On Friday, the film adaptation of The Hundred-Foot Journey will open (my review will run Friday as well). It’s a movie about food and cooking and love. And it got me thinking about how many films there are that deal with food in central ways — sometimes as romantic and personal, sometimes as something a little stranger.
So I compiled this list of 13 films — a baker’s dozen! — that represent some aspect of food, food criticism, consumption, eating and the like to whet your appetite. Drink up!
1. Ratatouille (2007). Pixar’s (and, by extension, Disney’s) best film ever is this unlikely charmer about a rat who loves to cook, but being a vermin is unwelcome in most kitchens (there’s always Arby’s). A film that pays closer attention to the details of the real fine dining scene more than any other, it’s not only beautiful but a canny depiction of the critic-chef relationship.
2. Babette’s Feast (1987). This Oscar winner for best foreign language film depicts a Danish household where privation is a way of life, and what happens when a French housekeeper breaks with tradition and hosts a magical dinner. It’s tantalizing and conjures the exquisite longing that food can represent for us emotionally.
3. Sideways (2004). What Ratatouille is to cuisine, Sideways is to wine: On point, evocative and full of complex, passionate relationships. Famous for its “I’m not drinking any fucking merlot!” line, pay attention to the wine the anti-hero is sipping near the end. Complex did I say? Oh, yes.
4. Toast (2011). This film adaptation of the memoir by gay British gourmand and critic Nigel Slater is a tender coming-of-age film and an elegant battle royal in the kitchen between a young man and his stepmonster.
5. Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978). An oldie-but-goodie, this 1970s caper film concerns great chefs being slowly eliminated by a mysterious killer who turns their own techniques on them. But why? A sumptuous romantic comedy, the cake-making scene (a huge bombe) is alone enough to turn you diabetic.
Last night on part 1 of the 11th season finale of Top Chef, cutie Louis and workhorse Shirley got booted during the elimination round on Maui, leaving temperamental Nicholas and deserving Nina in the final showdown, which will air next Wednesday. But the bigger Top Chef news in the last 24 hours is this: Not only has Bravo renewed the show for a 12th season, but it will kick off its search for kitchen talent in Dallas — and pretty soon.
On Feb. 18 from 10 am. to 1 p.m., producers will be holding a casting call at the Hotel Palomar before moving on to Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. (No word on whether bearish host Tom Colicchio, pictured, will be in attendance, but fingers are crossed.) It’s a slightly ironic choice of location, as the menu at Central 214, the restaurant at the Palomar, is being reimagined by former Top Chef contestant John Tesar. Actually, Dallas has been the hometown to a lot of alums, including Tiffany Derry, Tre Wilcox and Casey Thompson.
Anyone wanting to sign up for the competition can download an application here.
This weekend was ripe with social events and fundraisers — not time to attend all of them, in fact. But the most filling was surely yesterday at DIFFA‘s fifth annual Burgers+Burgundy picnic.
Not only was it well attended (by Dallas star Linda Grey, no less!) but the burgers were delish. My favorite: Blaine Staniford, chef at Grace (and the just-opened Little Red Wasp in Cowtown), did a simple yet complex burger with a healthy (or rather, unhealthy) dollop of Port Salud cheese and a mushroom ketchup (not a ketchup at all, but a saucy reduction). It was designed to be paired with a hearty wine.
Other restaurants participating included Spoon (a catfish slopping joe), Five Sixty and Smoke (both of whom provided lamb burgers of very different flavor profiles), Nick & Sam’s, Max’s Wine Dive, Shinsei (which did a banh mi), Asador, Ranch 616 and 3015 Trinity Groves (the only one to also prepare a dessert, which was yummy, even though Steve Kemble ate all of them.)
The Hunter Sullivan Band provided the entertainment, with great vocals from Hunter. And the weather was perfect — a nice surprise, following the heavy rains on Saturday. And DIFFA announced the theme for next year’s collection as well: Masquerade. Get your mask ideas ready.
