Thursday, December 5, 2013


Dinner and a Movie

Get a Frozen Steak

By Steve Herte

Thanksgiving was not the usual scene for my family. Everyone was everywhere else. My sister Kathy and her husband were on a cruise celebrating their 40th Wedding Anniversary, my niece Cathryn and her family were in Jacksonville, Fla., my niece Julie and her family were in Colorado, my nephew Jimmy and his family chose to stay in Milford, Conn., my niece Jenny and her family stayed in Massachusetts. It was just my other sister Terry, her husband, her daughter Megan, her son Michael, my brother Phil, my Dad and myself. It was nice, but a kind of anti-climax compared to Thanksgivings past. Still, I did have one of the longest and heartiest laughs I’ve had all year. The Germans say that laughter is healthy and I believe it. When Friday arrived I was ready to have my version of Thanksgiving dinner – steak (although I seriously did consider lasagna). And even though it meant commuting into the city on a day I took off (on Black Friday – what was I thinking?) it was still worth the trip. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. My second one was a knockout! Enjoy!

Get a Horse (Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2013) – Director: Lauren McMullan. Voices: Walt Disney, Marcellite Garner, Russi Taylor, Billy Bletcher, & Will Ryan. 3D, Color, 6 minutes.

It was almost like the “old days” when this six-minute cartoon appeared on the big screen before the feature presentation. An excerpt from a 1951 black and white episode entitled R’coon Dawg becomes an awesome 3D jaw-dropper. It starts innocently enough with a hayride pulled by Horace Horsecollar with various characters in the haystack playing musical instruments. Mickey Mouse (voice archived from Walt Disney) and Minnie (archived voice of Garner and new voice of Taylor) hop on the back to dance and have fun. Even Clarabelle Cow jumps on. Along comes Peg-leg Pete (Bletcher – archived voice, Ryan - new voice) in his car and he has his eye on Minnie. 

Everything seems routine until, in a scuffle Mickey is thrown out of the picture through a hole in the screen and he becomes a 3D color character on a stage before the audience. Pete closes up the hole so Mickey can’t get back and tries to drive off with Minnie. After trying to get behind the curtains on either side Mickey sees Horace wander onto the stage, also 3D and in color. He re-arranges the horse to look like an airplane and the two zoom over the audience and fly back into the screen (turning back to black and white in the process). There is a huge chase scene where the entire cast streams out one hole and into another going from flat B&W to color 3D and back again. Mickey figures out how to flip the entire screen so the image is upside down and how to spin it like a top to wear Pete to a dazed frazzle. The effects are as dazzling as they were unexpected – a great prelude to the movie. Rating: 4½ out of 5 Martini glasses.

Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2013) – Directors: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee. Writers: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, & Shane Morris (story), Jennifer Lee (s/p). Voices: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Claran Hinds, Chris Williams, Stephen J. Anderson, Maia Wilson, Edie McClurg, Livvy Stubenrauch & Eva Bella. 3D, Color, 108 minutes.

Not since the days of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Alice in Wonderland has Disney Corporation worked so hard on a full-length animated feature. The professionalism demonstrated by Pixar has had a definite effect on productions. Frozen is flawless animation, intricate and beautiful set designs, Broadway caliber songwriting (lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and singing, a novel plot and lovable characters.

The story, inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, focuses on two sisters, Anna and Elsa who the closest of friends as children (voiced by Stubenrauch and Bella) but who have to be separated at teen age for safety’s sake due to Elsa’s increasingly uncontrollable power to freeze everything (she accidentally sends ice into Anna’s head and their parents, the King and Queen have to take Anna to the Rock Trolls for a cure – which results a memory erasing of Elsa’s power) and who also find themselves orphaned at an early age when the King and Queen are lost at sea.

Locked in the castle until they are old enough to take over the kingdom, Anna is mystified why her sister won’t be with her and Elsa tries desperately to control her fears (which lead to accidental discharges). Then Coronation Day arrives and Elsa is to be Queen, Anna the Princess, dignitaries (both bad and good) arrive by ship for the ceremony and the castle windows and doors are unlocked. Anna (now Bell) falls in love (she thinks) with the handsome Hans (Fontana) but when they ask for Elsa’s (now Menzel – the Wicked Witch of the West in the Broadway production Wicked) blessing, she refuses. This starts an argument between the sisters and results in multiple frightening freezings in front of the guests and Elsa’s rapid departure for the Northern Mountain, where she constructs an elaborate ice palace for herself. As an unknown side effect to her leaving the kingdom, the entire land is plunged into eternal winter, including the freezing of the fjords. Now the guests have no way home.

