The Lake House: Thyme Roasted Sea Scallops

Year Released: 2006
Directed by: Alejandro Agresti
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Shoreh Aghdashloo Christopher Plummer
(PG, 108 min.)

"A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines." Frank Lloyd Wright

Gloriously romantic and blissfully unfettered by logic, this gauzy love story is as sweet and appealing as it two costars, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, who first shared celluloid space back in 1994 in the surprise hit, Speed.

Only this time it isn’t an unwieldy bus that Bullock must master, but a picture perfect boyfriend who wants to move their relationship forward at an unrelenting pace. Again Reeves is there to guide her from a distance, only this time it’s one only Einstein or Captain Kirk could appreciate – a time warp wormhole of exactly two years.

Now most of your separated by time romances lay it on thick, so that we know it is futile for the two to meet up in reality. I’m thinking, for example, of Somewhere in Time, the one with Christopher Reeves where a locket links him to a beauty from another century. But director Alejandro Agresti tantalizes with this very doable time difference – two years – I mean that’s just two seasons of - take your pick - 24, Sex in the City, The Sopranos, or the NFL - away.

The story line is certainly not new; it is in fact based on a Korean film, Il Mare, and it is also terribly like last summer’s sweet concoction Just Like Heaven right down to the dual digs our architect protagonist Mark Ruffalo “shares” with ghostly presence, Reese Witherspoon, who also just happens to be an exhausted physician. Only Witherspoon and Ruffalo meet more often, even if it’s in unlikely places like his bathroom mirror. Their romance is ignited by the feisty doctor, who awakens the torpid widower from his self-imposed lethargy, even though she is the one who is supposed to be dead.

Unfortunately, though both Dr. Kate Forster (Bullock) and Alex Wyler (Reeves) are very much alive, they are both wallowing in their own self-imposed ennui’s, neither of which seems terribly justified. Alex, in the shadow of his egotistical and distant dad, almost glories in the crass subdivision condos he turns out like White Castle sliders, while Kate’s funk is even less understandable. She is a doctor with a solicitous boyfriend, - okay maybe a little too solicitous – residing in a magnificent tree house from our childhood fantasies, only this one is made of glass and hovers over a serene lake. 

Oh, at last we come to it – the lake house. As the film opens Kate is just departing it, somewhat sadly it seems, leaving behind a note to the new resident, along with her forwarding address, some absolutely upscale apartment at 1620 Racine, which you movie trivia addicts will recognize as Sean Connery’s address in The Untouchables.

When new resident Alex Wyler finds the note, he is bewildered since he knows no one has lived in the house for several years – and he should know its history, since his own super architect dad designed it and the whole family stayed there until his mother could no longer put up with her obsessed narcissist of a husband. (I guess the architects who make it have egos that soar as high as their skyscrapers and are as monogamous as they are humble.) 

Alex writes back, chiding her about the incorrect date of her missive – 2006 is, after all, two years away – and so the correspondence begins. That is the essence of the movie’s sweetness, as Kate and Alex fall in love through their letters to each other, which the magic mailbox – no explanation even attempted – delivers instantly. The nostalgia of love letters, the efficiency of Email – what a magical combination!

Rejecting comedy, the cornerstone of most light romances, The Lake House chooses a riskier route, one peppered with irony and deep longing, a mystery that is both classic and clichéd. In the drought of summer films so far, I, for one, welcome this retreat to cool lake waters.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

As in that memorable scene in The Sixth Sense, Kate Forster dines alone at a elegant restaurant. Well, dining is not quite the word, since she waits for someone who never shows and drinks her way through the evening instead. The restaurant is named “Il Mare," a playful reference to the name of the Korean film on which it is based, and it is so popular that they are willing to take Alex’s reservations two years in advance.

Just to contrast the differences between her two competing beaus, the earnest attorney in hot pursuit of Kate is so out of it that he thinks they take walk ins.

In reality, the restaurant in mind is The Park Grill, a “destination restaurant” on Chicago’s lakefront. Their classic American cuisine includes a dish I’m sure Kate and Alex would have enjoyed, had he made it to their star-crossed rendezvous. And what is more appropriate for residents of a Lake house than seafood, although I don’t really think that any scallops swim in the in the forest preserve pond used for the shoot.

This recipe is very like one served at the posh eatery, although their recipes are top secret. And I couldn’t resist the pun in its name.

If this is a bit much for you to create in your own kitchen, take a trip to the windy city and sample Thyme Roasted Sea Scallops near the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan.

Thyme Roasted Sea Scallops 

For the Scallops

  • 8-12 fresh sea scallops, foot removed, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the Risotto

  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups of heated corn stock (see below); you may substitute sodium-free chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup grated grana padana cheese
  • 1/4 oz. butter
  • kosher salt and ground white pepper

For the Parsley Sauce

  • 1 bunch of parsley, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 oz. butter
  • 1 small black truffle, washed and chopped (you may substitute truffle oil)
  1. To make the corn stock, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs; set kernels aside. Run the back of the knife down the cob, pressing out the cream and reserving it with the kernels. Place the cobs in a small stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil; let simmer for about 30 minutes, then strain. Place the stock back into the pot and keep at a simmer.
  2. To make the risotto, preheat a wide, heavy sauce pan over high heat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and cook the shallots, garlic, and thyme until the shallots are translucent. Add the arborio rice and stir until coated with the oil and heat through. Add the white wine; keep stirring (you will need to stir throughout this entire step). When the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the hot corn stock in three equal amounts, keeping the rice at a constant boil while stirring. With the first addition of stock, stir in the bay leaf and thyme. After the third addition, stir in the reserved corn kernels and cream. When all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente, adjust with salt and pepper to taste, fold in the parmesan and butter, cover and let stand off the heat.
  3. To make the sauce, place the vegetable stock and parsley leaves in a blender and puree until smooth and bright green. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Combine the liquid and the truffles in a small sauce pot, bring almost to a boil, whisk in the butter, adjust with salt and pepper, then set aside, covered.
  4. To roast the scallops, preheat a skillet over high heat, then cover the  bottom of the skillet with olive oil. Add the seasoned scallops to the pan and saute about three minutes on each side. While the scallops are cooking, add the butter and thyme to the skillet and baste the scallop, continuing to baste throughout the six minutes, until the scallops are soft.
  5. Place equal amounts of risotto in the center of 4 plates and top with the scallops. Lightly cover with the sauce.

Recipe Source: Bin 36