Film and Foodie Review: Spotlight


The Film: This is a movie I didn’t want to see, a movie about the sexual violation of children by priests. However, this film is a well done account of the Boston Globe’s dedicated Spotlight team 2003 Pulitzer winning investigation on the crimes committed by priests.  Spotlight is the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the United States.  In the early 2000s, theteam uncovers the widespread problem of child abuse by priests in the Boston area.   The string of trackable crimes dates from the 70’s to the early 2000’s.   For a disturbing topic, the highlight is delightful cast including  Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup.   Each actor seems to bring nuances of internal agony about the situation.   The story illuminates the fraternity of silence about suspected crimes.  I expected the film to be slanted with Hollywood propanganda but it seems just to be honest storytelling.

The Food:  I deliberated about broaching the topic of food.  It’s such a heavy movie.  Set in Boston,  I thought a bread bowl of  New England clam chowder and Sam Adams beer would be perfect comfort food.  You’ll need for this for this uncomfortable topic.



Ice Cream Sandwiches Concoctions

A simple treat you can serve to kids and adults alike. Make your statement. This is almond custard poppy seed sandwiched between Oatmeal raisin cookies and Chocolate Mint sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies.  Whether you make your ice cream from scratch or benefit from wide variety of flavors out there, this can be a big hit a your dinner party.

  • Imagine a dark chocolate cookie with coffee ice cream in between.
  • Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie filled with vanilla.  Roll sandwich on side and sprinkle oreo cookie crumbs, chocolate chips or sprinkles.
  • Macaron with Green tea Ice Cream
  • Ginger or Molasses Cookies with Egg Nog Ice Cream or a Custard

Imagine the possibilities.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Film and Foodie: The Revenant


The Film: Well, it is a bloody good movie.  It takes you into a beautifully cold world.  It is a picture chronicles our not so distance past and the American/European fur trading business.  What was the cost of fur in exchange for lives?   In The Revenant we follow the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass.   The semi-biographical story follows the main character trying to survive.  The now famous bear scene makes you wonder how did post production do it?   Like  Mad Max Fury Road it is the kind of visual story telling that bring back credence as why you spend the extra money to sit in a movie theater rather settling for watching it on TV, laptop or phone.   Those mediums albeit great to have will never do what the movie theater experience can.  Isn’t it splendid that we may be moving in the a realm of film making warrants our expensive tickets.

It is a pretty linear  and somewhat predictable in what the end goal.  The director expands the survival story with embellishment such as Glass having a Native American wife and bearing a son with her.  This is not true but exacting revenge withe motivation of it not just be about me but you killed my blood widens the audience empathy for the character.  The trailer tells you in a nutshell

Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy in the Trailer for "The Revenant"

Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy in the Trailer for “The Revenant”

what is going to happen.    The treat is getting to see  Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy play opposite each other as enemies.  They are both top of the line actors.  They are both close friends in real life and really work well together for on screen chemistry the brilliantly layered by both.  The two have worked together before in the hit film Inception: however I think this film may solidify seeing this duo work together more.  One week after the release of the film both DiCaprio and Hardy have earned Oscar nominations.  My hope is that the both will win.

The Food:  My suggestions are eating something like a burger rare/medium rare or steak prepare the same way or raw vegan or sushi.  Since this film is all about surviving in nature when this hits dvd it you can cook out doors do so.  If you can watch the movie outdoors even better.   After seeing, The Revenant, a friend of mine had this to say:

“I can’t believe we could eat meat after so much blood & guts, but the movie was excellent!”

Watch How to Make

Burger Sous Vide Medium Rare Burger

Chinese New Year at the Kennedy Center

Chinese New Year: Shenzhen Pop Music Show

FRI, FEB 5, 6:00 PM, 2016

FREE on the Millennium Stage, no tickets required. This performance features pop music artists from Shenzhen, including the band Jam You, female singers Tsinger and Majia Jiado, male singer Ray M, and rappers Too Phat.


Chinese New Year: Family Day Activities

SAT, FEB 6, 11:00 AM, 2016

FREE throughout the day, no tickets required. Activities highlighting Chinese culture will be offered for kids of all ages–from Chinese paper cutting lessons to Beijing Opera stage makeup demonstration and costume dress-up.

Los Angeles, CA: Joe’s Cafe

Joe's Cafe

Joe’s Cafe- Photo by Crystal A. Johnson

Located in the Granada Hills section of the San Fernando Valley is Joe’s Cafe.  Despite the ordinary name, it is not an ordinary restaurant.  Breakfast and Lunch are two meals of the day specialized at Joe’s Cafe.  If you know anything anything about this area then you know that Food Trucks meet on this business strip every Friday night.  Joe’s Cafe could be easily missed if it were not for the crowds waiting and the rare outdoor dining that you see happening during the weekdays especially.

Pretzel burger

The restaurant has heightened popularity with a Chopped Champion chef.  And let me tell you, the food does not disappoint.  I went with two men who ordered sandwiches that are accompanied with pretty green salads.  One dining partner kept talking about his menu item called The Beef , describing it as the best burger he every had.  Now, he had been to the establishment for breakfast and wasn’t originally that impressed but this time, he was.  His burger was sandwiched between a pretzel bun and the burger was topped with cheddar cheese, drunken onions and roasted jalepeño aioli.

