While The Oscars are, quite obviously, held on the sunny West Coast, there are still a bunch of Academy members who live on the East Coast who have voted in the awards and still totally like to party. Luckily for them, there is a lone, official Academy Awards shindig in New York City, and earlier this week we were treated to a preview of that party’s menu.
What made the truly delicious event even better was the fact that many of the menu items for the Oscar party, by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, are inspired by the nominated films. (Sadly, “Zero Dark Berry” tart was not present.)
The event was held at Chef Daniel’s Upper East Side restaurant Daniel, a place so fancy that I was pretty sure the second I walked in someone would quietly remind me that the McDonald’s with the unlocked bathroom is three blocks south. East Coast Academy Program Director Patrick Harrison joined Chef Daniel, and the two talked about the “choreography” required to get the dishes out to the guests without disrupting the flow of watching the awards show.
“You don’t want a bunch of rattling around when someone is accepting an award,” Chef said. Damn right.
Now, let’s eat! Maybe this food and drink will inspire your Sunday night Oscar menu.
The Red Carpet
<strong>What Is It?</strong> A cocktail that combines a pear-infused vodka, cranberry juice, and champagne. Also included: a giant, fist-sized spherical ice cube with a tiny glittery Oscar in the middle. A fellow reporter quickly exclaimed: “Drink it quickly, it’s poisonous!” I hope she was joking. <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> Since I normally don’t drink anything stronger than Mountain Dew Code Red, I’m not sure I’m the best person to judge this, since to me it tasted like fruity alcohol. That said, drinking a few of these might make Oscar night go by faster, especially when Anne Hathaway is up there thanking the good people of France for inspiring her performance in “Les Miserables.” Also, the little Oscar in the ice cube was deeply brilliant.
<strong>What Is It?</strong> The “Pomme d’Amour” is an apple-shaped confection with duck in the middle, surrounded by cranberry gelée. Honestly, it was all a bit confusing. Even Boulud seemed slightly perplexed, admitting that, “I haven’t seen the movie yet because I hear it’s rough.” It is, Chef. It is. <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> Like its movie counterpart, the “Amour” dish is somewhat bitter and amorphous and, despite its title, difficult to love.
A Royal Affair
A Royal Affair <strong>What Is It?</strong> Based on one of my favorite movies from last year (and a Best Foreign Language nominee), it is a colorful dish composed of crushed smoked sturgeon, “a trio of salmon,” some aspic stuff (aquavit jelly), and caviar crème, all housed inside a blue caraway potato disc. Chef Daniel said that it was all stuff that was “prominent in Denmark.” Queenly! <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> It, like the movie, is incredibly colorful and surprisingly tasty. It’s worth wondering if this kind of thing would have been commonplace at all in Enlightenment-era Denmark, which is when the movie takes place, or if it is a complete invention.
<strong>What Is It?</strong> Another dish based on a Best Foreign Feature nominee, except this one is a bay scallop caviche lined with cilantro, avocado, and pickled red onion that was meant to evoke the coastal nature of Chile (since it’s nothing but coast). Because, honestly, what screams “light Oscar-themed maritime dish” like a gritty real-world drama about dictator Pinochet? <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> “No” is purposefully crummy looking, with a downgraded image quality meant to simulate VHS playback in the eighties (when the film takes place). On the contrary, everything about the dish is crisply in focus; it’s bold, flavorful, and totally delicious.
Les Miserables Sandwich
<strong>What Is It?</strong> Bread! Of course! So-called “surprise bread,” which is basically really fancy little sandwiches (I grabbed the ham-and-cheese number), Chef Daniel said that, when it came to making a dish based on the movie (in which a character is brutally imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread), it “always had to be bread.” <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> Eating the tiny sandwich takes a fraction of the time spent watching “Les Miserables” and is infinitely more enjoyable. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s not amazing. I’m not sure if stealing one of these sandwiches was worth doing hard time for, but I dreamed a dream that all sandwiches were this good.
Life of Pi
<strong>What Is It?</strong> Based on Ang Lee’s 3D powerhouse about a boy trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger, “Life of Pi” is a tiger shrimp samosa with tandoori and hearts of palm, complemented by a curry dip. Chef Daniel said, in creating the dish, that, “We try to capture the soul of the journey of the character. For ‘Life of Pi’ we think about India, we think about the ocean.” <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> Maybe my favorite dish of the entire tasting, it was so tasty it made me want to scream “Richard Parker” at the top of my lungs and slap a tiger in the mouth. Yes, that tasty. About fifteen seconds after I had finished it, I wanted another one (it never came).
<strong>What Is It?</strong> Yet another based-on-a-Foreign-movie dish, this time inspired by the Norwegian nominee – it’s a “Polynesian journey” that prominently features a big chunk of mahi-mahi, adorned with pineapple and papeete barbeque sauce. <strong>How Does It Compare?</strong> I’m not entirely sure because I haven’t seen the movie. (Has anyone yet?) I don’t think I need to see it now, though, since eating the dish was already so satisfying.