Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Dinner and a Movie
Parker and Quinn Take Planes

By Steve Herte

What an amazing week this has been! You’d think that a New Yorker such as myself would not be able to find novel things to do after 63 years but you’d be wrong. After a wonderful Italian meal at Osteria Laguna, I was well prepared for adventure. The next day was a trip down to Coney Island where it was saddening to see what remained of the New York Aquarium after Super Storm Sandy. Three of the five buildings are still not restored, including the shark tank.

I think it’s faster to just list activities:

·     Rode the famous Wonder Wheel (swinging car, of course).
·    Discovered the carousel (which by the way is misspelled in huge lights) at the base of the former Parachute Drop - simply glorious.
·     Karaoke on the boardwalk, where I sang “Jump In The Line” by Harry Belafonte.
·     Dinner at Les Deux Amis.


·      Snuck into the office to turn on my Out-Of-Office messages
·      Travelled to Bronx Zoo for a Dinosaur Safari - excellent!
·      Dinner at The Australian - yes, kangaroo.


·      Museum of Natural History with thousands of wet New Yorkers
·      Saw IMAX film “Penguins” and the live “Chorus of Frogs” exhibit
·      Dinner and karaoke at Gabby O’Hara’s Irish Pub


·      Downtown to the Museum of American Finance
·      Trinity Church
·      Burial place of Alexander Hamilton
·      Short train ride to Museum of Mathematics (good for teens)
·      Dinner and karaoke at Muldoon’s Irish Pub


·      Day trip Resorts Casino near Aqueduct Raceway in Queens
·      Dinner at S Dynasty Chinese restaurant


·      Day trip to Harlem to visit Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton’s country home
·      Victorian Gardens Amusement Park in Central Park
·      Central Park Zoo
·      Dinner and a movie night


·     Walked the High Line on the lower West side, a park made of an old elevated train line
·      Dinner at 2 Darbar Grill (Indian)

So with that, please enjoy the latest Diner and a Movie!

Planes (Disneytoon, 2013) – Director: Klay Hall. Writers: Jeffrey M. Howard (story and screenplay), John Lesseter (story), & Klay Hall (story). Voices: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Roger Craig Smith, Carlos Alazraqui, Gabriel Iglesias, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Sinbad, John Ratzenberger, & Brent Musburger. Color and in 3D, 91 minutes.

Having seen the movie Cars in 2006 I mistakenly thought that Planes would follow it into oblivion as another cutesy Disney cartoon. This film is much better than Cars by far. It makes the same use of eyes in the windshield (as opposed to the headlights in other cartoons) to effectively convey the full range of emotions. The story is the same as that of Turbo, a lowly character who dreams of being more than what he is, and does what needs to be done to enter and win a major racing title. However, Disney Corporation must have been studying the better animation houses (especially Pixar) and is finally getting competitive.

The tale starts with a dream sequence where Dusty Crophopper (Cook) is soaring in a race with two fighter jets and winning, when he wakes up next to his fellow crop-duster in the performance of his job. After work he trains with the guidance his friend Chug, a tanker truck (Garrett) to fly ever faster and turn sharper. His mechanic, a forklift named Dottie (Hatcher) tells him he’s not built for racing and that higher speeds will burst a fuel line but he perseveres and eventually enlists the aid of Skipper (Keach), an old World War II fighter plane with a history of glorious missions and a member of the elite flight team the Jolly Wrenches. Under Skipper’s coaching Dusty achieves entry into the Wings Across the World Race. Originally he makes sixth place but one of the top five was discovered using banned substances in his fuel mixture and was disqualified.

The rest of the story is the race against international champions Ripslinger (Smith) and his cohorts Ned and Zed (both Iglesias), Rochelle (Louis-Dreyfus), Ishani (Chopra), Bulldog (Cleese) and another newcomer, El Chupacabra (Alazraqui). One by one he wins over the friendships of the other planes (except for Ripslinger), and not only does he win the race, but he also conquers his fear of heights (crop dusters are generally low-flying).

