Friday, August 26, 2022


Cortez is a trendy, happening spot on the even trendier and more happening Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. Their menu changes frequently, so if you have your heart set on something, I suggest going stat before it gets replaced with another seasonal offering. Being pregnant, I found it difficult to navigate a menu flush with oyster and raw seafood options - I will most definitely return when I can indulge appropriately. But the food I was able to eat was all outstanding, and paired with exceptional service - no water glass was ever empty and that goes a long way in my book! My only criticism would be the air circulation - the partly open-kitchen concept is cool, but smoke permeated the entire restaurant so badly that I had to wash my hair when I got home. If they could get some better ventilation, it would be one of my top picks in the area.

An order of Bread and (Sea)Weed Butter goes a long way, as it should, if you're being charged for it. Four thick slices of bread are served along side a soft, herbaceous butter that thankfully didn't give off too many seaweed notes. The butter was salty and the bread was soft, and a fine substitute for the dozen raw oysters I would have preferred to enjoy.

'Tis the season for watermelon, and I've certainly had my share of it, but I couldn't resist their rendition of a Watermelon Salad, complete with 2 (count them, 2!) types of watermelon - red and yellow - with a tangy, fishy Nuoc Cham Vinaigrette (think about what you're served along side Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowls or Thai Spring Rolls), Peanuts and Herbs. This was a beautiful dish, with the juicy watermelon cubes stacked along side each other and sprinkled with the toppings (if only I had thought to take a photo!) I would have loved a bit of spice, perhaps a serrano or something for heat, but this was a lovely, light start on a hot day.

The Grouper with Hominy exceeded my expectations. A beautiful, thick grouper filet is covered (unnecessarily) in Hollandaise, and is served on a bed of Hominy, Okra and Chorizo, with a beautiful tomato sauce binding it all together. I've never enjoyed hominy this much! It wasn't the grainy, mushy, corn kernels I expected - it was cooked perfectly and was a really unique spin on a side. The chorizo was in bite-sized cubes and a great addition of saltiness. I cleaned my entire plate, aside from some of the hollandaise (the dish was rich enough without it!)

Churros are not high on my dessert favorites list, but I couldn't resist the sound of Corn Ice Cream, Caramel and Cinnamon Sugar - I mean, what's not to love about that combination? The Churros were presented in a coil, served hot and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. They served as a bed for that not-too-sweet corn ice cream, and it all just floated in a bed of caramel. This is a dream come true, pregnant or not.

I would definitely recommend Cortez, but next time I'll eat outside. I look forward to continue trying their ever-evolving menu!

Monday, August 1, 2022


Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun
Director: Jordan Peele
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Rating: R

I was very apprehensive about seeing Jordan Peele's latest film, "Nope". After loving 2017's "Get Out" but being too terrified of the trailer to actually watch 2019's "Us", I was really on the fence. I don't like being scared. I do love a good film. I reluctantly purchased a ticket and sat on the back row, ready to be terrified. Thankfully, the trailer is more frightening than the film. Seeing crazy shots and images out of context had me worried, but the movie is really not all that scary. And it is really good. Not as good as "Get Out," in my opinion (but that is a pretty singular film that he may never top). "Nope" is hard to categorize, which I believe is exactly what Peele was going for. He continues to impress.

My favorite thing about "Nope" was the cinematography. The film is absolutely beautiful. Kudos to cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema for capturing the vastness of this wide, open California ranch, home to Haywood's Hollywood Horses. The Haywood family claim to be direct decendants of the unnamed African American jockey in the famous "Horse in Motion" sequence. One day, some pretty strange things start happening at the ranch - coins fall from the sky, while horses are practically sucked up into the sky. Blackouts ensue and cell phones just stop working. The Haywood siblings, OJ and Emerald (played by Kaluuya and Palmer, respectively), conclude that there must be some UFO activity going on. And they're right.

I don't think I've ever seen a Sci-Fi Western, let alone one with a primarly Black cast. I love how Peele continues to push the status quo in film and create what should be the new norm. Being a big fan of Kaluuya, I was a bit disappointed that this role didn't give him an opportunity to have a big emotional outburst - he played the straight man almost too straight. I've been a fan of Keke Palmer for a long time (her 2007 hit "Bottoms Up" was my jam in college!) but I found her portrayal of the younger sister just a bit too aggressive. It's Steven Yeun who almost steals the show with his character's side story about being a child star who witnesses a chimpanzee attack. That was a very random and welcomed 20 minutes.

Overall, it's a unique spin on a story we've all heard before. I'll never get tired of the "do they really come in peace?" take on aliens, and this is the strongest sci-fi film (if you want to call it that) I've seen since 2016's "Arrival". I applaud Peele for continuing to pick teams of people who are able to execute his brilliant visions. More Peele please.