Film Food

It’s film festival time — late April, early May — and the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF51) is upon us. In doing menu planning for the Saturday Farmers Market, I noted that we had scheduled films for every dinnertime this week but one — and on that day we had tickets for the Giants v. Rockies baseball game. Time to think about alternative eats.

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bean salad ham loaf sandwich macaroni salad

What is Film Food? It’s gotta be able to be made ahead. Can’t be messy. Must be able to be eaten cold — or at ambient temperature.

Film Society (SFFS) screenings during the year are usually at 7 or 7:30pm. While we reserve spots in advance, the seating is not reserved, so we line up outside up to an hour before the screening in order to secure our favorite seats. The line is part of the experience, part of the social gathering. It also affords a chance to eat a bite before the film is over at nine or later.


We see folks in line with pizza slices, Burger King boxes, containers of sushi or salad, all purchased nearby to eat while in line or even in the theater before the screening. What’s available at the concession stand is hardly healthy or good eats (I’m not a popcorn guy), and frightfully expensive, and the concession stand is not available until after line time.

The situation is similar for the Festival, only heightened by the frequency of the screenings throughout the day and night. My schedule Wednesday, for example shows Frozen at 3:30, out at 5:10, I Served the King of England at 6:00, out at 8:00. That’s five and a half hours, counting the line time. It’s possible to see another film at 9pm, and some folks will.

This year, at the newly remodeled Sundance Kabuki, there are restaurants and bars within the building, which is excellent if you have some time to kill between or after films, but that’s not line food. Hell, in the Balcony Bar of House One, you can buy plates of food and adult beverages, there are tables between the generous seats.

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Back in May 2006 I wrote a piece called Ballpark Food, wherein I examined the food available at the Giants’ ballpark and my choice to make and take Chinese Chicken Salad. That is certainly an option here, but there are others. So I made a list. One always starts with a list of possibilities, right?


What is Film Food? Some ideas.

  1. Sandwiches made out of whatever, so get your sandwich rolls.
  2. Maybe make a meatloaf (HAM LOAF) or some such for sandwiches
  3. Get cold cuts
  4. Get good mustard, good cheese
  5. Ham n Cheese (I have some ham slices from Marin Sun Farms)
  6. Vegetables for bags o’ veggies, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, radishes,
  7. Noodle salads
  8. Macaroni Salad — see
  9. Potato Salad
  10. Bean Salad — RG bean & tuna salad
  11. Bake some beans for LO Baked Beans. As a kid, mom used to make baked bean sandwiches to take for school lunch. Squishy white bread, butter, baked beans. Yum.

I settled on a ham loaf for sandwiches, and got some sliced ham and Swiss, as well. I made the ham loaf on Saturday. But I’m not a sandwich guy at heart, so I made some macaroni salad and bean salad. That will make for good variety and should be enough for the duration of the Festival.

Sandwiches are all about the bread. I am one who tolerates the bread so that I can pick up whatever is inside to eat. Although I love good bread in a restaurant, where I’m obliged to eat only one or two pieces, if I buy a loaf of excellent bread for home, it goes stale before we can eat it all. That’s not entirely a bad thing, as the stale bread can be made into croutons or crumbs.

My favorite bread for sandwiches is the hamburger bun from Acme Bakery. Even so, I cut a slice out of the middle, so there’s not so much bread. Pepperidge Farm used to make this square loaf of dense white bread for sandwiches. I loved that. It was in a white paper wrapping. Alas, they don’t make that anymore. I don’t recall seeing Pepperidge Farm bread since moving to San Francisco.


Ham Loaf Sandwiches

  • Take your favorite bread for sandwiches and lightly toast, or not.

  • Spread the bread with your favorite mustard or mayo (I like grainy mustard.)

  • Put a fat slice of Ham Loaf on one slice. ( The ham loaf itself was examined, in depth, in my post Ham Loaf of January 2008.

  • Add optional ingredients of your choice.

