Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pintxos Pour House

This level of cuisine is totally not what you would expect when you walk in. Possibly 12-15 tables MAX, with chalkboards and TVs imply a fun place to watch a game and grab a beer with your peeps. But take a look at the menu at Pintxos Pour House and items like "Duck Confit Bruschetta" and "Scallop BLT" beg you to think otherwise. This is in a growing part of Winston-Salem (that has been developing for years), and is continuing to expand. It's not terribly far down Robinhood Road towards Meadowlark, and believe me, you'll want to make the drive out there.

Treat yourself to a beer cocktail like the Great Chicago Fire, which combines Goose Island 312 Wheat Beer and Cinnamon Whiskey. What a brilliant flavor marriage. It's the perfect spicy drink to warm you on a cold night, and you'll be ready to down another one in a matter of minutes. The Antipasta Skewer are a perfect taste of Spain to kick start any meal. Serrano Ham (much like Prosciutto), Manchego Cheese, Genoa Salami, Kalamata Olives and (my faves) Blue Cheese-stuffed Spanish Olives are skewered and served with house made Bread and Butter Pickles. No better way to whet your appetite.

I love you.
Pintxos (pronounced pinchos) are much like tapas. Small portions, small plates, sharing is encouraged. You cannot go wrong with either of the taco selections. It was like choosing my favorite child, deciding which I preferred - the Ahi Tuna Tacos or the Portobella Mushroom Tacos. The former, served with rare Ahi Tuna, slightly sweet Jicama and Mango Slaw with a creamy Chipotle sauce in a flour tortilla is absolutely divine. The sweetness of the slaw provides a nice crunch, and the slight heat from the Chipotle sauce wakes up that tender Ahi. The latter is a vegetarian dream - you won't be missing meat here. Thinly sliced Portobellas are topped with herbed Goat Cheese, Zucchini, Tomato and Slaw in a whole wheat tortilla. I kid you not, these are as delicious as what you'd find at any taco food truck in Austin. I could rave about these tacos all night, but you'd be better off hopping in your car and driving there already.
I love you more.

The aforementioned Scallop BLT presents two incredibly tender and juicy Scallops atop Brioche Toast Squares, with all the accompaniments of a traditional BLT - Bacon, Spinach, Tomato and instead of mayo, a tangy Lemon Peppercorn Aioli. I could have scarfed down 15 of them. One of the more inventive dishes, Grilled Steak Skewers with Juusto Cheese (a thick, baked cheese) is marinated in red wine and served with thinly sliced Portobellos. The level of acid in this dish is perfect, and the steak is medium rare. All portions were consistently larger than I was expecting. 5 plates was plenty for 3 people.

Juusto the right amount of flavor.
My favorite part about pintxos or tapas is that you kind of graze - a little of this, a little of that, a lot of variety. How many meals can you have tuna, steak, scallops, salami, serrano ham and portobellas and not feel stuffed afterwards? For those of you who have been to Gia in Greensboro, the environment at Pintxo's is much more casual. I'm so glad Winston has a place like this again (RIP Mundo).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Imitation Game

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech
Director: Morten Tyldum

Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Rating: PG-13

This is a fantastic film on its own. It's even better if you like BBC's "Sherlock," because it's basically Benedict Cumberbatch as the beloved character, set in WW2. The film opens with a question: "Are you paying attention?" That kind of clues you in that you need to be on your toes for this one. The film's color tones are dark and it is dialogue-heavy, but it's an incredibly intriguing story, one that's been classified for 50 years. It reminded me a lot of "Argo," and the cinematography and pace was not unlike "The King's Speech." "The Imitation Game" is an incredibly cerebral film, one that you will not regret seeing.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
Photo Courtesy The National
Brilliant, awkward Alan Turing would probably be best buds with Cumberbatch's Sherlock. They're both too smart for a normal social life, but the best in the biz at what they do professionally. Turing is a mathematician hired by the British government to crack Nazi Germany's Enigma Code. What seems like a nearly impossible task is ultimately solved by Turing's machine "Christopher." Flashbacks reveal the machine was named for a childhood crush, confirming our suspicions that Turing was gay, which it was illegal to be in 1940s England.

Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Allen Leech (Branson from "Downton"!) are supporting roles, reluctantly working with Turing, who tends to push people away more than appreciate any help or guidance. His relationship with Joan (Knightley) is a sticky one - they're very clearly not meant to be romantically, but their mental connection is undeniable. Though the story has a happy ending, bringing an end to the war and paving the way for what we now know as computers, Turing's personal life was tragically over at the age of 41. He committed suicide after being arrested for charges of indecency.

