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A relevant spin on a 1970s tennis match

By Ann Hornaday

At a time when Venus and Serena Williams reign supreme – and seem to have done so forever – it’s difficult to visualize a time when the fight for gender equity in tennis was front-page news. But Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris bring that era to life with verve and humor in “Battle of the Sexes,” a warm, earnestly entertaining film that revisits a pivotal 1973 match between a 55-year-old former Wimbledon champion named Bobby Riggs and 29-year-old tennis star Billie Jean King.

The showdown – hyped to hell and back before being staged at the Houston Astrodome – was comeuppance in the form of performative kitsch, with the competitors arriving in the midst of Vegas-like fanfare and gaudy retinues (leggy ladies for Riggs, bare-chested men for King). For weeks, Riggs, a notorious hustler, had been partying, pulling off stunts and playing the media instead of practicing. King, the bespectacled, intensely focused workhorse, had been busy working out, honing the precision shots that would prove lethal to her opponent’s shockingly lethargic game. She beat him in straight sets, winning the $100,000 prize money and striking an epochal blow for women’s rights that made her an instant feminist icon.

“Battle of the Sexes” looks beneath the ballyhoo and horsing around to provide context on the heightened stakes that informed Riggs and King’s confrontation. Portrayed in an uncannily spot-on impression by Steve Carell, Riggs comes across as a compulsive gambler eager to reclaim the spotlight and save his marriage. (Elisabeth Shue delivers a dignified, quietly bemused performance as his wife Priscilla). Carell and the filmmakers are clearly having a ball as they re-create Riggs’ famous exhibition games, in which he handicapped himself by dressing as Bo-Peep (complete with live sheep) and playing with skillets instead of rackets.

For her part, King – played in a less physically convincing but quietly sympathetic turn by Emma Stone – wasn’t explicitly political at all. She was simply interested in getting equal pay on the tennis circuit. But when she establishes an instant erotic connection with a hairdresser named Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), she realizes that her sexual orientation may jeopardize the progress she’s been working for.

Best known for their dysfunctional-family comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” Dayton and Faris skillfully delineate the personal issues that were riding on the match between “the lobber and the libber,” as Riggs and King were dubbed, introducing a possibly malign presence in the form of a judgmental Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and an outright villain in the form of pro-tour chief Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). And they brilliantly lean in to the titular battle as a camp event, casting an ensemble of gifted comic actors in supporting turns that crackle with winking good fun: Alan Cumming, Chris Parnell and Fred Armisen are all on hand in small but crucial roles, but Sarah Silverman is particularly delicious as Gladys Heldman, the spiky, chain-smoking publicist for King’s newly established Women’s Tennis Association. Tricked out with sprightly period detail – down to the Robert Redford sideburns of King’s handsome husband (Austin Stowell) and the terrific 1970s soundtrack – “Battle of the Sexes” is a pleasure to watch, both as a nostalgia trip and collection of pop artifacts.

When the big night finally arrives, the actual tennis is a relative letdown. The filmmakers don’t address long-held rumors that Riggs threw the game to pay off gambling debts. But what’s most astonishing and memorable about the climactic sequence is the filmmakers’ use of actual footage of ABC’s Howard Cosell delivering a steady stream of patronizing remarks about King’s abilities and attractiveness. Riggs, however, is depicted less as a genuine sexist than as a bumbling ally, his outrageousness a matter of showmanship rather than animus.

Therein lies the touching subtext of “Battle of the Sexes,” which is almost remedial in its timeliness, given last year’s political grudge match. It gives audiences a glimpse of where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and, soberingly, how far we’ve yet to go – especially when we’re with her.

Ann Hornaday is The Post’s chief film critic. She is the author of “Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies” (Basic Books).

Three stars. PG-13. Contains some sexual material and partial nudity. 121 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

 

 

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‘Besterday’ Podcast: ‘Gossip Girl’ Turns 10, Celebrating The Game-Changing TV Show

In this episode, we chat about:

—Why Gossip Girl was such a game-changer for teen dramas
—Our all-time favorite moments from the series
—Quizzing Ann on her Gossip Girl knowledge
—Our favorite characters
—An update on Bliss, the newest Powerpuff Girl

And, of course, we reveal our favorite throwback songs of the week!

