Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Dinner and a Movie

Ichabod Riddick

By Steve Herte

By now I guess most of you who read this column know that restaurants and movies are among my hobbies. In the possible words of Daffy Duck, “I’d like them to be my avocation, but I’ll accept hobby.” Along with my other hobbies: gardening, crocheting and knitting, reading, singing karaoke and barbershop, playing video games, researching and storing obscure facts and a plethora of useless creative activities, I figure that when I retire I will never be at a loss as to what to do.

I learned otherwise this week of a friend and coworker who has just completed a long tourney of chemotherapy for Lymphoma, is blind, is dealing with an ostomy bag (hopefully only temporarily) and who is faced with the choice of coming back to work or retiring. He revealed to me that retirement scares him a little because he has no hobbies. I was thunderstruck. He has the option to live out his days in Petaluma, California, never having to deal with snow again and coming back to Brooklyn Heights and he wants the latter. Granted, it’s a lovely neighborhood but in winter it's an ice rink on those slate sidewalks. The man is definitely intelligent, a mesmerizing raconteur and a basket case when it comes to retirement. I suggested being an advocate for the blind, checking with his church (they always need volunteers), getting ideas from his neighbors, anything but vegetating in his apartment. Hopefully he will discover something. My Dad retired 35 year ago and wishes he had nothing to do. There’s always something in the house or in the neighborhood to occupy him. At 91, he’s a little slower but still motivated to get thing done. Me? I have plans for the house when I retire - major redecorating ones. My Friday hobby this week proved both fascinating and surprising. Enjoy!

Riddick (Universal, 2013) – Director: David Twohy. Writers: David Twohy, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell (s/p). Based on characters by Jim and Ken Wheat. Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, Conrad Pla, Danny Blanco Hall, Neil Napier, Noah Danby, Nolan Gerard Funk, & Karl Urban. Color, 119 minutes.

In the year 2000, there was Pitch Black, (which I did see, almost, the lighting department had nothing to do in this film) where a prisoner transport is marooned on a planet full of bloodthirsty nocturnal predators anticipating a month-long eclipse. This is where we meet the wanted criminal Riddick (Diesel). Then in 2004, we see him arrive on Planet Helion Prime, where he has to fight off a race of Necromongers intent on the extinction of humankind in Chronicles of Riddick. Next, in an animated film also in 2004, Chronicles of Riddick 2 – Dark Fury, he and two survivors of Pitch Dark (may have been two audience members they woke up intentionally) fight off another alien threat. Now, we are treated to the fourth installation in the tale of the anti-hero, Riddick or Chronicles of Riddick 3 – Dead Man Stalking.

I originally thought I had missed only one movie in the series. I had no idea I missed three (one of which I was physically present for). But aside from that, this latest film sees Riddick intentionally marooned on an unnamed, sun-scorched planet having the same orange coloration as Mars, Herculean landscaping and an enormous, molten blood-red moon that barely shines light at night. This God-forsaken planet is home to three breeds of predator; the ragged-winged flying reptilians, the water dwelling two-legged scorpion-like horrors, and the greyhound/hyena/tiger amalgams.

Being the ultimate survivor, Riddick painfully resets his own broken leg after a fall from a cliff and performs self-surgery to immobilize it, hides from a pack of the amalgams in a poison pool and kills one for food. What a guy! Then he holes up in a mountain cave, captures an amalgam puppy and raises it as a pet. Surveying the landscape from a mountain ledge he notices that drinkable water and vegetation lay just beyond a pool that harbors the scorpion horrors. He improvises a long-handled machete and fights them off, escaping with his puppy.

Still dreaming of returning to his home planet of “Furya,” Riddick discovers in a valley an abandoned “station” (for want of a better word) that still has power. He turns on the rescue beacon, it scans and recognizes him, and sends his vital information out to space. The next thing you know not one but two spaceships arrive. The first is full of scruffy, tough bounty hunters (the bounty on Riddick is doubled if he’s brought back dead) led by Santana (Mollà) and his cohorts Diaz (Bautista), Vargas (Pla), Falco (Hall), Rubio (Napier), and Nunez (Danby). The second holds a military consignment from Helion Prime led by Boss Johns (Nable) and accompanied by Dahl (Sackhoff), Moss (Woodbine), Lockspur (Trujillo), Luna (Funk), and Vaako (Urban). Boss Johns wants to bring Riddick back alive, Santana wants to behead him and bring it back in a Lucite box. Neither will get their wish.

Both leaders (for want of another better word) agree that they should lock up one power “node” from each ship to make them inoperable, should Riddick try to steal one. Riddick moves like a shadow among them, and obtains and buries both nodes. He allows them to capture him, and while heavily chained hand and foot, manages to perform the “operation” Santana planned for him on Santana (admittedly, one of the most amazing scenes). Riddick gives them the ultimatum of one ship for himself and one for them or death for all. He knows of an imminent super monsoon, which will unearth thousands of the scorpion horrors dormant under the sands.

