Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro

I spend an absurd amount of money on Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google offer coupons for restaurants.  Every time I see a restaurant pop up that I like or that I’ve been intending to try, I am suckered into buying the deal.  The upside is that it saves me a couple bucks when I actually make it to the restaurant, the downside is that I’m constantly shoveling out money for coupons…whoops!

Appetizers: Calimari, artichoke hearts stuffed with crab, and cockels in a garlic/beer sauce

Tonight we dined at a lovely Portuguese restaurant in Aspinwall. Portuguese? In Aspinwall? Who knew! I had never heard of Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro until the LivingSocial offer popped into my inbox.  Aspinwall is a charming suburb, and the restaurant had good Yelp reviews, so I was excited to try it out.

Mr. Beez and I dined with our friend Krista.  Krista has actually been to Portugal, so she was able to give us the lowdown on Portuguese food, and said that Marisqueira seemed authentic to her.

The staff was extremely friendly, and the service was attentive.  For being such a small restaurant, the menu was extensive and they had tons of appetizer and entree specials.   A huge section of the menu is devoted to fish and seafood choices, but there are also a number of beef and poultry dishes, as well as vegetarian selections.  They also have a decent wine selection, both by the bottle and the glass.

The flavors were rich and the portions were generous.  We were overzealous in our appetizer orders, leaving all of us too full to finish our entrees.  Our overstuffed bellies meant dessert was entirely out of the question (exercise restraint if you want to make it to the sweets!)

For my entree, I had the trout stuffed with crab and shrimp.  The dish was so tasty, and although the dish didn’t taste like butter, the only way I can think to describe it is “buttery”…the flavors were warm and comforting and rich but not overpowering.

Marisqueria would be perfect for a romantic evening out.   I could also envision this as an ideal location for a fancy meal with grandparents or other less-than-bold diners.  The menu has many dishes that even if their Portuguese names aren’t immediately recognizable, the style of food is familiar enough that it would be a fine choice for a meal with diners who might be scared away by the latest trend restaurant.  This is not to say the food is boring, it certainly is not– it is just very approachable.

I did make reservations for our dinner, but tonight they didn’t happen to be necessary (Tuesday isn’t the hottest night to go out on the town).  The restaurant is very small, so I would recommend reservations to make sure you get a table.


Win Win (2011)

I don’t much care for movies about sports or movies about law.  I’m not a sports fiend, so sports movies bore me.  I dislike movies about law, because there are few things more painful than watching non-lawyers discuss law.

Win Win is a sports film and a law film, but also not really either of those at the same time.  Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a financially struggling elder law attorney who volunteers to be a guardian for Leo, a gentle old man beginning to succumb to dementia.  Flaherty is motivated by the hefty promised stipend, and although Flaherty promised the judge that he’d keep Leo in his home, he places Leo into a care facility.

Unexpectedly, Leo’s grandson Kyle shows up to live with him.  Flaherty, not knowing what to do, takes Kyle in while Flaherty and his wife (played by the brilliant Amy Ryan) try to reach Kyle’s drug addicted mom.  As Kyle stays with the family, Flaherty, a high school wrestling coach, discovers that Kyle happens to be a gifted wrestler.

Flaherty’s seemingly flawless plan goes awry when Kyle’s mom finishes her rehab and shows up on the Flaherty’s doorstep.  She too is motivated by money, and demands to be named Leo’s guardian.  Flaherty is left to sort out his own troubles, what is right and what is wrong, and the affection he has developed for Leo and Kyle.

Right and wrong are clear in this film, but you don’t get pounded over the head with morals.  The characters are well-rounded and relateable.  I don’t dislike Paul Giammati, but I’m not a huge fan either.  Even so, I think he puts on a very nice performance here.  In what must be a complete first in the history of cinema, the main teenage character seems to be a good, sensible kid.  He’s got some problems, but he’s genuinely good-hearted without being saccharine.

Win Win crosses genres and audiences.  This is one of the few films that I could actually see my mother and I both liking (we seem to have polar opposite opinions on film).  The acting is top notch (Jeffrey Tambor has a small part, hurrah!) and there is no sex or violence, so you could watch this movie on an airplane without embarrassment.


Rough Start

Holy cow, it’s Monday. How did that happen? This weekend I had a list a mile long of both social plans and things I needed to get done. The whole weekend was jam-packed, and I managed to do all the social things, but few of the items on my to do list (we’re hurting for laundry this week).

 The Oscars are my Superbowl, so I’m running on the slow side today.  Massive quantities of carbs are a necessity today, so I picked up a ridiculous and delicious breakfast from Apollo Cafe.  See that madness? And it was under five bucks.

