Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chicago Food Film Festival - Suck 'n Shuck

Before I get absorbed in Thanksgiving plans I want to share with you the amazing event I was lucky enough to make it to this weekend:


This would be the 2nd annual Chicago Food Film Festival and I got a last minute ticket to the Suck 'n Shuck event. The idea behind this festival is to feature food related short films and literally giving the festival goers a taste of what they see on the screen. It was held at Kendall College and even before the lights dimmed for the films, the organizers delivered on their promise to give us a taste of what the event was all about. While people were arriving and mingling several appetizers were being passed around. The Arancini, breaded and deep fried rice balls served with a mildly spicy aioli, were delicious:


The pulled pork croquettes weren't as picturesque, but they were cooked to perfection and the little cup fit perfectly over my little cup of wine:

Pulled Pork Croquettes

I did switch from the wine to the amazing Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale, made by Fresh Ginger Ale. I'm normally not a fan of ginger ale, but they use fresh ginger in theirs and I love jasmine, so I was intrigued and now I'm sold! Next time I'll give Pomegranate and Hibiscus one a try:

Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale

The lights dimmed and with a brief intro from George Motz, who directed one of the films being shown and was in charge of the post-viewing festivities, the show was on. Some films were better then others, and of course there were commercials from the sponsors before things got started (with a favorite being this one from Chipotle).

The first film was XXX by Joe Pacheo and Stavros Stavropoulos, a 1 minute "canimated" piece on the private bedroom lives of tuna cans and a rogue can of franks. I tried to find you more information about this film online, but couldn't find anything. The film was cute, so if you feel like digging around a bit, it is definitely worth it.

The second film was called Amor Pulpo by John Craig Ross. It's described as a story of an octopus who caught a boat and came to the city where he met the woman who dreamed him to be, and less poetic but more to the point, it shows how this creature goes from the bottom of the sea to your plate in less then 12 hours. I liked the idea and there were some really beautiful shots, but I thought the film itself was a bit lacking on the story-line. A small taste of the dish served in the film was passed around, but it was lacking in flavor and very chewy.

Amor Pulpo

Next up was Zergut by Natasha Subramaniam and Alisa Lapidus, and tells the story of how the moldy and forgotten foods in the back of the refrigerator rise up against the oppression of the fresh foods residing up in front. It was beautiful and perfectly orchestrated to the moody music used. At one point I got a very unsettling feeling deep in my stomach, almost as if I'd be the one cleaning up the mess when the battle was over. I'm kind of happy no food was served with this one.

Pastry Paris, which I saw a few years back in book form, made an appearance. The film sets to music a few of the images from the book, which in turn featured several Parisian landmarks in comparison to their doppelganger French pastries. You can take a look at a couple of them over here on Susan Hochbaum's website. With the film little plates of perfectly buttery and crispy Palmiers (french take on an elephant ears) were passed around. There are no pictures of these because the lights stayed off and I ate mine instead of waiting for a photo op.

There was What's Virgin Mean?, by Michael Davies, which was a funny little take on "the question" that kids ask. It was cute and you should check it out if you've got two minutes.

Fine Cooking magazine submitted a little video called Dinner for Two, which was essentially a how-to video on making a Valentine's Dinner for two, including a salad, vodka spiked lobsters and chocolate pots de creme. Little portions of the latter were passed around for us to try, but again there was no light for taking pictures.

The last film of the evening was The Mud and the Blood, directed by George Motz, told a story about collecting and roasting oysters in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It was interesting to see how oysters live and grow, plus how loyal the locals are to their harvest.

After the films were over everyone was invited outside for an old fashioned Southern Oyster Boil, hosted by George Motz and his family who brought bags and bags of the very oysters we just learned about, set up a few fire pits outside and steamed them under wet burlap sacks, same as they do back home. I took a million pictures of the process and this being my first boil of any variety, I had a blast shucking oysters, drinking Jameson cocktails, and listening to the live band they brought in for this event.

Steaming Oysters 4

One of the hosts showing us how to shuck oysters, being careful not to cut ourselves on the sharp shells and instructing us to toss the empties into the holes in the middle of the tables, set up just for this occasion.

Oyster Shucking Tutorial

Live Entertainment

I've never had steamed oysters before this, but they were amazing! Not cooked all the way, but slightly warmed through, just to make opening the shells easier, they still had that slippery texture of your regular half-shell variety, but were amazingly flavorful and salty. If you closed your eyes, you could believe you were right there on the coast breathing in the salty breeze.

Steaming Oysters 2

Steaming Oysters

I took way too many shots of the steaming oysters, but outside, with the Chicago skyline in the background and the steam rolling off in waves and the intoxicating smells of salty oysters and the wood logs burning underneath was irresistible.

Oyster Man

Oyster Gang

Oyster Bake

As the oysters finished cooking, the hosts would fill up shovels of them and toss them onto the tables surrounded by eager diners wielding knives.

Hot oysters on the table

Making a mess hasn't been this much fun in a long time...and not just because I wouldn't be the one to clean it up.

Oyster Table - The Aftermath

Oyster Attack

I will definitely be looking for this event next year to see what amazingness they come up with.


Kent Rose said...

A really excellent article, and fantastic photography, too! I am the fellow in the turquoise jacket in the aforementioned live band, my name is Kent Rose, and I thank you for including me.
My wife liked the shovels and skyline photo in particular, and I totally agree!

Maria @ Orchard Bloom said...

the whole thing looks amazing!

Unknown said...

Man, i wish i was able to go.

Unknown said...

Man, i wish i was able to go.

Truly Smitten said...

OMG that looks fantastic! Please bring me!!