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Get some fresh food at Strawberry Field

The name Strawberry Field Pancakes Cafe naturally evokes instant association with the classic Beatles song, but co-owner Gus Romas says that the two are not related.

Rather, he says, Strawberry Field, is a reference to the guiding philosophy of the Lincolnshire establishment, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in May.

“Everything fresh, everything homemade,” he said.

This is the kind of family-owned operation where the wait staff includes two sets of mothers and daughters, and where the diners greet Gus by name as they enter and as they leave.

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Try local favorites when dining during JMU’s Family Weekend

JMU’s Family Weekend is quickly approaching. It’s time to forget about your meal plan for a weekend and treat your families to some of the best restaurants in Harrisonburg. Here are five of the most mouthwatering places to eat around town.

Breakfast Brunch – The Little Grill Collective

Located off North Main Street, the Little Grill Collective is a worker-owned restaurant that prides itself on its sustainability and variety of vegetarian and vegan items. When you walk into this small gem, you’re almost immediately hit with the smell of homemade breakfast items and are greeted with smiling faces. Some delectable breakfast items include Huevos Rancheros, a savory dish consisting of over-easy eggs topped with vegetarian chili and a side of beans and rice. For a sweeter option, they serve a variety of pancakes. The Blue Monkey pancakes are a local favorite. The pancakes are buttermilk based and filled with blueberries and bananas, plus you can get real maple syrup for a dollar extra. Although the restaurant’s closed on Mondays, it’s open most days from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lunch – Greens Grains Cafe

Founded in Harrisonburg, Greens Grains Cafe is a healthy lunch option for visitors that’s located right off campus on Port Republic Road. It focuses on creating fresh salads, soups and sandwiches where most items are locally sourced. Greens Grains Cafe has a Panera Bread-esque feel with its pick-two option for people who have a hard time deciding which items to try. Its refreshing Strawberry Sensation salad, a spring mix tossed with chicken, goat cheese, strawberries, mandarin oranges, pecans and dried cranberries, pairs perfectly with its Turkey Melt, a turkey and bacon sandwich with dried cranberries, cheddar, and Thousand Island dressing on multigrain bread. Among that, it serves coffee for a perfect midday pick-me-up. Greens Grains Cafe is also quite conscious of those with dietary restrictions, including menu items that are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

Dinner – Food.Bar.Food (Global Comfort)  / O’Neill’s (American Comfort)

If you’re craving something different than the traditional dinner options downtown, Food.Bar.Food. is the perfect place. Its slogan is “global comfort food” and it includes culturally specific food options like thai curry noodles, a heaping portion of rice noodles with coconut red thai curry, chicken and shrimp, squash, green beans and cherry tomatoes. Food.Bar.Food also has more classic, American-style options such as the seared salmon and grass-fed beef burgers. As the restaurant suggests, it specializes in drinks, including its signature cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails. Overall, it definitely embodies its slogan with its stunning atmosphere and comforting food items.

O’Neill’s Grill is an American-style restaurant just a mile from JMU’s campus on University Boulevard. Like many of the other local food places in Harrisonburg, it uses fresh, local ingredients. Not only that, it also smokes its own meat, cuts its own fries and hand makes its own sauces. It has plenty of classic menu items, including its savory burgers, pulled pork and mac-and-cheese skillets. O’Neill’s warm atmosphere is perfect for family time, especially when it’s shared over a cookie skillet — a warm, chocolate-chip cookie drizzled with hot fudge, whipped cream and scoops of ice cream on top. Plus, it’s open until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday for late-night food runs.

Dessert – Peace, Love, and Little Donuts


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The small doughnut shop located off of Port Republic Road offers a wide variety of flavors, including apple pie, “John Lemon” and almond joy.