I made a decision on BlogHer– I’m going.  I bought my conference pass and booked my hotel room yesterday.  There is a second round of programming submissions, and I’m going to re-submit one of my proposals there.  There’s no way for me to tell whether the conference is the right “fit” for me, unless I attend, so attend I will.  (Also, for months my friend Anthony has been excitedly encouraging Mr. Beez and I to visit him in NYC and go to dinner at Peter Luger’s, so this trip would be a perfect time for that outing.) 

All right, yinz. It’s time to get moving.


Oscars Eve!!!

The Oscars are tomorrow!  Book club is meeting at my house tomorrow night.  We’ll be discussing Mildred Pierce and enjoying champagne cocktails while playing Oscar Bingo!

Essential Supplies for the 2012 Academy Awards

I had hoped to see all the Best Picture nominees before the awards, but I only managed to see The Help, The Tree of Life, and Moneyball.  I considered watching Midnight in Paris on the On Demand, but I’m not much of a Woody Allen fan anyway, so I didn’t bother.

I’m excited they’re bringing Billy Crystal back.  He’s such a fun host, and James Franco and Anne Hathaway were a snore.

Since I know the entire internet is clamoring to know my Oscar predictions, here they are!

Best Picture: The Artist

Actor in a Leading Role: George Clooney (The Descendants)

Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Actor in a Supporting Role:  I am really not sure on this one. Kenneth Branagh is KENNETH BRANAGH, but the drama of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close makes Max von Sydow an appealing choice.  Moneyball was beloved enough that it’s bound to pick something up, but I just can’t see Jonah Hill as Oscar material.  Even though it feels like too obvious of a choice to be right, I’ll go with Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)

Actress in a Supporting Role: I want to say Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), but I can’t see that kind of physical comedy picking up an Academy Award, so I’m going to go with Octavia Spencer (The Help).

Animated Feature Film:   I don’t know anything about A Cat in Paris or Chico and Rita, and I’ll throw up in my mouth if Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, or Rango are picked, so I’m going to go with A Cat in Paris.

Cinematography:  The Tree of Life.  This film IS this Oscar.  If The Tree of Life does not win best Cinematography, the whole Academy should be replaced.

Art Direction:  Hugo.

Costume Design:  Jane Eyre (totally random guess, I have no idea).

Directing: The Artist.

Documentary Feature:  Pina (total guess, i know nothing about any of the nominees)

Documentary Short:  God is the Bigger Elvis (picked solely because “Elvis” is in the title)

Film Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (because I can’t see it being left entirely behind, so why not film editing?)

Foreign Language Film:  “A Separation” from Iran

Makeup:  The Iron Lady

Music (Original Score): War Horse

Music (Original Song): The picks for this category are pathetic.  It’s either the song from the Muppets, or the song from Rio, that’s it. Seriously.  They’ll probably give it to the Muppets.

Short Film (Animated):  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (I like the name)

Short Film (Live Action): Tuba Atlantic (Wild guess. I like the word “Tuba”)

Sound Editing:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Sound Mixing: Hugo.  I have no idea what the difference is between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. I’m guessing here.

Visual Effects:  Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows 2

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Writing (Original Screenplay): The Artist

The Artist is the sweetheart of the critics this year.  I think it’s going to pick up a number of trophies, but not sweep all its nominations.


Divergent, Veronica Roth (2011)

Divergent was selected as the top book of 2011 in the Goodreads Readers Choice Poll.  It’s easy to see why- this book is engaging, excited, and leaves the reader eager for Roth’s next book (Insurgent, expected in May 2012).

Roth has the unfortunate timing of her book being released in the height of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books.  Both depict dystopian futures with strong, brave women in the lead role.  Veronica Roth’s book is excellent, but her writing is less mature than Collins, so the comparison weighs in favor of Collins. It’s not necessarily fair to compare these books in this way, but it’s unavoidable due to the timing.

The only criticisms I have about Divergent are few and petty.  I wish the lead, Beatrice, didn’t re-name herself “Tris,”  it reeks of trying to hard to fit in.  (Admittedly, strong female characters named “Beatrice” or “Beatrix” mean more to me than most, my daughter’s middle name is “Beatrix,” and she is named after a certain brave, ruthless woman of the same name.)  The love story is predictable and kind of immature, but that’s not entirely a valid criticism, because the characters are young, so an immature love story is appropriate in that context.

I liked the way Roth characterizes and develops each of the factions.  I also liked the extensive initiation process for joining the factions, it was an excellent plot device for developing the faction’s personality, and makes the social structure much more interesting than “ok, this is where you’re going.”  There is the perfect balance of action and description in this book for it to be transformed to a thrilling movie that is completely true to the book.  (Although I love the Hunger Games, it’s so heavy on description that I think the movie won’t be able to everything.)

Roth keeps a blog about her writing experiences, and it’s interesting to get such an intimate view into the writing and editing process.  I particularly liked her entry about the differences between the early drafts and the final story of Divergent.  She seems down-to-earth, intelligent, and friendly.  Also, she’s only 23! What an amazing accomplishment for someone so young.