Comfort Movies and Guilty Pleasures

BY // SOFIA GUZMAN

When someone asks about your favorite movies, you are most likely to say: “Oh, I just love Inception and The Godfather!” I do this as well; a few of my favorite movies are The Double Life of Veronique, The Social Network, and Mommy. I have made two different lists for movies I enjoy: “Favorites” and the other “Comfort Movies.” Why don’t I just pile them all together? Because I’m embarrassed! No one will take you seriously when you say that Disney’s Ice Princess is a cinematic masterpiece. I have lost track of how many times I have watched that movie, but it is something that you can watch any time you are feeling blue or just ecstatic. I would consider most of my comfort movies guilty pleasures, and most people probably would as well. Familiarity and nostalgia should not be something to feel ashamed of; there is a reason you like it so much, even if it’s not considered one of the best movies of all time. 

What exactly makes a comfort movie? Out of curiosity, I asked a few people what their choices were, and they responded with films such as Ratatouille, Meet the Robinsons, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Incredibles. Knowing what will happen makes people feel safe; it feels like holding your childhood teddy bear, especially since most times these movies are watched right before going to bed (at least in my case). They are also almost always tied to when you watched them when you were younger and it made some sort of impact on you. It could have changed your perspective or inspired you in some way! I remember when I watched Jump In! I begged my parents to buy me a jump rope, and when I finally got it, I was constantly jumping in front of my apartment in my old neighborhood. Another comfort movie of mine is Mamma Mia!, I remember going to the theater in 2008 not knowing what I was going to watch and being in complete awe when I saw the big screen. I recognized the songs because I would watch a DVD full of ABBA music videos every time I was picked up from preschool. I had no idea that there was already a musical based on my favorite songs. Sometimes, I randomly watch clips from the movie to feel better, it has a big place in my heart! 

Comfort movies are always there to give you a hug when you are having a bad day. Go relive that one time you came home from school and watched Toy Story while eating a huge bowl of ice cream! Don’t be ashamed of telling people one of your favorite movies is Sky High, chances are they have a Gnomeo and Juliet poster in their bedroom.

“Bake With Me”: Make or Bake this Outbreak

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

I’m excited to announce that on Thursday, September 10th at 7 pm I will be hosting WRGW’s first Welcome Week 2020 event, “Bake with Me” at this link. I will be making a simple peach pie and I’m including the recipe here so anyone can buy the ingredients and make their own delicious pie at home with me.

The best way to celebrate the end of summer is to bake with some seasonal fruit! I feel like I wait all year long to get my hands on stone fruit, especially because they bake so well when they are ripe.

I bought my peaches at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, where there are lots of vendors selling the perfect box of peaches for this recipe. Most vendors are even kind enough to feel how ripe the peaches are for you so you can maintain social distancing. It’s important to have very ripe peaches for this recipe!

A note about the crust for this recipe, you have to make it the night before or at least a few hours before. It’s an easy recipe but if you don’t have the time to make the crust a store-bought version works really well here too!

For the “Bake with Me” event, I recommend either having your homemade crust in the fridge for a few hours before we start or pulling out a store-bought crust when we get to the pie building part!

I hope to see some friendly faces at the “Bake with Me” event, don’t be afraid to join in to talk about WRGW and remote broadcasting this year if you don’t feel like baking a pie!


Simple Peach Pie

Crust Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

⅔ cup cold butter

¼ cup ice water

Pie Filling Ingredients

5-6 peaches, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1 to 1 ¼ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

Sprinkling of nutmeg

A little water for closing the crusts

 

Crust Steps (must do a few hours before making pie!)

  1. Mix the flour and salt. Then add the butter, cut up into 2-inch pieces. Use a pastry cutter/dough blender to cut in the butter, or just work in the butter with your fingers. It should make a crumbly mixture, similar to thick sand.
  2. Mix in ice water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, with a fork until the dough sticks together. Pat it together, do not overhandle.
  3. Shape into two flattened discs, wrap in wax paper (or reusable beeswax paper if you have it), and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

 Pie Steps

  1. Mix peach slices with lemon juice. Add sugar and flour and mix.
  2. Roll out the first pastry disc (or store-bought pie dough) and place in a 9-inch pie plate, use your fingers to make the dough lie flat against the pan.
  3. Add the peach filling, sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top.
  4. Roll out the second disc (or store-bought pie dough). Cuts slits in a decorative pattern, about 3 to 5 slits in the middle of the circle.
  5. Place the second circle of pastry on top of the filling, wet the bottom dough crust with cold water. Seal up the pie by pinching the bottom and top edges together, all around the pie. Cut off any excess pastry.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn down the temp to 375 degrees and cook until the peaches bubble and the pastry is golden about 45 minutes. Serve slightly warm! 

