Food Film Festival

Food Film Festival

One of the worst experiences as a film-goer is to watch a character eat something delicious–take the Katz’s Deli scene in When Harry Met Sally, where everyone is enjoying their pastrami sandwiches in the background (and I don’t even like Katz’s)–and then you reach down for the soggy popcorn in your lap. But now there’s a solution for audiences that want to feast like the subjects on the screen. It’s an event called the Food Film Festival, which was cooked up when filmmaker George Motz paired his documentary Hamburger America with Harry Hawk’s hamburger joint. Forget watch what you eat, it’s eat what you watch.

Last month, I was invited to attend the Food Film Fest’s I Heart Japan event in New York City. (If you find yourself in the Windy City, the Food Film Fest will be stopping off in Chicago, November 15-17. Otherwise, New Yorkers, mark your calendar for next year.)

The Food

I entered early with my VIP ticket and chose from a wonderful selection of beers, including the only ale I required for my wedding, Lagunitas IPA. Strangely, there were no Japanese brews. I washed away this disappointment to adhere to theme with a shot of Japan’s Hibiki whiskey and chased it with a Japanese-style Brooklyn-based ginger ale (with real ginger). The VIP ticket, aside from having an extra half hour to drink should have included a wider range of appetizers. The ones on offer were similar to spam topped with caviar. I ate pretzel sticks smeared with foie gras out of cardboard french fry trays, a sardine in a sea of red sauce and chickpeas laid out in a sardine can, and fried octopus balls sans octopus harpooned by serving sticks. (The best thing during the VIP half-hour was the least bizarre: steak wrapped around grilled scallions.)

The Films

Inside the theater, in my seat’s cup holder, Japanese seaweed crackers awaited me. Servers walked the aisle with trays of beer and wine. The previews were deliciously funny–from chefs drumming cutting boards with knives to Jarlsburg’s grilled cheese parties to Sugar in the Raw’s Superbowl-worthy ad campaign.

Then the films began. There was the fifty-second world premiere, Sushi: Handcrafted Happiness. Following that, audience members received a cup with one umami-infused chicken wing and cleaned the bones while Kasadela Izakaya: The House That Chicken Wings Built played on the silver screen. Tako NY was a film about those aforementioned octopus balls (which were served again after the show, this time with octopus). Ramen Dreams featured a Californian programmer who quit his job and returned to his ancestral homeland to dish up his passion, ramen, which he claims to eat 600 times per year. But the most moving film was New York Cooks for Tohoku, directed by Anne Madden, in which top New York chefs go to Japan to bridge the flavors between their cuisines and Japanese gastronomy to feed the victims of the March 11th earthquake.

When Madden addressed the crowd, she said, “I think I cried six times [while filming]… which accounts for the focus issues.”

The Fest

After the films, the foodies/filmies crammed into the lobby to sample dishes prepared by the featured chefs. I wish I could provide you with the proper names of each dish, but the chefs, who had been asked “What am I sampling?” myriad times, coupled with their stereotypical personalities–essentially a chef’s mood tends to personify the instruments of a kitchen: heated, steely, cutting–were not really taking questions. So I devoured delicious cones stuffed with sushi grade tuna and eggplant purée, scallop shooters in a seaweed broth, and seared tuna atop more seaweed.

The audience returned to the theater for the final tasting: ramen noodles by Chef Shimamoto, The Ramen Dreamer. The grand finale, however, was an exercise in frustration. On screen, taped scenes from his restaurant Bassanova played out, while I was forced to watch rows of people ahead of me eat their ramen while I waited, staring at the chef as he repeated the painstaking art of ramen.

New York City’s Food Film Festival

(Note: Other Food Film Festival events, which I did not attend, had the enticing names Single Malt Whiskey, Farm to Film to Table: Meat Your Butcher, The Lowcountry Oyster Roast, and, of course, (of course?), The Food Porn* Party.)

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, New York, Or Bust

Add a comment

CommentLuv badge