SAN FRANCISCO — What happens when you ask a group of food world luminaries to come up with their picks for Best Food Scene in a movie?
You get some unexpected responses. Who knew “Pulp Fiction” was such a foodie flick? You pick up a few tips, like the “Goodfellas” guide to truly razor-thin garlic.
And there will be bacon.
Here are some of the nominations for Oscar-worthy examples of screen cuisine, along with a trio of cocktail recipes to help you toast this year’s winners on Feb. 24 in those other categories, like Best Picture.
Fabio Viviani, “Top Chef” Season 5 “Fan Favorite” and host of Yahoo’s Chow Ciao, took a practical approach for his choice, opting for the “Goodfellas” scene that shows Paulie slicing garlic with a razor. “What a way to get the perfect thin garlic! You can almost smell the garlic and tomatoes and meat cooking in the scene.”
His takeaway? “Doesn’t matter if you’re a criminal or just a normal guy, there is nothing better than breaking bread with friends and family and sharing food. Add some vino and BOOM!, that is what’s most important in life.”
No one suggested scenes from classic “food movies” like “Big Night” or “Tampopo,” perhaps not surprising considering that those kind of films don’t exactly qualify as escapism to a cook.
As Colman Andrews, editorial director of TheDailyMeal.com put it, “maybe it’s just that I devote so much of my time to food — writing about it, editing a food website, cooking and eating it — that when I relax away from the table, food is the last thing I want to think about.”
Memorable food scenes are the ones that “sneak up on me, in non-food movies,” he says, like the old-fashioned bread-baking process shots from “The Baker’s Wife,” a French classic from the 1930s, and Ray Winstone intoning “I’m gonna ‘ave the calamari,” in “Sexy Beast.”
But the food film moment he thinks about most “probably perversely, is the scene in ‘Hook’ wherein the grown-up Peter Pan figure (Robin Williams) joins the Lost Boys in a banquet of nonexistent ‘Neverfood.’ It just seems to say so much about appetite and the joy that the mere thought of food can summon up.”
Sometimes movies poke fun at the trappings of fine dining and Stephen Barber, executive chef of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in the Napa Valley is OK with that. He likes the scene from “The Jerk,” in which a gauche Steve Martin, after first ordering some “fresh” wine, “no more of this old stuff,” is horrified to find that his date’s plate is covered with snails.
Barber doesn’t have escargot on his menu, which is sourced locally, including from eight acres of organic gardens, though he does make sure staff looks out for customers who may be baffled by what to do with a particular dish.
Michael Mina, a Michelin-starred chef and big movie fan, went for something a little different with his favorite food scene — the dialogue between Jules and Vincent as they have breakfast at a diner in “Pulp Fiction.”
“The whole scene is so perfect,” he says. Vincent offers Jules a piece of bacon and prompts a diatribe against pork that segues into why Jules is planning on retiring as an assassin. “It’s pure brilliance and classic Tarantino.”
For his part, Mina has no such qualms. Bacon “is that one ingredient that you have to have,” he says. Just not too much. Mina jokes that he does a “bacon check” of restaurant menus in his Mina Group to make sure that the dishes aren’t going overboard with the tasty breakfast meat.
Mina’s a big breakfast fan in general. In fact, when he was asked to cook for a fancy post-Oscars party in Los Angeles a few years back he agreed on one condition: “I’m only coming if I’m cooking omelettes.”
Omelettes and Oscars? As they (almost) say in show business, break an egg.