This story needed to be told. Weinstein's hands on it ensures this will be very successful during awards show season. There's a strong chance we'll have a "Battle of the Brits" (Cumberbatch, and fellow Brit Ed Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything"). Mad props to them both for gaining highly deserved attention for their performances. The truth is often stranger and more interesting than fiction, and this historical tale follows suit.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Theory of Everything

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson
Director: James Marsh
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Oscar loves a good biopic. Oscar especially loves when an actor fearlessly abandons all glitz and glamour to shine in a less than beautiful role. In "The Theory of Everything," Eddie Redmayne gives the performance of his very new career as Stephen Hawking. This is an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of the genius physicist and author of A Brief History of Time. The first half of the movie surrounds Hawking's studies, work and writings, but the latter half focuses on his relationship with his wife Jane, and their struggles with his Lou Gehrig's disease. It's getting to where any movies that hit the 2 hour mark are a bit long, but this story is so enchanting and fascinating, it's easy to get attached and bond with these characters.

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
Photo courtesy Express
Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking just screams Oscar. He keeps Hawking's humor throughout the film, and you can't help but be charmed by him. He doesn't evoke pity, since he stays as mentally sharp as when we first meet him as a student at Cambridge. After being told in his university years that he had only 2 more years to live, he's still alive and kicking today at 72. Two-thirds of this film shows Hawking on the downward slope, from a cane to a wheelchair, with difficulty speaking. Redmayne is a natural, falling physically into this role and not looking back.

Stephen Hawking
Photo Courtesy IB Times
Felicity Jones is superb as Hawking's selfless, thoughtful wife Jane. They marry only after a few months of courting, knowing of his disease. The care and respect she shows him is beautiful. She's literally thrust into the role of wife-mother-caretaker-nurse all in a matter of a few short years. Things aren't lacking in the bedroom though, because they have 3 kids! Charlie Cox is a doll as Jonathan, the tempting "house nanny," and for a moment, you really feel sorry for Jane and how badly she wants a healthy marriage and family. It's truly touching though, how supportive and proud she is of Stephen and his work.

This movie reminded me of "A Beautiful Mind" - the story of a genius who faced several adversities in life, with a strong woman by his side. It's also the story of overcoming the impossible and living life to your fullest potential. This film could very likely be Redmayne's legacy.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffman
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Rating: R

I didn't expect to be bawling at the end of this film. I left the theatre shielding my face, so that no one could see the tears pouring down my cheeks. I haven't cried in a film since "Titanic" or "A Walk to Remember," but this one struck a cord in me. It knocked me backwards. Reese Witherspoon's fearless portrayal of Cheryl Strayed gave me such a deeper admiration for her as an actor. Perhaps I was so emotional over this movie because like Cheryl, I have a very close relationship with my mom. She's my BFF. Seeing the incredible journey Cheryl took to cope with her mother's death was something I was not prepared for.

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed
Photo Courtesy Variety
Cheryl Strayed, circa 1995
Photo Courtesy Philareview
This film is based off Strayed's memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail." Though the memoir was published in 2012, the hike occurred in 1995, when she was 26 years young. We're with Strayed during her 1,100 mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington, but we also get to know her through flashbacks. This is where we're introduced to her selfless and optimistic mother (Laura Dern) who taught her to "always do the kindest thing," and her scorned ex-husband (Thomas Sadoski), whom she cheated on a few times over. It was fabulous to see Gaby Hoffman (what's up "Now and Then"!), albeit just for a scene or two.

Strayed's mother's death caused her to spiral into self-destructive behavior - unprotected sex with strangers, a flirtation with heroin - until a pregnancy scare snaps her back to reality and is ultimately the catalyst for her trek. Witherspoon brings such a truth to this role. She's terrified of what lies ahead of her - both on the hike and off. Her "F-it" attitude is pretty inspiring too. Walk into a branch and scratch your face up? F it. Lose a boot? F it. Lose a toenail? F it. And she's stunningly beautiful the entire time.

Though a lot of the dialogue is in flashbacks, or Strayed dropping repeated F bombs while she fidgets with her gear, we get a lot of stream of consciousness that I imagine echoed the book. Fellow hikers provide companionship, locals offer their home as a night away from the elements, and most creepy of all, hunters who have loving on their mind give her (and the audience) the heebie jeebies. A close call with a rattlesnake made me question where all the other wildlife was. She got lucky that losing a toenail and not a limb (as a snack) was all!

Did this movie inspire me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? No. Did it make me want to challenge myself in a more indoorsy way? Yes. It's a fantastic reminder that everyone's got something, and that you can survive the unimaginable. Cherish the time you have with your loved ones. It's never too late to turn things around - to forgive others and to forgive yourself. Seriously be ready to cry like a little girl at the end of this film.