Christine Graham, an avid movie buff, came up with the idea of doing reviews of movies with wine and drink themes. So here she reviews some 43 movies with wine and food themes. We have also included some suggestions for wine and spirits you might consider drinking while watching the various movies. At the end of the movie reviews, Laurie and I have made suggestions for food to accompany the beverages. Please take a look at these and one of the suggestions may come as a surprise. Trust us, it works! – John Tilson
Wine and spirits in movies may be a central theme, a key plot element, a subplot or just a way to highlight a scene. Wine and spirits play a supporting role in some of the screen’s memorable moments. The films mentioned here range from enduring classics to ones with some cinematic merit to others that are less significant or even soap opera-ish, but wine legitimizes them, affording depth and breadth. Whiskey, for the most part, seems to be the main prop for tough guys and hard-boiled detectives like Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, for secret government agents, like James Bond, as well as for elegant, urbane detectives like Nick Charles in The Thin Man. Champagne and wine, on the other hand, pairs well with more light-hearted stories, romances, dramas and comedies. So after reading the reviews and looking at wine, spirits and food suggestions, make your choices and enjoy an evening at home!
An Affair to Remember. (1957) Pink Champagne is a theme in this movie, a classic tear-jerker. While on a cruise, Deborah Kerr tells Cary Grant how much she loves the drink. Cary tells her that their time together on the trip should be like Pink Champagne – gay, bright and bubbly. They also order Champagne Cocktails with Pink Champagne. And, Cary tells her that she’s used to a life of Pink Champagne. Watch this film with a nice bottle of your favorite Rose Champagne.
Arsenic and Old Lace. (1944) Cary Grant stars in this frenetic comedy. His two elderly aunts use wine as a vehicle to deliver poison to kill lonely old men, then burying them in their cellar, as a work of charity. Aunt Martha’s recipe calls for a teaspoon of arsenic, a half teaspoon of strychnine and a pinch of cyanide to be added to a gallon of elderberry wine. This is a recipe you’re not likely to find in our Fanny Farmer.
Auntie Mame. (1958) This is a true story set in 1928, based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis. The free-spirited Mame, played by Rosalind Russell, serves lots of bootlegged alcohol at her parties, giving 13 parties in two weeks (one was called off because the bootlegger couldn’t come). At the beginning of the movie, Mame announces that someone’s on the way with another gallon of gin. When her nephew, Patrick Dennis, arrives she asks him if he would like a martini. He says no but tells her he really likes the fishberry jam (caviar). Mame has taught her nephew how to make martinis, so when the banker shows up, Patrick asks him if he wants his martini dry or extra dry and, while making it, tells Mr. Babcock that you should stir, never shake, a martini because it bruises the gin. He also tells him that “olives take up too much room in a little glass.” This movie clearly calls for a martini or two or three and hold the olives.
Babette’s Feast. (1987) Based on a story by famed Danish author, Isak Dinesen/Baroness Karen Blixen, a young Frenchwoman, a political exile from France, takes refuge in the home of two spinsters in a small religious community on the coast of Denmark. After working there for many years, Babette wins the lottery and instead of leaving the bleak place, offers to prepare a true French meal for the villagers to celebrate the birthday of the two sisters’ father, the founder of their Calvinist sect. This once-in-a-lifetime, lavish banquet is a culinary extravaganza accompanied by excellent wines. Amontillado Sherry is served at the beginning of the meal, followed by 1860 Veuve Clicquot, Clos Vougeot and ending with more Champagne. About life, love and sharing, the redemptive feast has transformed the evening into a love affair. The formerly cold, quarrelsome villagers go out into the night and dance. Don’t watch this movie on an empty stomach. Enjoy it with a bottle of Clos Vougeot or another good red Burgundy.
Big Night. (1996) Two brothers, Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci), opened an Italian restaurant in America, which is failing because Primo, the chef refuses to compromise on the food. They decide to put on a special banquet, offering Primo’s masterpieces, to save the business. There is a great deal of boisterous eating and drinking wine in this film, which puts forth the idea that in love and life, one big night can change everything. Drink a nice Italian wine to join in on the feast.
