Friday, January 28, 2022

Parkside Restaurant

For a minute there, I had gotten my hopes up about dining out more regularly. Before I decided to pump the brakes on that again (for obvious reasons), I managed to squeeze in a few visits to Parkside Restaurant. From the moment I saw the "Restaurant" sign lit up outside, reminiscent of the cafe on Seinfeld, I knew it would become a frequented spot. Lunch and dinner are excellent, but most people probably know this joint for its spectacular brunch. The service is great, the food comes out fast, the specials are creative - this is a must-visit restaurant for anyone in the Triangle.

Parkside is home to one of my all-time favorite salads: the Steakhouse Salad. And you don't just get any steak with this salad - you get Filet Mignon. And the server asks how you'd like it cooked. AND they always get it right. It sits on a bed of crisp romaine with slivers of Avocado, chunks of Tomato, halved Hard Boiled Eggs, Blue Cheese Crumbles, a sprinkling of Parmesan and the best part - Spiced Nuts! It's insane how many nuts are in this salad. Enough to take home a ziplock bag full and serve them at a cocktail party. Every bite is different and satisfying and I'm utterly obsessed with it. 

The Prime Rib Burger features a number of my favorite burger toppings - Caramelized Onions, Brie, and Bacon Jam. It's quite indulgent and served on a soft, buttery Brioche bun. The caramelized onions and bacon jam provide sweetness and the brie offers its signature funk. The Arugula tries to make you feel not so bad for eating a massive burger. I like to add mustard too, for a little acidity. You get your choice of side and Tots are obviously the right choice.

Their specials are always unique, too, like the Buffalo Chicken Flatbread and the Honey Sriracha Salmon. And their desserts are killer - do not miss their Banana Pudding, and if they're featuring the Raspberry Donut Cheesecake, it's out of this world. It delivers exactly what it promises and it's oddly nostalgic.

You absolutely must visit for brunch, if you can get a table. It's almost laughable how fun their brunch is. Every table is full (within social distance reasoning), and most with the Mimosa Flight. You get an entire bottle(!) of champagne, and the mixers are far beyond standard OJ. In fact, the mixers are spiked. Yes, you read me right. Think Cranberry Juice with Elderflower, or OJ with Orange Vodka. It's best to get a ride from a friend after brunch here. I loved the Bananas Foster Challah French Toast, complete with delicious Rum Caramel Sauce. And the Cheese Grits are exactly what you want them to be - creamy, cheesy and rich.

To mention another iconic NBC sitcom, Parkside makes you feel like it's a place "where everybody knows your name." I cannot recommend it enough - it's one of my faves and sure to be yours too!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Being the Ricardos

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons, Tony Hale
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Rating: R

Fans of "I Love Lucy", like myself, will no doubt love the premise of Aaron Sorkin's latest triumph. We love any chance to be reminded of the wacky, over the top, physical comedic genius that is Lucille Ball. I still watch those black and white clips and laugh out loud at her pronouncing "Vitameatavegamin" or stuffing chocolates in her hat - it is iconic comedy. But "Being the Ricardos" shines a different light on Lucy and her relationship with her co-stars, showrunners and husband. I admit I longed for the goofball Lucy, when instead Sorkin shows a more serious, type-A, control freak version of her. It's worth a watch for the nostalgia, but it was a bit darker and heavier than I would have liked.

The film chronicles a busy week on the set of "I Love Lucy" - not only has Lucy announced her pregnancy, which will no doubt prove to be an issue with the network, but her relationship with Desi continues to make waves in the tabloids. She has also recently testified with HUAC to prove that she is not a Communist. I certainly remember hearing rumors of Desi's infidelities, but the allegations of Ball being a Communist was news to me. Kidman portrays Ball as a relentless comedienne - incessantly picturing jokes and bits in her mind, and gathering the cast at 2am to work on a scene. It's clear that she is burying the stress from her personal life in her work.

Being a big Nicole Kidman fan, it pains me to say that I struggled to fully believe her performance. Bardem does a fine job as Desi, but this is really Lucy's story. I thought JK Simmons was absolutely fabulous as William Frawley, the actor who plays Fred. He reminded me the most of all the cast members to the real actor. There are some light and funny moments from writers (Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat - "Arrested" reunion anyone? - and Jake Lacy) but those moments are limited. 

Give me a magnifying glass to a show that played on "Nick at Nite" and I'll watch it, but I'll need to acknowledge that it could ruin a bit of the nostalgia. "I Love Lucy" is near and dear to my heart, and "Being the Ricardos" definitely made me see it through a different lens. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

Tick, Tick...Boom!

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Robin de Jesus
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Running Time: PG-13
Rating: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Finally. A movie musical I can get behind. I'm obviously seeing all the musicals that are adapted for the big screen, but they often disappoint. Not "Tick, Tick...Boom!" however. Maybe I'm biased because "Rent" altered me when I was 15 years old. Or maybe it's just a really touching story with beautiful songs, honest acting and a larger message about the world. Either way, this film is not to be missed.

Andrew Garfield surprised me with his portrayal of real-life musical theatre composer Jonathan Larson, whom we meet the week leading up to his 30th birthday. Garfield's performance is genuine and he has great chemistry with his co-stars, particularly Alexandra Shipp, who plays his girlfriend Susan, and Robin de Jesus, who plays his best friend Michael. Larson is struggling to finish his musical in time for a showcase that will be attended by producers, writers and other influential theatre folk. He's also put pressure on himself to accomplish "something" by the time he turns 30. His creativity seems stunted when he sits down to write, yet we see him frolicking all over his apartment and NYC singing songs about sugar and the bohemian life (cue "La Vie Boheme," anyone?)

Larson stays committed to his art while many people in his life move on to more professional jobs. We also see many people in his life being affected by the AIDS epidemic. His agent, played by the always fabulous Judith Light, encourages him to write what he knows. Thus is the catalyst for his beloved musical "Rent". I also enjoyed the few brief moments with Stephen Sondheim, played by Bradley Whitford, who serves as an inspiration and mentor to Larson. One song in particular features some very recognizable Broadway stars like Bebe Neuwirth and Lin-Manuel himself. Blink and you'll miss Bernadette Peters.

You'll find yourself bopping along to the upbeat tunes and getting chills during the ballads. I'm grateful that Larson never gave up on his dream, though he never got to see it fully realized (Larson died of an aortic dissection the night before "Rent" premiered). His commentary on the world combined with his unparalleled talent for "lyric and tune" as Sondheim remarked, truly made him the voice of a generation. This film is a fitting and beautiful tribute to this creative genius.