The Grape on Greenville Avenue is teaming up with Dallas’ Four Corners Brewing Co. for, not a wine dinner, but a beer dinner on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The Grape’s chef de cuisine — former Top Chef candidate Danyele McPherson — will devise a menu to showcase several craft brews. The cost of the four-course meal is $55 and includes, of course, the beer. Reservations are required at TheGrapeRestaurant.com or calling 214-828-1981.
Then on Wednesday, McPherson’s fellow Top Chef alum John Tesar at Spoon hosts his own take on a wine dinner, with one dedicated to bubbly. The champagne dinner — with wines from Ruinart — will feature five courses (including dessert) on April 10, starting at 6 p.m. The cost is $125, and reservations at 214-368-8220 are recommended.
Matt McCallister, above, chef-owner at FT33, one of Dallas’ top new restaurants of 2012, is in the running for Food & Wine magazine’s title of “The People’s Best New Chef/Southwest.” Now, those of us who has followed Matt from Stephan Pyles to Campo before he nestled in at FT33 might quibble about the term “new,” but he’s certainly worthy of a vote! (McCallister isn’t the only Dallasite on the list, though — his pal Omar Flores with Driftwood is also a nominee.) Voting continues here through Monday.
Tonight, John Tesar, chef of the hot seafood resto Spoon in Preston Center, will feature wines from local Oak Cliff Cellars at a special wine dinner, paired with fish from around the world. Four courses (plus an amuse and dessert) run $100, including, of course, all the wines. Starts at 6 p.m.
Thursday, you get a chance to sneak a peek at Trinity Groves across the Calatrava, as part of the expanded Savor Dallas. Then on Friday, check out the wine stroll (this year at the Perot Museum) before the seminars and major tastings on Saturday, culminating in the big event at the Irving Convention Center Saturday night (this year, it doesn’t conflict with DIFFA).
Asador, the surprisingly inventive farm-to-fire restaurant inside the Renaissance Hotel, celebrates its second anniversary on Friday with a free concert from Goga, and a $25, three-course tasting menu.
On March 20 at 6:30 p.m., The Grape will host an exclusive winemaker’s dinner featuring the wines of Petroni Vineyards, with winemaker Martin Mackenzie introducing the wines. Four courses are $85/person.
Top Chef: Seattle has toyed with us, both as gays and Texans. The first evictee was openly gay chef Jeffrey Jew. Since then, we’ve had just one queer chef to root for: returning competitor Josie Smith-Maleve, pictured. She wasn’t personally popular among the other cheftestants, and they’d been itching for her to go for a while. Last week, when she bested frontrunner Kristen Kish, the world seemed topsy-turvy. So last night, when Josie was finally let go, it felt, sadly, like justice had been served.
Still, that leaves a gay-free zone headed into the final weeks of the competition. Not, though, a Texan-free one. FT33‘s Joshua Valentine — who started as a line cook at Stephan Pyles — is still in the running. Hey, if we don’t have a gay to support, we always go for a Texan.
Last week, Danyele McPherson — formerly with Stephan Pyles and sous chef at The Grape — was booted from Top Chef, largely for lacking confidence in her dishes. Confidence wasn’t a problem for fellow Dallas chef John Tesar, above right, who was considered arrogant by his competitors on the hit reality cooking show.
Last night, Dallas lost its chance at another finalist (as Private|Social’s Tiffany Derry and Fort Worth’s Casey Thompson were) when Tesar was told to pack his knives and go following a disastrous risotto. Tesar was given a second chance with a face-off against Lizzie, where each had to make a burger; Tesar’s lamb was deemed less worthy than her chicken. (I ate at Tesar’s old Commissary, and complaints about service aside, one thing the man knows how to make is a burger.)
Tesar was even given a third shot on the online-only Last Chance Kitchen, where ousted chefs compete against each other for a wild-card spot, but Tesar came up short there, too, against even more arrogant C.J.; Tom Colicchio, above left, judged Tesar’s foie gras too salty.
(There is one way he might be saved: Tweet #savechefjohn and he might become a fan fave.)
Don’t feel too badly for Tesar, though. His new Preston Center restaurant Spoon is worth a taste (read my review later this month), and as he told me recently, “say what you want to about me, but I work hard.” That’s obviously true.