February

 

AN ACADEMY AWARD DINNER

Inspiration:  Academy Award Winners, February

Stage a glamorous evening and serve dishes as deserving of awards as the Oscar Winning “Best Pictures” that inspired them.

 

HOST’S INTRODUCTION

For Academy Award night, it’s glitz and glamour galore!  So put on your most gorgeous attire and roll out the red carpet (yes – literally!) for YOU will produce the show and it will be sensational.  

 

The Production section in DETAILS OF DAZZLE shows stage directions and spoken lines for your fun-filled, delicious-dinner version of Oscar Night.  Your dramatically decorated home is the theater.  You star as Master of Ceremonies.  Your guests act as the celebrities who present the “Oscars,” while the “Oscars” themselves go to the dishes in the dinner.  Each dish embodies a Best Picture from the past.  Its ingredients and appearance reflect a theme or significant scene from the movie that inspired it.  The relationship between each dish and its Oscar-winning movie is described in the MENU, with additional information in the RECIPE GUIDELINES.

 

Start with a decadent chocolate martini inspired by My Fair Lady and an appetizer representing Wings, the winner of the first Best Picture award, given in 1929. The dinner continues with an eclectic ensemble of “Best Pictures,” their dishes fittingly fashioned and flavored from the cuisines of Europe, the Far East, the Near East and North America.  However, the dishes in each course are matched regionally and the flow of flavors from one course to another is quite agreeable.  These dishes delight the mind as much as the mouth.  Movie buffs are sure to be intrigued, but everyone will enjoy the fun as the dishes prompt dialogue about all that makes movies entertaining.

 

Timing is everything – in a production and certainly in this dinner.  For maximum impact, all guests need to arrive at the same time.  The written invitation emphasizes that.

 

A word of advice: Rehearse.  Practice your role as Master of Ceremonies, especially your opening “speech” (which tells them what the dinner is about).  Think about what you will do and how to do it for best dramatic effect.  Enlist your partner or a friend to listen as you practice out loud.

                   

Now you are ready.  As Master of Ceremonies, put out that red carpet, get the cameras rolling, call for “ACTION!” …  and the Oscar for “Best Dinner Ever” will go to…

 

YOU!

Appropriate for:  Oscar night, any date in February as a salute to the Academy Awards, when entertaining movie enthusiasts, a movie fan’s birthday or whenever you fancy a glamorous evening.

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MENU

 

AN ACADEMY AWARD DINNER

Featuring Dishes Inspired by Oscar-Winning “Best Pictures”

 

BEST COCKTAIL

And the Oscar goes to…

MY FAIR LADY (1964)

Can Henry Higgins change Cockney Eliza’s destiny by teaching her the language of the British upper class?  He did, but left unanswered is whether Eliza’s dream of upper-class living with “lots of chocolate for me to eat” was realized.  Let’s drink to her with an unambiguously upscale, chocolate martini.

 

BEST CHICKEN APPETIZER

And the Oscar goes to…

WINGS (1929)

The first Academy Award winner for best picture, Wings is a story of the German and American aviators of World War I.  Let’s fly high with wings of crispy chicken and boldly flavored dips.  As the film was in black and white, one dip is dark and one light; one is based on sauerbraten, a classic German recipe, the other on an American classic, ranch dip.

 

BEST SEAFOOD APPETIZER

And the Oscar goes to…

FORREST GUMP (1995)

Cajun-style shrimp cakes and a Vietnamese dipping sauce reflect the friendship of Bubba and Forrest Gump, its beginnings in the battlefields of Vietnam and their dream of a joint venture in a Louisiana shrimp company.

 

BEST VEGETARIAN APPETIZER

And the Oscar goes to…

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)

Cecil B. DeMille brings to the big screen the spectacular Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Step right up, take a ringside seat and grab a bag of flavored popcorn.

 

BEST SOUP

And the Oscar goes to…

OLIVER! (1968)

In the delightful musical based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist poor Oliver laments his diet of gruel in the song, Food, Glorious Food.  He longs for tasty treats such as peaches and cream.  This soup grants his wish, albeit not quite as he imagined.

 

BEST ENTRÉE 

And the Oscar goes to…

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)

Intertwined on a moonlit beach in Hawaii, Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster made perhaps the most romantic love scene ever.  Our culinary portrayal:  The lovers are fleshy fillets of mahi-mahi with macadamia-nut crust that lie on a beach made of grains of rice flavored with Maui onion and fish sauce.  Strewn on the beach is seaweed in the form of curried kale.

