Our "The Shining" Themed Halloween Dinner
Every year of my whole life, I have put some sort of effort into Halloween and Halloween costumes. From my days dressing up as Disney characters begging for candy door to door, to dressing up as Betty Boop as a college girl, to dressing in conceptual choices like a Lichtenstein painting in my young adult days. Last year, Steven and I even dressed up as Marlene Dietrich and Mad Max to go clubbing.
And while we did have a fun time dancing and talking, we noticed that there was something about that Halloween that separated it from the rest: It wasn’t very exciting. We didn’t see many people dressed up, the Castro clubs were relatively dead and our friends weren’t out doing much either. Which was in stark contrast to the years before when we remember dressing up with large groups of friends and dancing the night away in a sea of creative costumes.
It feels like in the seven years I’ve been in San Francisco, that the excitement in general over Halloween has gone way down. And my mom who lives in the suburbs even comments that in her neighborhood where there are a ton of children, she gets fewer trick or treaters every year.
It’s been very sad for me to see this, as every since I was a little girl, Halloween had always been a big deal. My mom stayed up countless nights making custom princess costumes for me, we spent hours putting up spooky decorations all over the house, we carved pumpkins and my neighbors and I of course trick or treated until our candy buckets were too heavy to hold. So I carried the love of Halloween with me to college and beyond. And while I didn’t buy wigs or sew fancy costumes, I still dressed up, did my makeup crazy and went out to celebrate with like-minded people.
But this year, because Halloween was sandwiched between two pricey vacations and we were out of town for 10 days of October, we just didn’t have the time or energy to put together costumes. In addition, many of our friends expressed that they were opting out of celebrating this year. Maybe it was because Halloween was on a Wednesday this year, and it would be confusing to know which day of that week would be the best to dress up. But regardless, dressing up and going out just didn’t sound like the best use of our money or time. So we decided to stay in that night.
But as we came to that decision weeks ago, I thought to myself that it would be a shame to not at least do something Halloween-related while we stayed at home. And no, I don’t mean playing with a ouija board.
Steven - being the lover of classic cinema that he is - is a huge fan of the classic Stanley Kubrick thriller, The Shining. And besides “The Exorcist,” it was the horror-type flick that gave me the most nightmares as a child. It had also been about 8 or 9 years since I’d watched the movie the whole way through. So we decided it was high time we finally sit and watch it together. And Halloween night would be the perfect excuse.
And since we didn’t buy any Halloween costumes or decorations this year, I wanted our meal and some decor elements to fit the theme of the film. Because the Overlook Hotel from the film is based on the real life Stanley Hotel, which is known for their 1920s themed steakhouse, I decided to go with steak and popular 1920s side dishes like the double stuffed potato and caesar salad. Plus a novel cocktail.
THE TABLE SETTING DETAIL
To add a bit of flair to our table settings, I decided to create a print out of infamous repetitive typewritten “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” pages from the film.
To create the effect of hundreds of typewritten pages of the exact same phrase, Stanley Kubrick used a type writer with a built-in-memory. This caused there to be plenty of mistakes throughout, so I mimicked several of the spelling errors in the pages I printed.
I then set them underneath our salad plates and above the dishes for our main course, to add some contrast to our black plates and so that the words would peek out from behind our appetizer.
Caesar Salad Dressing
Since Steven and I recently discovered how easy it is to make caesar dressing, I decided that that would be a perfect classic appetizer for our dinner. My dressing recipe is that of the Barefoot Contessa’s.
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbs Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 anchovy, roughly chopped (We skipped this ingredient, but this is what makes an authentic caesar dressing)
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Chop romaine lettuce and place in salad bowl
Pour dressing over lettuce and combine thoroughly
Grate parmesan cheese over the salad
Add croutons right before serving.
And I’m sorry if my store-bought croutons offend you. I know how to make homemade ones, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do when it’s a work night.
The “REDRUM” Cocktail
It’s certainly not lost on me that the perfect cocktail for the evening would have been Jack Daniels on the rocks, as that’s what Jack famously orders at the Overlook’s bar. But because the scent of whiskey alone makes me want to hurl, I decided to get creative and find another way to incorporate this film and the 1920s into our evening drink.
I decided that I would take the pun of “Red Rum,” which Danny mutters to himself throughout the film, and so happens to be the word “Murder” spelled backwards, and create a red rum cocktail for our evening in. Unsettling sounding, but so much more palatable than Jack Daniels if you ask me.
The recipe is Bobby Flay’s rum punch recipe.
2 cups white rum
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup grenadine syrup
1 cup fresh pineapple juice
2 cups fresh orange juice
Orange and lime slices for garnish
Combine all liquids into a punch bowl or pitcher
Create orange and lime slices for garnish
Pour mixture into glasses for serving. If it’s at room-temperature, add ice to each glass beforehand.
Garnish with orange and lime slices
What we made was half the recipe from Bobby’s website, with slight changes to make it simpler. We served these drinks in beautiful stemmed martini/champagne glasses that really reminded us of the 1920s.
Steak and a Twice Baked Potato
For dinner, I thought long and hard about what well to do people in the 1920s might be eating at the Overlook Hotel. And I kept it nice and simple with a classic combination: Steak and a twice baked potato.
Steven is the master in the house at making delicious steaks. We go for the high quality cuts and merely rub them with salt and pepper, tenderize and cook on both sides to our liking of medium.
When it came to the twice baked potato, I was excited for the challenge. From having them many times in my life, I knew that it would be an invaluable addition to my repertoire. I found this great recipe by Chef John on All Recipes.
4 large russet potatoes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced green onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup shredded white cheddar
½ cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter (for garnish)
1 teaspoon paprika (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Rub potatoes with vegetable oil and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 1 hour or until a pairing knife can easily cut into the flesh. Set aside to cool until easy to handle, about 10 minutes.
Cut a large oval shape out of the top of the potatoes. Scoop flesh from each potato to within about 1/8-inch of the skins. Transfer flesh to a bowl.
Combine potato flesh with butter and green onion and stir until butter is melted evenly and easy to combine. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cheese. Continue to stir until cheese is melted. Pour cream and egg yolk into the mixture and thoroughly combine. Season with additional salt if necessary.
Place the lid of the potato skin into the bottom of the potato to give the mixture more support. This helped me as I accidentally dug a hole in one potato. Fill each potato with an equal amount of cheese mixture. You’ll have some filling left over, but that’s alright. Don’t overstuff the potato to the point of a mess. Gently press the surface of the filling with a fork to create texture. Brush the tops melted butter and sprinkle with paprika for color.
Bake again at 400° F until golden brown on top. This takes around 20 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.
I also made a dessert of my mother’s delicious crème brûlée, but unfortunately some rookie mistakes of mine combined with how uneven our broiler is, made them less than suitable for photos. But they were still delicious and I can’t wait to finally get them right, make my mom proud and share the recipe with you guys in the future!
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty eventful Halloween. I got to try my hand at several new recipes. And while it didn’t all go perfectly, it made the evening special. And that’s the main thing.
Right now, Steven and I (who personally aren’t clubbing people,) just find ourselves in that awkward Halloween stage between dancing the night away in costumes, and having a kid of our own to make Halloween special for. I give major props to those who party every Halloween their whole lives and am glad that for some, the fun never dies. But for us personally, with work starting at 8AM, dozens of other things we need to spend money on and no one to take trick or treating, we have to get creative and make a holiday that was dying for us, alive once again.
So thank you for checking out how we made it happen. How did you celebrate Halloween this year? Until we meet again.