I’ve always been a big fan of Oscar night. Back in the sweet salad days of disposable income, I’d run around throughout February, hitting every movie theater in the area so I could see every Best Picture nominee. I’d dress my fanciest and watch the broadcast in style, including all eleventy billion hours of filler/red carpet “coverage.” These days, most of those traditions have faded away and been replaced by celebrating Oscar night as I do with just about any occasion: with food. In the recent past, I’ve started coming up with a menu based around the slate of Best Picture Nominees. Sometimes it’s a dish inspired by the movie, sometimes a pun on the name of a film, sometimes, if I’m really lucky, it’s just something they eat a lot of on screen. So, allow me to present my Oscar Best Picture Menu for 2016.
Spotlight Cheese and Cracker Tray
Spotlight is a movie about the Boston Globe investigation that uncovered a history of sexual abuse in the Catholic church; not the most culinary of subjects. For this film, I did a little investigating of my own and learned that cross-shaped food trays are popular at events such as christenings. I’ve seen a lot of fruit trays done this way, really you could arrange any finger food in this manner. It’s more about presentation than content. Bonus points for incorporating those water crackers that look and taste like giant communion wafers.
The Revenant Bison Jerky
A little smoked meat goes a long way with a cheese tray. This was not one of the few Best Picture Nominees I was able to catch, but apparently whilst stranded in the wild, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character stumbles upon a recently killed buffalo and makes a meal of its liver. That’s a little gross for my tastes, so I’m going with some tasty jerky. You can order this from Amazon, this one is even Prime eligible so you’ll have it in time for the show.
The Big Short Short Ribs
This was one of the first dishes to spring to mind, due to the natural connection with the name of the movie. Short ribs can be cooked a million different ways (the Food Network alone offers 158 different recipes). Most cooking methods are hands off (you can even do them in a slow cooker!), leaving you free to focus on your other dishes. And when done properly, the meat falls right off the bone, making it easy to incorporate into tacos, sandwiches, pasta sauces, whatever your little heart desires. I envision mine served on slider rolls for easy finger food consumption whilst rating red carpet looks.
The Revenant Bison Burgers
If short ribs aren’t your thing, you’ve got another natural contender for a protein on your menu in the buffalo from The Revenant. Skip the jerky in the appetizer round (or represent the same movie twice for all I care), and go with bison burgers or sliders as your entree. The meat is similar to but more flavorful, more tender, and healthier than beef. You can generally find it in the meat department at your local bulk grocery chain. You’ll need to find another dish for The Big Short, but I’ve got you covered later on that front.
Bridge of Spies Fries made with The Martian potatoes
Some may call combining two movies in one dish cheating, I call it efficiency. I knew potatoes had to be featured on the menu, since they provide the main food source for Matt Damon’s character in The Martian. As for the other movie, name me a food that goes with cold war conspiracy, I dare you. Sometimes you just have to make a pun on the name of the movie and move on to the next dish. For authenticity’s sake, I’ll make oven fries from scratch (they’re not hard and they're really very tasty), but there’s no shame in tossing a bag of frozen potato product in your oven. You’re really here for the movies, not to make your own life more difficult.
Brooklyn Kale Chips
OK, Brooklyn the movie is clearly not about the hipsters who live there now. It’s a romantic love story set in the 1950’s about a girl who falls in love with two guys, one back in her native Ireland and one in her new American home. But none of that makes for foodie inspiration, so I looked to the geography on this one. Brooklyn the borough is a culinary hotspot full of cutting-edge food trends, so you’ve got a lot of choices. You could go vegan (a chance to vegetarianize your menu if that’s an issue for you), you could do kombucha, you could even go with artisanal pickles if that’s your things. The way my menu is going, kale chips seemed a natural pairing with the sliders and fries, but there are a gajillion ways to serve kale, just ask the internet. Again, these are easy to make, but can also be found pretty much everywhere ready-made, thanks to the hipster foodie contingent.
Mad Max: Fury Road Macaroons/Macarons
This was another easy, punny dish to come up with. Coconut macaroons are dead simple to make and with Easter around the corner, you’re in the right season for them. But coconut is a very divisive food. Luckily, there is the french counterpart, the macaron, a sandwich confection with meringue cookies and buttercream filling. These are a lot tougher to make from scratch, but hopefully your town has a trendy little bakery that has jumped on the macaron train.
Leave Room for Dessert
I haven’t seen Room, but I have at least read part of the book. It’s the story of a woman who’s been abducted, has a child by her abductor, and lives a simple life in the single room the child has known as his world for his entire life. The characters get groceries delivered by their abductor and eat simple, kid-friendly fare. There are actually a whole lot of options for dishes from this source, so feel free to swap something out above as it suits you and find an alternative dish for the film you’re replacing. I chose to save this movie for the end of the meal, to serve sweets as sweet as the freedom the characters eventually discover. They celebrate the little boy’s fifth birthday with a cake, so any kind of cake or cupcake you like will do. Or simply serve some chocolate, a treat the mother and son sometimes request of their captor with their grocery list.
The Big Short Shortbread cookies/Strawberry Shortcake
If you’ve left off The Big Short above, here’s your chance to get it back on the menu. Strawberries may be hard to come by in February, but if you can find good ones, this dish is always a hit and one you can interpret in a host of different ways. If not, check out the international section of the cookie aisle and look for Walker’s shortbread, a sweet buttery cookie from England. You can make your own as well, but be prepared to sink a LOT of butter (and time) into the effort.
Catering your drink menu to the Best Picture nominees is really going a step above and beyond. Sure, you can just do champagne, it’s what the celebrities will be drinking all night and you can never go wrong with a classic like that. But, for bonus points, stock your bar with cans of PBR (for Brooklyn) and bottles of red (communion) wine (for Spotlight). Or, for a non-alcoholic take, in solidarity with Furiosa/defiance of Immortan Joe, just serve tons of flowing, fresh, clean water.
Whatever you serve, fancy or simple, homemade or store-bought, the most important thing is to have fun (and to win the Oscar pool). That way, if your favorite movie doesn’t win, at least you’ll have something delicious in your belly to console you. I hope this inspires you to think outside the box and come up with your own movie-inspired menu. I’d love to hear what other fun Oscar dishes you come up with, so hit up the comments below and enjoy the Oscars!