Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Dinner and a Movie

The Spectre of Industry

By Steve Herte

As the holiday season approaches, more films are being released than I can possible see in the time given. But I'll give it the old college try. Fortunately, I was able to arrange my time to see this week's movie. I'm a big James Bond fan. I collect all the theme songs, many of them on karaoke disks and I have a list of all the “Bond Girls.” Enjoy!

Spectre (Columbia, 2015) – Director: Sam Mendes. Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis, & Robert Wade (s/p & story). Jez Butterworth (s/p). Ian Fleming (characters). Stars: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lee Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman, Tenoch Huetra, & Adriana Paz. Color, PG-13, 148 minutes.

"The Dead are Alive!" It’s the grand celebration of Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico City, as throngs of people in deathly costumes flood the streets and fill the plazas. A beautiful woman in a blue floral mask walks with a man wearing a skull mask and a top hat. They enter their hotel and reveal their identities. She is the alluring Estrella (Sigman) and he is James Bond (Craig). We may think they are going to make love, but Bond has business to attend to first. He leaves via the window and walks from ledge to ledge across rooftops to within shooting distance of a window where a plot is being hatched to blow up a stadium full of people.

Bond’s marksmanship takes out most of the conspirators but also unintentionally ignites the bomb causing the building to implode and the façade topples toward him. He escapes to the street level, but so does Marco Sciarra (Cremona), the leader of the terrorists. A helicopter arrives for Marco in the middle of a people-packed plaza, sending them scattering with both men fighting as it takes off. Bond has to battle both Sciarra and the helicopter’s pilot, making the scene a dizzying, topsy-turvy display of unbelievable stunt flying before commandeering the stalled and plummeting aircraft. Bond flies it away to the strains of “Writing’s on the Wall,” as sung by Sam Smith.

Back in London, M (Fiennes) essentially grounds Bond for being in Mexico City without authorization, and has the ever-faithful Q (Whishaw) inject him with something called “Smart Blood,” a nano-technological way of tracking his whereabouts anywhere in the world. It’s here we meet C (Scott), who is in charge of modernizing MI6 with an ultra-invasive monitoring system dubbed “Nine Eyes” and whose goal is to deactivate the “double O” program. Those who have seen the television show Person of Interest or read the book 1984 will know the concept.

But everyone knows by now that Bond can’t be grounded. With Q’s help, he’s off to Rome to attend Marco’s funeral where he meets his bereaved wife, Lucia Sciarra (Bellucci). She’s furious with him because now she’s target of every hitman who has ever wanted to take her husband’s place. Lucia tells him about Spectre, the organization to which Marco belonged. In his tussle with Marco, Bond appropriated a strange ring that was marked with a stylized black octopus. He discovers this ring grants him access to a secret meeting being conducted by the mysterious (and presumed dead) Franz Oberhauser (Waltz), who quotes the incident in Mexico City and welcomes Bond by name.

Bond just barely escapes and, thanks to Q has a hot silver sports car to do it in. But the seemingly invulnerable Mr. Hinx (Bautista) is right on his tail in an exciting car chase through Rome that cruises along, and into, the Tiber River.

The lovely and true-blue Eve Moneypenny (Harris) had earlier presented Bond with all that remains of his property from Skyfall, and tells him the information he learned in Mexico City leads to a character known as Mr. White (Christensen), a former member of Quantum (subsidiary of Spectre), who is currently hiding in a remote corner of Lake Altausee, Austria. Though White is dying of thallium poisoning, he trusts Bond enough to ask him to protect his daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Seydoux). He tells Bond to find “L’Americain” before committing suicide with Bond’s gun. (White has the best line in the movie, “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane!”)

When Bond locates Madeleine at her thriving, also remotely located, company she’s not willing to accept his protection. However, when Mr. Hinx and his men try to abduct her, she changes her mind. A car and plane chase later and she reveals that “L’Americain” is not a who, but a what – a hotel in Morocco where she and her father stayed in winter.

At L’Americain, they discover a secret room where information points them to a meteor crater in the Moroccan desert. The train ride to the desert is not without incident as Mr. Hinx makes another appearance, with the ensuing fight being a train wreck that actually does not wreck the train. After destroying several interior scenes, Hinx is dragged off the train by several linked kegs of beer.

At the train station, literally in the middle of nowhere, Bond and Madeleine are met by a chauffeur driving a 1938 Rolls Royce and taken to a ultra-modern complex inside the crater. Hospitality turns to torture as Bond and Madeleine learn that after Bond’s parents were killed, Oberhauser’s father raised him. However, jealousy caused Franz not only to kill his own father, but also to stage his own death, and become Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (The white Persian cat sort of gave that away.)

The rest is easy. Bond has to escape, shut down the operation in Morocco, rescue Madeleine from a building set to be demolished, and arrest Blofeld. It’s a typical day in the life of a spy.

At 2 hours and 28 minutes, this film is rather long and I did shift my position a few times. But on the other hand, I have no idea where it could be cut. The actions scenes were exciting, the music was glorious, the photography spectacular, and I got to practice four languages (there were subtitles). Craig is James Bond (no matter what he says in interviews), though his lovemaking is not convincing. Léa Seydoux is youthfully sensual, but definitely too young for Craig, making me glad there were no protracted love scenes. Christoph Waltz was the personification of a Bond villain, confident and looney at the same time, and Ralph Fiennes makes for a fine M. It was good to see Dame Judy Dench in a cameo scene where she instructs Bond to kill Sciarra and attend the funeral.