B-Roll Reviews: I Know This Much is True

BY // GRAHAM STEINBERG

I Know This Much is True is a hauntingly beautiful story about unwitting brotherhood beyond all measure and the moral decay of American society as a result of the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Derek Cianfrance continues to prove his capability to bring the most heart-wrenching stories to life and Jody Lee Lipes (the cinematographer who lept onto the scene with Manchester by the Sea) gives an intimate eye to compliment his direction with tight, in-your-face shots. But the real knockout is obviously Mark Ruffalo who plays the contrasting personalities of the Birdsey brothers better than the two sides of the Hulk. It’s hard to even realize they are one person and the chemistry he builds inside himself makes for a spectacular performance.

Filmgoers are often critical of Cianfrance (as indicated by the mixed reception for his 2012 film The Place Beyond the Pines, a film I consider to be one of the finest experiments with linear narrative) for making films that contain too much dread without redemption. And while I’ll admit having trouble with getting through Blue Valentine, the drama in his films never feels as though it exists purely for the shock. The darkness he formulates is because it is a dark story. It is always truthful and always earned. In addition, his miniseries continues to showcase his ability to deconstruct narrative conventions and rebuild them for the purpose of telling a complete story. 

I look forward to seeing how I Know This Much is True continues in the coming weeks.

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // LIZ SUN

Hey friends! Hope you’re all surviving out there and doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. But quarantine szn doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself from time to time. As an AVID dessert lover, my craving for a cold, creamy treat just couldn’t be stifled any longer. And what better to time indulge than this past weekend, when my family and I celebrated Mother’s Day!

Although my mom has a slight lactose intolerance, she requested I make this dessert as my gift to her. I’ve made a few cheesecakes before, and although they’ve all come out well, this one definitely tops them all. I had never tried the bain-marie style before, knowing that it’s a pain to assemble. I was never quite sure why adding in the extra work and fuss made any difference. But believe me when I say, it’s so worth it. It’s got the taste and texture of an authentic cheesecake. The kind you order mid-finals week when the late nights of studying finally push you enough to pay for a $13 uber eats delivery of one measly slice from the Cheesecake Factory (my bank account has taken a few dubious and petty expenses). The kind that will stop your mother from taking one bite until she’s taken a snapshot of it at every possible angle in front of both a glass of wine and a bouquet of flowers. But when she finally does so, her reaction to delighted taste buds lets you know you’ve done this Mother’s Day right.


White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake

 

Ingredients:

Graham Cracker Crust

2 cups of graham crackers (approximately two sleeves)

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling

(3) 8 oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp

1 cup greek yogurt, at room temp (feel free to use any flavor, such as vanilla or honey)

3 eggs and

2 egg yolks, at room temp

½ cup granulated sugar

1½ tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4½ tablespoons lemon juice

8 oz white chocolate, melted but slightly cooled

2 cups blueberries

Berries to garnish

Note: This recipe requires you to use a water bath. Any baking pan or iron skillet/pot that is deep enough to submerge half of the cake pan in water will work. This method, known as “bain-marie,” is commonly used to help insulate the entire cheesecake and result in a silky smooth, even bake.

Steps:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Wrap a 9” springform cake pan with multiple layers of aluminum foil around the outside, to prevent water from seeping through to the crust. (Make sure to test the pan in your water bath before placing the oven)

For the crust:

1. Blend the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Transfer the crumb mixture to a large bowl. Add the melted butter and stir well to combine.

2. Butter the springform pan. Press the crumb mixture into the pan evenly along the bottom and sides.

3. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling:

1. Blend the cream cheese and greek yogurt in a large bowl, until completely smooth. Add in the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar and mix until well combined.

Add in the flour and vanilla and gently mix (do not overmix). Using a spatula, fold in 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice and white chocolate.

2. To make the blueberry swirl puree, heat the blueberries and the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in a small saucepan. Mash the blueberries and cook over medium heat. When the puree starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Strain the puree and discard the pulp (or save it to make a wonderful toast spread, yum!) Let the remaining blueberry juice cool before use.