The Big Sleep. (1946) The focus in this classic movie (based on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 novel of the same name), with its convoluted plot, is Brandy. Hard-boiled detective, Philip Marlowe consumes a lot of Brandy. In the beginning, when Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart, a quintessential tough guy) meets General Sternwood, he’s offered Brandy, then the General’s daughter; Mrs. Rutledge (Lauren Bacall) gives him Brandy. Later, at a bookstore, he has a bottle of Rye in his pocket which he shares with the owner. Forget the Rye and toast this great film with a large glass of Brandy.
Blood and Wine. (1996) Bob Rafelson directed this overly violent, bloody film starring Jack Nicholson as a wealthy wine dealer, philanderer and thief. Jack Nicholson is always interesting to watch on screen but, otherwise, the film is forgettable.
Bottle Shock. (2008) Alan Rickman plays Steven Spurrier, a wine expert and owner of a Parisian wine shop, who decides to hold a blind wine tasting of both French and California Cabernets and Chardonnays. Called the Judgment of Paris 1976 tasting, California’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon beat the French. The story focuses mainly on Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay produced by Jim (Bill Pullman) and Bo Barrett (Chris Pine). The film is entertaining and fun, with gorgeous cinematography of the Napa Valley and lots of wine-drinking scenes. The scene of the Paris Tasting and the reactions of the judges is especially good. But, for an accurate rendition of the event, you should also read the book from 2006 by George Tabor, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine. A nice accompaniment to this film would be a bottle of Montelena Chardonnay or Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.
Casablanca. (1942) A great deal of Champagne is consumed throughout this classic movie. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is drinking it in the beginning of the film. Captain Renault (Claude Rains), the chief of police, suggests Veuve Clicquot 1926 for Nazi Major Strasser, then he orders Champagne for Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and later drinks Champagne cocktails at the bar with Laszlo. A flashback to their time in Paris, Rick and Ilsa are drinking Mumm Cordon Rouge Red Label in his apartment, when he says “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Then later at a cafe, La Belle Aurore, they are drinking it again. The café owner tells Rick and Ilsa to finish this bottle and then three more. He says he’ll water his garden with Champagne before he’ll let the Germans drink it. A bottle of really good bubbly is a requirement for toasting this film.
Corked. (2008) This film, which won the 2008 Sonoma Valley Film Festival, is about the 2005 harvest in California. It depicts some colorful characters in the California wine industry — a crazy winemaker, a billionaire and a winery manager.
Disclosure. (1994) Demi Moore sexually harasses Michael Douglas in this film. A key plot point involves her special-ordering a 1991 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, which generated a great deal of interest in Pahlmeyer wines at the time.
French Kiss. (1995) When her fiancé (Timothy Hutton) leaves her and goes to Europe, Meg Ryan goes after him in this romantic comedy. She meets a Frenchman (Kevin Kline), a charming crook sitting next to her on the plane, who uses her for smuggling a grapevine into the country. The prodigal son of a winemaking family, he wants to have his own vineyard, but has gambled away his money. Kline shows Ryan an aroma sampling kit he has developed and asks her to taste the wine. Kline says “Wine is like people. The wine takes all the influences in life all around it, it absorbs them and it gets its personality.” This is a great explanation of the concept of terroir. In addition to stunning views of the French countryside, the movie is delightful and Kline gives a believable portrayal of a Frenchman. Watch this film with a nice bottle of Burgundy or Bordeaux.
From Ground to Glass. (2006) This was the official selection of the 2006 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, directed by Robert DaFoe, as he makes his own wine for the first time in the Santa Ynez Valley. Watch this film for the knowledgeable, always enjoyable commentary from Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clendenen and former Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars owner, Warren Winiarski.
Gigi. (1958) In this classic musical, Leslie Caron is a teenage courtesan being schooled about wine and other things to please a man by her aunt. Louis Jourdan gives her Champagne which gets her tipsy. She, Jourdan and her grandmother, Hermione Gingold, then dance around their apartment and sing “The Night They Invented Champagne,” making the sound of corks popping with their mouths. A delightful film, it also shows famous French restaurants, like Maxim’s. Definitely drink your favorite Champagne with this film.
