Some movies should come with aroma tracks. These are the films with food sequences so mouthwateringly vivid they trigger post-movie hankerings and send you in search of whatever it was that looked so delicious.
This, for instance, was the thought in my brain after watching the Jon Favreau film “Chef” on a recent weekend: “Must have Cuban sandwich.”
At the heels of “Chef” comes “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” starring Helen Mirren as a Michelin-starred restaurateur in the south of France, where an Indian family opens a restaurant directly across the street. The Steven Spielberg/Oprah Winfrey production unfolds in sumptuous, drool-worthy scenes.
Of course, a good food flick is not necessarily one that’s about the food or the cook. It could be one with a memorable food scene.
What would “Goodfellas” be without the garlic scene? Paul Sorvino’s character in the 1990 movie stirs our red sauce cravings as he slices a garlic clove with a razor blade for a prison feast. The see-through shavings of garlic fall slowly upon the chopping board in a scene that builds with steaks searing and red gravy simmering.
The best part of the Adam Sandler film “Spanglish” was the moment he made himself a fried egg sandwich. Of course, it helps that his cooking coach for the film was French Laundry chef Thomas Keller. That perfect, oozy egg sandwich is just about all I remember of that movie.
Here are five films that have made me wish for simultaneous tasting experiences. They may not be the best food films ever made – except for maybe the first on the list, which is my favorite – but they remain in the part of my memory reserved for culinary guilty pleasures.
Babette is a French political refugee woman working as a maid for two elderly, devoutly Christian sisters in a small village in 19th century Denmark. When she wins 10,000 francs in a lottery, she dreams up a lavish feast to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of the sisters’ father, who had been a beloved pastor in the village.
The 1987 film by Gabriel Axel is rich in story and food imagery.
It made me crave: Cailles en Sarcophage – quail in a delicate puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce.
‘Like Water for Chocolate’
This 1992 film adaptation of Mexican author Laura Esquivel’s smoldering novel is all about extreme passions – romantic and culinary. Protagonist Tita possesses the gift of infusing foods with her raw emotions. Her culinary creations can instill everything from love to anguish to nausea in those who consume them.
It made me crave: Chile en Nogada – poblano peppers, stuffed with beef, pork and apples and lavished in walnut sauce.
An ode to pinot noir disguised as a buddy film or a road-trip flick. This is the 2004 film that declared merlot passé. Buddies Miles and Jack drink and eat their way through California pinot country, while a series of dramatic events that are not relevant here happen. When Miles is asked why he’s so into pinot, he replies as only a true wine lover can reply: “Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ... ancient on the planet.”
It made me crave: Pinot noir, of course! Hitching Post pinot, to be more specific.
Juliette Binoche stars in this story of a woman and her young daughter who open up a chocolate shop in a small, strait-laced French town and wastes no time (during Lent, no less) in creating tempting confections that stir up the locals.
It made me crave: Hot chocolate with a pinch of cayenne pepper, like the steaming cup Binoche’s character, Vianne, prepares for Judi Dench’s character, Armande.
Not only should this film come with an aroma track, every screening should be followed by a food truck rally. The story catches an earnest chef in decline, thanks to commercial pressures. Burned by a bad review and subsequent Twitter war with a blogger critic, Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) sets off to get his groove back – in a Miami food truck.
It made me crave: A hot Cuban sandwich from Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho, Miami – layers of ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard tucked into toasty Cuban bread.