There is a scene in my favorite food movie, Big Night, set in a failing Italian eatery in New Jersey. The brothers who own it deliver a timpano to a table crowded with a big family. A timpano is an elaborate macaroni-crusted Calabrian deep-dish pie layered with meatballs, salumi, eggs and tomato sauce. The brothers — played by Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub — deliver the masterpiece, serve it and watch as one of the diners looks ready to assault them: “This is so fucking good I should kill you!” he says. The table erupts in cheers and wine.
Big Night is an emotional opera (without the arias) that embraces family, love and the struggle between art and business. As a half-Sicilian, Big Night rings my bells and it never fails to make me hungry for a meal that really matters. (By the way, it’s hard to type when you’re talking with your hands.)
That’s what the best culinary cinema does: It hits you where you live and reveals that food is never just about eating. Big Night joins a slew of other food classics, and new documentaries and dramas as part of the fifth annual Flatirons Food Film Festival Sept. 27-Oct. 1. Most films and events will take place at the Canyon Theater of the Boulder Public Library as well as CU’s Muenzinger Auditorium.
The showings include tasting and learning opportunities for foodies, plus notable guests who will talk about the films before and afterwards. These include a special appearance by America’s original celebrity chef, Jeremiah Tower. The Flatirons Food Film Festival has also become a unique magnet bringing together the diverse strands of Colorado’s culinary community.
Thursday, Sept 28
• Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. 7:30 p.m. Boulder Public Library (BPL): This documentary goes to Henry County, Kentucky, for an intimate look at Wendell Berry, one of America’s greatest writers and poets, and a powerful voice for the land and the people who farm it. Dave Carter, executive director of the Colorado-based National Bison Association, will introduce the film.
Friday, Sept. 29
• A Journey through the People’s Republic of Fermentation. 7:30 p.m. BPL: This series of short films captures the fermented food traditions of Southwest China during a visit by fermented food expert Sandor Katz and Mara King, co-founder of Lafayette’s Ozuké Pickles. King will introduce the film series and conduct a demo and tasting.
Saturday, Sept. 30
• Ratatouille. 10:30 a.m. BPL: This extraordinary animated film about a rat who wants to be a chef will be introduced by Chef Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Denver. The film is preceded by a children’s farmers market walk and cooking demo with Chef Matt Collier of Seeds Library Café at 9 a.m. at the Boulder County Farmers Market. (The film and demo are free but require pre-registration.)
• What’s for Dinner, Mom? 1 p.m. BPL: Edwin Zoe of Boulder’s Zoe Ma Ma will introduce this Japanese drama about a daughter who goes home to discover a box of recipes and letters written by her mother.
• Sour Grapes. 4 p.m. BPL: A new documentary looks into one of the most ingenious wine business cons of our time. The showing is followed by a sparkling wine reception at 6:15 p.m. with chef Jeremiah Tower.
• Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. 6:30 p.m. BPL: Jeremiah Tower will introduce this documentary about his amazing culinary career. Afterwards, Tower will answer questions.
• Big Night. 1:30 p.m. Muenzinger Auditorium: The classic film will be introduced by Denver chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno. (The showing will be preceded by a Big Night luncheon at Via Perla hosted by Antonio Laudisio.)
• Eat Drink Man Woman. 4 p.m. Muenzinger Auditorium: Director Ang Lee’s early comedy is ostensibly about a master chef who lives with his three adult daughters but is really a testament to the enduring power of food and family.
Information and tickets: flatironsfoodfilmfest.org
Local Food News
Aji Latin American Restaurant has closed after 12 years at 1601 Pearl St. … Beau Jo’s Pizza is closing at 2690 Baseline Road and relocating to 2033 Ken Pratt Blvd. in Longmont. Beau Jo’s had previously been open on the Hill and at Crossroads Mall. … Oskar Blues Brewery is open at 921 Pearl St. … An international Italian ice cream competition debuts in the U.S. when Gelato Festival America takes place Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the 29th Street Mall. Competing gelato flavors include honey, mascarpone and figs, and basil gelato with lemon and grated ginger. gelatofestivalamerica.com/stages/boulder … The final edition of the inaugural season of the Lafayette Farmers Market is 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28. … The Art That Feeds Harvest Celebration Oct. 5 at eTown Hall features fare from Chef Hosea Rosenberg, Sweet Cow, BRU, River and Woods, The Post, The Med, Pastures of Plenty, Arcana, Pizzeria Locale and Hapa. Proceeds benefit the Conscious Alliance, an anti-hunger group that operates a food pantry on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Event includes music by Tennis, craft cocktails and a silent auction. consciousalliance.org
Taste of the Week
Inspired by vinegary Carolina hog barbecue, Savory Spice Shop’s new chicharron salt turns a great snack into a potent powdered condiment. It is simply salt, dried powdered chicharron (pork rind), powdered vinegar, garlic and habanero. It adds a brilliant, bright note to egg dishes, grilled chicken, s’mores and popcorn. savoryspiceshop.com
Words to Chew On
“Eat, drink, man, woman. Basic human desires. Can’t avoid them. All my life, that’s all I’ve ever done. It pisses me off. Is that all there is to life?” —From the film Eat Drink Man Woman
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays, KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, streaming at kgnu.org).