In an interview, Diesel admitted that he really likes the character of Riddick, which explains why he plays the muscle-bound tough-guy so well and so believably. The other characters (even Dahl) are faint reflections of his character in the silver screen mirror. The movie has great special effects and set designs plus a really good plot and concept. It stands well on its own except for the fact that I had no idea what crime he was accused of. Boss Johns thought that he murdered his son, which Riddick repudiates when they’re alone at one point, explaining that the son was addicted to Morphine and committed suicide. Otherwise, I was clueless; but in a way I didn’t really care. 

The hour and 59 minutes passed with only one re-settling in my seat and one white-knuckle moment when I actually got involved in the action. The dialogue is so full of the “f” word that it might have been better (almost an art film) if it were silent. Some of the “science” proposed by the movie, i.e., a planet full of predators and no prey animals, injecting oneself with the venom from the scorpion-things to make one immune, and using a glowing baseball-sized ember to cauterize a three-inch-deep chest wound (must be no bacteria on this planet) is pretty far-fetched, but it is science fiction, right? On the “interesting” side, I’d love to know who created the contact lenses that gave Riddick’s eyes that filmy glow-in-the-dark look. Basically, if you loved Schwarzenegger films, you’ll love this one. Hint: Arnold’s were better. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 Martini glasses.

15 Irving Place (corner of 15th Street), New York

Online all you can see of Ichabod’s is the open-brick backed bar and the bottles of red, rosé and white wines lit from behind hovering over the clam-filled ice tray at the entrance. In fact, its décor is a strangely comfy, though bordering on cramped, corner bar with black lacquer tables in two rows facing the bar and open kitchen in the back. I walked right by Ichabod’s and didn’t see it the first time. Its location is immediately to the left of Irving Place, a notable entertainment venue where I saw the Tokens and Blondie perform.

I may have said that I shy away from sidewalk cafés because I dislike sharing my meals with insects (especially New York flies). Noticing that the entire front and the street-side windows were wide open I couldn’t help but be concerned about invaders. Fortunately, though, none disturbed my dinner. I was seated in the center row of tables, halfway down the length of the restaurant, almost to the open kitchen and was buffered from the street by another row of tables. There were no worries that the loud music from Irving Place would be a problem because the music in Ichabod’s would have drowned it out. (Good thing I can project my voice).

A young man brought me a tall tumbler of water, and my server, a lovely and sweet blonde Amanda, produced the menu and wine list. After discovering from Amanda that there was no Beefeaters gin in the house and that the only gins they had were the girly type, I switched to Stolichnaya vodka for my martini and it was well made.

The menu was small in comparison to many I’ve seen but that only encouraged me. When the selection is smaller, the greater is the chance that the dishes are fresher and tastier. The appetizers and salads were included in a category called “Small Plates,” followed by the cheese selection, and the “Larger Plates” or entrees. 

I started with the East Coast Oysters – three Malpeques and three Chincoteagues – served over ice on the half-shell with both a vinegar dip and a horseradish cocktail sauce. All were as fresh, tasting as if served immediately from the shore. One thing I did learn was just how amazingly well a vodka martini goes with oysters.

Next on the bill was Duck Rillettes (similar to paté, only coarser and mixed with shallots and presented in a lovely little Mason jar) served with Red Onion Jam, Duck Cracklin’s (crispy duck fat) and Raisin Toast. When asked by Amanda about this dish I responded with an “Oooh!” A wonderful glass of Copain Tous Ensemble Chardonnay complimented this dish nicely.

The main course was a perfectly Roasted Grouper in a Hazelnut Romesco (a garlicky, spicy Catalan sauce) and sided with Fried Green Tomatoes. I ordered the French Fries as an additional side and was not disappointed. They were crisp and only slightly salty and came with a garlic mayonnaise (I never touched the catsup another server brought – they were that good). The fish was awesome, white and flaky but far from dry and the sauce gave it a nice, nutty kick. I’ve loved fried green tomatoes ever since my last trip to Atlanta and these were definitely up to Georgia standards – crisp and flavorful, not mushy. A glass of 2010 Cultivar Cabernet (Napa Valley) brought out the excellent flavors in this course.

With plenty of room for dessert I agreed to the only one they had. The fact that it was on the house didn’t hurt much either. It was a four-inch-tall tumbler with what could be called either Trifle or a parfait of chocolate and fruit topped with three large toasted marshmallows. Let it just be said that it was sinfully sweet and exactly what I wanted. I was surprised that I neither ordered nor wanted coffee or after-dinner drink, I was that comfortable. When I first entered, I didn’t expect to be. It just happened. Ichabod’s is definitely much more than just a corner bar and deserves a future visit with my girlfriend.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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