Sunday, August 16, 2009

Barbacoa-powered menu planning

I can't recall if I've ever paid to see the same movie twice in the theater. And I know I've never sat in the dark to see the same movie three times. Until yesterday, when I saw "Julie & Julia" again — but each time I've gone with new companions, so I think they each count as totally different experiences. Right? After three viewings, I have to say some scenes are irrefutable winners, and they tend to be Julia's, not Julie's — like an enraptured description of beurre blanc or a pair of very tall sisters commenting in front of a mirror, "Pretty good. But not great."

Scenes like these often upstage the food — even screen-dominating shots of sole meunière and boeuf bourguignon — as I think they should. But the one dish I couldn't get out of my head was a chocolate cake with sliced almonds layered like shingles all around the sides. Into the kitchen! But first, I'd need a recipe.

My friend Sara reports that during a visit to Alabama last week she couldn't find a single copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." And I just got off the phone with someone at BookPeople, where they have only four copies, but they're all on hold. I could put my name on a list, the guy said, but I'd be ordering the movie tie-in version, not the one with the more classic cover.

So, off to start googling. Sara and I might even turn this into an entire French feast. But even recipe searching and meal planning requires sustenance. Mine came from El Taquito, a spot so in demand it's closed for only two hours overnight on the weekends. When buying barbacoa by the pound, I think it's a good idea to go with the place where someone — a late-night customer, I'm guessing — has scratched "100% mexicano" into a tabletop.

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