Thursday, December 1, 2011

Experiencing The Chicago Food & Film Festival By: Sharon Feldman

Sharon Feldman is the Grant Manager at UIC. She enjoys going to the movies, gardening and drawing. As a foodie who is also a Weight Watcher, Sharon thinks it is important to distinguish whether the experience is going to be about food or the social experience prior to dining out. She says when it is all about the food, it is also about the social aspect. However, it can be about the social aspect where the food isn't important. 

It seems my favorite things all begin with “F.”  Two of them are Food and Film, and I was able to get my fill of both at the second annual Chicago Food and Film Festival.

The Food and Film Festival started in NYC several years ago, and came to Chicago for the first time last fall.  The motto of the festival is “taste what you see,” which means that as you view the competitively selected short films about food, you are served a food item that corresponds to what you are watching on the screen. This may be anything from a taste of molasses to a donut to a full sized burger.  Not to mention that before and after each movie screening you are indulged in all sorts of foods and cocktails which match the theme of the event. There were four film screenings held over the weekend of November 18 – 20th, and I had the pleasure of holding an all-access pass.   All events except one were held at Kendall College.

On Friday night, we saw six short films centered around the theme of “Farm to Film to Table.”  These movies showed the passion the farmer brings to his or her product, including the making of small batches of molasses by a Texas couple who uphold a family tradition; and the wonderful Earl Cruze who waxes poetic about making buttermilk.  On Saturday morning, still full from the cocktails,      hor d’oeuvres, meat pies from Pleasant House Bakery*, sweet pies from Hoosier Mama*, buttermilk ice cream, Fannie May’s* new high end chocolates from the night before, we ventured off to the Intelligentsia Coffee* roasting facility for the “Edible Adventure,” where we saw five more films.  This time the focus of the films was on the making of sweet treats, so we were indulged in donuts from The Donut Vault* while watching a film about this new Chicago bakery; and macaroons, while watching a movie about NY macaroon maven Danny Macaroon.  Plus we ate Jarlsberg cheese dip and figs, quiche from Pleasant House, wine from Lush Wine*, and of course, coffee from Intelligentsia.  Saturday night’s movie theme was “The Great Chicago Suck and Suck,” AKA, “Food Porn.”  Oh God, that it was.  An inspired string of films showing the sensual side of food (including a hilarious send up of two cans of tuna having sex, and a mom stressing out when asked by her little girl “what does virgin mean?”) were accompanied by French pastry, a taste of octopus and then followed by a blow out oyster roast with oysters delivered from the low country of South Carolina.  Groaning on Sunday morning, and wearing stretchy clothes, I rolled into the final event, the 2011 Awards Ceremony honoring the best films and director, which had been chosen by audience vote. With eye openers of Irish Coffee and Bloody Mary’s, and another feast, I saw what may have been my favorite film, “How to Make a Turtle Burger,” then yes, got to eat a “Turtle Burger.”

Every effort is made to ensure that what you are eating is the exact product on the screen, and if that is not possible, the recipe recreated.  For example, the buttermilk was transported by Colleen Cruze, and she personally scooped my buttermilk ice cream.  The exact sophisticated ham paté and lemon meringue from a posh Belgium restaurant were re-created for us by the talented chefs at Kendall College.

We schmoozed with many of the film makers, and the subjects of the films, too, as well as the director of the festival, the affable George Motz.    At every level of this event the passion and dedication of all involved was evident. The farmers and food purveyors demonstrated their enthusiasm about their products, which was translated through the craftsmanship and skill of the talented filmmakers who brought them to the screen, which was then brought to us by the visionary producers of the event.  You can be sure that my calendar is marked for the third annual festival next fall.

Food.  Film.  Combined with Fun and Friends. It was Fabulous.


*Note: these are the local stores and restaurants that were mentioned above:

Pleasant House Bakery:  mmmm, lip smacking meat pies like you’ve never had before.  934 West 31st Street, Chicago

Hoosier Mama:  This little sliver of a bakery was featured in a film during last year’s festival.  Grandma didn’t make pies this good. 1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue, Chicago

Fannie May Artisan Chocolate: these are not the turtle peanut clusters you’re used to.  Handmade with high quality chocolate.  Beautiful and decadent. Various locations.

Donut Vault: Fresh hot donuts sold until they run out each day. Get in line. 400 1/2 N Franklin, Chicago, IL

Lush Wine and Spirits: Lush is serious about wine.  Get their help with your selection at three Chicago locations.

Intelligentsia Coffee: Simply awesome coffee.  Sold at several coffee shops and retail outlets around Chicago.


  1. Fantastic! I was only at one event but Sharon captured the excitement and deslisciousness.

  2. Sounds delightfully delicious! Thank you for taking us there.


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