 

BEST SALAD

And the Oscar goes to…

CASABLANCA (1943)

The Moroccan salad, in tagine-like holder, could have been served at “Rick’s Café Américain” in Casablanca.  The Champagne vinaigrette echoes Humphrey Bogart’s famous Champagne toast to Ingrid Bergman (“Here’s looking at you, kid.”) and La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, sung by the crowd at Rick’s to drown out Nazi officers singing a German patriotic song.

 

BEST CAKE DESSERT

And the Oscar goes to…

GRAND HOTEL (1933)

Set in Berlin’s opulent, art-deco masterpiece, the Grand Hotel, strangers interact in an intricate plot to produce a story as rich and complex as life itself.  A German chocolate torte is equally opulent, equally intricate and just as sinfully lavish as the lifestyle so central to the movie’s narrative.

 

BEST DESSERT DRINK

And the Oscar goes to…

GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT (1948)

The film points out the poisonous nature of prejudice and the tacit gentlemen’s agreements needed to maintain prejudice in an open society.  At dinner’s end, let’s drink to prejudice’s end with a shake.  Why?  The handshake signifies equality and explicit agreement.

DETAILS OF DAZZLE

 

Invitation. On an appropriate card for mailing or on an email, place an image of “Oscar.”

Note. Please join us in a celebration of the Academy Awards. Our version of Oscar night is a dinner party with dishes inspired by Oscar-winning “Best Pictures.” You are a star in this show, playing one of the celebrities presenting Oscars. Black tie is optional but glad rags required. Please arrive exactly on time for a special surprise that you will miss if late. Include time, place and R.S.V.P. if desired.

 

Souvenir Menu.  The menu plays two roles. It is a take-home souvenir and it contains the information used in announcing the “Oscars.” Print the menu on white paper. Fold and include in the package for the favor (see Favor below).

 

The “Oscar” Award Envelopes: Make them look like the real thing, front and back with the “Oscar” information from the menu inside.

 

You will need 9 Award envelopes (for the cocktail, 3 appetizers, soup, entrée, salad and 2 desserts). For each, use a white envelope, 7½x8½ inches. Type or print on the front of the envelope in large, bold, black letters the category name, Best ….(fill in the appropriate phrase).  For example, you would type Best Cocktail on the first envelope, Best Chicken Appetizer on the next one, etc.  Type And the Oscar goes to….  on the back of each of the envelopes.

 

Put the Oscar information for each dish on 7x8 inch white paper, using large, bold, black letters. Type the information for each from the menu: the movie that inspired the dish, the year of its Best Picture award, and a description of the relationship between the movie and the dish. Place the paper inside the appropriate Award envelope.

 

Use a silver seal to close the envelope.  Glue two small red ribbons (¼ inch wide x 2 inches long) at an angle of 45 degrees under the seal.

Production.  Set the stage for Oscar Night.  Place a red carpet (from a party-supply store) at the entrance to your residence. Have your camera at the ready and take a flash photograph of each guest as they arrive.  You can have a lot of fun with this, especially if the guests all arrive at the same time as instructed.  

 

Have the ingredients ready for the martinis and complete them as quickly as possible.

 

Have the Award envelopes ready.  Except for “Best Cocktail,” put the Award envelopes in a top hat (available in party-supply stores) or beautiful bowl and place it in a conspicuous place in your living room.  

 

Guests will pick out an envelope from the hat (or bowl) and read it at the appropriate time.  Reserve the first envelope (“Best Cocktail”) for yourself so that your performance can serve as model for your guests.  As there are 8 Award envelopes in the hat, if you have fewer than 7 guests, you may pick an additional envelope for yourself or you may ask the guests to pick an additional envelope.  If you have more than 7 guests, add blank envelopes to the hat; the total number of envelopes in the hat should be equal to the number of guests.

 

As Master of Ceremonies, your job is to stir up excitement and inspire award-winning performances from your guests.  Indulge that flair for the dramatic that lurks in all of us.  After taking flash photos of arriving guests, when all guests are assembled in your living room, tap a glass or ring a bell to get everyone’s attention.  Announce con brio: “This dinner is dedicated to the Academy Awards.  Each dish you will eat was inspired by a ‘Best Picture.’ The ingredients and appearance reflect critical elements of its ‘Best Picture.’” Then, in ringing tones, announce as you read the front of the envelope:  “For the first award, for “Best Cocktail...”  Pause, then read out the back of the envelope: “And the Oscar goes to…”  With all the drama you can muster, open the envelope, slowly draw out the paper and read the Oscar description: “My Fair Lady (1964)!  Can Henry Higgins (pronounce that ‘enry ‘iggins) change cockney Eliza’s destiny by teaching her the language of the British upper class?  He did, but left unanswered is whether Eliza’s dream of upper-class living with ‘lots of chocolate for me to eat’ was realized.  Let’s drink to her with an unambiguously upscale, chocolate martini.”  Arrange in advance for your partner or a guest to start applause when you finish reading.  As the applause starts, pass out the martinis.  

