It’s that time of year again. The 85th Annual Academy Awards. Interestingly enough, this year will be the 45th anniversary of my lifelong friendship with our esteemed blogger Greg. I have been “blogging” the Oscars since before the word “blog” ever existed.. Greg and I rarely lived in the same place since we were 18 years old but have never missed celebrating all things film together whether it be multiple phone calls, texts, emails or face to face banter. After all, this is our Superbowl Sunday of sorts. This year, alas, we can do none of the above for various reasons, so when Greg asked me to be guest blogger for The Academy Awards I was uber-excited but also somewhat perplexed. I write about glitz and glamour; not food. Greg said to me “It’s gotta be about the food. Cook something.” This sent me into a panic. My schedule hardly allows for fast food let alone cooking at home. I was pondering this one day last week as I was eating lunch in one of my favorite local restaurants when I had an epiphany. Why cook when I can feature my favorite restaurant?
While I live in WV, my favorite local haunt does not offer traditional American items. Chams, located on Market Street in the middle of Parkersburg, WV’s business district offers some of the finest traditional Lebanese food this side of the Mississippi. The brother and sister team of Chams Ekleman and Rizkallah Helu came to the US from Lebanon in the 80’s to begin a new journey. Rizkallah was a high school French teacher in the Cleveland OH area for several years while his sister Chams has always cooked and been involved in the food service industry. Eventually the family came to locate in the Mid Ohio Valley and Chams Lebanese Cuisine was born. The restaurant is simply appointed because at Chams it’s all about the food. Chams offers daily specials and all items are made fresh daily. So on my favorite day of the year I decided to feast on my favorite selections from my favorite restaurant. I opted for a sampling of many of their best smaller dishes. I started with the Fried Kibbe Ball, composed of lean ground beef and cracked wheat centered with more beef, onions and nuts and deep fried to luscious perfection. Crispy on the outside yet moist on the inside with enough spice to pique one’s taste buds it is my favorite version of deep fried anything party food. I went on to sample the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves with a side of Baba Ghanouj for dipping. These rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and chick peas are quite simply sumptuous. The grape leaves take on a sweet quality countered with the slightly spiced rice filling and can be a meal on their own but hey, it’s party night so I must indulge with more. While Chams makes some of the best hummus I have ever eaten I must say that I prefer their Baba Ghanouj. I think of it as hummus with a kick. With just the right balance of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil this pureed eggplant delight has become the most addictive dip I have ever eaten. I then went on to an item new to me: fatayer. Fatayer comes in three choices at Chams; meat, spinach or cream cheese, and while I know that the cream cheese fatayer is melt in your mouth delicious, I chose the spinach option for something new. Fatayer is simply bread dough filled with various ingredients. Mine contained only spinach and onions but was far from bland. Extremely filling and easy to eat on the run I will call this one the Lebonese hot pocket, and priced at a mere $3 it is not only a delicious lunch to go but a very nutritious one as well. As stuffed as I was I saved my absolute favorite for last. Despite the spelling, Foul M Damas (pronounced “full” or “foal” depending on your accent) is anything but foul. I have christened this dish the Lebanese Black Eyed Peas. Comfort food at it’s very best, it is fava beans cooked in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and served with Chams’ fresh made pita. Foul can be eaten with a spoon or spooned into a torn piece of pita which acts as the vessel to get the beans to your mouth. I prefer the latter but of course there is always plenty of pita left to sop up every last bite of bright yumminess which has become a local best seller on their menu. It’s hard to finish the whole serving but Chams is happy to send you home with a to go container. I will attest that it makes an excellent breakfast food as well and always look forward to my leftovers from Chams. After all of this one would think I would be full (and perhaps foul with all that garlic) but nay! It’s my night of nights and must be finished with dessert. I chose two pastries from their gorgeous bakery counter. One was flaky phyllo stuffed with cream cheese. The other was a shortbread- like cookie stuffed with a sweet walnut filling and dusted with powdered sugar. While they looked and tasted decadent I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that neither was overly sweet. The perfect ending to a perfect food experience. But hey, it’s Oscar night and we are all indulging. Who needs Wolfgang Puck? I have Chams!