A Good Year. (2006) In this adaptation of Peter Mayle’s novel of the same name, Russell Crowe plays a workaholic, British investment broker who unexpectedly inherits a chateau and vineyard in Provence, from his uncle (Albert Finney). A lovely and delightful romantic comedy, it offers scenes of the beautiful French countryside, as well as great food and wine shots. Enjoy this film with a nice bottle of Bandol.
James Bond Movies. In the film Casino Royale (2006), fictional MI6 agent James Bond orders a Martini — three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one measure of Vodka and one-half measure of Kina Lillet, shaken very cold over ice, with a thin slice of lemon peel, served in a deep, Champagne goblet. He names the drink Vesper after his companion, Vesper Lynd, telling her that once you’ve tasted it, you don’t want anything else. Lillet is a wine-based drink with quinine, wine grapes, oranges and orange peel. Later, ordering a Vodka Martini, the waiter asks Bond if he wants it shaken or stirred and Bond says he doesn’t give a damn. Also in the film, Bond orders a Bollinger Grande Annee. While in the book Casino Royale (Ian Fleming’s first novel on Bond written in 1953), Bond orders a Taittinger 45 but the sommelier says that the Blanc de Blanc 1943 would be a better choice.
Bond generally prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred In the first Bond movie, Dr. No (1962), the waiter, after shaking the shaker, says, here’s your Vodka Martini prepared as you asked, not stirred. Later, on Crab Key, Bond and Ursula Andress are given two Vodka Martinis, shaken not stirred. Also in the movie, Bond picks up a Dom Perignon 1955 to use as a weapon but Dr. No says it will be a pity to break it. Bond puts it down and says he prefers the 1953, which he also drinks in Goldfinger (1964). In You Only Live Twice (1967), an agent hands Bond a Martini telling him it is “stirred, not shaken.”
While he drinks Taittinger and Dom Perignon, Bollinger is the official Champagne of James Bond. It first appeared in Live and Let Die in 1973. In 1974, in Man With the Golden Gun, Scaramonga opens a bottle of Dom Perignon by shooting off the cork. In 1977, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond says “Maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon 1952 can’t be all bad.” In From Russia With Love (1963), Bond tells the villain with whom he has just shared a meal in the dining car of a train, “Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.”
If you don’t have a Taittinger from the 40s, try a current vintage or pop a bottle of Dom or Bollinger. Or mix a martini, either Vodka or Gin would be fine.
In these older movies, Champagne is drunk from the old-style Champagne saucer- type glasses or the giant bowl glasses. In the newer movies, Champagne is properly drunk from flute or tulip-shaped glasses which hold the bubbles longer.
Killer Bees. (1974) Filmed on the old Inglenook estate in Rutherford (now Rubicon owned by Francis Ford Coppola), the family owns a winery which is so important a town is named after it. They specialize in sweet wines. The bees attack people who trespass on the vineyard but the bees are organic. A movie made for television, it is memorable for Gloria Swanson’s performance as the controlling matriarch, with psychic control over the bees residing in her vineyard. A silly thriller, it is still lots of fun to watch.
The Maltese Falcon. (1941) Sam Spade is a tough, San Francisco detective, who loves to drink whiskey. There are several scenes in Sydney Green street’s apartment where Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Green street drink large glasses of whiskey without water. Live it up with a good Bourbon, or Scotch if you prefer.
Merlove (2008) is a documentary celebrating Merlot, in response to the movie, Sideways, which denigrates Merlot in favor of Pinot Noir. The documentary style of filmmaking is interwoven with the animation of a bottle of Merlot wine named Merlove. The bottle must find a way to fill itself with love when tossed into an ocean of mediocre Merlot wine. Filmed in Bordeaux, Napa and Washington, there are interviews with top winemakers who make Merlot. The message is that no grape varietal should be held out as superior or inferior to others. Drink with your favorite Merlot, possibly a Pomerol.