3. Pour half of the filling into the cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Pour half of the blueberry juice into the remaining filling and mix, creating a slight blue-ish purple tinge. Pour the remaining filling into the pan. Use the remaining blueberry juice to create designs on the top of the cheesecake. This can be done by dropping dollops of blueberry juice and gently swirling with a toothpick or fork.

4. Place the springform pan into the larger baking pan, and then move both pans into the oven. Fill the larger baking pan with enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the cheesecake.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit for another 45 minutes inside the oven with the door shut.

6. Remove from the oven and gently run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen the crust from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 30 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 6 hours/overnight.

7. When ready to eat, garnish with fresh berries and whipped cream, then serve!

Code 8: A Confusing Surge

BY // MAX GREENHALGH

A few days ago, I saw a project that I had never heard of in the Netflix Top 10 for movies, and it had apparently been there for at least a few days. I generally enjoy some good dystopian media (my favorite book of all time is 1984), so when I saw Netflix’s plot description of a film combining that with superhero films, I was in. 98 minutes later, I was flabbergasted, as I read reviews calling the film a “refreshing take on the superhero genre” and constructed around “novel circumstances.” Are you kidding me? Maybe I’m losing my mind a month into this new post-COVID-19 lifestyle, but I don’t see it. While not all aspects of the film disappoint, it follows a cookie-cutter formula while desperately attempting to make a strong political statement in order to gain some clout.

One thing I cannot fault the film for is its ambition. To make something this professional looking with primarily TV and brand new talent both in front of and behind the camera is remarkable. Code 8 comes from grounded roots, as it started out as a 2016 short film written and directed by Jeff Chan. With the aid of the performances and celebrity status of cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell (best known for their work in the CW Arrowverse as Firestorm and Green Arrow, respectively), its Indiegogo fundraiser raised $2.4 million for production in just 30 days. Despite financial limitations being fairly obvious in some special effects, it is clear that these funds were generally spent wisely. As a frequent consumer of high budget, mainstream movies, it is difficult for me to imagine how this minuscule budget paid for the impressive looking hovercrafts and robots featured on-screen. In the final cut, Robbie and Stephen star as superhumans, who are discriminated against in this film’s universe. Unfortunately, this is where the problems begin.

The ambition of the movie begins to backfire at this point because it struggles to pick what social message it wants to push. At first, it seems pretty clear cut that those with superheroes are being compared to undocumented immigrants, as they struggle to find honest work outside of construction and wait on the side of the road to be picked up by foremen for their odd jobs. Pushing the point further, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more on-the-nose political reference than this quote, found in the opening news montage (another sign of a GREAT movie) than this one: “I never said I wouldn’t hire a powered person. I said I would never hire an unregistered powered person.” Heavy-handed or not, it looks like we are at least settling on a main message to really dive into.

However, instead of fleshing out this angle, the movie takes detours into other currently relevant political issues, in an attempt to touch them all. A drug called Psyche is clearly supposed to be an opioid stand-in, but the film never takes the time to show or explain any negative effects of the drug. The consequences of an enhanced surveillance state seem omnipresent at some moments, but wanted criminals can then walk around in broad daylight in a heavily urbanized area, talking loudly about their plans to commit more crimes (I’m not exaggerating, this actually happens) with zero consequences. Because it wastes time on these and other brief allusions to sociopolitical themes, no single message has a satisfying arc.

The script, on the other hand, seems to be the very opposite of ambitious. This movie contains an absurd amount of nonsensical plot points, but I’ll just mention a few easily observable in the first 20 minutes. The film’s police force somehow “detect” superpower use in a construction site, and how they do this is never explained or used again by the incompetent fuzz. At the Psyche operation the cops take down a few minutes later, they use special handcuffs, able to stop a man with super-strength from breaking out, but normal cuffs were used at the construction site to take away a man with powers in the scene directly before this one, allowing him to attempt an escape. Finally, workers at the side of the road seem to know that Lincoln Power is a front for a prominent criminal ring, but the cops seem to have no idea of this connection while chasing down their clearly labeled van just minutes later. With the addition of several depthless characters and a plot thread that not once succeeded in surprising me, I am left to consider the overall idea of the film that many are calling a “breath of fresh air.” This is laughable, given that the X-Men comics and movies have been operating on a remarkably similar blueprint to this one since the 60s.

