Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Feet 2

Dinner and a Movie

Happy Feet in Urbana

By Steve Herte

Note: Steve is on vacation in Washington, D.C. That doesn’t mean he’s taking a brief hiatus until he returns to New York City. Quite the contrary. We present Dinner and a Movie in the District.

Happy Feet 2 (2011) 

In this slightly sappy, silly sequel we have essentially three stories. If you remember the first installment, it was Mumble as a penguin chick who could dance and nobody else could? Well, his son Erik (voiced by Ava Acres) is the only one in the Emperor Penguin flock who doesn’t have Happy Feet. Next, Ramon (Robin Williams) is a Rock Hopper Penguin who has to leave the Emperor Penguin flock because none of the females will have anything to do with him. Erik feels disconnected with the flock and so he and two other chicks follow Ramon to Adelie Land. The third story involves Will Krill (Brad Pitt) and his best friend Bill Krill (Matt Damon), who decide to leave the swarm (because that’s all they do is swarm) and move up the food chain to become a predator (ridiculous, but funny).

While Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) goes looking for his chick, an enormous iceberg crashes into the part of Antarctica where the Emperor Penguin flock is and strands them (including Mumble’s mate Gloria – voiced by Pink) in an ice valley, unable to get to the open water and food. The Adelie flock meanwhile is worshipping a penguin who can fly (he’s really a Puffin, but he doesn’t reveal this until almost the end of the movie) named Sven (Hank Azaria) who regales them with his Viking-like exploits.

The Adelie flock tries to help the Emperor Flock by bringing them fish until the sea freezes over. Then they try dancing to vibrate enough snow into the valley to create an escape ramp. Even humans get involved in trying to save the flock when a great snow storm blows in and covers all the work they attempted.

It is only through the effort of a pod of Elephant Seals led by Bryan (Richard Carter) as pay-back for Mumble freeing him from a crevasse. Have you ever seen Elephant Seals dance?  It isn’t pretty and I will never hear the song “Under Pressure” the same way again.

Even though the film has a happy ending, Ramon finds love with Carmen (Sophia Vergara), everyone is reconciled, the chicks are adorable with their bright blue eyes, the film left me hoping they do not make another one. 

For one, I don’t believe in an Emperor Penguin reaching adulthood and retaining his gray and white chick plumage. For another, Rap and Hip-Hop sequences ruin the musical score which ranges from Rock to Gospel to Opera. Lastly, the audio of the film is so rangy that I didn’t know where to set the volume. Parts were inaudible and parts were way too loud when you adjusted it. The two krill were great comic relief (and I can’t think of two better actors to provide it). Best line in the movie is when Will and Bill see a whale devouring the swarm and realize how far down the food chain they are, and they go their own way with, “Goodbye, Krill World!”

2121 P Street NW, Washington D.C.

It must be a thing in Washington, D.C., to have understated entrances to restaurants. A blocky green sign with white writing is all you see to indicate Urbana is there. Inside, my chocolate cravings started because everything from floor to ceiling is in shades of dark, medium and light chocolate.

Billed as a Mediterranean style restaurant, the emphasis is on Italian and imaginative versions of familiar recipes. So sipping my “P Street Blue” martini – a vodka martini with bleu cheese -stuffed olives, I notice the menu has “Bites” – tapas sized dishes, sides, as well as appetizers and main courses. Also, from my reservation, I knew that Sundays were half-priced bottles of wine days, so I promptly ordered a $70 bottle of 2005 Zinfandel and got it for $35.

The Foie Gras Corn Dogs were the most unusual of the “Bites” and by George, they looked like corn dogs, but were filled with foie gras sausage and served in a drizzle of yellow cognac mustard. Yummy!

The Cannelloni pasta dish was stuffed with braised short rib meat and truffle pecorino cheese and aligned on the plate with leeks. I refrained from comparing this dish to my benchmark cannelloni dish because it would not be fair. The imagination this dish displayed as well as the excellent flavor put it into a category all its own.

Venison coated with espresso bean, cooked to perfection and sliced neatly was served on Yukon gold potato puree, braised swiss chard and in a green peppercorn reduction. It was a little chewy, but juicy and delicious. Did I mention that Urbana also has a Gluten-free menu?

The desserts didn’t inspire me so I had a selection of three cheeses, a New York Chatham Camembert, a French Mimolette and a Spanish Montenebro. That, with a double espresso and a glass of “Rocky Mountain Peach,” a homemade liqueur made with eau-de-vie and fresh peaches, made the meal unbelievable. My next trip to D.C. will definitely include a return to Urbana.

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