  • Put on the top piece of bread, press down and wrap tightly in waxed paper or parchment paper. (Some folks use foil or plastic wrap, but I don’t.)

  • Optional Ingredients

  • Lettuce (I like heart of Romaine or endive when I use lettuce, but I generally don’t use lettuce.)

  • Pickle (I like cornichons, sliced lengthwise)

  • Relish (Not for me.)

  • Sliced onion (I don’t like sliced onion with ham loaf)

  • Tomato (I never use sliced tomato with ham loaf)

  • Cheese (I rarely use sliced Swiss or provolone with ham loaf)

  • Ketchup (Great on meatloaf, not on ham loaf, which is made with a mustard glaze)

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Bean and Tuna Salad
From the Rancho Gordo Newsletter April 07

“Again I found myself with just a cup or so of Runner Cannellini in the fridge, so I strained them through a fine mesh wire strainer and made a salad with a drained can of tuna, a quarter of a red onion chopped, a handful of mesclan from Star Route Farms and my own vinaigrette. If bell peppers were in season, I would have added them as well.”

Bean Salad with Tuna
2 cups cooked Runner Cannellini or Cellini or Marrow beans
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
generous 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scant teaspoon, Italian oregano
1/2 fresh tomato, chopped
olive oil and vinegar to taste
salt to taste
drained can of tuna

Gently toss all ingredients and chill for about an hour.

Variations: Serve on a bed of lettuce. Substitute vinegar with a fig balsamic. Once you start with the beans and tuna, just think of vegetables in season and keep the flavors balanced. I recently made the salad with Berlotti beans, tuna, cucumber, radish, red torpedo onion, and endive, dressed with Marzetti Creamy Aleppo Pepper Dressing.


Macaroni Salad
I love macaroni salad, the plain old-fashioned kind you buy at the deli, but forget to make at home. This is the perfect chance.

3 cups Macaroni with Braising Greens and Red Chile (recipe below)
chop and add:
8 Cornichons
12 black olives
2 small spring onions or scallions
3/8 cup celery
3 hardboiled eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard

1. Mix the pasta and vegetables together, chop and mix in the eggs, stir the mustard and mayo together and mix in.
2. Chill for an hour or more
3. Take to a ball game or movie or,
4. Serve on a bed of “little buds” or white endive


Macaroni with Braising Greens and Red Chile
Simplified and adapted from a recipe by chef Mark Gordon at Rose’s Café in San Francisco.
My definition of Macaroni is short tubular pasta of any shape. In this case I used Strozzapreti because it was a really cool shape I hadn’t seen before.
Braising greens can be a mixture of any cookable greens; kale, chard, mustard, turnip, beet, broccoli leaves, dandelion, etc. For this, I used erbette chard and kale.

1/4 pound braising greens, washed & large stems removed
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, minced
3/4 pound Strazzapreti
salt to taste
1/4 cup Grated Pecorino, optional, see below

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a saucepot. Add the greens & bring back to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute. Lift the greens out and let cool. Squeeze out the water. Chop the leaves into shards.

Re-boil the broccoli water for the pasta.

Cook the pasta until it is just done, per package directions. Drain the pasta saving a cup of the pasta water.

Mix the macaroni, greens and chile with a little olive oil. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the sliced garlic and sweat for a minute or two. Add the pasta mixture and cook, stirring, for three or four minutes. Add just enough pasta water to keep from sticking.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and toss. It’s ready for use in Macaroni Salad at this point.
For use as a side dish, plate the pasta & sprinkle on the Pecorino.

But it’s not all sandwiches and salads. While those are make ahead and convenient, after an evening film it’s nice to flop in a nearby cafe for a pizza and beer.


This one is in the Firewood Cafe, on 18th near Castro after An Evening with Maria Bello and her film Yellow Handerchiefs. That’s proscuttio and arugula on top, sausage and bell pepper below and Anchor Steam on the right. Yum.

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