Oscar hors d’oeuvres

Q San Francisco
March 2000
Pages 54-55

Oscar hors d’oeuvres
and the QSF Award for best wines of the year

The idea of the importance of wine to film seems a stretch. But my view is, any excuse to throw a party and drink a little wine is…well, any excuse. There are few films in which wine is of key importance. There is Night of the Comet, which revolves around a large, old bottle of wine, sort of. There is Days of Wine and Roses, which really doesn’t relate to wine at all. In most films, the only wine ever noted is Champagne, but that’s too easy.

As I write this, the time for the Academy Awards approaches. Nominations have been announced, and we all wait with baited breath. For nearly 70 years, someone’s been voting on the best picture, best director, best actor, best…you know the drill…and sending one film after another into the halls of immortal fame. Many of us probably haven’t seen most of them. How many of you have rented a copy of the very first film to win – Wings? How many people who happened to attend the first Oscars had actually seen it?

At least today, we can watch the awards from the comfort of our own living rooms and see clips that somebody thinks are what it’s all about. And don’t forget the costumes – of the recipients, not the people in the films… So, we have all the elements. Film, awards show, wine, costumes…hey kids, let’s put on a party!

First, the setting. Obviously you don’t want to completely redecorate just for one night’s festivities. I suppose you could string up strands of 8mm film around the sofa, and paint a bunch of Ken dolls in gold and pose them around the room. Hire some cute young pool-boy types to paint themselves gold and stand around looking Oscar-ish. I like to let my friends be the decoration. Ask them to come as their favorite film stars or in a fabulous costume that Cher or Sally Fields or Angela Lansbury would wear. Perhaps one, or all of them, or even you, could wrap yourselves in celluloid – or the pool-boys. The possibilities are endless.

Next, the show. You need a television set. Big would be good. You do plan to invite dozens of your absolutely best friends to this soirée, don’t you?

In my view, the important part is always the food and wine. But that’s just me. Regardless, I’m going to inflict this view on you. How about some party snacks? I give you one of my favorite, reasonably easy to make, hors d’oeurves.

Smoked Tomato Cheesecakes


3 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whip the butter, sugar and salt together in a mixer until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and spices together and mix into the butter mixture. Press out into a pan approximately 12″ by 16″ and 1″ or more deep. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, just enough to set the crust.


4 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (reconstitute in olive oil if dry-packed)
4 eggs
Fresh marjoram

Mix the cream sheese, salt, flour, lemon juice and liquid smoke together till thoroughly blended. Whip in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the tomatoes. Pour filling over the crust. Bake at 450°F for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 250°F. Continue baking for another 20 minutes and then check. Depending on the exact size of the pan and the depth of the filling, let it cook until lightly browned on top and the filling is solid.

Cool and then cut shapes either by knife or cookie cutter. Decorate each piece with a leaf of fresh marjoram.

gardineAnd now, my own little awards show. The Oscars for best wines of 1999. All votes are my own and do not reflect the whims of the Academy. These are wines that should be currently available – I didn’t think it fair to include older wines that may be impossible to find. Sample them yourself and cast your own votes.

Best Domestic Wine from a White Grape – Matthew’s Semillon, Yakima Valley, Washington

Best Domestic Wine from a Red Grape – Oliver Caldwell Zinfandel “Aida Vineyard”, Napa, California

Best Foreign Wine from a White Grape – Domaine Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Vin, Alsace, France

Best Foreign Wine from a Red Grape – Roger Belland Santenay Premier Cru “Gravières”, Burgundy, France

Best White Wine Featuring Bubbles – Krug “Grande Cuvée”, Champagne, France

Best Pink Wine Featuring Bubbles – Pommery “Cuvée Louise” Rosé Brut, Champagne, France

Best Red Wine Featuring Bubbles – Peter Rumball Sparkling Shiraz, South Australia

Best Wine Featured as a Dessert – Alois Kracher Trockenbeerenauslese “No. 12”, Burgenland, Austria

Best Packaging for a Wine – Vranken Demoiselle “Cuvée Twenty-One”, Champagne, France

Best Wine – Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe “Cuvée des Generations”, Rhône Valley, France

Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.


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