It’s hard to imagine the holiday season with its string of get-togethers and festive activities without also envisioning something delicious to nibble on. There are main dish traditions, of course, and the long list of must-bake-to-share recipes each family hands down from one generation to another, but what about those occasions when a bite of something stunning, small, and savory is required??
If you’re like me, the baking definitely comes easy (or so my jeans keep telling me!), but those small bites take a bit more work. So, while not specifically holiday-themed, I offer up my list of top 10 favorite foodie flicks that are sure to offer not only a break from post office lines and slowing traffic, but culinary inspiration aplenty for your next party or potluck. And if you’re too tied up in curling ribbon to launch Netflix, no worries—been there, sister! You can copy off my paper and knock the fur-lined stockings off your family and friends with these Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Butternut Canapes. After all, ’tis the season to spread love and yummy, simplified cheer.
Big Night (1996)
“To eat good food is to be close to God.” —Primo
While you may not feel up to tackling the intimidation that is the Timpano, the soul, passion, and Italian charm dripping from nearly every scene of this classic is sure to give you the inspiration and edge to successfully wow guests at your own Big Night.
“I get to touch people’s lives with what I do and I love it and I want to share this with you.” —Carl Casper
This is a film I can watch again and again because, on top of gorgeous food scenes that will set you drooling and a salsa soundtrack you’ll want to adopt for your own time in the kitchen, it is a solid story of getting your priorities straight. It speaks of family, following your heart, and doing what you love. I should warn that obsession with Cubanos and variations on gourmet grilled cheese will hijack your world for days after watching.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
“I brought you flours.” —Harold Crick
Inevitably, we bakers hit ruts and draw blanks and need a reminder of why we do what we do. This film never fails to remind me how much I love baking, and how chocolate chip cookies are excellent transporters of love and kindness. Besides that, the pancake line never fails to reduce me to giggles and get me craving a short stack drenched in pure maple syrup.
Romantics Anonymous (2010)
“Just pray nothing happens to us.” —Jean-René
Even if you are not a fan of foreign films, please believe me when I say this one is a gem! Delicious and quirky, this chocolate-laden features an adorable albeit socially-awkward romance between a timid-yet-talented chocolatier and her equally anxious employer.
“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?” —Michael Pollan
This documentary of how, what, and why we eat is both beautiful and life-changing in its presentation and arguments supporting cooking at home and the interconnectedness of the whole process. Michael Pollan’s book is brought to life in a four-part miniseries documenting food through the elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Prepare to come away inspired and more committed to defending the tradition of home-cooked meals.
“…we can’t go around…measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think…we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create…and who we include.” —Père Henri
Being the devoted lover of all things chocolate that I am, my list could not possibly ignore such a classic. Just as much fun as the filming of Vienne’s work in the kitchen is the idea that fighting narrow-mindedness and stereotypes can be done with chocolate.
“…it was God who created oysters and apples. And you can’t improve recipes like that. But it is our job to try.” —Adam Jones
Forget Hell’s Kitchen, if you’re looking for culinary drama, peppered with stunning plates and ending in redemption, this flick is it! This one takes me back to my days working with high-profile chefs (and their equally high opinions of themselves) but from a safe distance that lets me feel motivated without the usual accompanying stress. Do yourself a favor and take notes along the way because these plates are gor-geous.
“Clean plates don’t lie.” —Dan Barber
Another food documentary here, but my goodness, the art these chefs create is spectacular! Each series, broken down into multiple episodes, is based on interviews with world-renowned and highly influential chefs; watch one or all (folding laundry just got a whole lot better), and soak up the passion, mission, and struggles each shares in the telling of their stories.
Julie & Julia (2009)
“Every time you taste something that’s delicious beyond imagining and you say, ‘What is in this?’ the answer is always going to be, butter. The day there’s a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have 30 days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter.” —Julie Powell
How can you not feel ready to tackle recipes fit for grand company after watching Julie work her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking cut side-by-side with the story of her personal hero conquering her own battles? Charm abounds, humor is plentiful, and food reigns queen—bon appetit!
“You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” —Auguste Gusteau
If you find yourself doubting yourself this season, or just looking for a fun throw-back for the family that isn’t the 49th round of Frosty the Snowman, look no further than this beautifully-scored tale of rats taking over the kitchen—in a good way—that reminds us all with humor and Parisian style that “anyone can cook.”
The Great British Bake-off (2010)
“On your mark, get set, BAKE!” —Sue & Mel
If you haven’t seen these charming contests under the tent in the English countryside, you are definitely missing out. Far from the snarky, back-stabbing top chef competitions in abundance, this show’s seven seasons are filled with beautiful landscapes, amateur bakers who lend each other a hand, and delightful accents galore. Reminder, here, to set your mental translator to “British”: make the switch to grams, toss your garbage in the “bin,” and remember that biscuits are just cookies in disguise.
Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Butternut Canapes
24 plain sturdy crackers and/or
2 small zucchini, cut on a bias to 1/4″ thick slices
3 oz. soft goat cheese
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, diced, and roasted (check out a delicious and simple roasting recipe here)
6–8 slices thick-cut, quality bacon, cooked and cut into pieces
3/4 c. fresh pomegranate seeds
small bunch chives, snipped to 1 1/2″ lengths
1. Lay the bases out on a rimmed baking sheet, spreading each with 1–2 teaspoons goat cheese.
2. Top each base with a few pieces of bacon and several cubes of roasted squash.
3. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and lengths of chive.
4. Serve within the hour.
*Use zucchini bases and omit the bacon for gluten-free and vegetarian options