Mondovino. (2004) This is a documentary on the conflict between local producers and the globalization of wine where the origins of the wine are forgotten, in favor of fast satisfaction, very fruit forward flavor and standardized tastes. It is the influence of Robert Parker, Michel Rolland and Robert Mondavi that force brand sameness and homogenization in wine. This biased, rather boring, self-indulgent film, by Jonathan Nassiter, does promote the integrity of terroir-driven, region-specific wines for their different personalities. But the scenery is worthwhile: visit South America, France, Italy and California, with shots of Chateau le Gay, Clinet, Robert Mondavi winery, Staglin Family Vineyard, Domaine de Montille, Opus One, Ornellaia, and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Drink a bottle of your favorite wine to keep from falling asleep during this film.
The Muppet Movie. (1979) Steve Martin plays a haughty waiter/sommelier. Kermit and Miss Piggy are having dinner and Kermit orders a bottle of sparkling Muscatel from Idaho. Martin opens it with a beer opener. Miss Piggy says you need an expert to taste it first. Martin does, spits it out and says with a smarmy smile, “An excellent choice.” I’m not sure we could recommend a sparkling wine from Idaho, but how about a chilled Riesling.
Notorious. (1946) In this Hitchcock classic, Cary Grant engages Ingrid Bergman to spy on Nazis in Brazil. There are key scenes in the wine cellar. Grant suspects Nazis are hiding a substance used to make radioactive weapons in wine bottles. While in the cellar, with Ingrid, he accidentally breaks a bottle of 1934 Pommard which is later discovered by Nazi, Claude Rains. Champagne is the central point for suspense because, while Grant and Bergman are searching the wine cellar during a party, Champagne is running out upstairs and they will soon be discovered by Rains when he comes down to get more bottles. When Bergman is discovered to be a spy, she is poisoned by coffee. This should be a lesson that Champagne is to be preferred over coffee so definitely pop a bottle of nice Champagne.
The Parent Trap. (1998) The wine country theme runs through this charming Disney remake, a romantic, family comedy, where portions are filmed at Staglin Family Vineyard in Rutherford. Dennis Quaid, the owner of a vineyard in Napa Valley, is the father of twins, played by Lindsay Lohan, and Natasha Richardson is his ex-wife. Quaid shows Richardson some of the wines in his wine cellar, a Burgundy from 1921, a Bordeaux from 1952, a bottle commemorating VJ Day 1945 and a special bottle labeled “where dreams have no end” which the two drank at their wedding. Drink a nice California red wine with this delightful movie.
Pink Panther 2. (2009) While Peter Sellers was a better Inspector Clouseau, this movie has its moments. Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau is remembering a dinner with a former love. He wants to choose the wine personally so he goes to the wine rack and, as usual, creates havoc, causing all the bottles to fly out all over. He ends up with the last bottle and then accidentally sets the restaurant on fire. Before your house burns down, enjoy a bottle of wine.
Ratatouille. (2007) An animated film of comedy, mystery, drama and romance, it is the story of Remy, a young rat from the French countryside who has a highly developed sense of taste and smell. His idol is the famous, 5-star chef/owner of Gusteau’s Restaurant in Paris. Remy, who can also read, has read Gusteau’s book Anyone Can Cook. When Remy arrives in Paris, Gusteau has died so he makes an alliance with the restaurant’s new garbage boy, Linguini. Linguini fouls up a soup, which is fixed by Remy so the boy adopts the rat. Under the guidance of Remy, Linguini, who is actually Gusteau’s son, becomes an excellent cook. In the meantime, the head chef, Skinner, in an effort to learn Linguini’s cooking secrets, plies him with a rare bottle of 1961 Chateau Latour, but to no avail. If you don’t have a bottle of Chateau Latour, a nice Bordeaux will do fine.
Secret of Santa Vittoria. (1969) In this film, an Italian town hides a million bottles of wine from the German army during World War II. Anthony Quinn and Giancarlo Giannini give their usual fine performances in this fairly forgotten yet interesting movie.
