Monday, August 25, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

I just watched The Hundred-Foot Journey and it is a deliciously heartwarming movie. Delicious, I say! With its long, lingering shots of luscious food, that picturesque French countryside and a good-looking cast, it's a veritable feast for the eyes. The script is also funny, and had the audience bursting out in laughter at the theatre. The movie opens 28 August 2014.

When I first heard about the The Hundred-Foot Journey, the simple title did not grab me, but as I found out more about it, I became completely enthralled and just could not wait to see it. Watch the trailer.

The movie is about the (almost comical) clash between two traditional cultures. A displaced Indian family moves to a small village in the South of France and sets up a loud, over-the-top restaurant, Maison Mumbai, just 100 feet across the street from a prim and proper Michelin-starred French restaurant.

It's all out war as Bollywood bumps against Mozart, and murgh masala fights roast pigeon. Oh, things do get ugly. Racism, discrimination, jealousy and unfair practices pop up. But when we take the step to cross the divide (be it one or 100 feet) and set aside differences, friendship and more can blossom. And in the end, food is the very thing that brings people together. And if you ever lose your way, food can bring you back.

Helen Mirren may be British but I thought she was pretty good as Madame Mallory, the proud and passionate owner of the French restaurant and defender of French tradition. Om Puri is delightfully funny as the boisterous and headstrong patriarch of the Indian family. I love watching the two of them at loggerheads.

Manish Dayal, who plays the talented young Indian chef Hassan, is surprisingly born and bred in South Carolina (imagine the cultural divide he's had to face there, certainly plenty of material). Charlotte Le Bon is the impossibly ravishing sous chef Marguerite whom Hassan falls in love with. She has doe eyes that would put Bambi to shame.

Producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey discuss the movie in this interview. The Dreamworks film is directed by Lasse Hallström who previously did "Chocolat", "My Life as a Dog" and "The Cider House Rules". Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight adapted the screenplay from Richard Morais' bestselling book of the same name. A.R. Rahman was the composer, and the music is as beautiful as the food.

And oh, the food in this movie! Breathtaking close-ups of grilled meats, fantastic spices, silky eggs, seafood and ripe market's a feast for the eyes. Slow motion food porn abounds, showing you the steps in transforming ingredients into edibles. Foodies will love this.

Even the scene where Hassan devours the cookbooks gifted by Marguerite is incredibly sensual, with her hypnotic French-accented voice narrating the recipe, speaking of cherries and cream. Oh my god. Verbal food porn. I'm pretty sure she said cream.

People who have seen the movie have been raving about it, and this response sums it up best:

"We saw a sneak preview of this movie last night. It is marvellous. It has everything you would want in a movie: wonderful costumes; incredible cinematography; delightful music; comedy; emotion. From the moment it starts you become fully engaged in the entire spectrum. Yes, it is a fantasy, and it brings great pleasure. Bravo!!"

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in Singapore on 28 August 2014.

Meanwhile, as we eagerly await, The Hundred-Foot Journey and local French restaurant Saveur have teamed up to create a special three-course French-Indian set menu at S$36.90++, which is a good deal.

Saveur_The Hundred-Foot Journey Set Meal

Saveur at Far East Plaza

The menu will be available til 14 Sept at both Saveur outlets at Purvis Street and Far East Plaza (above). As many of you know, Saveur made its name for well-executed French fare that's incredibly affordable.

The set menu took them about two months of experimenting to devise. They delicately infused Indian elements into classic French dishes.

Seafood Bouillabaise was chosen to represent the South of France
The starter Seafood Bouillabaise was chosen to represent the South of France. A lovely medley of seafood (sea bass, grilled cod, mussel and clam) in a full-bodied broth made from lobster and fish. We at first thought there might be pumpkin in the soup giving it the orangey thickness but it's all seafood.

Lamb Shoulder - braised lamb shoulder marinated with "curry de madras" served with coco bean cassoulet
Lamb Shoulder - braised lamb shoulder marinated with "curry de madras" served with coco bean cassoulet
The main course is a hearty platter of tender lamb that comes with just a hint of curry. The Indian spices are not very strong, but complement the lamb well. Personally, I thought they could use a stronger hand with the spices, but maybe I am used to heavy spices (I love good Indian food). This light treatment would work well for Europeans who have never had curry perhaps.

Tarte Au Citron - sable breton lemon curd, vanilla mousseline, lemon gelee, marshmallow and citrus tuille
Tarte Au Citron - sable breton lemon curd, vanilla mousseline, lemon gelee, marshmallow and citrus tuille
Dessert is a fairly modern take on the citrusy tart. It's all deconstructed. A lot of sweet elements with very tangy lemon curd. Best all mixed together for a more balanced experience. There is no Indian element per se in this, but perhaps it alludes to the molecular gastronomy that pops up in the movie.

And if you were at PasarBella over the weekend, you would have seen the Le Cordon Bleu pop-up store at Lemon Zest. There was an energetic buzz in the air as the alumnus of the famed cooking school demonstrated how to cook dishes inspired by The Hundred-Foot Journey movie.

The audience learned how to make omelettes and madeleines similar to what was shown in the movie.

Chef Hassan in the movie was quite bold with his interpretation of the omelette, seasoning it not with timid subtlety but passionate abandon. Not your traditional omelette, but sometimes it's good to think outside traditional boundaries.

The movie will inspire many to cook, and here are some related recipes you can try.

Photo from Facebook
See also video clips of real life chefs talking about their own 100-foot journeys: Curtis Stone, Donatella Arpaia, Ming Tsai and Wolfgang Puck!

Yes, the passion for food unites us all despite our differences. The movie is a lovely story about how embracing another culture's food can open doors to greater understanding and acceptance.

We all have our hundred-foot journeys, to reach out, to discover and transcend barriers.

Follow the local Facebook page for more updates:
Check out the social media hashtag: #100FootJourney
View the official trailer post by Buena Vista International, Singapore.

Go. Watch the movie.

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