When a restaurant named Foreign Cinema opened on Mission Street in San Francisco in 1999, a lot of people were curious, but many were uncertain it could survive on a block with many vacant buildings, including the adjacent and long-closed New Mission Theatre.
But the naysayers were quickly proven wrong: Foreign Cinema has become a favorite destination for food lovers from around the Bay and the world, as well as a place that chefs like to hang out at when they aren’t working.
A short film has just been completed focusing on the process from “farm and sea to table” as practiced at Foreign Cinema, with products from locals including Front Porch Farm and Water to Table. Take a look at Once Upon A Plate:
This beautiful two minutes of cinematic poetry is about gathering the ingredients for and then preparing a Fig Aillade for a seasonal fish (King Salmon is used in the film) that you might find on the menu at Foreign Cinema. The script by co-owner/executive chef Gayle Pirie is narrated by her partner, John Clark, and their two children, Magnus and Pearl. Josh Berry directed, photographed and edited it in Healdsburg, Olema, Bolinas Bay, San Francisco and Sebastapol.
Looks great doesn’t it? The executive chefs who created it, John Clark and Gayle Pirie, have offered the Alliade to our readers.
Fig Aillade (For Seasonal Fish)
- 12 cups dried black mission figs, stem end removed with sharp paring knife
- 12 cups water, or more
- 2 cups red wine vinegar
- Steep figs in water and vinegar over medium heat until plump and tender, about 45 minutes to one hour.
- Keep an eye on the fluids and keep figs in water as they cook, adding more if necessary. When tender, remove figs from cooking liquor and reserve. Reduce this fluid, as it is flavorful and you will use it to add to the aillade when finishing the sauce.
- Hand chop figs finely and place in large bowl.
- Several cups of good quality olive oil to create a salsa-like texture
- Juice and zest of 8 medium-sized oranges
- Juice of 3 lemons
- 10 or so cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
- Lots of freshly-cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup or so of Vin Cotto
- ½ cup good quality Balsamic vinegar
- Reduced fig liquor
- Kosher salt to balance
- Combine all of the ingredients and adjust to suit your palette. Let sit for at least an hour or so, so the flavors will marry.
The restaurant’s beautiful spaces offer a variety of atmospheres: the fireside main dining room; a semi-private mezzanine overlooking the dining room; the covered outdoor courtyard with independent and foreign films screening; and the adjacent bar, Laszlo. All serve the daily changing California/Mediterranean-influenced menu, with locally-sourced foods.
When you visit, there are rare foreign film posters throughout, as well as changing art in the Modernism West gallery to discover.
Check the current and upcoming film schedule.
A previous Foreign Cinema short made by filmmaker Josh Berry is Roast Pork. He packs a lot into one minute:
For more short films by Josh Berry on diverse subjects including food, diving for abalone, and surfing, visit his site.