Sideways. (2004) A truly wine centric movie, while the other movies feature wine, Sideways (adapted from Rex Pickett’s 2004 novel) is about wine. Two buddies go on a week-long road trip/bachelor party before Jack (Thomas Haden Church) gets married. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a wine writer who loves wine, but Jack is into sex and partying. The movie has good wine quotes and gorgeous scenes of the Santa Ynez Valley. It is shot at the Hitching Post Restaurant, Sanford, the town of Solvang, Foxen, Kalyra, Fess Parker (where Miles drinks from the wine spit bucket), A. J. Spurs Restaurant and Firestone. The wines drunk include a 1992 sparkler from Byron, Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc, Hitching Post Highliner, Whitcraft Pinot Noir, Sea Smoke Pinot Noir, Kistler Chardonnay and Andrew Murray Syrah. Miles disparages Merlot and Cabernet Franc, preferring Pinot Noir. However, his dream wine is Cheval Blanc, which, strangely enough, is a blend (generally 60/40) of those two grapes. At the end, he is drinking 1961 Cheval Blanc from a foam cup at a local fast-food restaurant. Maya (Virginia Madsen), the waitress in Alexander Payne’s cult classic, talks about the wine she and Miles are drinking and the people who helped make it, wine as a piece of living history, wine’s connections to other facets of life, and the fact that wine is meant to be shared with friends. The general consensus of opinion seems to be that this is the best wine movie ever made but, despite some really funny scenes, I found it to be disjointed and sad. Perhaps a good California wine would brighten the mood. It certainly couldn’t hurt. You could have a bottle of Pinot Noir to go with this film, but don’t turn against Merlot or Pomerol.
The Silence of the Lambs. (1991) Hannibal Lector, the brilliant psychiatrist and cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) serves a dinner of human liver and fava beans with Chianti. In the book by Thomas Harris, he served it with Amarone. Take your pick – Chianti or Amarone.
Tales of Terror. (1962) One story in this trilogy by Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat, also includes some of The Cask of Amontillado. Montresor (Peter Lorre) is a disheveled, fairly uncouth, drunk. Thrown out of the local tavern, having no money, he sees a sign on a restaurant, Wine Merchants Convention, enters, and admires the wines. In order to not be thrown, Lorre challenges Fortunato (Vincent Price), the world’s foremost wine connoisseur and winetasting expert to a blind contest. Price sips wine from a tastevin, inhales the aroma and gargles it, declaring the wine to be a Clos de Vougeot 1838. Lorre drains the entire glass identifying it as an 1832 Volnay from the better slopes of the vineyard. The contest continues, with both men accurately naming the wines. At the end, Lorre burps and then passes out on the table. Later, Lorre, desiring revenge against Price in return for his dalliance with Lorre’s wife, gives Price a glass of Amontillado Sherry, which has been adulterated with something to knock him out, so Lorre can murder Price. Try a nice bottle of unadulterated Sherry to drink with this film.
They Knew What They Wanted. (1940) This film is a good depiction of Napa Valley in the early years. Vineyard owner Charles Laughton uses a farmhand to entice waitress Carole Lombard to come to Napa valley to marry him. The film provides a record of Italian-American wine culture, with some great scenes. If you’re really up to it, you might try a jug of Carlo Rossi. But, keep a few oranges limes and ice cubes on hand, just in case.
The Thin Man Movies. This is a series of six films with William Powell and Myrna Loy, depicting their incredible martini consumption. Powell as Nick Charles sometimes prefers his martinis to be stirred as opposed to James Bond who prefers them to be shaken. Nick and Nora, stylish, sexy husband/wife detective team, are frequently slightly drunk. Drinking is part of their behavior. In the beginning of The Thin Man (1934), Nick is teaching a bartender how to mix drinks. “Have rhythm in your shaking…a dry martini. You always shake to waltz time.” Nora comes in. He hands her a drink. She asks him how much he’s had. “This will make six martinis,” he says, so she orders five more to keep up. Noted for their elegant, witty banter, drinking is a main theme throughout the movies. Their martinis are made from gin and vermouth. Nick also serves hi-balls and cocktails at parties and drinks Rye and Scotch. Besides witty dialogue, the couple dabbles in mysteries, martinis, and romance. The first one inspired five sequels, all classics of comedy, crime, drama and mystery. Definitely martinis are in order for watching these classic movies.
