Friday, June 22, 2012

The Adventures of Tin Tin

Dinner and a Movie

Arcadian Tin

By Steve Herte

Note: Steve is in Washington, D.C., on vacation. This “adventure" was prompted by my hotel concierge who told me about the back entrance to the National Museum of Natural History from where I could get to the second floor before all the tour groups and see and photograph Titanoboa - the largest snake that ever lived - in relative peace and quiet. Mission accomplished. Also they had on view the gizmo they used to save the Chilean miners, remarkable. The Hall of human origins is (surprisingly) more impressive than ours in New York with interactive displays and bronze statues of our ancestors focally placed.

The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011)

The minute graphic details of this animated film make it shockingly realistic. Except for some exaggerated facial features, one would believe the characters were actual people. Tin Tin (voiced by Jamie Bell) is an intrepid reporter for some unnamed publication who goes to great lengths to get his stories. 

In this film he buys a model of a sailing ship dubbed “The Unicorn” and the trouble starts when an evil-looking character named Sakharine (Daniel Craig) offers to buy it and is turned down by Tin Tin. At home, Tin Tin’s dog, Snowy, chases an intruding cat and manages to break the main mast of the model releasing a steel tube with a scroll of paper within and a cryptic poem written in old English on it.

It turns out this paper is one of three pieces hidden in three models of the Unicorn which, when superimposed upon each other and read through a bright light, give the coordinates of a treasure trove recovered from the actual ship Unicorn before it sank at sea after a spectacular battle between its captain Sir Francis Haddock (Andy Serkis) and the pirate Red Rackham (also Daniel Craig). The descendant of Sir Francis, Captain Haddock (also Andy Serkis) is a drunken captain of a tramp steamer but also the possessor of the second piece of the puzzle.

Tin Tin and his dog get hijacked onto Captain Haddock’s ship and the mystery unfolds. The third and final piece is in Morocco, in a model belonging to Ben Salaad (Gad Elmaleh) the sheik, which he keeps in a bullet-proof glass case. Two bumbling English policemen (Thomson and Thompson – Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) get involved in the story when their search for a pick-pocket leads them to Tin Tin’s wallet and they wind up working for Interpol and remarkably help solve the mystery. Sakharine hires the Bianca Castafiore (Kim Stengel), a famous soprano opera singer to entertain the sultan and at the same time shatter the bullet-proof glass with her high C above C.

The action in this movie is worthy of an Indiana Jones film and Steven Spielberg’s directing never lets the audience down (you really forget it’s an animated flick). There are very tense moments and remarkable cinematography. It’s no wonder actors worry that soon they may not be needed. There will probably be a sequel as further adventures are hinted at in the final frames.

901 New York Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

This imposing restaurant with its entrance on the point of a triangular block formed by New York Avenue and K Street is by far the largest establishment thus far this vacation. The royal blue awnings over its several windows on one side and the umbrellas of its sidewalk café on the other announce its presence amply. Inside there is a multilevel mélange of banquettes, tables and brocaded couches for the customers’ comforts lit by several styles of crystal chandeliers.

Knowing this to be a New Orleans-style eatery I chose the Category 5 cocktail (their bartender’s version of the traditional Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s) and was suitably impressed by the mixture of rums and fresh fruit juices as well as the crazy “drunken” glass it was served in. It was easier to choose a wine than my meal, because all of the selections looked and sounded wonderful so Zinfandel it was.

When my waiter informed me they were out of the duck entrée I was a little disappointed because I had almost settled on that one. Instead, I ordered a three-course meal, starting with the Trio of Soups (Commander’s Palace in New Orleans does a similar thing) turtle soup, crab soup, and chicken gumbo. All were delightful. I could taste the sherry in the turtle soup, the cream and corn in the crab soup and the spice in the gumbo.

The second course was one of those dishes whose name screams out, “Choose me!” It was crispy “gas station” Pork Boudin Balls. How could I resist? The three crispy spheres were filled with a mixture of ground pork and chicken liver and served on a plate with creole mustard on one side and pickled peppers (yes, one was jalapeño) on the other. They were excellent.

I went back to gumbo for the main course, only this time it was Louisiana Seafood Gumbo – jumbo lump crab meat, shrimp, crawfish, oysters, mussels, and redfish over mahatma rice. In Cajun talk, it was wundermous! The dark spicy sauce infused the entire dish with eye-tearing New Orleans flavor. Thank goodness they served biscuits to take off some of the spice. 

For dessert there was a slight quandary. The chef had combined two of my favorite New Orleans desserts in his Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. It was a fantastic combination but neither Antoine’s nor Brennan’s has anything to worry about. A double espresso and a Pernod Absinthe later and I was missing New Orleans again. Acadiana definitely gets a thumbs-up from me.

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