Collection/Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc. If you are ever shopping for a really great white that features a splendid balance of floral, fruit and crisp grape, you won't be disappointed. Not overly dry, this wine rounded out our delicious evening. I've got a glass waiting for me upstairs, so I'd better go before Joe drinks it and blames it on the baby. Cheers!

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