Archive | December, 2011

Food in Films: Three Stars

30 Dec

Un, deux, trois étoiles. The (in)famous Michelin Guide with its opaque network of inspectors can give its starry blessings, and it can just as easily take them away.

Lutz Hachmeister’s documentary Three Stars underscores this message nicely through an assemblage of interviews with nine very different chefs who achieved the honor–and some would say the curse–of a three star rating. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has been screening the documentary, along with El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, for the last two weeks. This evening is the last screening for both films.

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Sweet on Sweet Potatoes: A Muffin for All Seasons

27 Dec

Sweet potatoes, with their sunset-hue and irresistible buttery sweetness, were a Sunday dinner staple during my childhood. Dad was in charge of the cooking that day of the week, and while he stuffed us to the gills with mini-Thanksgivings of turkey, cranberry sauce, and green beans with ham hock, my mom’s contribution of either baked-until-silky or expertly candied sweet potatoes (with brown sugar, maple syrup and orange juice) was easily the most beloved (and first eaten).

Baked Sweet Potatoes (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

In light of my early fondness for this root vegetable, I was looking to create a muffin that wasn’t merely a  Thanksgiving pumpkin bread retread (with its tired ground spice quartet of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger). I was in search of a moist, tender and tending-toward cakey muffin that would satisfy my sweet tooth without landing me in cupcake territory.  I also wanted a muffin that didn’t scream “Holiday!” like the Material Girl.

What follows is the recipe that I tested and developed.

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Food in Films: El Bulli

24 Dec

What would it be like to be a fly on the wall of the now-shuttered El Bulli, previously renowned as the World’s Greatest Restaurant? The trailer for the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, offers an enticing glimpse into this world of privilege.

As culinary maestro Ferran Adria explains, an avant-garde dining experience should be more than just about delicious food–he strives for a deep emotional response. The reaction he wants from patrons after eating one of his highly conceptualized works of food art? He wants them to think, “Killer!”

Unfortunately, attending a screening of Cooking in Progress was as far from “killer” as one gets.

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Experiencing the Meaning of Sofra: A Turkish Table in the Heart of Boston

16 Dec

Tuesday was precisely the kind of day that reaffirmed my decision to redirect my career course and cater to my culinary instincts (as if I ever had any serious doubts). I had registered for “The Flavors of Anatolia,” my second tasting/demonstration event at Boston University’s School of Gastronomy.

I came alone with only the vaguest ideas of what would transpire as part of the night’s event. I knew only that Turkish food and wine, as well as two luminaries in the Cambridge-Boston food scene, were involved, both of which were sufficient incentives to sign up. Whereas the Judith Jones event I previously attended was predominantly a speaking engagement, with a casual smattering of food and wine, Tuesday’s event was a feast. We arrived to white tablecloths with introductory mezes and wine on the table, with more to follow as the evening progressed. (I have to admit that I felt a little under-dressed!)

Shepherd’s Salad (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

“The Flavors of Anatolia” was part of Boston’s month-and-a-half long celebration of Turkish culture. The annual Turkish festival, now in its sixteenth year, encompassed art exhibits, concerts, lectures, and of course, gastronomic presentations. This year’s theme was “Colors of Anatolia,” a tribute to the “diversity and richness of Turkish culture.” It was clear in catching snippets of conversation that the evening attendees included first timers like me, as well as both perennial attendees, those who have traveled to Turkey for either business or pleasure as well as Turkish-Americans.

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Food in Films: Toast

2 Dec

A little boy peers longingly through market display cases at some larger-than-life Technicolor cheese and meat pies. He begs for fresh food to brighten a colorless landscape of mealtime horrors that his culinarily-challenged mother serves up.  This is the opening scene of the movie Toast, based on the memoir of the same name by British chef and food writer Nigel Slater.

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