So, why do people like this movie? I mentioned the strong production values, but I think that there are some other factors. The actors here generally do a good job with what they are given. This is especially true of Sung Kang’s performance as Officer Park, who comes through with the best performance of the film despite receiving some of the worst material to work with. I also really enjoy some aspects of the film’s world structure, such as the fact that in many cases, having a gun seems far better than having a superpower. This keeps things interesting, as the heavily militarized police aren’t overmatched by godlike supernatural abilities, a perspective that I think should be employed more in the superhero genre. However, I think the biggest reason the film is getting so much positive press is that we are all stuck inside right now, and don’t have a ton to do. I know I never would have watched this movie on a Friday night if I could leave my house. While Code 8 has not (and almost certainly will not) achieve Bird Box-esque meme status and the popularity that comes along with it, I hope the Amell cousins and the rest of those involved keep working with this idea. It is clearly a project born out of passion, and despite the thrashing I’ve given it, I bet Lincoln City would be an intriguing setting for a more grounded, focused film.

⭑⭑⭒⭒⭒ 2/5 stars

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

Hot take: almond butter and other nut butters are ten times better than peanut butter. On a sandwich, mixed with chocolate, on fruit, eaten straight, and especially in these cookies. Most nut butter cookies recipes overdo it with butter and eggs, and then have three tablespoons of nut butter “for the taste.” But the oil and crunchy pieces in almond butter can hold together a cookie on their own and are so delicious already that they don’t need all those extra ingredients.

These simple cookies are especially easy right now when you are trying to eat out of your pantry and only restocking on perishables every two to three weeks. Don’t use up all your perishables in one go, instead, you can make these crumbly cookies multiple times. They are especially perfect with tea, ice cream, or a large glass of milk (oat milk recommended)!


Almond Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

¾ cup Chunky Almond Butter (smooth is fine too!)

3 tablespoons butter

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

⅛ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F

  2. Mix almond butter, butter, and sugar with an electric mixer or whisk in a medium bowl until creamy. Beat in the egg.

  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.

  4. Form into 1 tablespoon-sized balls and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.

  5. Take a fork and make grid marks on the top of the cookies (for fanciness and the universal sign for baked goods with nuts).

  6. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on pan for one minute, then move to a wire rack (or platter) to allow them to cool.

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // LIZ SUN

I was introduced to the concept of savory vegetarian pies about 10 years ago, when my older sister, Enid, had to babysit me during summer vacation.

She, like me, is a major foodie and cooking fanatic (she actually had a food blog of her own during college, affectionately punned “Lim Sun,” a combination of our last name and her friend’s who co-wrote recipes).

As an 11 year old, the idea of vegetables being tasty seemed ludicrous. Especially a vegetable PIE? As if! And yet, every afternoon that Enid whipped up a new creation, I ate every single bite on the plate. She had a gift. A persuasive gift, maybe, convincing a child to eat her veggies. But looking back, I truly appreciate the time we spent preparing the pie filling, lining the tin with dough, watching it crisp in the oven, and finally digging in during an episode of Modern Family or Doctor Who.

My sister had used a potato leek pie recipe, which when done right can be very delectable. However, I find the flavors a bit tricky to balance, so I decided to seek out a similar pie but different filling. And my god, is this just darn delicious! I made it about a week ago for my cousin and mom, who are now working from home. And what better way to endure the long weeks with your family than with some homemade pie?


Kokothikopita

Ingredients:

2 – 2.5 lbs zucchini (about 3 or 4)

~1 – 2 cups salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chopped dill (dried is fine)

¼ cup combination of mint & parsley

1 cup crumbled feta

3 eggs, beaten

1 box phyllo dough (you’ll only need 12 sheets)

Pepper to taste

 

Steps:

1. Grate the zucchini or grind in a food processor and place in a colander.

2. Salt the zucchini and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down every 10 to 20 minutes to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze out any remaining moisture (this is easier done when the clumps are wrapped in a kitchen towel and you twist the towel to squeeze the liquid out), then place zucchini in a bowl.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat.

4. Add the garlic and onions, cook and stir until onions are tender (about 5 minutes).

5. Let the onions cool for a few minutes, then add to the zucchini.

6. Stir in herbs, feta, eggs, and pepper.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Grease a 10-inch pie or cake pan.

9. Line the pie dish with 7 phyllo sheets, lightly brushing each piece with oil and turning the dish after adding a sheet so that the edges of phyllo drape evenly around the pan.

10. Add the pie filling and fold the draped edges in over the filling.

11. Layer the remaining 5 phyllo sheets on top, repeating the same process as before.

12. Stuff the edges into the sides of the pan, make a few slashes in the top layers, and brush with oil.

13. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown

14. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

Notes:

  • If using store-bought phyllo dough, let it sit out for a few hours to defrost.