 

Allow the guests to settle into seats and sip a bit.  Then, in theatrical manner, bring out the hat/bowl with the Award envelopes.  Announce:  “I am Master of Ceremonies for this Academy Award night.  YOU are the celebrities and YOU will announce the Oscars.  The Award envelopes are in this hat (bowl).   Pick one, but DO NOT open it.”  Have guests come up to the hat (bowl) and pick an envelope.    Now explain:  “As I present each dish, I will announce:  ‘For achievement in’ and then give the category of the Oscar.  You will then look for the category of your award-winning dish on the front of the envelope.  After I announce that category, turn the envelope over, read out:  ‘And the Oscar goes to…’, then open the envelope and read out the information inside, just as I read the information about the martini.” 

 

Take it from there.  Complete the preparation of each dish in the kitchen.  When you bring out the dish, do it with a flourish and announce:  “For achievement in (e.g., Chicken Appetizers, Seafood Appetizers, etc.).”  At that point, if necessary, ask the guest holding the envelope for that dish to stand up and read the envelope.  Lead the applause when they are finished, then serve the dish.

 

Room décor.  Make red the paramount color in your décor.  A large vase of red roses in your entrance hallway and another in your living room will be impressive. Black and white will provide striking contrast to red and will suggest the original movies that were just black and white.  Additional touches of silver and gold will add to the aura of Hollywood richness and glitz.

 

Table décor.  Set your cocktail table with black and white cocktail dishes and napkins.  Scatter film-strip or red-star confetti on it.  

 

Your dining table will be stunning with tablecloth or placemats in white or gold, white dishes on ruby chargers, black napkins and glassware in ruby or sparkling crystal.  Make your centerpiece a replica of an Oscar statue (available in party and movie stores).  Provide each place setting with a large red rose in a mini vase or floating in a small bowl of crystal or glass.  Cut the stem, leaving only enough to keep the rose in place.  Complete the picture with a scattering of star confetti in silver.  

 

Mood music. When guests arrive, play the song Hooray for Hollywood.  To go over the top, find the award-winning songs from the movies represented in the menu and play as each course is served.  This would be especially appropriate for the two dishes (cocktail and soup) based on songs from a Best Picture.  Or play CDs of award winning movies.

 

Favor.  Give each guest a DVD of one of the movies represented in the dinner.  Try to match the movie to what you know about the guest.  Wrap the DVD and the complete 

Souvenir Menu together in glittery white paper and tie with shiny black ribbon.

Note for Favor:  Thanks so much for co-starring in our production of Oscar Night.  The enclosed DVD will bring stars (note pun, please) to your eyes and, we hope, moving (please note this pun, too) memories of the evening.

RECIPE GUIDELINES

With Suggestions for Plating and Complementary Beverages

 

COCKTAIL

Serve a Lady Godiva Chocolate Martini to represent My Fair Lady (1964).  While we don’t think Professor Higgins held up Lady Godiva as a role model for Eliza, we are certain Eliza would flip over this elegantly decadent cocktail.  

Preparation. For each cocktail: Rub rim of martini glass with orange wedge, turn glass upside down and dip into grated chocolate to cover entire rim. Chill until ready to fill.  Combine equal amounts of light cream and very cold vodka in a cocktail shaker half full of cracked ice.  Shake for 1 minute.  Strain into martini glass and top with shaved dark chocolate.  Serve immediately.

Note. It will be best to prepare this cocktail in advance. Get the shaved dark chocolate ready and keep cool but not chilled. Prepare the glasses and refrigerate. Mix the cream and vodka in a large pitcher and refrigerate. After guests are assembled in living or dining room, finish the martinis and pass them out.

APPETIZERS

WINGS (1929)

Chicken Wings with Sauerbraten and Ranch Dips

The duo of dips - one dark, one white - represent the two sides in the World War I air combat portrayed in this black and white film.  The “German” dip is based on sauerbraten, a classic preparation of beef marinated in vinegar, sugar and spices.  The “American” is that South Western classic, ranch dip, but with bacon bits in tribute to the flyboys who were Southerners.  The chicken wings get a beer marinade, a favorite drink of both Germans and Americans.

