The Sneak: Souplicity

The Sneak: Souplicity
Fernando de Sousa, Wikimedia Commons
Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits for Gut Check (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.

Show: Duplicity, a somewhat romantic and consistently, genuinely funny caper flick.

Food: Lobster Bisque, a somewhat romantic and consistently, genuinely delicious soup from Cafe Ventana.

Difficulty: Varsity. I retained the soup in its sturdy, laminated paper container and ate it with a metal spoon like a barbarian doing a credible impression of a person with an active appreciation for the social contract. There was also a little paper packet of lavosh.

First things: The movie was unexpectedly funny and delightfully entertaining. This was Clive Owen's second bite at the snuck apple after the similarly-themed but risably awful The International, and though I believe I walked into Duplicity with lowered expectations, the movie stands on its own merits. The plot -- already an ouroboros of clever and clearly-defined flashbacks and double-crosses detailing the tumultuous personal/professional relationship between an ex-spook (Julia Roberts) and ex-MI-6 (Mr. Owen, who has apparently discovered soap since The International wrapped) turned corporate spies -- always loops back to fill in holes in a way that doesn't cause migraines.

While the chemistry between Owen and Roberts doesn't quite rise to the level of heat that Roberts had with St. Louis' favorite adopted son, George Clooney, in the stylistically similar Ocean's Eleven, the cooler slow-burn between the two is fittingly paired with the script. My gold standard for romantically charged caper flicks has always been another Soderbergh film, the astonishing and underrated Out of Sight. Duplicity is the ice-cold vodka martini to Out of Sight's bourbon, neat; though it's precise, well-made, and refreshing, it's never going to raise temperatures under early spring jacket collars in the same way.

click to enlarge The Sneak: Souplicity
Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería, Wikimedia Commons
The only real complaint I had was a groan-inducing minor scene where Owen lays on a Southern accent with a large spatula to game a rival company employee who drips molasses-and-grits syllables so slowly that my initial thought would never be "Ah, she's from Tennessee," but rather "Ah, she's suffered a cataclysmic temporal lobe event."

As a Southerner myself in this strange place, with its T-ravs and its genuinely liking people to whom you are polite, I know that I am perhaps oversensitive to this so I tend to let the accents go. What I cannot pass, though, is the strange movie belief that Southerners flash their upper teeth to punctuate normal conversations the same way speakers of some traditional African languages click at each other. Combining this expressive Li'l Abner overbite with the aforementioned fully-larded aw-shucks accent and you get an unbearable system of communication I like to call Hyuk-lish.

No one sounds like this. No one ever sounded like this. It must be stopped.

Hollywood will condescend to me and people will condescend to me. Lobster bisque will never condescend to me, however, because it knows its place and bears me a full and cholesterol-laden affection. That said, the lobster bisque at Cafe Ventana is less a soup than a loving, cream-based epistle to the act of eating a generously buttered lobster. Most lobster bisques, even in restaurants that charge you like they should know better, could be more accurately described as "lobster-flavored bisques." Cafe Ventana and I think those soups are a waste of your time; lobster bisque should be velvety but surprisingly light in texture with macroscopic shreds of identifyable lobster meat and a flavor soft enough that you can do some gustatory time travel to taste its origins in the heart of the sea.

click to enlarge Cafe Ventana owners Dr. Gurpreet Padda and Ami M. Grimes - Jennifer Silverberg
Jennifer Silverberg
Cafe Ventana owners Dr. Gurpreet Padda and Ami M. Grimes
Cafe Ventana gave me a generous bowl of soup in a very sturdy laminated paper cup with a firmly-fitted lid of the same material as well as a tiny paper bag with three large-bookmark-sized seed-pocked lavosh crackers. Having never gotten takeout from Cafe Ventana before, I had anticipated that the container might be less than completely secure for soup containment. I did not bring a thermos for complete repackaging, but I did make sure that I had one of the vital components of Sneaky Repackaging: a roll of aluminum foil. All true sneaks should keep one of these in the car for emergencies. Foil can easily be shaped to contain any solid food, is a good insulator, has a minimal clink factor, and can protect pockets and bags from dripping foods to a reasonable degree. That said, for liquid or part-liquid foods, aluminum foil is best used to reinforce existing containers. A flimsy soup lid can be held more firmly in place by a few turns of foil and they may help protect you if the lid breaches anyway.

I didn't actually end up using the foil because I correctly assessed that the Cafe's takeout soup container was stable enough in its unmodified state. At one point, I reached into my bag and realized that the container of soup had somehow come dislodged from the carefully-constructed sneaking matrix inside and was actually completely upside down. Not a drop was spilled, and I thoroughly enjoyed it with lavosh.

I also anticipated that Cafe Ventana, a place where I have eaten many times before and never seen anything but metal flatware, might not give me disposable utensils with my takeout order. I was correct, and thus lucky that I brought my own. This is not difficult, but for the fact that I had two spoons in case my cine-dining companion, The Doctor (my mysterious long-lime gentleman caller), also decided to order soup. More than one utensil creates a major clink problem. While this can be mitigated by using a sneaking towel (cf. "Champagne Wishes and Sneakier Dreams"), it can also be remedied by simply carrying the utensils separately. In this case, I kept them in my front pants pocket for easy access, handily covered by a longer tunic. Truly the days of the heavy coat sneak have passed behind us for another year*, and it is time to get creative with less clothing.

* Editor's Note: Dara turned this in on Friday; she probably should've checked the 5-day forecast first. - Ian

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