Dinner and a Movie: A Christmas Tale

Snow and Christmas decorations on a charming narrow street.

Photo by Matthias Kinsella on Unsplash

Prefer to listen? Here’s the podcast.


This 2008 French film about a family reuniting at Christmastime because of the matriarch’s illness features richly-drawn characters and a beautiful, tall French house that feels like it’s out of a fairytale. Catherine Deneuve stars.

Where to Watch

Watch it with a free trial by going to the Criterion Channel here.

What to Eat

A great dinner to match the festive atmosphere of the film would be Ina Garten’s Lemon Capellini with Cavier, which you can find at this link, or her slightly less fancy but equally delicious Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

What to Drink

They celebrate their Christmas Eve dinner with Champagne in the movie: I prefer the less expensive and just as good or better Cava.  Bella Conchi Cava Brut Rosé is one of my all-time favorites. Here’s a link to a picture of it. If you’re lucky you can find it at your local liquor store for $5 or $6. A total steal.

Merry Christmas!

Friday is Date Night: Dinner and a Movie

Cobblestone street with orange buildings and hanging laundry in Trastevere, Italy.

I always want to watch a movie Friday night. I think it’s a holdover from high school when the big activity on Friday night was going to see the latest movie.  

Since the stay-at-home orders began, we’ve been inventing drinks with what alcohol we’ve already got on hand, and finding a really good movie to watch for after the kids go to bed.

This is the closest we’ve gotten to having a regular date night – ever. A silver lining, for sure.

Here’s the dinner and the movie:


Practically no Clean-up Baked Tilapia with Olives and Rice adapted from Ina Garten’s Herb-Roasted Fish .

Herb-roasted fish

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. place some tilapia fillets – frozen or thawed – on the paper. Just use as many as you think you need.
  4. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss a few handfuls of green olives in. I use the ones stuffed with pimentos in a jar. Cheap brand. You can also use nicer, fancy olives like Ina does but I’m too cheap to buy those.
  6. Squeeze some lemon juice all over. From a lemon or from a bottle.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish is solid white and flakes easily with a fork. It will take longer to bake if you cook from frozen, but you totally can.
  8. Serve with white rice and white wine.

For the rice

  1. Throw 1 cup of white rice (preferably Basmati) and 2 cups of water in an Imusa dutch oven. This is the best rice cooker, period. So say I. (Martha Stewart says it, too.)
  2. Cover the pot with lid.
  3. Turn burner on high. When pot starts to boil, reduce heat to low/simmer/2 and cook with the lid on for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

some good cheap Pinot Grigios

You’ll be craving white wine ten minutes into this movie. Try a Pinot Grigio since it’s an Italian film. Drizly can ship it to you if you live in the right place. We didn’t have any on hand so we made gin and tonics instead.

Gin + Tonic

We had some Pin-Up Gin on hand from Old Glory Distilling down in Clarksville, Tennessee. It’s a very cute bottle and the gin’s not bad. Of course, Hendrick’s Gin is the best.

Mix one or two parts gin to three parts tonic water or to taste. Garnish with a lime wedge.


The Imusa dutch oven is the best popcorn kettle ever. Rice and popcorn – nothing cooks them better.

  1. Put a tablespoon or two of olive or coconut oil in the bottom of the pot.
  2. Turn the burner on high. Tap in three popcorn kernels and cover.
  3. When they pop, open the pot and put in half a cup of kernels. Close the lid and move the pot around on the burner every couple minutes.
  4. When the popping slows way down, turn the burner off but don’t remove the pot until all the popping has stopped. Dump into a bowl and season with a tiny handful of Kosher salt and Kernel Seasons White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning. Sprinkle on some Old Bay if you’re feeling adventurous.


Pranza di Ferragosto / Mid-August Lunch Available Amazon Prime

Affable retired bachelor Gianni lives with his very elderly mother in Rome. They can’t afford to pay their condo association dues anymore and owe years of fees. The manager of the building offers to pay Gianni’s fees if he will take his elderly mother for the weekend so he can go to the beach with his family mistress.

Gianni reluctantly agrees but then before he knows it three old ladies end up staying for the weekend, each with a list of dietary restrictions and complex medications, each the mother of someone Gianni owes money.

Gianni survives by guzzling white wine and enlisting the help of a friend from the corner wineshop.

This is one of those great low-key European films where not much happens and yet everything happens. It’s a gentle meditation on ageing, on mother-son relationships, and the vicissitudes of life.

It’s filmed in the cheerful, crumbly Trastevere neighborhood of Rome.

Gianni’s condo is one of those lovely 19th century places with tall doors and cement tile floors. The kitchen is to die for – my favorite kind. Not fancy, not fitted, a work table, and a wonderful warm orange color.

narrow winding cobblestone street in Italy.
Photo by T.Q. via Unsplash

Perfect if you love European patina, food, wine, summer. Or if you have a mother.

Do you crave dinner and a movie on Fridays like I do? Let me know what you think of Mid-August Lunch by leaving a comment below.