What makes this movie superior? To start with the writing is 100% better. Lasseter teams up with Howard this time instead of Joe Ranft (who also co-directed Cars), and the cleverness level increased dramatically. There are a lot of gags that children will not get in this movie (i.e. the Aircraft Carrier “Flysenhower” and the fact that the Statue of Liberty is a green female forklift – there are no people in this film) – and forget about bringing toddlers to see it. The camera work is superb, often taking the audience with Dusty to see what he sees as he zips between obstacles and maneuvers over others, and the 3D effects serve to enhance this experience. The original music by Mark Mancina swells and diminishes with the flying sequences to communicate the thrill of flying and the joy of success. There’s even a nostalgic Cinderella scene (Disney’s former glory): all the planes competing against Dusty contribute parts so that he can complete the final leg of the race (he was quite broken up when he had to ditch at sea in the previous leg) – yes, it evoked tears.

Lastly, the cast of incredible voices supplied the believability to these non-human characters. Aside from the ones mentioned, we saw Edwards as Echo, Kilmer as Bravo, Sinbad as Roper, Ratzenberger as Harland, and my favorite, Musburger as the sports announcer car, Brent Mustangburger. Now that’s comedy! Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

Parker & Quinn
64 West 39th Street (5th/6th Avenues), New York

Has anyone ever heard about the Refinery Hotel in New York City? No? Then you’ve never had the delight of dining in their restaurant, Parker and Quinn. To make it even more obscure, not only is it located in an area of Manhattan not known for good restaurants (the West 30’s), but it is also currently obscured by scaffolding. As I’ve said many times, New York will be a beautiful city if it ever gets finished.

The décor of Parker and Quinn harkens back to the 1920’s when big-patterned wallpaper was as chic as New York Black. The black wood bar, the hexagonal tile floors, the steel barstools with red and black vinyl cushions and the banquettes secreted into niches in the walls all scream “Speak-Easy!” Then you see the glittering swags composed of hundreds of circular, faceted crystals and you know you’ve arrived at a former time.

I was seated at a banquette about halfway into this gastronomic time warp. A tall young black man in a colorful touring cap and black outfit bought me my water and I soon met Cory, my waiter, who presented me with the single card, two-sided menu. The food was on one side and the wine and beer selection covered the reverse. (The beer choices were quite impressive.) I ordered my usual Beefeater Martini and tried to choose form the “Bites,” “Small Dishes,” Salads,” “Flatbreads,” “From the Coop” (Chicken dishes), “From the Pen” (Pork dishes), “From the Ranch” (Beef dishes), “From the Sea,” “Pastas,” “Sandwiches,” and sides with imaginative titles like “From the Garden, Earth, Woods and Mill” and “From the Pot” (Soups). It wasn’t easy. When Cory listed the specials and suggested his favorite dishes I had three main courses to choose from. But using process of elimination, i.e. I’ve already had striped bass and ample pasta this week, I came up with a three-course meal.

My martini was soon finished and in the process of ordering a second I learned from Cory that I had depleted their supply of Beefeaters. He listed some horrible gins that he knew they stocked and I nixed them all but supplied suggestions on what would be an adequate substitute. He and the bartender located a third choice, which proved a happy medium. It was a little bit floral compared to my usual but it worked.

The Spicy Conch Fritters with their piquant pink dipping sauce arrived simultaneously with the Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Short Rib in a dark pine nut sauce, accompanied by toasted baguette slices. Normally this would bother me, but both dishes were so delicious that neither got the chance to get cold. 

The Conch Fritters had me recalling that wonderful lunch with Helene in Key West and the three stuffed peppers (one of the “small” dishes) were each a savory mouthful. The wines-by-the-glass selection was as amazing as the beer list so, being curious, I ordered the “Gam” from Stump Jump Vineyards, McLaren Vale, Australia – a varietal composed of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre – and was delighted. It stood up perfectly against the Rack of Baby Back Ribs in a Honey-Mustard barbeque sauce.

As I was enjoying the great ribs and fantastic background music selection I had to replace my wine (the glass was empty) so I decided to try the Malbec (Albert Furque Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina), which also complimented the remaining ribs nicely. Thanks to Cory I had room for dessert and since I started the dinner Key West style, I ended it that way with a creamy, slightly tart Key Lime Pie on graham cracker crust with whipped cream. Yummy!

It was at this point the General Manager came over and introduced himself asking how everything was. I got to rave about the food and drink and the fabulous atmosphere and he seemed pleased. Cory asked me if I wanted coffee or tea. Suddenly I remembered a cocktail I saw on their website which would make a perfect after-dinner drink, the Cloche and Daggar – Svedka Clementine Vodka, Pear Nectar, Mango Nectar and Curry. It was exciting just to think about curry in a drink and it was just as exotic to drink. Judging by my dilemma in choosing my meal, I’m sure Parker and Quinn will see me again.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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