It's been a minute and I'm not back per se, but...
Yes, like every single person that started a Substack, months have gone by and I haven’t written one. Predictable. I’m not going to make excuses, but right on the heels of a BFF suggesting I do one of these, I got a recurring and handsomely paid writing job. It really started to become untenable and crazy-making instead of the pleasurable thing it was supposed to be, but I have a minute, I’m waiting for things and here I am. Back again with the 3000 word newsletter no one asked for.
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It’s the dog days, where we all start to take stock of what kind of a summer it was. You have a good one? I’d say mine was a success, sister got married, I swam in lakes, oceans and pools and hung out in the backyard. Got to spend some special time in Toronto with some special people I never really get to see. I wish I’d eaten more grilled food, gone on more magic hour bike rides and eaten more popsicles. I still have a few weeks…
Here’s what’s been on the culture diet in the past few months that I have something to say about. Take it with a grain of salt or not. I hold zero qualifications, well a few degrees in film and years of food writing, but that’s it.
I’m a once, sometimes twice a week moviegoer and after not seeing one for a few weeks, I did mini festival run, four in a week.
Didn’t really have any desire to see, Nope, but sister Tess did and I told her I’d oblige. It’s not that I’m over Jordan Peele, but maybe that’s exactly it. You know what you’re getting, it’s that heavy handed, little left to the imagination, on the nose thing. A decent summer blockbuster, but just like Us, it’s not Get Out. Respect to him creating a genre and becoming an auteur in the 2020’s, but as soon as an alien came into the picture, I checked the fuck out. On the plus side, Keke Palmer slays and so does the fresh face Brandon Perea. We need more characters and casting to match like that.
Another entertaining summer picture, Bodies Bodies Bodies, an A24 comedy horror, right up my alley. Poking fun at the over-therapized, yet unable to do anything about my “issues”except openly talk about them, privileged Gen-Z class. It was something I could’ve written. It was fun, irreverent and had some more than good performances. Somehow Maria Bakalova as Bee, managed to stay stoically serious amongst all the goofiness and much respect to that. It’s totally fun and worth seeing. I wish the dialog was a bit better, but that’s a writer talking.
And then we arrive at B.J. Novak’s yikes of a film, Vengeance. It prompted the re-birth of this newsletter. I left the theatre saying “I want to write a take-down piece of that.” to Kyle. I won’t because that requires effort and research, but what a mess. Just because you can write, with a team of others, for The Office and occasionally guest star, does NOT make you an actor, writer and director. It’s a hard thing to do, trust me I know, I’ve tried. For some reason he thought we needed an ever so slightly funny moralizing tale about class difference in America? The script needed a good red pen and the ending, a total gut re-write. It was going for satire? It missed.
Another mess on our hands is Lena Dunham’s, Sharp Stick. What is this movie? The entire film I was raising my eyebrows and shaking my head and it wasn’t at the sexy sex scenes, not those were nuanced and well done. Even thought John Bernthal’s man baby of Josh was pretty hot, but the tone. The virginal Sarah Jo (Kristine Froseth) who’s cartoonish child-likeness seemed to be otherworldly, but she was trapped in very real world. It was all sorts of weird, not in a good way. I get what Dunham was trying to do, a stunted 26-year-old woman has a sexual awakening with a married man and discovers porn, but she’s just too creepily naive. And then the whole falling in love with a porn star and having a bizarro sexual bucket list well…WTF? I unabashedly loved Girls and Tiny Furniture, this is not that. I’ll keep watching what Dunham’s making though.
The recent favorite is Apple’s Physical. Most of you have never heard of it and that’s a bummer. It’s a comic drama set in 80’s San Diego about a female fitness entrepreneur. She also happens to be bulimic, in a love-less marriage and a mom. Rose Byrne as Shelia is enigmatic, she goes there with the wild inner voices, ritualistic binge patterns and mood swings. It’s a fun watch even though it’s intense. The whole cast is spot on and it’s refreshing to see an eating disorder treated with severity and not just as an affliction that effects teenagers and models.
Getting to the final moment of Better Call Saul. One episode left of Bob Odenkirk as Saul/Jimmy. At this point I’m a little bored of the circuitous cartel/con man/legal parallel plots that never really went anywhere, but I’m loving stylistically how they are managing the time shifting. Vince Gilligan & Co. created one hell of an arc for Jimmy. We can now see his need to con is pathological, makes for great TV! I hear Kim (Rhea Seahorn) might get a spin off? That might be one too many. A spinoff of a spinoff? I’d be excited to see something totally new.
