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Dan in Real Life

Dan in Real Life

Image credit: Dan in Real Life, 2007

Fall is my favorite time of year, and not just because we’re finally entering Oscar-bait season at the multiplex. Rather, it’s a time I get to sit around my fire pit, drink spiced cocktails, and read a good book. If you’re looking for this feeling in cinema form, look no further than this week’s film Dan in Real Life (DVD/Download). Well-acted, well-written, and with enough charm to rival my favorite pair of fuzzy socks, it’ll put you in a seasonal mood in no time.

Dan in Real Life stars Steve Carell as a widowed advice columnist with three lovely, slightly resentful daughters. He takes his brood up to the family compound in Rhode Island for a weekend of crossword puzzles, pancakes, and chilly walks on the beach, only to be met with glares from his kids, pity from his siblings, and mild reproach from his parents. But then he encounters Juliette Binoche in a charming bookstore meet-cute and they hit it off like gangbusters…. until he realizes she’s already dating his brother. With a wonderful supporting cast including Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Alison Pill, and even Dane Cook in a surprisingly good performance, the movie sparkles with a rare combo of intelligence and sentimentality. I find myself wanting to be a long-lost cousin, visiting their lovely New England home for just a day. Even if it means I have to sleep in the laundry room.

A movie this sweet deserves a perfect Fall cocktail to go with it. There’s nothing that says Autumn quite like spiced apples, so while watching Dan in Real Life, I recommend drinking an Autumn Apple Sipper.

Autumn Apple Sipper

2 oz Dry Hard Cider

1 oz Sweet Retreat Apple Pie Liqueur

1/2 oz Spiced Rum

1 oz Honeycrisp Apple Cider

Pinch of Cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a mug over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.

Steve Carell is the rare comic actor who is equally talented in dramatic roles, and Dan in Real Life is the perfect showcase for both sides of this coin- he’s at once charming and morose, funny and forlorn. I guarantee his rendition of “Let My Love Open the Door” will break your heart, just a little. If you think by now you’ve seen everything this guy can do, plan to be surprised. Cheers!

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Special Edition: Golden Globes

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If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you’re probably a person who enjoys Hollywood awards shows as much as I do. The gowns, the terrible jokes, the uncomfortably awkward political acceptance speeches- I love it all. I’m not sure what or who the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is, but I do know that they put on one hell of an awards ceremony. It’s great to see film and television personalities drinking together in one room because my third love after films and cocktails is television. This is truly the trifecta for me.

My tradition when it comes to awards shows is to make a pot of fondue, a great cocktail, and lure my husband to the couch so we can make snarky comments about famous actresses together. This year, I’m using hard cider in both the fondue and the cocktail.

Golden-Shandy

Golden Shandy

1 part chilled light-colored beer (such as Landshark)

1 part hard cider

1 part sprite or carbonated lemonade

Fresh Lime

Fresh Ginger

Muddle the lime and ginger together in a pitcher or large container. Top with beer, hard cider, and soda, and let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Pour over ice in a collins glass, and garnish with lime.

This drink is great for a crowd, or just for yourself. If you’ve got any non-drinkers in the group, substitute non-alcoholic sparkling cider for the hard stuff and leave out the beer. This is light enough that you can drink it all through the pre-show and the ceremony itself, and it goes very well with the fondue recipe.

Normandy-Style Fondue

1lb Camembert cheese

¼ lb Havarti cheese

1 ½ tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp unsalted butter

½ cup minced shallot

1 ¼ cup dry, hard apple cider

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Crusty bread cubes, potato wedges, and apple wedges for dipping

Place the Camembert in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm the cheese. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut away and discard the rind, then coarsely chop the cheese. Toss the Camembert and Havarti cheese with the cornstarch and set aside.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter and saute the shallot until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the cider, and the lemon juice and bring to a low simmer. Gradually add the cheeses, a handful at a time, and stir gently until the mixture is creamy and the cheeses are completely melted. If it’s too thick, stir in more cider as needed. Transfer to fondue pot and enjoy!

I’m really looking forward to this year’s ceremony because I actually did see a staggering number of the nominated movies. In case you were interested, my favorite film of 2013 was Enough Said, but Inside Llewyn Davis was a close runner up. Regardless of who wins and loses, I know I can at least count on a great evening full of cheese, bread, and a golden, sparkling cocktail. Cheers!