I’ll admit it right now: I’m late to the party on this book. But Julie & Julia still deserves a Chick Lit & Wine review because it was simply that good.

By now it’s likely you all know the plot, but I’ll preview it here just in case. And I haven’t seen the movie yet, so no spoilers allowed in the comments section.

Julie Powell is dissatisfied with her government job and decides to take on a project: she will cook every single recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (or MtAoFC as Julie calls it for short) in one year. I love to cook, am obsessed with The Food Network, and assume I would win a civilian’s version of Chopped hands down, but let’s be clear: MtAoFC is no Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book.

Julie seamlessly weaves stories of Julia Child into her own adventures in French cooking. From murdering lobsters –

“The second murder went much as the first – steamed in water spiked with vermouth and some celery, carrot, and onion. The rosy-red dead lobster was bisected in just the same way, its flesh removed, and again its shell stuffed with its sautéed meat, this time napped in a cream sauce made with the lobster’s cooking juices.” (p. 153)

– to mastering crepe hell:

“The next week was crepe hell. I made sweet crepes and savory crepes, crepes with beaten eggs whites and crepes with yeast, crepes farcies and roulees and flambees. And over and over again the crepes stuck. They burned, they shredded. When they did survive the skillet, they came out in the shapes of all the beasts of the forest.” ( p. 205)

Are you hungry yet?

Best of all, the book reads like a story, but rings so true it cuts some readers to the quick. My favorite line may be on p. 288 when Julie is preparing for her last day of the project. With just one day of cooking left, she takes the day off work and decides immediately to play Civilization for just awhile before getting started on what’s supposed to be a serene ending to a difficult year:

“But you know, I’ve never been good at contemplation, and serenity, like French cooking, takes more than a year to master. So instead I spent the morning in a bout of severe Civilfixation (“I’m just going to finish taking Rome, and then I’m stopping for sure…”), and then had to rush frantically to get errands done.” (p. 288)

Pair Julie & Julia with Heller Estate 2009 Merlot. This full-bodied sweet red has a luscious opening with bright, ripe flavors throughout. The notes of toasty oak match Julie’s resolve, while the big tannins match her dedicated resolve to live as large as Julia Child. As yummy as a dessert port, this vintage is strong enough to withstand the test of time – just like MtAoFC and Julia Child herself.

This duo would be the perfect last-minute gift for a friend, sister – or even yourself.