As I said earlier I typically write about movies and fashion. Now that the rhinestone dust has finally settled I offer you my humble critique of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. As usual I took a stab in the dark in predicting the winners of the top 6 categories (Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director and Picture.) And as usual I picked poorly going 3 out of 6. But those who know me know that what I look forward to the most is critiquing the red carpet attire so without further adieu, let’s get on with the show!
I will say that overall I was most pleasantly surprised with 90% of the choices our starlets made. Thigh high slits in the gowns were popular as were the colors red, black, white and gold. Metallics were also in. You know if it’s shiny or blingy or beaded I’m all over it. Needless to say there were some ladies who did less than their best on this auspicious occasion and some that frankly, phoned it in. My top three best dressed are:
Jessica Chastain (pictured) wore a slimmer than slim bronze strapless fully beaded gown by Armani Prive, this tougher than nails Zero Dark Thirty nominee looked as if she were channeling Rita Hayworth. Her fiery sleek hair with loose waves was the perfect feminine touch to this classic look. She wins my Best Dressed award of the evening.
Jennifer Lawrence, looking beautiful in a sculptural Dior Haute Couture gown. The skirt of this gown was amazing and looked like it weighed a ton, perhaps contributing to J Law’s slip up the stairs (which is something I would totally do,) but she looked beautiful doing it.
Naomi Watts chose one of the most dynamic gowns of the evening. Decked out in a silver asymmetrical Armani Prive she was the brightest and shiniest in town that night. A BIG winner!
Now that you’ve seen the good let me give you my spin and the bad and more importantly the ugly. Top three worst dressed nominees for me are:
Brandi Glanville – The Real Housewife is a REAL MESS in this skin tight number she reportedly designed herself. The top of the dress barely reached the bottom of her boobs. And why was she even there? Did they run out of REAL SEATFILLERS and just started grabbing people out of the glitter ghetto?
Nicole Kidman – does anyone remember when Nikki consistently made the BEST dressed list? Her shiny black L’Wren Scott gown looked like someone painted her with hot tar and then sprinkled her with gold glitter and sequins. For someone who usually hits, this one is definitely a miss.
Melissa McCarthy – now I loves me some Melissa and I’m all for the fuller figures but this gray David Meester gown and her Valley of the Dolls hair were just a complete mess. Melissa, you are a gorgeous woman with more talent in your little finger than any five other celebrities combined. Given that fact why do you insist on wearing the bedsheets to awards shows. Sewing some sequined flowers on the sleeves does not disguise the fact that this is just one butt ugly, very poorly fitted gown. Please see Octavia Spencer for tips on what TO do. Since Brandi G isn’t a real star and shouldn’t have been there anyway, Melissa gets the award for Worst Dressed of the evening.
I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the host of the evening, Seth McFarlane. It was hoped that the creator of the hit animated series The Family Guy would breathe a breath of funny, fresh life into a show that has been known to be anything but fresh in the past. The fear was that his particular brand of humor would go a step too far. Within a minute and a half McFarlane had teetered perilously close to the edge of the darkside when out of the blue a giant TV screen appears William Shatner dressed as Captain Kirk telling Seth he’s doin’ it wrong. And indeed he was doing it wrong. Unfortunately we digressed from there into skits to include drug sniffing sock puppets, McFarlane, dressed as the flying nun asking Sally Field out and a full blow production number with McFarlane, backed by a gay men’s chorus singing a song entitle We Saw Your Boobs. Unfortunately the freshman host degenerated from there and left me begging the same questions as Shatner: What happened to Tina and Amy? Why can’t they get Tina and Amy? Indeed. Why CAN’T they get Tina and Amy, the hysterical hosts of the Golden Globes, the veterans of SNL? Please Academy, next year get Tina and Amy.
This year gave us so many great choices in all categories that it was almost impossible to choose. I’m glad to see that the Academy voters spread the love around this year with no multi-nominated movie sweeping the awards. It was nice to see so many talented folks be recognized for their respective crafts. Good or bad the 85th Annual Academy Awards did not disappoint and it certainly gave ME something to talk (rant) about…like I NEED an excuse! But for now I’m putting away my poison pen and I’ll see ya at the movies!