Spectre is the 24th in the line of James Bond films and I would rank it among the best. It never lagged, there was no dead space, and it had lots of interesting things going on; plus it was clean enough to take the kids to see it. It’s also the first Bond movie to show a scene where I actually stood on a tour of London, the Westminster Bridge. It’ll take me time to learn the complex voicing of the theme song, but eventually, I will.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Industry Kitchen
70 South St. (at Maiden Lane), New York

What an awful name, I thought, as I made the reservation. However, with Pier 17 still closed after Superstorm Sandy, I became intrigued by the idea of a restaurant in the South Street Seaport area that I have not yet visited. The address placed it on the east side of South Street and generally, nothing is there except the East River Drive overhead.

But there it was: a glass enclosed bistro with an open kitchen, the name in tall white letters back-lit and standing at roof level, directly under the never-ending traffic. A pair of blue-lit cubes marks the entrance facing the East River. Once inside, the spacious bar area is on the left, with a cafeteria-like dining area on the right. The polished butcher-block tables and simple black chairs appear perpetually ready for lunch, but the views of downtown Brooklyn through the windows are quite startling.

The young lady at the Captain’s Station led me to a table almost near the north window but she allowed me to occupy the one next to the window when I looked at it longingly. Later, this same young lady, Mary Kay, would be my server. A young man asked for my water preference and was ready with a carafe of tap water, which was perfect. He left me with the single menu card – beverages on the reverse. Mary Kay asked if I wanted a cocktail and I asked if they had Beefeaters gin. She said yes at first, but when she returned the answer was no and she listed what they had. One after another I heard the names of the flowery, cult gins people who hate gin drink. Then I heard the words “Dorothy Parker gin.” Made by the New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn, I figured it had to better than those others, and it was.

I explained that I had just seen the new James Bond movie and, after a short synopsis of its good points, I described my preferred martini mix, and Mary Kay left to get it. I noted the lighting fixtures that looked like giant gears on the ceiling overhead and wondered if they contributed to the restaurant’s name, and as it turned out, they did. Mary Kay returned with a frosty chilled, stemmed glass. Dorothy Parker gin does not have the bite or character of Beefeaters but there’s nothing wimpy about it.

The food menu listed Starters, Salads, Wood Fired Oven (main dishes), Wood Fired Pizza, Pasta (also main courses), and Desserts. Because the title was on two lines, I misread one starter, the Spanish artichoke & creamy ricotta dips. I had hoped it would be a steamed, whole artichoke with a dip but Mary Kay explained that it was two dips with bread. I settled on two other starters, only demurring on her favorite, the sweet potato gnocchi, because it would have been two sweet dishes in a row. There was no doubt about the main course.

The martini went well with the first course, the butternut squash soup – butternut squash puree, marshmallow croutons, shaved pecorino, honey drizzle, and toasted pepitos (properly ‘pepitas’ – pumpkin seeds, in this case). I told Mary Kay that I have to tell a chef in White Plains about this soup. All of his gourd soups taste so sweet they could be had for dessert. This was a soup: I could taste the nutmeg and salt. Yes, the toasted marshmallows and honey drizzle were gilding the lily, but strangely, they increased the remarkable experience of the dish.

Wines served by the glass are practical when there are more than one interesting variety and these (Mary Kay informed me) were literally “on tap.” (I’ve seen this kind of arrangement before at my favorite restaurant, Henry’s End.) I chose a glass of the 2012 crush red blend (Merlot, Petit Syrah, Zinfandel & Syrah) from Dreaming Tree Vineyards in California to go with the next course. 

The flavors of the four grapes blended to accentuate the wood fire roasted portobello with Italian sausage slices served in a crock with a caponata sauce (onions tomatoes, olives, garlic, capers, basil, peppers, celery). The dish had such an intense flavor of its own that the wine did not interfere. The mushroom crown was buried under sauce and sausage, and I cut slices with knife and fork to get all the ingredients together. It was amazing, a woodsy, smoky, tomato-infused Italian-American delight.

Mary Kay checked in on my progress throughout but it was at this point that Pam, the manager, visited my table and asked how everything was. She didn’t ask, as one would expect a manager to do, in a subtle, low voice. She was more like a cheerleader. I was glad she didn’t have a megaphone, for she didn’t need one. Visions of being on the mythical American Olympic Eating Team came back to me. I admired her explosive enthusiasm and, getting caught up in her gung-ho attitude, I asked about the restaurant name and when it opened.

We’ve been open since May, which makes us babies compared with other places,” she said. When the restaurant opened they sent out flyers to all the businesses in downtown Manhattan saying “We’re your kitchen.” Hence the name Industry Kitchen, a place I imagine does a pretty brisk lunch.

I switched to a glass of the 2009 Concannon Conservancy Cabernet Sauvignon from Livermore Valley, California. It was not the most impressive of cabernets, but it had a fruity heft to it that stood up to the main dish.

The spice-rubbed short ribs, served on a bed of gorgonzola polenta with fresh horseradish, was a tasty dish; the meat easily shredded with fork and knife. However, it was also an enigma. What spice was used as the rub? There was none in evidence. And horseradish? It’s a flavor that’s hard to deny, and yet, it was not there. The gorgonzola was in the creamy polenta and was wonderful, but spice? None. A great dish, but at the same time, just a little disappointing.

After Mary Kay cleared my table and handed me the dessert list, Pam returned to cheer me on. Once she left my heart beat slowed a little as I ordered the salted caramel chocolate mousse, served with vanilla whipped cream and “chocolate crunchies,” plus a nice mug of Earl Grey tea. I thoroughly enjoyed the delicate whipped cream while delving though it to the chocolate. The caramel, like the salt, accented the smooth dark chocolate mousse. By the time I had my last spoonful, my tea had steeped and was ready.

I sipped the tea while watching boats chug up the river outside. Listening to the constant rumble of traffic overhead, I thought, “What a strange but imaginative place to put a restaurant.” Mary Kay told me they change the menu with the seasons. It will be interesting to see what they serve in winter.

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