Cat got your tongue

Temptation: Original Cinema
& Forbidden Fruit
Opening night film and party
film 6:30 p.m., party 8:30 p.m.
Friday, March 27 at Enzian Theater;
The Flavors of Cat Cora: Discussion and Tasting
2 p.m. Saturday, March 28 at
Enzian Theater; $40
Indulgence: Film Feasts
The Godfather, chef Norman Van Aken, at Norman's
King Corn, chef Melissa Kelly, at Primo
A River Runs Through It, chef Brandon McGlamery, at Luma on Park
7 p.m. Saturday, March 28;
$125 each
Redemption: Southern Roots Waterside Brunch
12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 29 at
Grand Bohemian Hotel; $40
For more information or to buy
tickets, call 407-629-1088 or go to
Check the Salivation Army blog at
for full menus of each FFF event

For the past 17 years, the Enzian Theater and the Florida Film Festival have been pairing new independent films with fresh, local food, but starting in 2007, the Food and Wine Weekend refined the focus of the festival's opening weekend to a gourmet turn. This year the culinary guest of honor is celebrity chef Cat Cora, whose blend of Southern home-style cooking and vibrant Mediterranean cuisine will tantalize and tempt during several events during the festival.

Cora, best known as the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network's popular showdown based on the original Japanese cooking confrontations, was chosen by the Enzian as an example of an edgy boundary-buster whose disregard for the traditional restaurant kitchen patriarchy exemplifies the indie spirit. "Original Cinema" is the slogan of the 2009 festival, and the Food and Wine Weekend sticks to the theme with events labeled Temptation, Indulgence and Redemption.

After the opening-night screening (Management, starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn; see our review of the film at, party guests will be escorted into a garden of Eden abounding with "forbidden fruit" prepared by local chefs. Local restaurants including K, the Ravenous Pig, Harmoni Market and the Enzian's Eden Bar will be represented by 14 different appetizers, featuring aphrodisiacs from strawberries to lobster. Chef Cora will be there to hobnob and, doubtless, to chat with curious partygoers about plans for her new Kouzzina restaurant (Greek for "kitchen"), planned to open this fall at Disney's Boardwalk.

On Saturday, a tasting and talk-back afternoon ($40) will feature Cora's rebellious Eve alongside Enzian kitchen maestro Josh Oakley's Adam for a menu that expresses her identity as a chef. Mini gyro burgers with garlic sauce, chickpea fritters with romesco, and a phyllo cup of spicy cinnamon-roasted pulled pork outline her Southern-Hellenic style. The casual discussion, moderated by the Orlando Sentinel's Heather McPherson, is an opportunity for eventgoers to ask questions about Cat's journey, her foray into the male-dominated world of restaurant cooking, the competitive nature of Iron Chef America and how being out as a lesbian has affected her both in her personal life and as a chef.

Cora will also be in attendance at the three Film Feasts ($125) hosted by chefs Brandon McGlamery of Luma on Park, Norman Van Aken of Norman's and Melissa Kelly of Primo. Each chef has chosen a favorite film and will serve a menu inspired by the movie they picked. An avid cinephile, Van Aken chose The Godfather as a springboard for his 10-course epic repast. McGlamery, whose passion for fly fishing led him to select A River Runs Through It, promises a fish-centric feast. Melissa Kelly's tradition of sustainably raised, farm-fresh ingredients seems a perfect fit for the documentary King Corn, a film whose jabs at the commercial food industry will be a perfect foil for Kelly's concoctions. Between each course, clips will be shown to connect the culinary experience and the movie. Cora will offer a toast at each of the three dinners, saluting the chefs for their skill in combining the arts of food and cinema. Each dinner is limited to 30 guests, so opportunities to interact with the chefs one-on-one vie with the dazzling menus as the draw for these events.

The Florida Film Festival has done right to introduce Cora's new riff on Southern food to the locals before she lands at Disney and in the hands of our tourists. While Orlando's status as a food town hasn't yet made its mark on the national or international culinary landscape, it isn't often that so many bright lights and big names get to show their stuff in one weekend.

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