As the conversation at Saturday night’s FoodBeest dinner party – a Celebration of April in Paris (or more accurately April in Provence) – turned from horror movies to zombie movies to vampire movies to some of the great cinema of our time or all time, French New Wave entered the conversation.
One of the basic tenets that marked French New Wave Cinema was a conviction that the best films are a personal artistic expression and should bear a stamp of personal authorship, much as great works of literature bear the stamp of the writer, or, as it was later dubbed by American film critic Andrew Sarris, the “auteur (author) theory.”
Many of the French New Wave’s favorite conventions actually sprang not only from artistic tenets but from necessity and circumstance. These critics-turned-filmmakers knew a great deal about film history and theory but a lot less about film production. In addition, they were, especially at the start, working on mongo low budgets. So the old conventions simply wouldn’t do.
I have long said, Fellow FoodBeest, that anyone who likes to eat – and can read – can cook. You start with a recipe, then you improvise, even a little. Put your personal touch on the food. Yes, you, Fellow FoodBeest. Right there in your own little kitchen.
On Saturday night we proved the auteur theory of cooking. Such revered French New Wave filmmakers as Francois Truffault, Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Romer would have felt right at home
Now, it’s not that all of us aren’t really good experienced or practiced home cooks. But this wasn’t your average potluck dinner. This was a themed, well-designed dinner party for four couples, all friends. Three of “my girls” and their significant others came together with me and Mr. FB for great food and great conversation, it was memorable evening. Even André Bazin founder of Cahier du Cinéma, that august and influential French film magazine, had he eaten with us, would have lauded, if he had had the presence and the movement in time to attend and review the dinner.
Lisa and the Hors d’Oeurves or Á Bout de Souffle
Grazing through a bite or this and a bite of that is almost always my favorite part of the meal. That makes hors d’oeuvres the best part of any meal or party.
I happen to know that Lisa decided on the hors d’oeuvres she brought to the dinner through a Google search. But it was clear that, recipes or not, Lisa put her personal signature on them.
Her olive and anchovy tapenade was deeply nuanced and addictive.
“The olive and anchovy tapenade has a secret ingredient in it. Guess what it is?” she challenged us. No one knew. “Chopped cherries to sweeten it. How amazing is that?”
She also sautéed pears in butter with rosemary [Fellow FoodBeest, I love a touch of herbs in the sweet stuff], sandwiched them between two layers of a beautiful, ripe, creamy Camembert and then topped it with more pears and candied pecans and dazzled the whole thing with reduced balsamic syrup.
And then there were her Belgian endive leaves filled with crème frâiche, slightly sweetened with honey and deepened with dill, topped with a sliver of smoked salmon and then finished with crispy shallot slices. Heaven.
The main course or Le Boucher
The “barefoot” Ina Garten kindly provided the inspiration (and the basic recipes) for the entrée portion of the dinner. Drawing from the South of France, the leg of lamb roasted slowly, quietly, and fragrantly in wine and herbs for four hours. Notably, it was so big it didn’t fit in even a roasting pan that would have accommodated a significant Thanksgiving turkey and required that Mr. FB saw off the shank end with a hacksaw. If only we had video of that. No kidding.
While this FoodBeest found the lamb to be both very tasty and incredibly tender (we used spoons to pull pieces off it), it was a little dry for my palate. I think I still prefer my lamb a little on the rare and juicy side.
It was nestled in Provencal French beans, Great Northern beans, soaked, gently cooked and then tossed with plenty of olive oil carrots, celery, onion, parsley and other herbs and topped with Parmesan cheese. They were like a visit to Provence.
Baked Treats from or Ma nuit chez Sara
Sara (with apologies to Maud) is the baker.
She made an onion tarte with mixed greens. Sara started with a recipe from Williams-Sonoma and then went her own way. The crust was a rich but savory shortbread crust that she pre-baked and then topped with caramelized onions and baked again. Then she topped it with chevre and mixed greens that she tossed with an organic commercial dressing (Brianna’s) that, despite the FoodBeest’s prejudice against anything but olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice mixed on the spot and in the bowl, turned out to be quite good.
Then she made a blueberry claufuti in a casserole dish. I was worried about how deep it was and whether it was going to bake through. Claufluti is basically a crepe batter than has been poured into a baking dish and topped with fresh, seasonal fruit before baking. Apples and pears are wonderful, as are cherries or peaches or raspberries and (probably) figs. But this was heavy with sweet syrupy fresh blueberries and the cake aspect of it was delightfully doughy and chewy.
So, Fellow FoodBeest, it is your turn. What is your favorite film food or your favorite food? film? And more importantly, what makes the best party? Is it the food? The company? The conversation? The venue? Add your comments below.