Anna goes after Elsa on horseback to try to talk her into returning but becomes stranded in the snow when her horse is spooked and hightails it home. Fortunately there’s a chalet where she can get warm clothes and she meets Kristoff (Groff) an ice-cutter and saleman and his goofy reindeer Sven. At the outset of the movie we heard the opening number sung by the ice-cutters when Kristoff and Sven were childhood buddies. Anna talks them into helping her, but on the road wolves beset them and, upon leaping a chasm, they lose Kristoff’s sled. Continuing their journey on foot they encounter Olaf (Gad) a talking snowman and a duplicate of one Elsa and Anna had built as children. After being provided with an outsized carrot for a nose (a running gag in the movie – Sven sees it as food) Olaf joins them and helps find the crystal palace.

Elsa however is intractable, there is a struggle when the Duke’s (Tudyk) henchmen try to dispose of her and Anna winds up with an ice jab to the heart. Kristoff, Sven and Olaf take her to the Rock Trolls for a cure. But Pabbie, the elder troll (Hinds) tells them that only an act of true love has the power to restore Anna. This is after a major musical number, “Fixer Upper” sung by Oaken, Kai, Bulda, and Gerda (Williams, Anderson, Wilson, and McClurg) when the trolls think Kristoff and Anna were to be married.

Frozen is obviously a Broadway show in the making. It even has a plot twist. The music is moving and three of the songs have double melodies. The light comedy gets good laughs, not just chuckles. My favorite lines were: Olaf: “Who’s the funky Donkey?” Anna: “Oh that’s Sven.” Olaf: “And who’s the reindeer?” After one hour and 38 minutes I never shifted in my seat, for I was totally entertained. Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

1114 6th Avenue (corner of 43rd Street – in the Grace Building), New York

A stroll through trees decked with white twinkle lights across Grace Plaza brings you to the entrance of STK-NYC Midtown (there is a sister restaurant in the Meatpacking District downtown – appropriately) where a glass-enclosed fireplace is the first thing you see coming through the door. At the Captain’s station you admire the graceful arched and latticed ceiling and the orange-globed swag lighting before being seated. A young couple at the table next to me commented, “We’re hoping the food here is as good as the décor.” I assured them (they were visiting from Canada) that with five of the best steakhouses in New York within walking distance of this one, the food would have to be good.

Forrest, our mutual waiter, appeared and after presenting the menu, cocktail list and wine book, took my water preference and martini order. Being that this dinner was my anti-Thanksgiving dinner I didn’t let the high prices shock me. The martini was indeed perfect to my specifications. I commented to Forrest that I didn’t see an appetizer that I saw online, the Duck Potpie. He explained that it might be on the menu of the downtown restaurant and that he’s never seen it. Good enough for me. He brought the individual sourdough bread nestled in its own iron skillet with the accompanying scallion/olive oil dipping sauce. The fluffy bread with the emerald green sauce was a surprisingly tasty delight.

Noting that the King Crab Legs were less expensive than a dozen oysters I started with that. They were served on a large bowl of ice with three dipping sauces (tartar, horseradish/ketchup, and spicy mayonnaise), lemon slices and two little bottles of 
Tabasco. I mixed and matched the sauces and had a wonderful time finishing them. My martini was now empty and I decided to let the bartender strut his stuff and ordered the “Dirty Pearls” – a briny martini of Grey Goose vodka with bleu cheese stuffed olives as garnish – also very good.

When Forrest assured me the Foie Gras French Toast was not a paté I made it my second course. It was as sinfully sweet as the title implies. The delicate goose liver sat on a toasted almond brioche and was topped with roasted slices of green apple and floating on a sherry gastrique (a high class syrup). The selection of wines by the glass made this dinner a wine tasting as well. The Saint Francis vineyards Merlot (Sonoma) was surprisingly good with the Foie Gras (I generally do not like Merlot, but this one was exceptional.)

The linchpin of any steakhouse for me is how they prepare Filet Mignon. Here, it was a 10-ounce size, a little over an inch thick, cooked perfectly and topped (my choice) with Crab Oscar – juicy, tender (the knife was less than sharp and I let Forrest know) and delicious. The Terrazas Malbec (Mendoza) made a lovely accent to this dish, as did the Duckhorn Zinfandel (Napa Valley) – especially when the Sautéed Wild Mushrooms side dish arrived. Thanksgiving dinner was forgotten by now. I was in the moment.

To mull over the desserts I had a glass of the Justin Vineyards Cabernet (Paso Robles). I must admit, the wine tasting at STK-NYC never failed to satisfy. Ordering the Almond Fudge Brownie did nothing to prepare me for the beautiful visual when it arrived. The leopard-like spots on the curled shaving of white chocolate perched on top were charming. My ever-present double espresso at the end with a glass of Hennessey VSOP cognac made the meal complete.

STK-NYC is admittedly an expensive restaurant but the quality is undeniable and I’m still curious about the downtown incarnation. The service was caring and timely and there was no faulting the décor. The only reasons they did not snatch the number one position from Uncle Jack’s was portion size on the Crab Legs (a little small) and a lack of the element of bending over backward to serve. Long live Uncle Jack!

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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