Gift Guide for the Foodie

Holiday gifts. There are so many options to choose from. Where do you start? Well this week, you’re in luck. I’m here to help!

Today, I’m posting a Gift Guide for the Foodie: a few of my favorite cooking and food items that I’m sure will please anyone on your gift list. All (but one item, #2) are things E and I have either received as gifts in the past or have bought ourselves. Nothing but rave reviews here.

So without further ado, this year’s Gift Guide for the Foodie:

  1. Help save the environment while you shop for your produce! We made the switch to reusable produce bags this year and love these cotton muslin bags from Simple Ecology.
  2. For when you need meal planning inspiration, roll the Foodie Dice!
  3. The Toddy Cold Brew coffee maker is a definitely favorite in our household. Easy to make, sits over night and you have coffee good for a week!
  4. For the wino, Honig’s Sauvignon Blanc – Late Harvest is lovely. The Honig winery is one of my favorites in Northern California and this dessert wine is a highlight.
  5. pit mitt is a must-have for any BBQ-er in your life.
  6. For the foodie who is also a history nerd, I recommend: A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell
  7. A stylish mortar & pestle is handy for every chef and doesn’t take up much counter space.
  8. A cocktail kit is nice to kick things up a notch while traveling and a perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. Give the gift of cheese. I promise, it will be their favorite gift. (Also if you want to send me something from Cowgirl, I’d be cool with that.)

Stop by on Thursday for part two of my Gift Guide, focused on the film fan in your life!

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? What are some of your favorite foodie gifts?

Menus & Movie Queues

I love cooking, but often dread trying to think of what’s for dinner. Does that happen to you too? It sometimes takes me an hour to think through all my options and consider what my body craves. It tends to be something in the Southern or Mexican palate. And there’s typically a desire for carbs and/or red meat. Plus figuring out the matching vegetable side that I know should be more than the carb or protein. I also like to change it up – how boring to have the same 4 meals in rotation when there’s time to cook. Then it becomes going down the rabbit hole of food blogs. The choice to cook whatever I want is both a luxury and a curse. (I understand even a small complaint about this is beyond a first world problem.)

Here’s the thing: too many options causes decision paralysis for me. The struggle is real. I must feel out all the flavors before I even make it into the grocery store or we’re doomed.

The same is true for picking a movie.

As a fest programmer, there are days when I am watching 20 shorts or three to five documentary features in day (or a mix of both). At the end of the night, when most people come home from work to unwind by watching TV or a movie with little care, I am the opposite. When I’m in heavy screening mode, I am extremely particular in how I chose my “screen time”, as my husband can attest. This is precious, personal time we’re talking about. Two hours where I don’t necessarily have to have my brain “on” to critique or consider each piece of production value or whether the story has a loop-hole (or worse yet, if a story even exists). So even then, the options are endless. I hate that it takes so long to make a choice, but it seems I’m not the only one that is wasting away time on this act.

Let me set the scene for you:

After cooking a delightful meal with my husband, we discuss what the evening has in store as we settle into our living room.

“Do you want to watch something?” he asks, because while E works in film and has his own share of screen time during the day, it’s often watching the same thing over and over again (the task of an editor).

“Sure. Is it my night (to pick) or yours?” I reply.

“It’s yours. Think you can pick something in the next five minutes?” says E.

“…hmm… yes?” Though we both know this is probably not true.

There I am, scrolling through the Netflix app, the iTunes app, and scanning our perfectly organized collection of physical movies. I think. And ponder. And think.

netflix-streaming

If we’re currently in the middle of a TV series, that often is the easiest choice. If we are not, the situation is more complicated. Something new? Something old? New to me? Or an old-tried-and-true?

Drama? Noir? Action? Documentary. No probably not – too much like work.

Comedy. After watching so many real-life stories of human right struggles, conflicts or the issues of the world, comedy often restores my film energy.

Ok, comedy. Romantic? Screwball? Classic? 80s?

“How’s it coming?” E says.

“…Debating between two” I lie.