  • I didn’t have any mint to use but still tasted fine.

Make or Bake This Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

The first time I tasted a truly spectacular scone was at high tea at the Getty Villa. Everything at this tea was absolutely perfect, the beginning pastries were flaky, the sandwiches were super imaginative, they gave you a limitless selection of tea, and at the end they gave us the recipe for the Getty carrot cake, the original caretaker’s wife’s cake (which of course is delicious). As a high tea fanatic, I’d say it’s the best deal for a huge amount of delicious food and literal bottomless tea. Even though both the Getty Villa and Getty Center are closed, for the time being, I highly recommend getting a reservation for their high tea as soon as you can plan your life three months in advance again.

My first thought after I gobbled my scone was, “oh, I bet I could make this.” I knew I wanted that same buttery inside with the crisp exterior. So I started looking into cream scone recipes that I could add frozen fruit to because we happened to have a lot of frozen blueberries in the freezer at that moment. I combined a few aspects of recipes that had great reviews, mostly drawing from Bon Appetit’s cream scone recipe.

The first time I made them was on Christmas morning for my family and since then I’ve learned that if I ever let someone try these scones, they become a scone-loving zombie. That sounds like an exaggeration, but my boyfriend once tried to break into my dorm room when he knew I had extra scones and at one point my family was requesting them twice a week. I’ve refined this recipe after making it at least a dozen times and I’m excited to share all my tips and tricks for making scones with you.

These have been a real comfort to my family during social distancing. On our worst long days of feeling cooped up inside, we will sit out in the warm Los Angeles afternoon and have a scrumptious tea with these fresh scones.

I hope this brings some comfort to your home right now, at least until we drop another recipe next Tuesday!


Blueberry Cream Scones

Ingredients:

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1¼ cups half and half, plus more for brushing

Raw sugar (for sprinkling)

 

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3 cups of flour in a large bowl to combine.

3. Break up the pieces of butter and combine them in with a pastry cutter. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, get your hands in there and break up the pieces of butter, letting the little pieces get covered in the dry mixture until there are pea-sized pieces of butter throughout.

4. Add in the frozen blueberries and mix them in with your hands.

5. Make a well in the center and drop in the egg and half and half. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients with a fork until a shaggy dough begins to form. Lightly knead the dough with your hands till it comes together, don’t overwork it!

6. Split the dough in half, turning out half the dough on a lightly floured surface.

7. Pat into a 1″-thick round and cut into 8 wedges (like a pizza). Transfer the 8 wedges to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do the same for the other half. You’ll probably need two baking sheets for all of them.

8. Paint all the wedges with half and half (I use a clean paintbrush) and sprinkle some raw sugar on top.

9. Bake scones until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Most recipes call for heavy cream but I found half-and-half makes them lighter while still creamy.

  • This makes smaller scones, but if you don’t cut the dough in half you can make some very hearty scones too.

  • If you want to make these ahead of time you can place them on parchment-lined baking sheets and cover them in plastic wrap, just pull them out within two days to put the cream and sugar on them and then bake them.

  • Serve with extra butter, jam, and English breakfast tea!

B-Roll Reviews: Bloodshot

BY // GRAHAM STEINBERG

After a massive Michael Bay-style montage of military vehicles and helicopters, Vin Diesel lands on an Italian beach with his squad. He leads the group like they’ve just come out of high school football practice while his girlfriend (whose face we don’t fully see until Toby Kebbell puts a bolt pistol through it) waits for him. An aviator-wearing Diesel turns back and says “That’s what we’re fighting for boys!” as all his friends grunt nonsensically in response.

They then drive up the Amalfi Coast for some reason and make love in a hotel. That evening, his shirtless girlfriend (whose face we still don’t see) says “I don’t like the stories your scars tell” to which Diesel responds “the story they tell is that I come home.” More lovemaking.

The next morning Diesel wakes up and is pretty quickly subdued and kidnapped. Every shot is a closeup and I’m beginning to feel nauseous.

Toby Kebbell dances in a down puffer coat while surrounded by large hocks of curing prosciutto. The song Psycho Killer plays on the radio in case it wasn’t obvious enough already that he is, in fact, a psycho killer.

Vin, of course, asks: “who are you?”

Toby (who really isn’t making the comeback he hoped for after Fantastic Four) says “I’m the guy who ruined your vacation. My name is Martin X.” And then I shut it off. It had been ten minutes.

