The novel Brooklyn by Colm Toibin was beautifully adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby to excellent reviews and three Academy Award nominations; Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Eilis is a young, intelligent woman living in a small town on the coast of Ireland in 1952. Seeing that her prospects are minimal, her loving, older sister arranges for Eilis to immigrate to Brooklyn to start a new life. Helping her in the process, is an Irish Priest, played by Jim Broadbent. The Priest sets her up with a job at a high end department store, and finds her a place to live in a women’s boarding House, run by another fellow immigrant, played gorgeously by Julie Walters. (Rumor has it the BBC is planning a TV series about this boarding house with Walters playing the same part.)
Despite acute homesickness and a cultural learning curve, Eilis thrives in Brooklyn, and meets a sincere Italian-American plumber, who frequents Irish socials because he just “loves Irish girls.” Eilis and Tony Fiorello begin a serious relationship, and soon Eilis is even more important to Tony than the Brooklyn Dodgers.
A family emergency forces Eilis to return to Ireland, but she makes it clear that she intends to return to her life in Brooklyn after the visit. It is here that Eilis’s choices become difficult, as she sees more possibilities in her visit back than she did when she lived there. These choices are made more complicated by the fact that she has also meets a hometown boy (played by Domnhall Gleeson, son of actor Brendon Gleeson) and feelings begin to develop between the two, much to the delight of her mother, and the boy’s family.
Saoirse Ronan (Attonement, The Lovely Bones) is utterly delightful in the role of Eilis, she is also very beautiful. At the age of only 22, she has a very impressive resume, and it is easy to see why. I find her one of the more interesting women of her age group, and I look forward to watching her grow over the next few years. Brooklyn is the second film for which she has received Academy Award nominations, the other was for her work in Atonement. She has also received three BAFTA nominations, and experienced her first Broadway season this year in The Crucible.
The film is an Irish/Canadian co-production, and is beautifully filmed, for the most part, in Ireland, with a few New York locations. It is currently available on DVD, and is, of course, available on demand.
As you can see from the trailer, Eilis is a guest at the family table of her new boyfriend, Tony Fiorello. She receives tutoring in the art of tidy spaghetti eating from her fellow boarding-house mates. So, in putting together a menu for a post or pre-dinner screening of the film, I was torn between presenting an Irish menu, or an Italian one. But Brooklyn is a melting pot, so I think I have come up with a hybrid menu that should cover both rather nicely.
In 2006, a bar opened in Brooklyn serving a Pickle Back cocktail. Some people tell me that this cocktail has been around longer than 2006, but I have not yet seen evidence of this. For those of you who have never been to Brooklyn, let me just say that pickles are taken seriously in the delis of this New York borough.
Here is the very simple recipe:
One shot of Irish Whiskey (Jamison or Bushnell’s preferred) One shot of pickle juice. You can just take some juice from your favorite jar of pickles, however, if you can’t stand the thought of your jarred pickles swimming without the aid of it’s delicious liquid, a company named, Van Holten’s offers bottles of pickle brine specifically for this cocktail. Otherwise, just save your pickle juice from your empty dill pickle jars, and strain the juice through a wire mesh. This just gives you a legitimate reason to eat more pickles.
Appetizer: Asparagus with Parmesan cheese
In a shallow pan, boil around 2 inches of water, and gently add the asparagus and cook for around 3 minutes.
Take asparagus out, dump the water, and put the asparagus back in the pan with a generous amount of butter. Once butter is melted, plate the asparagus, and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Place in front of guests, and feel good that your appetizer is, at least a little, healthy.
Main Course: Guiness Beef Stew
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 boneless beef chuck roast (2 to 3 pounds) You can also use a small, bonelss lamb shoulder
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Bottle of Guinness
- 1/2 Cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh Thyme
- 8 Red Bliss Potatoes
- Salt Pepper
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 cup water
- Salt and Pepper
- In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Brown roast on all sides; remove from pan.
- In same pan, heat remaining oil. Add onions and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Deglaze pan with the Guinness (scrape up all that good stuff on the bottom of the pan) Stir in mushrooms, brown sugar, . Return roast to pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 1-1/2 hours.
- Stir in remaining ingredients. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 15-25 minutes longer or until meat and vegetables are tender.
Now would be a good time to start the movie.
Fear not, for I did not forget dessert. I have just decided to provide an easy dessert that can be eaten on a comfy chairs and couches, while we watch the movie.
Dessert: Unbelievably easy Cannoli Dip:
Package of Wonton Wrappers cut in triangles
Canola Oil for frying
1/4 granulated sugar, mixed with a 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon
3/4 Cup Ricotta Cheese, strained, over-night through a cheesecloth and squeezed dry
3/4 Cup of Mascarpone Cheese
1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
Small bag of mini-chocolate chips
Pinch of Salt
Beat with mixer until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours
Heat oil in pan to 350 degrees. Put no more than 4 triangles in the oil, until they brown slightly and firm up. Dry on a paper towel, and gently sprinkle plain sugar and cinnamon mixed together over the wrappers. Working in batches. These certainly can be made ahead, as you will be serving them at room temperature, however, do not do this step the night before as they might get stale.
Assemble individual plates, with some cannoli chips, and two ramekins; one filled with the filling, and one filled with mini-chocolate chips.
Start up the movie, and end the evening with Irish Coffee, or some more Irish Whiskey without the coffee.