It’s the best time of the food year. Nothing needs to be fancy. The produce is so good. A little new green grassy olive oil, maybe a squidge of lime or splash of Tart and Maldon and you’re pretty good. But I’m a maximalist so my minimal pantry includes, miso, soy sauce, togarashi, dijon, tahini, chili crisp and sesame oil. Food has mostly been loads of grilled veg, huge garden picked kale salads and dips, lots of dips. Easy, flexible and endless-ly riffable. I miss the gardens and gas grills that my Canadian month was filled with.
On the baking front, it’s been quiet. I baked my sister’s wedding cake, The Chocolatey-ist Chocolate with a Salted Dark Chocolate Ganche, it was delicious despite the second tier collapsing. Haha. That’s what happens when you have 20 minutes to assemble a cake before you MC the evening. No one was the wiser. Blueberries and corn are one of my favorite combinations, I made the annual riff, this year upside-down torte. Next, up zucchini cake with the classic cream cheese frosting.
I’ve been out and about too. In Toronto, stopped by Gia, a vegetarian pasta place. Food was good, service was amateur hour, asking to taste wine and being given a shot glass half full of red is, not normally how it goes or is clearing plates you’re still eating off of, but always thrilled at a mostarda on a menu or pickled enokis. Prime Seafood Palace is a restaurant Toronto needs. There is finally a good, splurge meal place that takes into account the details. Service was thoughtful, the custom silverware drawers at each table and ultra cold filthy martinis were all welcome. I could not stop eating the smoked cabbage and trufflized sprouting cauliflower. Highly recommend.
Montreal is Canada’s best food city. No secret. Everyone knows the bagels, the smoked meat and Joe Beef/all the offshoots. I’m an Elena girl myself, it’s a place I keep coming back to. The world’s coolest Italian restaurant that everyone wishes was around their corner. Pizzas and wine are perfect, but my favorite is their caesar. The towering mess of kale and chicories, dressed in the perfectly funky, without anchovies or parm, dressing makes me happy. Forever on the hunt for the best vegan caesar, I think Elena wins. Babs in Greenwich Village is second.
Since we’re spoiled and my job allows me some perks, we stayed at the Four Seasons when we were in Montreal, which was as good as you’d think it would be. Plush robes, a shower full of Byredo and a spa to die for. We did the fun thing, where you just walk downstairs to dinner. There’s something fun about eating at a restaurant that is so not for you. For a certain crowd, Marcus is the place to be in Montreal. Instgrammable bathroom, sparkler topped seafood tower and all. I can get down when the food is good. The koji cured portobello and the tomato-y maple eggplant were a bits of magic and surely something I am not making at home. That’s what eating out is all about for me.
In New York, I popped into Claud and was pleasantly surprised. I thought I was walking into a casual wine bar à Le Dive or the enumerable other natty wine spots that have popped up downtown in the last few months, but it’s definitely about the food here. Always love the type of service Momofuku alums tend to have. Casual, but knowledgeable and attentive. Go for dinner or sit at the bar and get whatever seasonal veg the kitchen is turning out. They know what they’re doing.
Mostly leafing through non-books these days, newspapers, zines and magazines, but on my way to finishing Sloane Crosley’s Cult Classic. Reading the book jacket, I thought I found my book of the year. It’s fun, but not quite enough. Funny, filled with IYKYK downtown references, but without a real plot it drags. Wasn’t quite the salacious beach read I was looking for, but I’d still tell you all to give it a read.
My July Nu Swim purchases have enriched every swim I’ve taken this summer. Thanks Gina for helping me pick out by far the best swimsuit I’ve ever owned, HA-RA TOP and HIGH CUT BOTTOM. And those shorts! Please make them in every color. I love having talented friends that make nice things.
To go with all the swimming, I’ve needed a solid supply of SPF. The Vacation Chardonnay Oil is cheeky, gimmicky and totally silly, but also smells like heaven and goes on oh so smooth. I can’t wait for them to relaunch one of the most fun things I’ve ever received in the mail, whipped cream canned sunscreen.
It’s been a poppy summer. I’ve pretty much just been obsessively listening to MUNA, Tove Lo, Empress Of and Charli XCX on repeat. The intensity, the emotionality, the grandiosity of it all. Also, great running music. I can’t count the number of runs that started with Runner’s High.
Enjoy these last days. Until next time, we’re off to Maine, like all other millennial New Yorkers. Hopefully it’s still blueberry season. I’m not a pie person, but I could become one. Stay tuned…
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