Cooking, Cocktails, and COVID-19

WRGW’s Olivia Osborne and Arthur Pescan take on isolation in D.C. the only way they can…

BY // ARTHUR PESCAN

Ah, time enough at last. I’m revisiting the iconic Twilight Zone episode a lot lately. Henry Bemis – the nebbish bibliophile who finds himself alone in a changed world, his only company all the books he could ever need – is a fitting figure for these strange days of social distancing.

Outside, the streets aren’t completely empty, but surreal and quiet. Foggy Bottom is a ghost town, and my apartment a block from the hospital means hearing the sirens every fifteen minutes. Trader Joe’s is an hour online to get in, pacing in marked six-foot squares. Baseball’s Opening Day postponed indefinitely. Cough in public and god save you.

Take a page from Henry Bemis and find the silver lining – despite all the anxiety, craziness, and boredom, maybe there is time enough at last. Perhaps it’s a delusion, but at least it’s a comforting one, numbing acceptance that things are as they are, making it easier to pass the days. Besides, be thankful if boredom is all you have to worry about. For myself, it’s finding time to cross things off the list – a book I’ve meant to read, an album I’ve been dying to listen to, a recipe I’ve needed to try.

This past week, it was Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. A dear friend lent it to me, and I couldn’t put it down. This column is not a book review, but if 1950s Saigon, doomed love triangles, tortured psyches, and the failures of twentieth-century foreign policy pique your interest, I highly recommend it.

Importantly, the book brought a new cocktail to my radar: the Vermouth Cassis. I’m hard-pressed to think of another work in which a drink held such importance to the atmosphere – naturally I had to find out more.

Turns out, the Vermouth Cassis was a classic cocktail for decades before the Martini craze burned through, the drink is a staple of Parisian cafes, then New York bars, in the 1920s and ’30s. Simple to make, refreshing as hell, it spread throughout the French world. My mother, born in 50’s-era Saigon, remembers seeing it everywhere around her home city, and now all throughout Little Saigon.

Time enough at last. It applies to cocktails as well.

It’s tough to find any quality liquor – not to mention vermouth and crème de cassis – at a decent price around Foggy Bottom, and I’ve grown too old and jaded for McReynolds and West End. No, this alcoholic adventure entailed a trip uptown to Calvert Woodley, a gem in Van Ness. It’s one of those old-school fixtures straight from 1971 – a liquor shop, wine importer, and corner delicatessen all combined into one. It shouldn’t still exist but thank god it does. $1000 vintage an aisle away from a Yuengling rack. Classy, not fussy. The biggest benefit of shopping here though? They make so much off wine, good liquor is dirt cheap. Paradise indeed.

Of course, paradise had rightfully moved online, orders via click and more of those six-foot squares at curbside pickup. I don’t think I’ll ever fully adjust to shopping under social distancing. Sign me up for any measure to stop the spread while supporting local businesses – there’s still a ridiculous beauty in lining up for a booze ration in a brown bag. Life finds a way to keep going.

Henry Bemis’s spectacles shattered his dream of having time enough at last – here’s hoping the same doesn’t happen with my cocktail glass.

Till next Sunday, cheers.


Vermouth Cassis

Ingredients:

3 parts Blanc (Bianco) Vermouth

1 part Crème de Cassis

Tonic Water

Coupe Glass

 

Steps:

1.) Combine vermouth and crème de cassis in a shaker over ice; stir till thoroughly chilled.

2.) Strain into a chilled coupe glass; top with tonic water to taste.

 

Notes:

  • This is obviously a pretentious version of the cocktail; feel free to make in a Collins glass highball-style over ice.

  • The original recipe switches the blanc vermouth and tonic water for dry vermouth and club soda; the blanc vermouth is brighter and lighter, and the tonic adds more crispness – both perfect for sunny spring days.

  • Obviously, higher quality liquor makes any drink better. But let’s be honest, you’re getting a buzz on a budget. You DO NOT want to skimp on the mixer though. A high-quality tonic will boost this cocktail to the next level – elderflower tonic works wonders.

  • Too sweet? Add more vermouth. Too dry – more crème de cassis. Play around with it.

  • To garnish or not to garnish? So many cocktail enthusiasts (read: alcoholics in denial) gatekeep and demand that a cocktail needs a garnish. Who cares? If you’re feeling it, throw in a lemon slice, a sprig of mint, or some blackberries. Otherwise, just sit back and sip away.