Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Film

Lunch with David Gelb, director of 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

"I'm not an expert at making sushi," says David Gelb, with a pair of chopsticks poised above a plate of tuna sashimi at Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa downtown, "but I'm an expert at eating sushi." 

After filming 150 hours of footage at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the famed Michelin three-star sushi bar in Tokyo's Ginza district, the 28-year-old director of the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" knows a thing or two about nigiri and maki. "I like that the seaweed here is crispy," he says of a toro hand roll, into which he deftly pours a drop or two of soy sauce. 

Gelb's film is set to premiere in Los Angeles on Friday, and he has just returned from its debut in New York. The movie, which showed at last year's Tribeca Film Festival and was bought by Magnolia Pictures, has captured the attention of more than just food lovers, as Gelb has been talking up sushi-porn scenes and the importance of rice preparation on the media circuit. Naturally, the fooderati are drooling.

"I think I was lucky," says Gelb, dressed in a black T-shirt and bright blue Adidas sneakers. "Part of it is that there hasn't been a film about this level of sushi." Although reviews have been mixed, he says the goal was to film something "restrained and elegant" instead of relying on the "reality show kind of camera" usually aimed at food and cooking subjects. "I wanted to show sushi as an art form."

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Caitlin Williams Freeman and SFMOMA's latest edible art offering

Zurier_Arabella-233x334Caitlin Williams Freeman is the in-house pastry chef at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's rooftop cafe. The former UC Santa Cruz photography student co-founded Miette. Then in 2001, in what she thought would be a temporary stint, she started making pastries for her husband James Freeman's Blue Bottle Coffee locations.

When his company landed a spot on SFMOMA's rooftop, Williams Freeman used the opportunity to channel her love for paintings and photography into her baking. Now the cookies and cakes available -- for visual and literal consumption -- at the coffee bar pay homage to artworks on view in the museum's galleries.

Constantly coming up with new ideas for art-inspired desserts, edible spinoffs have included a Katharina Fritsch ice cream sandwich, with poodle-shaped chocolate cookies sandwiching vanilla ice cream; a fudgsicle-take on Ellsworth Kelly's Stele I (located in the sculpture garden); and a Thiebaud cake inspired by the museum's large collection of Bay Area artist Wayne Thiebaud's paintings.

The latest addition to the menu is a popsicle created in reference to Santa Monica-born artist John Zurier's painting "Arabella," included in the "The More Things Change" exhibition, on view until Nov. 6. The popsicle, made of fresh spearmint ice milk and strawberry, costs $5 and will be available up until the exhibition's closing day.

Pops

The next dessert in the works will be ...

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Nigel Slater's 'Toast' coming to Nuart Theatre in October

Food writer and cook Nigel Slater's bestselling memoir Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, an autobiographical account of his childhood told through food -- 1960s British food, that is -- was made into a film by Ruby Films for BBC1 in 2010, starring Helena Bonham-Carter and Freddie Highmore.

Clancy Sigal, who reviewed the book for the Los Angeles Times in 2004, says "I don't know when I laughed so hard at such a poignant story as Nigel Slater's boyhood.... Among its many delights, his memoir is an easily digestible lesson in how to let your stomach heal your hungry heart" (read the full review here).

The film will be showing at the Nuart Theatre for one week, starting on Oct. 7.

Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 281-8223, landmarktheatres.com.

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--Caitlin Keller

3 Food Events You Should Know About: 'Forks Over Knives' + free brunch; 'The Forager and the Chef' at Hollywood Farmers' Market; Laurent Quenioux at Starry Kitchen

Farmers

Brunch and a movie: A screening of "Forks Over Knives," a documentary that explores the link between diet and the leading causes of death in the U.S. -- heart disease, cancer and stroke -- will be hosted by Art Theatre of Long Beach and Whole Foods. Whole Foods is providing a free light brunch prepared by chef Paul Buchanan in the lobby before the screening. (Our guess is that there will be no bacon-stuffed French toast.) Tickets are $11, available at www.arttheatrelongbeach.com or here. Sunday, July 24. Brunch at 11:15 a.m., screening at 11:45 a.m. 2025 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 438 5435.  

Starry Kitchen suppers: Chef Laurent Quenioux returns to Starry Kitchen for select dates (every other week from Sunday to Tuesday) between July 31 and Aug. 30 for the LQ @ SK dinner series. Will Quenioux, former chef-owner of Bistro LQ, revisit his teriyaki rabbit albondigas? Space is limited; two seatings per night. $45 per person. Reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis online only350 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, www.starrykitchen.com.