 


Loren Probish | The Breeze

Peace, Love, and Little Donuts is a fairly new, ’70s inspired doughnut shop located right near Greens and Grains Cafe on Port Republic Road. Although the doughnut shop is a franchise, it’s far from basic. They bake their adorably small doughnuts fresh. The doughnuts are kept warm and made to order right in front of you. It has classic flavors, such as cinnamon sugar and vanilla, but it also has “psychedelic flavors” like maple bacon, apple pie and raspberry lemonade. As an added bonus, they also give you a free cinnamon sugar donut if it’s your first time visiting.

Even if you can’t make it to these restaurants during Family Weekend, all of these local spots are open throughout the year.

Contact Leeyah Jackson at jacksold@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.

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An Investment in Iron

Jerry Don is one of 220 employees who make cast iron skillets and an array of accompanying products at Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. His grandfather, John King, started working at Lodge in the 1930s. Jerry Don’s father, Albert, worked there. Three of Jerry Don’s uncles worked there. Jerry Don’s brother worked there.

Lodge itself is a family business, now in the hands of the fourth generation of Lodges and Kellermanns. Dating to 1896, it is the oldest family-owned cookware company in America.

Jerry Don King took a job at Lodge immediately after graduating from South Pittsburg High School, and he has spent his entire working life with the company, nearly 40 years. He says the company owners told him that if he planned to stay on at Lodge, he should learn about everything in the plant, a little at a time. He took the advice.

“I picked up welding when I got a chance,” he says. “The same with the cutting torch. I’ve gone from packing to finishing to the foundry.”

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Working at Lodge means constant learning. While the iconic cast iron skillet remains the centerpiece of the business, the product line has expanded greatly over the years, says Mark Kelly, PR and Advertising Manager for Lodge. A former newspaper and magazine editor, Mark has been a cast-iron fan all his life. His grandparents’ Dutch oven, given to them as a wedding present in 1918, is still in use.

Lodge Manufacturing was started by an Englishman, Joseph Lodge, who walked from Chattanooga to South Pittsburg, some 30 miles, in search of a place to locate a foundry.

“Joseph Lodge always said there are a thousand ways to make cast iron wrong and only one way to do it right,” says Mark, who describes what takes place in the foundry as “Middle Ages technology,” automated. From the pouring of the molten metal to the packing of the product, the entire process now takes about 90 minutes, and the foundry’s capacity ranges from 800 to 1,600 pieces per hour.

Like most every industry, the making of cast iron has its own language. Buckets are bulls. Each pour of molten metal is a charge. A key to the whole process, though, is simply sand. “It’s ancient technology,” Mark says.

Sand can withstand the intense heat of the liquid iron, which is poured into molds at temperatures between 2,480 and 2,520 degrees. Vibrating, cleaning, tumbling, and blasting with fine steel shot removes any excess sand. The sand itself and the steel shot are all recycled. Scrap steel and cast iron are recycled as well.

“We recycle virtually everything,” Mark says. “Foundries have always been sustainable. “We use that sand over and over, and then it goes to line landfills, ponds, and into mortar for bricks.”

The company started seasoning its products in 2002, and by 2007, all Lodge products were leaving the foundry in seasoned form.

Mark Kelly compares the seasoning to what goes on in a car wash. Vegetable oil is sprayed onto both sides of the products with electrostatic spray guns. The chemistry is simple: The positively charged oil atoms bond with the negatively charged iron atoms. The familiar black patina results when the products are then baked in a high-temperature oven.

Each generation, it seems, is rediscovering the benefits of cast iron cookware, which only gets better with age. “Doctors say if you have anemia, cook with cast iron,” says Mark. “It’s such a simple thing.”

Lodge runs several outlet stores, including one adjacent to the foundry. It’s a favorite stop for visitors to the National Cornbread Festival, held in downtown South Pittsburg every April. Lodge and Martha White Flour are the original sponsors of the event.

“The downtown area was dying,” says Mark. “The bypass took the traffic away. The festival was a way to reinvigorate the city.”

While cast iron cookware is evolving, with additions such as enamel coating in various colors, Lodge has achieved a perfect balance between keeping up with trends in technology and tastes and yet staying true to the old methods.