The standards run though my head: Clueless? Mean Girls? The Apartment? Raising Arizona? Office Space? Animal House? The Blues Brothers? Some Like It Hot? Ghostbusters? Anchor Man? On the scale of “how many bad movies did I already watch today and do I need Paul Rudd in my life”? I know that any of these choices will likely make E roll his eyes (out of love of course), but it’s my night to pick after all. He can watch Gosford Park another night.

“Ok, I got it.” I perk up.

“Great! What are we watching?” E asks.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid… Or The Sting…. ” I reply, surprising myself a little by my sudden half-decision.

E smiles. I let him pick from there because either way I get what my gut wants: Redford and Newman in their prime.

Please tell me I’m not the only one that has choice paralysis when it comes to food and movies. What’s your go to genre to watch or meal to eat after a long day? Let me know in the comments!

Festival Diet 101

Have you ever attended a film festival before? If not, I highly recommend it. And not just because I work for them. Film festivals are a great way to interact with a local film community, meet filmmakers and new people. You make new friends (yes, it’s even how I met my husband). You’re able to engage in conversations and interesting discussions about films that you love (or sometimes hate) and topics that are important to you. You’re supporting the arts. I mean, what’s not to love about it?

Film festivals are held throughout the year, but there are three basic “seasons” to festing: January to May, May to August and September to late November. Sundance kicks things off in January, Cannes bookmarks the year in May and Telluride/Toronto/Venice benchmark the crazy third act in September. And then there’s all the thousands of other great film festivals that fall somewhere in between them.

In this series of post, I’ll share some of my favorite restaurants while attending a film festival. But first, let’s go over some basics of the “Festival Diet”.

Any fest vet will tell you the festival diet is real. And by diet I mean, if you don’t plan the time to eat, you may not eat anything at all. All day. It can be dangerous. People – like me and almost everyone else I’ve ever known – get hangry when they don’t eat. No one likes a hangry festival attendee (or staffer), so here are some tips and expert advice.

  1. When attending a film festival, snacks are your best friend. Always have a snack in a bag or pocket. Trust me. I’ve never eaten so many granola bars in my life than when I have worked during a film festival. Another good option: a small pack of almonds or trail mix. String cheese is good, but only if you eat it right away. No one likes limp, warm string cheese. Ew. When you want to see back-to-back movies and that involves standing in a line for 30 minutes too, you will need a snack. And there is only so much popcorn you can eat. Which leads me to…
  2. The festival diet sometimes only consists of concession stand popcorn. Corn is in almost everything we eat already. There is only so much popcorn you can eat before you feel like a walking goop of butter and corn. I speak from experience.
  3. Sometimes you need to miss a movie in order to eat dinner. (From a programmer, that’s hard to admit because I want your butt in a seat!) Even if that dinner is you only sitting down for 30 minutes, you must do it. If you’re lucky enough to sit down with friends for a true 90 minute meal, then bravo! You have it all. It is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. And sometimes it is actually better than whatever film you might have gone to. (Your hangry friends will tell you later.)
  4. If you’re working or volunteering at a fest, sometimes you need to remind your colleagues to eat. Or your intern/co-worker needs to remind you to eat, oh so gently. (Claire, you were always the best intern/coordinator because you GOT this.)
  5. Hydrate. And not with all that free Stella Artois in the festival lounge. Festing takes a toll on your body. The late nights, the sponsored alcohol, the dark auditoriums. (It really is amazing that any of us survive this work/lifestyle.) Bring a reusable water bottle and refill often. I’ve always thought the best in-kind sponsorship was Sundance’s partnership with Brita. We have at least a dozen green Brita/Sundance-branded water bottles in our house thanks to them and use them all year round. #NeverEndingImpressions. You’re welcome Sponsorship Dept.
  6. If you’re not a local, ask the staff or volunteers for restaurant recommendations near the venue. The locals take pride in their city and those working the festival often want to show off the best of what their city can offer. Then GO EAT.

Stay tuned for highlights from great restaurants, bars and other must-stop sites from my film festival travels.

What tips do you have for staying full while testing? Let me know in the comments below!