Farmers market fundraiser: Patina executive chef Tony Esnault and forager Kerry Clasby host "The Forager and the Chef" on Sunday, July 31, a fundraiser in support of the Hollywood Farmers' Market Preservation Fund. The afternoon includes foraging with Clasby and Esnault, lunch and a cooking demonstration. Foraging at the farmers market, noon to 3 p.m., $75 per person. Cooking demonstration and discussion with Esnault, 3 to 4 p.m., $50 per person. Guests can take part in the whole afternoon for $125. Space is limited; tickets can be reserved at www.hollywoodfarmerskitchen.org, purchased at the information booth at the Hollywood Farmers' Market on Sundays, or call (323) 467.7600. Also, donations to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market Preservation Fund can be made at www.farmernet.com.  

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-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Cherries at Hollywood Farmers' Market. Credit: David Karp

4 Food Events You Should Know About: Good Food Festival Film Series; Crepe Night at La Cachette; Eat Real Festival; Farmer's Dinner at Patina

Farmersdinner

Harry's Berries at Patina: On Wednesday, Patina will host an exclusive five-course vegetarian Farmer’s Dinner. The dinner will showcase seasonal produce from Harry's Berries, a 40-acre family-owned farm in Oxnard. Executive chef Tony Esnault will use summer ingredients in dishes to be served at the event,  including a chilled yellow tomato soup, stuffed zucchini blossoms, a seasonal glazed vegetable mosaic, poached duck egg, wild mushrooms and a dessert created with Harry's Berries strawberries. 141 S. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 972-3331, patinarestaurant.com.

Food on film: On July 13, the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and Slow Food Los Angeles present the next installment of the Good Food Festival Film Series. At Santa Monica's Aero Theatre, two screenings will focus on food waste prevention. Director Jeremy Seifert's "Dive!," an American documentary, looks at the issue at home, where more than 250 million pounds of food goes to waste every day, while French New Wave pioneer Agnès Varda's "The Gleaners & I" focuses on the tradition of gleaning used for centuries in France, following both rural and urban scavengers. For tickets, go to fandango.com. 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 260-1528, americancinemathequecalendar.com.

Crepes galore: Crepe night at La Cachette Bistro is every Wednesday. Prepared by crepe master Pierre-Lo, the menu changes from week to week but promises a selection of sweet and savory offerings. Get a classic Nutella and banana or go for the ham and cheese. 1733 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 434-9509, lacachettebistro.com.

Eat Real: In celebration of good food, the Eat Real Festival takes place July 16 and 17 at Helms Bakery in Culver City. Food skills, hands-on DIY demos and eats from popular food trucks and local restaurants are on the agenda at the two-day festival, which highlights local, sustainable ingredients. Activities include a cookbook swap July 17, a kimchi class with Lauryn Chun, an urban bee keeping demo, beer and wine gardens and a homemade goods competition. Entrance is free and all food at the festival costs $5 or less. 8800 Venice Blvd., L.A., eatrealfest.com.

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'The Trip'

LAX eateries

Buffet it 

-- Caitlin Keller

Photo: Patinarestaurant.com

Food culture: 'The Trip' now playing

 

When asked by the Observer to tour the English countryside's finest restaurants, actor Steve Coogan brings along friend and "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" co-star Rob Brydon. Traveling through the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales with 10 restaurants on their itinerary, the comic duo constantly try to one-up each other with celebrity impersonations of Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Hopkins, to name a few. Director Michael Winterbottom's largely improvised project makes for a witty film about food, friendship and the nature of comedy. Now playing at Landmark and Laemmle theater locations. 

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--Caitlin Keller

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'; you will too

Jiro Ono is widely considered the Yoda of sushi chefs in Tokyo (and thus, the world), and filmmaker David Gelb's new documentary, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," aims to show viewers why -- with cinematography as lush as the tuna belly served at Ono's Michelin three-star restaurant and a score that includes Glass, Mozart and Bach. In fact, the sushi is shot so lovingly, I'm pretty sure I felt tears welling -- and my mouth watering. 

The film has been making its way to the U.S. on the movie-fest circuit and will screen at the Tribeca Film Festival next week. Gelb spent a year documenting the 85-year-old sushi chef and his exacting standards -- one apprentice reportedly wept when Ono finally approved of his tamago (omelet), after he'd made more than 200.  

