The combo of “dinner and a movie” will never go out of style. However, the “same old” can get boring. In its second year, as part of the Boulder International Film Festival, CineCHEF is a creative iteration of “dinner and a movie.”
A gourmet culinary experience, CineCHEF showcases chefs from some of Boulder’s most recognized restaurants. It is a friendly competition of creativity, wit and culinary technique using favorite movies as inspiration for small plates.
The concept is this: pick a movie and create a film-inspired small plate. By popular vote, the chef with the best dish is awarded the Vielehr award sculpture and the title of “Best CineChef.” While chefs get to show off their abilities, lucky guests get to sample a variety of high-end dining. The event includes entry to a featured movie of the BIFF. This year’s movie was City of Gold, a documentary about the Pulitzer Prize winning food-critic, Jonathan Gold.
Held at the Rembrandt Yard in downtown Boulder, I joined a large crowd of film and food enthusiasts. My gluten intolerance limited my ability to taste all dishes, but I had fun taking part in this competition and chatting with other attendants about some their favorite dishes.
My personal favorite was the meatball parmesan with peppers and basil pesto from Jessica Emich of Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place. Inspired by the movie The Big Night, Jessica channeled her Italian and Jersey roots along with her experience of co-owning a business with her sisters. The dish was reminiscent of warm family dinners- passing around plates of hot food over loud noises of laughter, conversation and good times.
The meatballs were dense and hearty, complemented by the melted cheese, refreshing basil pesto and a light tomato sauce. The strips of bell peppers were a paleo-friendly version of noodles. It was a modern, healthy take on a traditional Italian dish without loss of flavor or satisfaction.
Laurent Mechin from Jill’s at the St. Julien served organic polenta, coffee porter braised short rib topped by crispy onions and blue cheese. He was inspired by Chef with its focus on slowly braised meats and a sense of adventurous cooking.
Though I was unable to try it, there was a lot of feedback from other guests about this dish being top-notch. Mechin’s station was the first to run out of food for the evening. It was no surprise that Laurent Mechin was awarded the title of “Best CineChef 2016” at BIFF’s closing ceremony.
Chef Jen Bush from Lucky’s Bakehouse took second place, with her array of desserts inspired by The Hundred Foot Journey. I was saddened not be able to try any of the delectable pastries, but will definitely make a point to try her creations at Lucky’s Bakehouse where several gluten free goodies are offered daily.
Third place went to Alec Schuler from Arugula. His dish of octopus carpaccio with arugula, curried radish, fennel and orange-oregano olive oil was my second favorite. Tied to the movie, Octopussy, the small plate was colorful and refreshing. It was a great palate cleanser amid the heartier dishes, but was on par in flavor combination and creativity. Definitely the prettiest dish of the night, this small plate show-cased the fresh, seasonal cuisine that Arugula is recognized for.
Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly served a multiple-meat slider skewered with a pickle and tater tot, using house-made ingredients to channel a healthy version of Super Size Me. His dish received positive comments through the night for being hearty yet balanced, well-cooked, and tasty.
Chris Collins from Spruce Farm & Fish made potatoes appealing again, getting his inspiration from the movie The Martian. The downfall was too many variations of the potato, reducing the quality and refinement of each dish.
Bradford Heap of SALT, Colterra and Wild Standard was CineChef winner of 2015, but this year’s dish of poke on nori chips was lackluster in quantity and quality. There was too much cracker, salt and not enough of the tuna, which should have been the star of the dish.
Mark Monette from the Flagstaff House served a braised lamb meatball with agnolotti, not a dish I was able to sample or heard many comments on.
Francis Ford Coppola Wines, Boulder Beer and Avery Brewing provided refreshments for the evening. The wines were from the Director’s Cut Collection, and included Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each small plate had a wine pairing suggestion, and I found that the food complemented the approachable and crowd pleasing wines.
For those people who don’t like movies (I don’t know many of those), CineCHEF adds a nice diversity to BIFF’s annual programming. Though the ticket price may seem steep at $95, the wine and food is unlimited, allowing one to gorge themselves from a variety of Boulder’s high-end restaurants under one roof.
The traditional dinner and a movie date can be done anytime. CineCHEF is a once-a-year opportunity that is worth checking out and living a little.