Chicago FOOD FILM Festival: 10 Things That Made it a Great Night

The Second Annual Chicago Food Film Festival began yesterday at Kendall College (900 N. North Branch).  Their tagline is appropriate - Watch it & Eat it.  Last night was themed Farm to Film to Table.  I was excited by the invitation I received from Concentrated TV's Mark Cwiakala (also the Festival's co-Producer along with David Singer http://concentrated.tv/).  But the event ended being far more than I expected.  It didn’t have the feel of a film festival.  It wasn’t a cerebral energy.  No one was posturing about being an artist or discussing the hidden meaning behind the director’s imagery.  It was a party that showed short films on food.  The people in the films were all interesting characters.  While watching, Kendall College staff came out in swarms serving the items featured in the short films.  It was in fact a ‘multi-sensory’ festival.   Here are my 10 best things that made the night awesome.

  1. The Ojibwe Wild Rice (my favorite)- perfectly healthy, the texture was wonderful and the flavor was clean.
  2. The Beefeater Gin- Cucumber and Dill Drink – gin, white cranberry juice, dill, cucumber and lemon.  The most refreshing mixed drink I have had in along time.  Despite the cranberry juice, it was not sweet at all.
  3. The film- Buttermilk: It Can Help.  Earl Cruze was a delight to watch.
  4. Fannie May’s new – Artisan Fine Chocolates by Norman Love.  I want the gift box for Christmas everyone.
  5. Frontier Grill’s entire spread- pig roast, mac and cheese, hush puppies.  The Mac and Cheese was moved into my top 5 mac and cheeses.
  6. Hoosier Mama Pie Company’s Persimmon Pie.  First time I’ve ever had this.  Odd at first, but it left really nice bold flavors behind, like clover.  I only wish I had a coffee to drink with it.
  7. The interactive aspects of the entire festival.  Of course, the food and drinks facilitated this, but the energy put forth my the host George Motz and Concentrated TV staff made it the right amount of party atmosphere, mixed with fabulous food and drinks.
  8. Cruze Diary Farm Buttermilk Ice Cream – They had an array of flavors.  But the one that popped out was sweet potato.  It was perfect timing, he got my taste buds all prepped for this Thursday’s feast.
  9. Fresh Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost  - This was one of the non-alcoholic beverages offered during the event.  They featured three flavors of really fresh ginger ale.   Although I am not a person who drinks fruit flavored drinks at all, the Pomegranate had the right amount of sweetness with the warm ginger flavor.
  10.   Pleasant Farms Bakery served their bacon pie.  It was a perfect little bite.  I particularly loved the mixture of the bacon pie with the pickled tomatoes.  It wasn’t quite as intrusive as the flavor of other pickled vegetables like kimchi, but it surprised me that the homemade bacon mixed so well with the fresh green tomatoes.Relationship Cuisine : Part I.  It was 2:45mins and Directed by Darryl Estrine.  It was produced by Le Creuset.  It offered a soft look into the relationship between Chef Bill Table of Le Farm (Westport, CT) and Farmer Annie Farrell in Westchester Country, NY.  The valuable point of this film was how important it is for a Chef to have a relationship with the farmer – by visiting the farm and hand picking the live stock and crop you put a lot more love into the food created.The Sacred Food.It was 6 mins long and Directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono.  It was a documentary about the Ojibwe Native Americans of Northern Minnesota.  It began will one of the Ojibwe leaders narrating the story of the tribe and how they came upon their land.  Their tale of how we were Created lead to their sacred wild rice.  They consider this grain a gift from the Creator.  We saw how they harvest and prepare the delicious grain.  This wild rice was actually my favorite food of the night.  It might be a surprise when you saw the amazing food offered.  But it was so delicious.  I had never had this particular grain.  The film ended with a simple message- keep the wild rice – wild!Good, Better, Best. It was 10:57mins and Directed by Keeley Steenson.  This Food Ways film had a bit more character than the documentary.  The Texas producer of molasses featured told his stories in a charming way.   He shared the way the stalks were cross-pollinated to pressed, to cooled.  He gave a step by step on the entire production process of squeezing the cane juice out of the stalks to cooking it over a pan the size of a flat-bed truck.  This back-porch molasses (called that because everyone left it simply on their back porch), cooks down to different grades of thickness and stickiness : he coined it  Good (thin), better (medium), Best (super gooey).  These variations are determined by whether it is pulled off the heat after 2 or 3 beers.   Then of course we were served a little shot of the straight molasses.  Interesting to taste – but without pancakes, I could not handle more than a quick lick.

    How to Prepare For a Midwinter Soup Frenzy. This light and funny film was 4:58min.  It was Directed by Simon Friedman.  This black and white told a simple story – how to make soup.  We learned that you must do this on the coldest day of the year.  Which according to the Director Simon will be January 28th, 2012.  Have your family and friends come over.  As long as you have the biggest possible pot it is easy to do.  Add water, ingredients and seasonings. A formula was given for making your soup frenzy successful, I only remember one part of his equation – you must have 1 bottle of wine for every two people present.  Simon served his bean soup – the crowd said AHHH.

    Buttermilk: It Can Help. This hilarious tale was 13mins.  It was Directed by Joe York who interviewed Earl Cruze Diary Farm owner.  The Cruze farm is in Knoxville, TN.  The Director allowed Earl to share his take on life and how it relates to drinking buttermilk.  This film was the most entertaining.  Earl, a 65 year old man was raised on a diary farm and believes that buttermilk simply gives you ‘pep.’  Although buttermilk was the subject, we didn’t really see much about the steps that go into making this leftover liquid from butter, but simply heard Earl talk.  I sat listening attentively, as if my grandfather was telling me a story.  Although in retrospect the stories do not always make sense, I bought into his charming look on life.  Earl for sure had the best quotes of the night:

    1. He can not do anything better for people than make buttermilk.
    2. It is the best thing he can do for the human race.
    3. Buttermilk can put Viagra out of business, because when you drink it you will erect yourself.

    Farm to Barstool.  This film was 6 mins.  It was Directed by Michael Gebert.  It actually told the story of Pleasant Farm Bakery  owners Art and Chelsea from Chicago’s Bridgeport.  The story had two messages.  The first was the story of bakery owners who created Pleasant Farms and the second was the success of urban gardening in our very own city.  Bridgeport has a large gardening community.  The family owned and run business gets its ingredients from the actual neighborhood.   The restaurant is sustained from about a 3 block radius.  They had a homemade bacon pie with pickled tomato.  You can see a snap shot below.

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