Preparation. For the German dip, make a marinade for sauerbraten, thicken it with cornstarch and cool. For the American dip, use your favorite ranch dip. Add crispy bacon pieces. Marinate the wings for 4 or more hours in beer before cooking.

 

FORREST GUMP (1995)

Shrimp Cakes with Vietnamese Sauce

Shrimp cakes seasoned with hot sauce represent the cooking of Louisiana, home of

the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  Nuoc cham, a basic Vietnamese sauce/dip honors Vietnam, the place where Bubba and Forrest met and made their plans for the company. Nuoc cham has just the right sweet-sour-salty counterpoints for the mild flavor of the shrimp.

Preparation. Recipes for shrimp cakes Louisiana style and nuoc cham abound on the Internet. Many Asian groceries sell nuoc cham.

                   

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)

Flavored Popcorn

No movie or circus is complete without popcorn. No clowning around, fresh herbs will send popcorn over the Big Top.

Preparation. Simmer olive oil with basil, rosemary or other green herb. Make popcorn as usual and drizzle the oil over it.

Plating the appetizers. 

Present the three appetizers separately. (1) Arrange wings on a platter in a V-formation to suggest military airplanes.  Place dips to either side of the platter. (2) Do an image search online for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and print the logo.  Get a cardboard box large enough for the serving platter to fit inside.  Decorate the box with the logo.  Spoon a smidgen of nuoc cham onto each cake.  Place cakes on platter inside box.  Seal lightly. (3) Purchase popcorn boxes at a party store and fill to the top with the seasoned popcorn.  Garnish with a sprig of green herb.  Place boxes on your most colorful serving tray.  

SOUP

OLIVER (1968)

Oatmeal with Peach Brandy and Cream

Oliver laments his diet of gruel (thin oatmeal) in the song Food, Glorious Food.   He yearns for tasty treats such as peaches and cream.  Satisfy Oliver’s craving by spiking his gruel with peach brandy and cream, additions that turn oatmeal into “glorious food.” 

Preparation. Prepare very thin oatmeal. Stir in a generous amount of melted butter and a generous amount of peach brandy (or peach nectar), enough to give the oatmeal a distinctive flavor of peach. In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream with salt.

Plating. If possible, use bowls that are peach or red in color. Top with a dollop of whipped cream seasoned with salt and, on that, a thin slice of peach, preferably fresh.

Complementary beverage. In a small glass, combine 1 ounce of peach brandy (or nectar) with 2 ounces seltzer water.

 

ENTREE

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) 

Fancy fish fillets as Deborah Kerr and Kirk Douglas in their legendary love scene on a Hawaiian beach.  As tender as the lovers, and just as deliciously tanned with a buttery crust, show the fillets dressed in red-pepper swimsuits, cuddled side by side on white “sand” (rice). Dark green kale will suggest seaweed and avocado mousse the ocean.

 

MAHI-MAHI WITH MACADAMIA-NUT CRUST

(The Lovers)

Preparation. Prepare fish fillets with a crust of buttered macadamia nuts. Make two for each guest, both narrow and one longer (Kirk) than the other (Deborah). Make swim trunks of red pepper for Kirk: a straight waist, sides at an angle with a small cut for the crotch. For Deborah, make a one-piece, strapless suit with curved waist line.

 

RICE WITH THAI FISH SAUCE AND GINGER

(White Sand Beach)

For a beach-like appearance, medium-grain rice is best.  The grains, being a bit sticky, adhere rather than remaining separate and distinct as would long-grain rice, but they should not clump as does short-grain rice. Distinctly Eastern flavorings will help to suggest the setting and the scene.  Thai fish sauce is subtly salty, fishy and briny, evoking the ocean in fragrance and taste.  Ginger will add pizzazz.  

Preparation. Prepare medium-grain rice with some Maui (if possible) onion, Thai fish sauce and grated fresh ginger.

 

CURRIED KALE

(Seaweed)

With its dark green color, when cooked and shredded, kale very much resembles seaweed.  For contrast with the mild tastes of the fish and rice, spice up the kale.  Its soft texture will contrast with the crunchy fish and granular rice.  The dish could represent the Best Picture of 1983, Gandhi.  The focus of that film is Gandhi’s gift to the world, the non-violent resistance movement.  At the heart of this movement is the Hindu concern for life, all life, expressed by Gandhi and many others in vegetarianism.  Leafy greens are important to a vegetarian diet and kale takes particularly well to the spices so important to Indian cuisine.  

Preparation. Cook shredded kale with onion, garlic and a generous amount of Indian spices such as black mustard seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander and chili pepper. 

