Five Things To See Before You Dine

By / Food / August 19th, 2010 / 1

The Before You Die books make me nervous. There are a number of them in the series, such as 1001 Movies To See Before You Die, 1001 Places To Go Before You Die and so forth. The whole notion makes me jittery because there’s the erroneous implication that I am, indeed, going to die. Moi? Die? Surely you jest! Furthermore, I feel a certain fluttering anxiety whenever I have a list of things to do. What if I don’t see all 1001 movies? What if I’m just about to rent the 1001st movie and I discover it’s been deleted from the catalogue? What if I’m about to see the 999th amazing place and it’s closed for the season?

I would rather create a ‘to-do’ list that’s short and sweet, with no reference to my imminent death. Therefore, I’ve designed a list of five great things to see before, during or after you dine. These are just a few of my all-time favourite films and TV shows, the ones I go back to again and again and the recipes that sort of go with them.


The film 300 is an ancient tale of strength and bravery, rife with mysterious creatures and mythological beasts. A fascinating look at the mysterious Spartans, with moody, broody cinematography, its main attraction, for me anyway, is Gerard Butler, Scottishly buff and dressed in leather underwear. Tonight we dine in hell, indeed! Sounds like Arrabiata to me.

fallen angel arrabiata
Makes 4-6 servings

Made with angel hair, this dish is downright devilish thanks to the hot red pepper flakes. I would gladly feed this to Gerard with a solemn promise that I would pronounce his name the proper Scottish way and there would be Drambuie after dinner.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 can San Marzano plum tomatoes (796 ml), snipped into chunks with scissors right in the can
Salt and pepper to taste
500 g angel hair pasta, cooked

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, sautéing until onion is translucent. Add garlic and hot red pepper flakes, sautéing just a few seconds until fragrant.
Add tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serve over angel hair pasta.

Dante Alighieri gave us our first vision of hell; therefore it’s only right to serve with Serego Alighieri Amarone Classico or the Chilean Casillero del Diablo Carmenere. And Drambuie for Gerard.


The Godfather I & II: I can’t even think of this series without wanting to sauté some veal cutlet. Not only do we have The Godfather series, we’ve got its dark-haired stepchildren: Good Fellas, Analyze This and The Sopranos. Connecting the dots even further back in history, the HBO series Rome boasted a renegade band of thugs who knew how to make a buck out of a bad situation. My father, born in Italy, refused to watch such rubbish because he felt it gave Italians a bad name. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a movie in a pinstriped suit. Bada Bing.

veal scallopine
My grandfather, Giuseppe Lucarelli, was a cook in the Italian army. He was a quiet man, sometimes rattled by his boisterous grandchildren, but always kind and quick to smile. This is a dish he often made for our family.

6 veal cutlets
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 pound mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
Heat oven to 300˚F.

Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a wide bowl. Dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add three cutlets. Reduce heat to medium and cook until browned on one side, about 1 minute. Turn the cutlets over and cook 1 minute or until cooked through.
Transfer cutlets to a baking sheet and set in warm oven. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the skillet and sauté onion and mushrooms until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add the wine, scraping up the browned bits.
Cook until reduced, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the butter, lemon juice, and parsley. Arrange cutlets on a platter; pour sauce over cutlets.

Grandpa Lucarelli would have set out jugs of his homemade wine, which, in retrospect, tasted a lot like Primitivo to me.


Yes, I’m a girl and yes, I love Sex And The City. Why? Because there are parts of me in each of the four main characters. They’re fun and funny and fabulously flawed. Their friendship is supportive and honest. They swear like sailors and talk about men and sex over salads. The guys in their lives are weird, wacky, wonderful. The subject matter is not for the faint of heart, but SATC is enormously addictive!

sex and the city salad
Occasionally, we see the SATC women at the gym. Occasionally. I guess that’s why their usual fare is salad. Here, I’ve added dates to the salad since that’s what the girls are usually dishing about.

1 bag mesclun or spring mix
1 head endive, chopped
4 large radishes, trimmed & sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
6 pitted dates, chopped

Toss ingredients together and divide among four large salad plates. Spoon Sex And The City Vinaigrette over each salad (recipe follows).

sex and the city vinaigrette
2 shallots, finely minced
3 tbsp ketchup
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk salad dressing ingredients. Refrigerate and let flavours blend for about 1 hour.

Serve with a medium-bodied buttery Chablis or Chardonnay.


I’m smitten by 18th century France, Marie Antoinette and the court of Versailles. Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is so beautifully imagined and sumptuously decorated it’s like a rich cake with whipped cream frosting. While the scene of Marie Antoinette stuffing her pretty face with bonbons to the tune of I Want Candy may not be historically accurate, it sure makes me crave cake.

marie antoinette cupcakes
For the record, the Queen of France never uttered the words “Let Them Eat Cake,” but if she had tasted these cupcakes, she would have.

2 cups cake & pastry flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Heat oven to 375˚F.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add butter, milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts to dry ingredients. With a mixer on low speed, mix ingredients until moistened. Increase mixer to high speed and beat for 2 minutes.
Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan. Divide batter among cups. Bake 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

whipped cream frosting
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkles and coloured sugars

In a small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat heavy cream, sugar and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold in vanilla extract.
Frost cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles and coloured sugars. Keep frosted cupcakes refrigerated until ready to serve.
Makes 12 cupcakes.

Serve with Vintage Champagne.


A day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear someone repeat a hilarious tidbit from Seinfeld: These pretzels are making me thirsty! Vandelay Industries! Sponge-worthy! Master of My Domain! Now along comes the 21st century Seinfeld: Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Curb kicks up the quotable quotient several spicy notches, meaning I can’t quote any of it here. Let me just say that Curb Your Enthusiasm brings the ruckus to my TV.

pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good vanilla latte cappa thing
Serves 6
On a trip to Italy, I brought back a milk frother. If you don’t have one, use a wire whisk to work up a foam in the milk. The secret is to remove the milk from the heat while hot but not scalded. Flavoured syrups for coffee are sold in the coffee aisle at most supermarkets.

3 cups milk
2 tbsp vanilla syrup
2 cups dark roast brewed coffee
Cinnamon, for garnish

In a saucepan, over medium heat, warm the milk, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla syrup.
Pour coffee into 6 coffee cups. Top with warm, frothy milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

For an after-dinner coffee drink, omit the vanilla syrup and add Amaretto instead.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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