Lunchtable TV Talk: Mozart in the Jungle – “Toblerone – it’s my weakness”

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Let me start by stating that there is no actor I can think of who is as blessed with a ready, genuine and overwhelming smile as Gael Garcia Bernal. One might look at him and see the other things that make him attractive – the eyes, for example – but it is the smile that disarms completely.

But then if you just catch a quick glimpse of the man from a distance, sporting a beard and a certain haircut, and think, “Add a Members Only jacket”, you get a passing resemblance to Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I know – it’s not very flattering, and it’s not something one would say if she could see the actor up close. It’s a bit funny considering Gael Garcia Bernal’s role in Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, Rosewater, playing an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran during Ahmadinejad’s time in office.

Given the opportunity to see Gael Garcia Bernal lead an ensemble cast as the most eccentric of what are arguably all eccentric characters (all members or patrons of a New York City orchestra). His character comes along to breathe new life into a staid and loss-making institution, and the story follows his peculiarities as much as it follows several others, including Lola Kirke as the young oboe player, Hailey, who is not quite ready for the big time but acts as an assistant at the orchestra, answering to Garcia Bernal’s character (the new conductor, Rodrigo De Souza) who never fails to pronounce her name as “Jai alai”. By the end of the first season, which I binge-watched on Amazon, Hailey knew how to make maté just the way the Maestro likes it. I won’t spoil anything else about it because it’s simply a slightly addictive glimpse inside the crazy world of orchestral players and all their personal quirks.

There are some great characters and performances and a mini Mozart-Salieri style rivalry between the old guard (the orchestra’s former conductor, played by Malcolm McDowell, being put out to pasture – but not without larger-than-life egotistical monstrosities being put on display, much to the delight of the viewing audience) and the new. Saffron Burrows, about whom I used to have doubts, plays a cellist and a complex woman with plenty of her own issues. Her character, Cynthia, serves as a kind of mentor for the aforementioned Hailey. Bernadette Peters is the trustee of the failing orchestra – by the way, does Peters ever age? She’s undoubtedly had some work done, but it has been subtle and well-done enough that she does not look artificial. Not the point really. I just found myself shocked to see that the woman is almost 70.

I highly recommend this series – I breezed through the first series, and while it’s not a masterpiece or groundbreaking, it is quite entertaining – largely down to its superb cast.

Incidentally, the book upon which the show is based, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, by Blair Tindall, opens the door to a sort of stranger-than-fiction real-life in tabloids kind of story. Tindall, a professional oboist and later journalist and writer, married the famous Bill Nye the Science Guy – and he left the marriage just a few weeks later. It all took an ugly turn when he filed a restraining order against her after she tried to poison his garden (?!). They have had a bunch of legal wranglings ever since. Alas, it is completely off topic except to point out that the source material for the show was clearly rich.

Frosted days: Baked results for Thursday

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No, frost (as in ice crystal type frost) has not set in yet. I am thinking about how tomorrow will be filled with making frosting. All those cupcakes I made need frosting. I have to make the frosting and then transport it with me to Oslo and frost all the cupcakes when I get there. I don’t have sufficient transportation options for taking fully frosted cupcakes with me. I am not a big decorator anyway, but it is not as though I can make lovely frosting designs on the cupcakes thanks to this transport challenge. Sigh.

So… the list of everything that is coming with me to work on Thursday (I think this is everything, but can’t be sure)…

*Kahlua coffee cupcakes
*Lemon cream oat bars
*Mini chocolate pudding pies baked into vanilla cupcakes
*Crème brûlée cupcakes
*Dark chocolate hazelnut mini tarts
*Oreo truffles
*Highly experimental red velvet cupcakes
*Dulce de leche bundt cake
*Carrot-pineapple cake with a brownie layer in between carrot layers
*Brown sugar cupcakes filled with Toblerone candy
*Brown sugar shortbread
*Licorice cupcakes
*Banoffee cupcakes
*Vanilla orange biscotti
*Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting

Toblerone filled cupcakes

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I used the brown sugar cupcake recipe from my last big bake (the one that I slathered in maple frosting and topped with sugared bacon) and plopped Toblerone candy into the batter before baking.

Toblerone cupcakes
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled (you could also use a neutral-tasting vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk brown sugar and egg until smooth. Add in vanilla and milk, again mixing until combined. Slowly pour in melted butter, continuing to whisk. Add in the flour, soda and salt, mixing with a large spoon until batter is smooth.

Add a small amount of batter to the bottoms of the liners, drop in a mini Toblerone, top it with enough cupcake batter to cover then candy.

Bake for 16-19 minutes, or until tops are golden, and allow to cool completely.

Frost as desired.

October baking ambitions

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