Tonight’s A Fork & A Flick movie is A Walk in the Clouds. You may not think that it is much of a foodie movie, however the film takes place on a fictional Northern California Vineyard, which alone opens up a sundry of possibilities for gastronomy because you may already be aware that Napa and Sonoma Wine Country is famously known for award winning restaurants and farm fresh food. Yet, that is not the only reason for this movie selection. With the onset of fall, the film reminds us of harvest as Victoria Aragon played by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon returns home to her family vineyard for the grape harvest and stomp, which is depicted with a gorgeous grape-stomping dance scene that has made me want to attend a grape stomp ever since I first saw the film.
I’m not going to just talk wine here either, because we get glimpses of old fashioned chocolates that Paul Sutton, played by Keanu Reeves, carries in a vintage case to sell, and there is also a beautiful diner scene in which Pumpkin Flower Soup is served from an old family recipe. How romantically autumn is all of this, screaming the essence of the season for us to enjoy in an old film?
Old indeed it is! A Walk in the Clouds first premiered in theaters back in 1995. It was reviewed by Roger Ebert as “a glorious romantic fantasy, aflame with passion and bittersweet longing.” Some loved it, as a teenage “Me” did, but others called it melodrama and were unimpressed by Keanu Reeves’ acting in a role such as this.
Get over the exaggerated sentiment, because it is the fervent excess that makes this movie so good. A Walk in the Clouds portrays love so idealistic it seems never to have heard of the 20th century. In this atmospheric romantic drama, Paul Sutton, who has just returned home from a stretch in the Army during World War II is still reeling from the horrors of war. Paul wants to settle down and start a farm, but his wife Betty, played by a young Debra Messing, whom he met and impulsively married shortly before shipping out, has arranged for him to go back to a job as a salesman peddling chocolates. Hence, we have the multiple appearance of a vintage box of chocolates that is devoured by Victoria’s grandfather, played by Anthony Quinn.
While taking a sales trip to another town, Paul befriends a beautiful yet distraught young woman, Victoria Aragon. Victoria is on her way home from college and is returning home pregnant after falling in love with a professor at college. He was a free spirited man who abandoned her after learning about her pregnancy. Victoria is full of shame and fearful of her father’s reaction, and Paul is eager to help her. Paul and Victoria agree to pretend to be married and go to the Aragon family estate, the hoax couple end up desperately in love just when the pretense is about to fail. The plot lovingly constructs one barrier after another to their happiness, so that we can rejoice as each one falls, and it sets their story in a place of breathtaking beauty. The director for the film chose to use special effects at several points in the film to push his landscapes beyond the real, into the ideal – leading to the landscape of romance and picturesque set-pieces. A Walk in the Clouds was the first American film from Mexican director Alfonso Arau, who previously made the international hit “Like Water for Chocolate” (another awesome foodie flick I hope to share here soon). Arau gives us wonderful scenes of ethereal beauty such as when frost threatens the vines. He gives us a peek into how things might have been on family vineyards circa 1940’s as all the family and its workers go into the field, using big butterfly wings to fan the warmth from oil heaters down around the grapes.
Everything about this film is vintage and that is what I love about it. So, set your logic and cynicism aside, and embrace ancient romantic notions with “A Walk in the Clouds”.
Fork & Flick
With this film we have to have Red Wine – a lovely selection from Ponte Vineyards called Late Harvest. It’s not Napa, but it’s one of my favorites, and their Late Harvest red wine is a sweet blend of grapes that have been picked late in the harvest season. This blend is bursting with flavors of homemade blueberry cobbler and a hint of vanilla.
Next, we have dark chocolate truffles to accompany the wine and avail our cravings every time we get a glimpse of Sweeny’s Chocolates in Paul’s vintage case. Get the hand made dark chocolate truffles recipe here.
Finally, to nourish our soul this fall evening Pumpkin Flower Soup – it was served in an elaborate candle light dinner scene on Paul’s first evening at the Aragon home when he is questioned by Victoria’s father so intensely that Paul has to leave the dinner table and the delicious soup.
Pumpkin Flower Soup
1 poblano chili or jalapeno (use more if you like it spicy)
1 cup butter
2 large onions, minced
1 head garlic, minced, or to taste
4 cups diced zucchini
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup diced carrots
2 cups tomato puree
6 cups water
1 sprig epazote (found in Hispanic markets)
4 cubes chicken bouillon
4 cups fresh pumpkin flowers, washed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven’s broiler and set the oven rack at about 6 inches from the heat source. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the poblano pepper in half from top to bottom; remove the stem and seeds, and place the pepper, cut side down, onto the prepared baking sheet. Cook under the preheated broiler until the skin of the pepper has blackened and blistered, about 5 minutes. Place the blackened pepper into a bowl, and tightly seal with plastic wrap. Allow the pepper to steam as it cools, about 10 minutes. Once cool, peel the skin from the pepper.
Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook and stir the onions until translucent, this takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook and stir for another 2 to 3 minutes until cooked but not browned, and add the zucchini, corn, and carrots. Cook the vegetables until tender, about 15 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree and water, and add the epazote, chicken bouillon cubes, and peeled poblano pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, working in batches if necessary. Pour the blended soup into a large saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in the chopped pumpkin flowers, and simmer until cooked and tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cream, mix well, and add salt and pepper to taste.