 

SAVORY AVOCADO MOUSSE

(The Ocean)

Green, foamy and salty, the mousse simulates the surf of the Hawaiian coast.  It is easy to imagine the lovers on the beach, surf washing onto the shore, bathing their toes in the deliciously refreshing waters.

Preparation. Process mashed avocado with thick sour cream, a small amount of mustard and lemon juice, black pepper and sea salt. 

Plating the Entrée

Spoon avocado mousse on not quite half of the plate to suggest the ocean.  For the beach, spoon a circle of rice in the center of the plate.  Scatter kale on the “beach” to represent seaweed.  Place the long “Kirk” fillet and the short “Deborah” at a slight angle to each other, with “heads” touching and “feet” in the “ocean” of avocado sauce.  Carefully put on their red pepper “swim suits.”

Complementary beverage 

An Austrian Gewurztraminer is a classic pairing with spicy and Asian flavors.  For a lighter, more neutral wine, use a Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio).    

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SALAD

CASABLANCA (1943)

Moroccan Salad in Citrus Tagine

Evoke Casablanca with a mock tagine, the traditional clay pot of Morocco.  Its base is flat and circular with low sides; a large dome-shaped cover rests inside.  Our mock tagine employs a grapefruit shell for the base and a lemon shell for the dome.  Inside, guests find a salad, bright and refreshing with Moroccan ingredients.  A Champagne vinaigrette will suggest Bogart’s famous toast to Ingrid Bergman (See MENU).  It will also salute the café’s bartender who told Rick he’d rather water his garden with Champagne than let the Nazis drink it.

Preparation. For the tagines, cut grapefruits and lemons in half horizontally.  Scrape out the flesh.  If a grapefruit half does not stand upright, cut a thin slice from the bottom.  Keep the salad simple: a few micro greens, scallions, diced tomato, chickpeas and perhaps some diced preserved lemon. Make a vinaigrette with Champagne vinegar, olive oil and a bit of lemon and ground cumin.  

Plating. Place the half-grapefruit shells in the middle of salad plates.  Stuff with salad, mounding it above the grapefruit rim.  Cover with lemon half shells.  On each salad plate, alternate green and black olive slivers to surround the tagine.

DESSERTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRAND HOTEL (1933)

German Chocolate Torte

A suitable symbol of Berlin’s luxurious Grand Hotel must have a stunningly elegant exterior and sumptuous, scrumptious interior. 

Preparation. We suggest a torte featuring chocolate, coconut and pecans, the flavors of the classic German chocolate cake. Add intricacy and sophistication with frostings on top and between the layers that add crunch with toffee and almond bits (a coarsely ground Heath bar is perfect). Top it all off with spun-sugar columns. They are gorgeous and easy to make. Place them around the cake’s perimeter. Colorful, edible flowers in the center will make this cake beyond grand.

Plating. Place the torte on your cake plate.  Carefully remove sugar columns from paper and insert into frosted torte all around the perimeter to form a crown-like look.  Place one to several flowers, depending on size, in center.

 

GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT (1948)

A ’Shake That’s Spiked

Cake with ice cream is always a winner.  An elegant and chic ice cream ’shake is a fitting partner to the opulent chocolate torte.  Symbolically, it suggests the handshake of friendship and equality, a fitting finish to the evening.  

Preparation. Make a shake with orange ice cream to complement the cake’s flavors. Spike it with an orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier.

Plating the desserts

Show off the cake to your guests on your most elegant cake plate. Place slices on dessert plates decorated with chocolate shavings. Pour the shake into champagne or other stemmed glasses with a few chocolate shavings on top.

EASY DAZZLE RECIPE GUIDELINES

 

Cocktail. A speedy substitute for the chocolate martini is chocolate liqueur over ice.

 

Appetizers. All three are easy because the basics can be bought: chicken wings, ranch dip (add cooked bacon), and sauerbraten marinade; shrimp cakes and nuoc nam. You will have to make the popcorn as suggested.

 

Soup or Salad. The salad is a beauty, as colorful as can be and presented in a unique way. You can prepare the “tagines” one or two days ahead and refrigerate. The soup cannot be prepared more than a few hours ahead.

 

Entrée. Prepare Deborah and Kirk (the fish fillets). Make the rice (the beach) or purchase  white rice from an Asian restaurant. This will well represent the lovers on the beach. For a colorful addition, make the kale one or even two days ahead.

 

Dessert. Buy a round cake and cover with frosting flavored with orange liqueur. Skip the sugar columns but decorate with a chocolate frosting with broken-up Heath bar. Accompany the cake with vanilla ice cream covered with orange liqueur.

 

Favor. As described in Details of Dazzle.

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