This Earth Is Mine. (1959) Another soap opera-ish movie, with a steamy version of Napa Valley life, starring Rock Hudson, Jean Simmons and Claude Rains, it also gives good descriptions of the winemaking process and how to taste and appreciate wine. Rains plans to consolidate the holdings of a wealthy, winegrowing family through marriage. Filmed at the former Inglenook estate, now Rubicon, a melodrama set at the end of Prohibition, it explores issues that divided Napa Valley in the 1930s. Claude Rains is the patriarch of the Napa Valley family that makes fine wine every year even though sales to the public are illegal. Rock Hudson, his son, wants to sell their grapes to Chicago bootleggers. Try a good bottle of Napa Valley wine to go with this movie.
Thunder Road. (1958) In this movie, Robert Mitchum, a veteran of the Korean War, comes home to the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee and takes over the family moonshining business, battles gangsters and police. With lots of fast action, exciting car chases, it is also a great hotrod ding movie. Matchup even sings the Ballad of Thunder Road. If you can’t find any moonshine, Bourbon will do nicely for watching this film.
The Unholy Wife. (1957) Diana Dors, Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe on steroids, is a golddigger who marries wealthy vintner, Rod Steiger, then plans to murder him. The film shows the winemaking battle between the quality of Napa Valley wines and the quantity of Central Valley wines. A good compromise here would be a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.
A Walk in the Clouds. (1995) A romantic, 40s era movie, Keanu Reeves is a salesman who offers to pose as the husband of the pregnant daughter of a California vineyard owner. A love story, perhaps a bit soap opera-ish, but it has beautiful scenery, grape stomping during harvest at a grand California estate, gorgeous vineyard views, singing, and lots of wine-drinking throughout. The film was shot at Mt. Veeder Winery, Duckhorn Vineyards, Charles Krug, Mayacamas and Beringer. For this movie, your choices are varied and many.
Year of the Comet. (1992) A romantic thriller/mystery about an extremely rare bottle of wine, bottled during the appearance of the Great Comet of 1811, that has recently been discovered, is an exciting movie. Penelope Ann Miller, an apprentice wine merchant, is sent to get the bottle, which supposedly belonged to Napoleon, to be sold at auction. Tim Daly is her travel companion and bodyguard for the trip. Some parties desperately want the bottle and will stop at nothing to get it, including torture, an international chase, helicopter crashes, etc. Unfortunately, this movie is not yet on dvd but you may be able to locate a bootleg copy somewhere or find it on television. It’s worth the search. Wines of the comet vintage may be a little elusive, but 1985 and 1989 are also years where comets appeared. The 1985 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild has an embossed comet on the bottle. Drink a nice Bordeaux with this film.
There are several wine-themed movies planned or in development. Another one about the Judgment of Paris is set to be directed by Robert Mark Kamen. Also, in the development stage is the First Emperor about Robert Parker, with a nod toward the 2005 biography by Elin McCoy, The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and The Reign of American Taste. Two movies are planned centering on the scandal regarding the auctioned cache of wine reported to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson that were judged to be fakes. They are loosely based on the book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, by Benjamin Wallace.
Hopefully this list will make you want to sit down and watch a movie and also make you thirsty for some good wines or spirits. Let the article give you suggestions for movies. Drink the appropriate beverage and come up with some good food and wine combinations. Hit the video store, pop some popcorn and open a bottle or mix a drink. Some of the less than stellar movies may even improve depending on what you drink with them.
Wine and Food Pairings
For the movies with spirits-related themes, good matches for Bourbon and Scotch are roasted, buttery nuts, Marcona almonds, various kinds of chips and popcorn. Chocolate works with Bourbon. Martinis go well with Caesar Salad, mixed olives and garlic toasts. Red wine works well with assorted cheese, nuts and antipasto.
For Champagne and wine, a selection of hors d’oeuvres is always a fine accompaniment. Prosciutto and melon, with a squeeze of fresh lime and chopped mint is always good. Two more of our favorites are included here — the recipes are from Laurie Tilson.
Laurie’s Smoked Salmon With Caramelized Onions In Fillo Cups
3 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia, Maui, Oso Sweet, etc.