Joe's Cafe Burger

I opted for the popular Belgian waffle which can be filled with chocolate

Belgian waffle

Bacon filled Waffle- Photo by Crystal A. Johnson (Joe’s Cafe)

chips and bacon.  I opted out of the chocolate.  I can say this was one of the better waffles that I have eaten.  It was light in texture and flavors included sweetness plus the right amount of savory imparted from the bacon.

Joe’s Cafe is not open for dinner.

Address: 17815 Chatsworth St, Granada Hills, CA 91344




Film and Food: Peanuts Movie


The Film: Welcome The Peanuts Movie to the world of 3D animation.  Although this film is not a visual spectacular, it is a respectful and classy update to the look of the Peanuts gang.  The story is a bit of a payoff about who Charlie Brown is to lovers of ole Charlie Brown.  At times, this film really felt like it was for adults who grew up enjoying the TV special and the comic strip.

In theater where I attended, I felt the the children’s engagement level and laughter came midway in the film.  It was too busy building connecting with nostalgia and briefly building backstory for a new generation.

The scene stealer of this movie is none other than Snoopy.   When this film hits dvd, it will be a nice addition to the any family movie collection.

The Food:  How about cracking open some peanuts in shell and enjoying a healthy fruit punch concoction like an aqua fresca in the summer.  In the winter maybe boiled peanuts still in shells and white hot chocolate.

me with peanuts gang

MCCN Editor and film Critic with Peanuts Gang

Preserving the Tradition of African American New Year Eats

blackeyed peas over rice

Black-eyed peas over saffron Rice.  Photo by Crystal Johnson

African American New Year’s Eats face a stigma.  Much of the younger African Americans, the yuppies and hipsters realize the food isn’t healthy and there seems to be a resentment about the traditional foods being the leftover grub for Black folks during the slavery days in the United States.  As an African American who grew up in New York as a 70’s child to parents from the south, I have an appreciation for the traditional foods of our history.

Food is correlated to history.  For the first time in years my dad prepared for me what I would call a Soul Food dinner.  The flavors were altered a bit with his age being in the 70’s.   There is a consciousness about blood pressure and salt.  Traditionally, the traditional pig feet and collard greens are  foods laddened with salt.

Pig feet

Pig Feet prepared by Carl Johnson.  Photo by Crystal Johnson

Pig feet are normally drenched in vinegar yet my dad’s gourmet take steered away from the vinegar.  I say pour it on.  It helps cut back the fat anyway.  He put before me Pig feet, chitterlings and black peas over rice.    Let’s talk about the chittlin’s .  A whiff nearly knocked out and brought me back to age 10.  The aroma is the substance of history and tradition.  Chitterlings as they are properly called are the pig’s intestines.  The undesirable parts of the pig were left to the slaves.  Thus, it is understandable that many blacks today take offense maintaining a tradition of eating something we don’t have to eat.

My father also included in the menu, cornbread.  However, he got fancy by putting it in the shape of a rose.  Now I can tell you my dad proudly presented these dishes with love and appreciation of our history.  He prepared these dishes in a way that you may find it in a fine restaurant.   He also prepared the most delicious pressure cooked collard greens lightly seasoned with white pepper.  There was no pot liquor to be found.  Pot liquor is the leftover liquid from collard greens.  Mom used to talk about that when I was a child.  You couldn’t find much historical record of pot liquor when I was a child.  I almost thought it was an old wise tale but today with the internet more of the history of African Americans moving form oral to written history.  Today, we also know the nutrients of collard greens and kale was a healthful blessing to our diet.


Chitterlings aka “Chittlin’s” Photo by Crystal Johnson

I guess what I want people to walk away is there is room to embrace our historic food traditions.  It may involve leaving some of the menu items off or merely changing the preparation.   But in a culture that has tried to stay alive, let’s preserve some of our culinary traditions.   Many cultures around the world maintain food traditions which symbolize oppression as a remembrance.  Maybe preparation of these foods can be a way of recalling Black history in America as we build our way toward a brighter tomorrow.

History of the Hoppin John Bowl


“Hoppin-john-bowl” by Srjenkins – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

The origins of the name are uncertain; one possibility is that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas: pois pigeons(pronounced: [pwapiˈʒɔ̃]).

The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference to the dish is from Frederick Law Olmsted‘s 19th century travelogue, A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States(1861).[7] However, a recipe for “Hopping John” in The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge,[8] which was published in 1847, is also cited as the earliest reference.[9] An even earlier source is Recollections of a Southern Matron,[10]which mentions “Hopping John” (defined, in a note, as “bacon and rice”) as early as 1838.[11]

Hoppin’ John was originally a Low Country food before spreading to the entire population of the South. Hoppin’ John may have evolved from rice and bean mixtures that were the subsistence of enslaved West Africans en route to the Americas.[12] Hoppin’ John has been further traced to similar foods in West Africa,[9] in particular the Senegalese dish,thiebou niebe.[13]

One tradition common in the U.S. is that each person at the meal should leave three peas on their plate to ensure that the New Year will be filled with luck, fortune and romance. Another tradition holds that counting the number of peas in a serving predicts the amount of luck (or wealth) that the diner will have in the coming year. On Sapelo Island in the community of Hog Hammock, Geechee red peas are used instead of black-eyed peas. Sea Island red peas are similar.[14]