“We make a number-one quality product,” says Jerry Don King. “That’s what has gotten people’s attention over the years. When you buy cast iron cookware, you’re buying a partner for life, something you can pass down to your children. It’s one of the smartest investments a person can make.”

Fred Sauceman’s latest book is “The Proffitts of Ridgewood: An Appalachian Family’s Life in Barbecue.”

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Cowboy Festival: craftsmen showcased at SDC – Branson Tri

Silver Dollar City’s National Crafts Cowboy Festival, which features 100 visiting craftsmen, is in full swing at the 1880s theme park.

Those craftsmen join Silver Dollar City’s more than 100 traditional craftsmen as they demonstrate leather working, copper color art, stone art, fiddle making, basket weaving, gourd painting and jewelry making.

In addition to the more than 225 craftsmen, the “Wild West Show,” which captures the excitement of the popular Wild West shows of the 1880s, with trick riders, performing canines and a new marksmanship demonstration by sharpshooting champion Kala Howard, who fires at targets while riding horseback, is also back this year. The “Wild West Show” also features eight-time World Champion Native American Hoop Dancer Nakotah LaRance, whose skills were showcased in Cirque du Soleil’s touring production “Totem.”

The “Wild West Show,” hosted by trick roper and bullwhip artist A.J. Silver, who was named Act of the Year by the International Rodeo Association, runs through Oct. 15.

Featured Western music acts during the festival include Western Music Association seven-time Female Performer of the Year Belinda Gail, three-time Group of the Year Miss Devon and the Outlaw, Entertainer of the Year and two-time Female Performer of the Year Kristyn Harris, plus the Malpass Brothers and the Home Rangers. 

The Barn Dance also returns to the Carousel Barn with an open dance floor for guests to strut, slide and stomp, with live music by the Horsecreek Band.

Watercolor artist and “Gunsmoke” star Buck Taylor also returns to show off his work, as well as that of several other artists, at Buck Taylor’s Cowboy Emporium, at the Silver Dollar City Frisco Barn. Guests can enjoy cowboy-inspired crafts like saddle-making, leather-crafting, Native American jewelry-making, antler art, moccasin-crafting and turkey feather painting.

Chuck wagon historian and chef Kent Rollins, a cattle rancher and chuck wagon cook whose talents have landed him on the Food Network’s “Chopped,” “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” and “Food Fighters,” will again show off his skills throughout the festival with daily demonstrations on the art of cooking  up authentic, chuck wagon meals.

The popular “Extreme Mustang Makeovers” show is also back, again featuring Fred Woehl, who trains Mustangs, and serves as the Board Chair for the Bureau of Land Management. In addition to showing off his “madeover” horses, Woehl always has a few who need to be adopted.

Fall harvest activities from sorghum and apple butter making are demonstrated on the Square and harvest-time foods are served up throughout the park, with favorites such as homemade soups and stews, smoked turkey legs and hearty skillet meals cooked on open grills.

Other harvest-time demonstrations include a mule-powered sorghum press, and food offerings include Harvest Skillets with vegetables and smoked ham, bacon-wrapped smoked Turkey Legs, slow-smoked Prime Rib and Apple Dumplings with homemade Cinnamon Ice Cream. 

The National Crafts Cowboy Festival is set to run Wednesday through Sunday at the park until Oct. 28. The park will then host An Old Time Christmas from Nov. 4 through Dec. 30.

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Batavia Diner is a family affair

Vines crawl across the ceiling at Batavia Diner — they’ve been growing from the original plant for seven years. Customers bring in new plants all the time to add to the scenery.

That alone makes this place memorable. But the diner also specializes in Mexican food and unusual combinations concocted by the owner, Santos Pineda.

“Cooking and coming up with different dishes is something I really enjoyed doing,” Pineda said through his oldest daughter, Hannia, 14. “It’s what got me into restaurants. As the chef, I come up with dishes.”

Some are typical dishes with chorizo, ranchero sauce and chilaquiles — which is tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream served with eggs and steak or chicken. But Pineda also serves an original creation, the chicken diner sandwich, with bacon, mushrooms, onions and feta served on Italian bread.

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