The "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" Facebook page says there's "no news" of public L.A. screenings yet. Stay tuned. 

-- Betty Hallock

Getting inside Danny Meyers' head

Meyer For most of the food world, restaurants are all about great chefs. But ask insiders about the most admired person in cooking and more often than not you’re going to hear the name of Danny Meyer, a guy who has never fired a saute pan in anger. Meyer is an old-fashioned restaurateur, as filmmaker Roger Sherman posits in his documentary "The Restaurateur." It's out on DVD now and well worth a watch.

While you may not know Meyer, you surely know his restaurants –- Union Square Café, followed by Gramercy Tavern, continuing all the way up to the Modern. Union Square and Gramercy are consistently ranked among the most popular restaurants in New York City, and both have earned three-star ratings from the New York Times. Eleven Madison Park has four stars. 

In fact, Meyers’ Union Square Hospitality Group has opened nine restaurants, and, he brags in the film, has never closed one, a remarkable record in the hypercompetitive Manhattan restaurant scene.

To try to figure how he does it, “The Restaurateur” documents the 1998 opening of two restaurants almost simultaneously -- Eleven Madison Park and Tabla. We see everything, starting with the raw gutted building, meet all the various players (a restaurant group like USHG is actually a small corporation) and get the inside story on the dramas -- the chef who gets fired just weeks before opening and his replacement, who eventually gets shifted to catering after back-to-back two-star reviews in the Times.

The most interesting part of the film, though, is when it focuses on Meyer, who is both a gifted restaurateur and a guy who's got a way with words. A combination of dreamer and hard-nosed businessman, he takes an almost psychological view of the restaurant experience. "What we’re doing for our guests is creating a bubble around every table where the world around them gets forgotten" is one of his aphorisms.

And he sums ups his vision of service by saying it's about asking, "How would I like to be treated; how would I like to be cared for?," and then finding a way to teach the staff how providing that service can be fun.

"The Restaurateur," Florentine Films/Sherman Pictures, $24.95.

-- Russ Parsons

'Food Fight' screening Wednesday, plus a panel discussion with The Times' Russ Parsons and KCRW's Evan Kleiman [Updated]

Foodfight In case you missed the theatrical release of "Food Fight," here's your chance to catch a screening at the Crest Theatre in Westwood. It's part of the "Something to Talk About" documentary film series, a Crest monthly screening of independent films "meant to provoke conversation and positive change in American society."

About the film:

"Food Fight" is the award-winning film about about how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century, and how the California food movement rebelled against big agribusiness to launch the local organic food movement. The film stars many supporters and friends of the Slow Food movement: Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Suzanne Goin, Marion Nestle, Wolfgang Puck, MacArthur Genius Grant Winner (and urban farmer) Will Allen, and 20 other key figures in the progressive food movement. Unique among food films currently in release, "Food Fight" is a positive celebration of the relationship of farmers, chefs, consumers and activists to the economics of how our food is grown.
A panel discussion after the screening will include Russ Parsons, food editor of the Los Angeles Times; Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s “Good Food”; filmmaker Chris Taylor; Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin; and farmer Thetis Sammons.

Wednesday, March 24, 7:30 p.m., 1262 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, $13 per person. A portion of the ticket price goes to Global Green, "Food Fight’s" social action partner. Tickets can be purchased in advance via www.indiedocs.net.

[Updated at 2:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the screening is Tuesday night; it will be on Wednesday].

-- Betty Hallock

Free screening: 'What's on Your Plate?' at the Hammer Museum, April 1

Hammer The Hammer Museum will host a free screening next week of "What's on Your Plate?" -- a documentary about kids and food politics by filmmaker Catherine Gund. The film follows two 11-year-olds who explore New York's food sources, talking to activists, farmers, store owners and their families in an effort to understand what's on their plates. The middle-schoolers delve into how their food is cultivated, how many miles it travels from harvest to plate, how it's prepared, who prepares it, and what is done with the packaging and leftovers. The screening will take place Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m. A Q&A panel will follow, featuring director Gund, star Sadie Hope-Gund, and actors-activists Ed Begley Jr. and Esai Morales. 

10899 Wilshire Blvd., (310) 443-7000, www.hammer.ucla.edu. 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Hammer Museum

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.