Embrace beginnings and ends

There’s a handful of movies I just cannot turn past when channel surfing: “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Jaws,” “Carrie,” “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “War of the Worlds” (yes, the Tom Cruise version) to name a few.

I own most of these favorites, or can easily access them at a moment’s notice via pay-per-view or Netflix, but rarely do I watch them from the beginning. It seems a bit ridiculous to ask a companion if they’re up for two hours of a movie that both of you have seen dozens of times.

I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon: When I actually stumble across the beginning of one of these well-worn favorites, I’m charmed and delighted. I’ve come to realize that, while I’ve viewed these films many dozens of times, I’ve rarely been attentive to their beginning and ending scenes.

So when I see Scarlett arguing on the veranda with the Tarleton twins about rumors of war, or hear the harmonica overture at the beach party before Chrissy swims out to meet her razor-toothed fate in “Jaws,” I get a special thrill. I’m equally thrilled by making it all the way to the end, when the aliens die off in “War of the Worlds,” or when Charlie takes the glass elevator at the conclusion of “Willie Wonka.”

Are you ready for the dining “meta” metaphor? Peruse the peripheral menus at your favorite eateries. Go hungry enough to explore these “firsts” and “lasts.” You can even make an entire meal from appetizers and desserts by ordering wisely and sharing.

Some chef, somewhere, has put careful thought and intense prep-work into these “opening” and “closing” dishes. Any good restaurant should be able to put out a solid steak, pasta and fish course with delicious sides. But if you’re in love with an eatery, you should eventually, over several visits, order almost everything they have to offer.

I was recently lucky enough to eat twice in one week at the new St. Charles Exchange in downtown Louisville. Their “Elvis on Horseback,” a play on the ’70s party appetizer “Devils on Horseback,” was a hunka-hunka peanut butter-stuffed date, wrapped in bacon, presented on a smear of smoked banana vinaigrette. I had it both times. It was wonderful both times.

Another new haunt is The Silver Dollar on Frankfort Avenue. Their braised beef empanadas were so good we just had to order the vegetable version, which was even better. Presented with a trio of sauces, it’s a triumph.

The shrimp and grits appetizer at Jack Fry’s is the stuff of legend. The spinach and tomato lavash at Cafe Lou Lou (garnished with bourbon-smoked sea salt from Bourbon Barrel Foods) is like nothing else in town. The “Petite Hot Brown” at Equus and Jack’s Lounge is so tasty, you’ll wonder why you haven’t had it before.

Look into the seviche at Seviche: They’re one reason Anthony Lamas is a current darling of the Nuevo-Latino cuisine movement. Accept amuse-bouches with abandon when they’re offered by Limestone’s Jim Gerhardt. Pounce on that arugula and deviled quail’s egg salad at Corbett’s. Savor the red pepper, shiitake mushroom and caramelized onion flatbread at Theater Square Marketplace.

If you can’t decide between sides, order both. Skip your opening cocktail and conserve your alcohol quota for a lovely port after dinner. And save room for dessert! Please, don’t go home without tasting the amazing rhubarb cobbler with house-made cinnamon ice cream (a recent special at St. Charles), or Lilly’s almond macaroon, filled with lemon curd and buttercream. These are the grace notes that can transform a great meal into an epic experience.

The following advice could be a bit perilous, but if you play your cards right, it may work out: If you’re a regular at a great restaurant, is there something you’re pining for? You might ask the server if the chef might be willing to come up with a version of it for you next time you’re in. Are you a slave to red lentil soup? Do you crave blackberry goat-cheese ice cream? Send an email or call the restaurant during non-service hours and ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Cafe Lou Lou. She now works for her alma mater, Sullivan University, as sous chef of Juleps Catering.