As you all know, I love the culinary arts for all the wonderful elements it brings together- family, culture, love, and food.
So naturally, I love all movies with foodie themes such as Julia and Julia, Chocolat, Ratatouille, Eat Pray Love, and It's Complicated. I dream of having Meryl Streep's kitchen in It's Complicated, and who doesn't think making croissants with Steve Martin would be hilarious?
Last week I was invited to attend an intimate dinner party celebrating the Blu-Ray Combo Pack and DVD release (also available on Digital HD and On-Demand, all coming December 2nd) of The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Dame Helen Mirren and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah. Hosted by the author of the original novel that the film was adapted from, Richard Morais, this dinner was held at co-host Chef Floyd Cardoz's (formerly of Danny Meyer's Tabla and Top Chef Masters Season 3 Winner) newest restaurant, White Street, in TriBeCa.
It was an wonderfully heartfelt story-filled evening that reminded me of why I love to cook.
Chef Cardoz shared with us the story of his tough transition as an Indian chef trying to make it in America and in western cuisine. It's rare for Indian chefs to make the successful leap over, and he explains how his triumph all simply boils down to one thing: his passion for beautiful food made from quality ingredients. Hassan, the protagonist in the film and book, has a similar journey when he flees to France from India. He has to learn how to integrate his cultural culinary background into an unfamiliar country, and his love for cooking is what enables him overcome his obstacles.
Photos of Richard Morais and Floyd Cardoz courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures.
After hearing more from author Morais about the thought behind his book and Chef Cardoz's similar life journey as the main character, Hassan, I'm really looking forward to re-watching this film with my mother over Thanksgiving weekend. It is a perfect heart-warming family movie to be watched over the holidays.
Now onto the stunning food that Chef Cardoz prepared for us this evening!
Floyd's emphasis on seasonal and fresh ingredients shone through in every course. We began our meal with a spiced pumpkin soup topped with pumpkin seeds and fresh ricotta. The soup broth itself was buttery-smooth and it was a surprise to me when Chef informed me that there was no dairy in the soup (other than the ricotta topping). Subtle hints of curry and turmeric gave the soup an especially delicious kick.
Next for an appetizer, we had a choice of salads. I chose to go with the salad of roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and pumpkin with cider vinegar and maple syrup. Surprise, surprise, my love for roasted cauliflower shows no bounds. This was a standout in my mind with it's simplicity and it's perfect balance of flavors. The acidity of the cider vinegar gave the creaminess of the pumpkin a perfect little "bite" to it, and who doesn't love maple and pumpkin together?
For the third course, Chef served us a rice-flake crusted North Atlantic sea bream over brussel sprouts and a tamarind glaze. Chef uses a simple egg-white wash to get the rice flakes onto the fish, keeping the dish gluten-free friendly. The tamarind glaze had both sweet and tangy notes that complemented the buttery flakiness of the sea bream, and the rice flakes added a fun textural crunch element. Wouldn't mind having this, oh, like every day.
Ah, the signature dish. Floyd's wife, Barkha, joined us for dinner and told us the warming story behind this braised beef short ribs with anson mills grits, horseradish, and shoestring potatoes. Barkha is an accomplished chef herself (she met Floyd in culinary school!) and will usually do the cooking for their family of two children. But this dish is one Floyd will step into the kitchen and whip out for their family's version of a Sunday pot roast. Not your ordinary dad's pot roast, is it- lucky kiddos!
The braised beef was cooked beautiful and succulently tender. I'm not a horseradish fan, but could really appreciate how the sharp spice combined in the grits made a perfect base to shine the spotlight on the short rib.
And of course, dessert.
Announcement: I have found the dessert I want to have on my death bed. Speaking of which, Floyd told us that when he was interviewing chefs to run his soon-to-be open restaurant in Mumbai, he would always ask them what they'd want the last meal of their life to be. Many candidates named off fancy meals at Michelin-starred restaurants they'd never even had been to. Floyd simply stated that his choice of a last meal would be one of his mother's signature dishes. Food is so tied into our memories and that is truly what comfort food means, and I love that Floyd embraces that.
But back to the dessert. This sticky toffee pudding with creme fraiche sorbet, pecan macaroon, and coconut tuille (an architectural work of art, by the way) just might take the cake for the best dessert I've had in a restaurant in New York. The tart lime zest, texture of the crunchy coconut tuille and pecan macaroon, the warm sticky toffee pudding that simply melted in your mouth, all with the delicate creaminess of the creme fraiche was... heavenly.
The Hundred-Foot Journey will be available on December 2nd, in forms of Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD, and On-Demand. It's the perfect visual culinary journey that'll go great as a stocking stuffer for all the foodies in your life. I'm also planning on reading the novel on my flight to Montreal over the holidays- can't think of a better in-flight book to read as I will be getting ready to take in all the culinary delights Montreal will have to offer!