4 sticks clarified unsalted butter
1 package fillo dough
Caramelize the onions. Cut onion in half. Place flat side down and then slice into very thin slices. Melt unsalted butter in large sauté pan. Add onions and coat with butter. Simmer on lowest heat level for about 30-40 minutes (until very soft). Place a strainer over a bowl and pour onions into strainer. Once excess butter has drained into the bowl, put the onions back into the saucepan. Turn on medium heat and carefully sauté until lightly browned (watch constantly and stir so they don’t burn). Put in a microwave container and refrigerate until ready to serve. This can be done several days ahead of time.
Fillo cups: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove 4 layers of dough and cover the remaining. Put 1 sheet on large cutting board and brush with melted, unsalted butter. Cover with second sheet. Continue brushing each sheet with butter, including the top. Use 1 3/8 (#6 from the smallest) cutter to make rounds and place in mini muffin tins. Place tins on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes in a convection oven. Check after 8 minutes and turn sheets if necessary for even browning. Cups should be a light golden color. This can be done several days ahead of time and placed in an airtight container.
To serve: Heat the onions in the microwave. Put some onion in each cup. Cover with a piece of smoked salmon. Top salmon with crème fraiche and then chopped chive. Serve immediately (fillo shells will get soggy if they sit too long).
Laurie’s Sesame Chive Crepe With Smoked Salmon
2/3 cup Voila la Crepe mix (Williams Sonoma)
2/3 cup cold water
1 cup coarsely chopped chives
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped ginger
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
2/3 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 Tbs. fresh dill, finely chopped
4-6 oz. smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1 bunch watercress
Combine water, chive, ginger and cayenne pepper in blender until chives are completely pureed – about 30 seconds.
Add dry mix and eggs and mix well.
Add sesame oil and seeds.
Heat 6 inch nonstick crepe pan. Spray with oil (away from heat). Pour 2 oz. mix in pan (use 2 oz. ladle).
Cook for about 1 minute. Turn and cook other side for about 20-30 seconds. Place on parchment squares or waxed paper.
Cool crepes before filling.
Makes 8 crepes.
Combine cream cheese and dill.
Lay a crepe on a cutting board “pretty” side down.
Spread cream cheese on crepe, leaving a slight border.
Lay watercress on cheese and then salmon on top.
Roll carefully, keeping as tight as possible without breaking the crepe.
Wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
At serving time cut diagonal pieces, eliminating the ends.
Laurie’s Perfect Oven-Roasted Almonds
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put olive oil on a sheet pan. Cover bottom of pan with one layer of almonds. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in oven. In exactly 10 minutes, take the nuts out of the oven. Let cool and put in a container. You can eat the nuts warm or leave for a day as the nuts will absorb the oil and be less oily. They will keep for several weeks in a container.
Following is what we think is one of the best recipes for fluffy popcorn which can be served with or without butter.
John’s Ultimate Popcorn
A great food to enjoy with any wine is popcorn. And, if you’re having popcorn, forget the microwave stuff. You have to make it from scratch.
Put grapeseed oil in a heavy pot over a hot burner, completely covering the bottom of the pan. Drop 3 or 4 kernels of popcorn into the oil, put on the lid and shake the pot. When you hear all the kernels pop, remove the lid and add popcorn kernels in a quantity to be covered by the oil. Replace the lid and shake vigorously. When the popcorn starts to pop, move the lid a few inches to the side to let out the steam (If you don’t let out the steam, the popcorn will be tough, not nice and fluffy. But, if you move the lid too far, the popcorn will pop all over the stove!) Reposition the lid and continue to shake the pot vigorously every 5-10 seconds. When the popcorn reaches the lid and starts to push the lid off, very quickly remove the pot from the fire, using potholders to hold the lid and the pot handle, and empty half of it into a very large bowl. Replace the lid and put the pot back on the fire. Shake vigorously and when the popping subsides, turn off the heat and leave until finished popping, remembering to shake every 10 seconds or so. Then empty the rest of the popcorn into the bowl. Once the popping is completed, if you want buttered popcorn, melt unsalted French butter (French butter has a lot more flavor) in the microwave and drizzle it on the popcorn, along with a sprinkling of sea salt (our favorite sea salt is Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt, available online).
And, there you have it, perfect, fluffy, flavorful popcorn. And once you master the cooking technique, rarely will you have unpopped kernels!