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Food in Films: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

18 Apr

The Japanese term shokunin is more than a foreign word. It is a foreign concept in America, a land of instant gratification. This is arguably even more pronounced in the culinary world, where diners use Instagram to snap photos of their meals, every culinary school graduate fancies himself a ready-made chef, 30-minute meal cookbooks sell like hot cakes, and cupcakes are a national treasure.

David Gelb’s classically scored documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012) peels back a few of the proverbial onion layers to show us what it means to be a shokunin, which loosely translates to “master artisan.” Jiro Ono is the celebrated octogenarian and subject of the film. He earned a coveted three Michelin stars for his 10-seat, toilet-free sushi bar in the Ginza shopping district. (The Michelin Guide of yesteryear was infamous for rewarding chefs for expensive restaurant upgrades, including toilets.)

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Friday Food Clips: The Agony and the Ecstasy Edition

6 Apr

The last few months, I’ve been playing catch-up via Netflix on some great cable dramas. I have a particular fondness for dark comedy, so I decided to give the Alan Ball series Six Feet Under a shot. It took me a while to get accustomed to seeing Parenthood‘s Adam Braverman in a more three-dimensional (read: troubled and brooding) light, but I’ve come to adore the Fisher clan in all of its repressed glory.

The heart of the series, at least for me, is the rekindled relationship between brothers David and Nate, who inherit their father’s funeral home after his untimely passing. David initially resents Nate as the free-spirited, prodigal son; Nate can’t tolerate David’s judgmental carping.

The scene I have selected for this Friday’s clip is from the opener of Season 2. Ruth, the clan’s matriarch, invites her new Russian florist boyfriend and her children’s significant others to dinner. Instead of the usual painfully awkward and pregnant silences they all anticipate, the dinner table conversation is fueled by Nate’s inane ramblings. Nate thinks he’s high on life. Turns out, he’s just plain high:

Friday Food Clips: The Gifted But Troubled Composers Edition

2 Mar

Today’s Food Clip is from one of my favorite period films. Milos Forman’s Amadeus is most assuredly not a biopic, but rather a fictionalized account of enmity between classical composers Mozart and Salieri. In this lush production filled with shrill operatic notes, sky-high wigs, lustrous silks and brocades, and of course, one abominable giggle (see clip below), we witness Salieri’s descent into darkness as he attempts to bring a dissolute, spendthrift-of-a-genius Mozart to his heels.

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Friday Food in Film Clips: The 1980s Menacing Male Edition

10 Feb

In homage to Friday, and weekend movie-goers everywhere, I will be publishing monthly short and sweet posts on my favorite food scenes from movie and television. I’ll also continue to post my longer Food in Film reviews.

The Friday clips series came to me as a result of a weekly giveaway question that I posed on America’s Test Kitchen Feed. I was so entertained by the diversity of responses we received, that I thought, why not put this on Tortefeaster’s regular rotation?

To kick things off, I am going to start with scenes from classic 1980s films that I count as two of my absolute favorites.  These are both films that I have watched countless times; no matter what I’m doing, if I turn on the television and they happen to be on, I’ll usually stop mid-task and start watching intently.

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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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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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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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Food in Films: The Trip

15 Oct

For my second installment of Food in Films, I have chosen to review Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip. This was a movie that I had wanted to see in the theater; having missed the opportunity, I patiently bided my time until it was available on Netflix.

The titular trip is a tour of fine dining in Northern England. Steve Coogan, originally aiming to impress his foodie American girlfriend Mischa, has planned a romantic week as a celebrity restaurant reviewer for The Observer. Determined to keep the gig despite Mischa’s premature return to America (the two are taking a relationship break), he enlists Rob Brydon, “a short Welsh man who does impressions,” as his new companion-in-arms. Rob is known particularly for his Man in the Box routine.

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Food in Films: Vatel’s Last Supper

14 Mar

For my Entremets and Petits Gateaux class, we were given the option of watching the 2000 Gerard Depardieu film Vatel for extra credit. If you like period dramas and lavish set and costume design, this might be one for you to Netflix, although it is not in the league of Impromptu, or Dangerous Liaisons or the Madness of King George. What follows is the text of the review I wrote for class. Warning: this review contains spoilers. Stay tuned for future Food in Film reviews.

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