Feast on These Foodie Films at the Sonoma Film Fest

Documentaries feature chocolate, port, Asian cuisine and the inimitable James Beard.

It’s a feast of food and wine films at this year’s Sonoma International Film Festival (March 28-April 2, 2017), and you’ve got a front row seat.

As the Valley prepares for its Hollywood moment (or is that Sonomawood?), it’s been hard not to get a little hungry while pouring over the food and wine documentaries to see what’s on the cinematic menu. Here’s the mouth-watering lineup…

Top Pick: James Beard – America’s First Foodie

National and international food experts share a century of food stories about this larger-than-life cook who mentored and inspired many of greatest America’s chefs. Culinary dignitaries including Alice Waters, Cookbook Author and Julia’s Child’s editor Judith Jones, NYC Chef Larry Forgioni, and Restaurant Consultant Clark Wolf will be on hand to share their own stories.

During both screenings, Beard’s favorite onion sandwiches and Madrone wines will be served.  The film is preceded by “Caviar Dreams” and tastes of California caviar.

I’m honored to be presenting at both screenings, with co-producers Kathleen Squires and Elizabeth Federici in attendance. Friday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and at Vintage House at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 1.  (Don’t miss hearing them talk about the film this Friday from 10 to 11 a.m. on KSVY -91.3 FM or ksvy.org.)

America’s First Foodie: The Incredible Life of James Beard from Beth Federici-Documentary on Vimeo.

The Turkish Way

Turkish Way Documentary
Turkish Way Documentary

Three brothers’ take an adventurous trip across Turkey, learning about one of the most interesting ancient cuisines of the world. Learn about regional kebab dishes, aubergine or eggplant specialties, pilaf with anchovies, grape leaves and baklava. Thursday, 11:45 a.m. at Celebrity Cruises Mobile Cinema and Friday at 9:15 a.m. at the House of Docs (Veterans Building). Preceded by “Food City: Feast of Five Boroughs,” in which chefs try to prepare a four-course meal with foods grown or wild-caught in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Watch trailer.

Tuna, Farofa and Spaghetti

A trio of Brazilian chefs travel back to their culinary roots in France, Italy and Japan. Lots of flavors and gastronomic stories on the road full of food and travel. Friday at 2:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Community Center and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

The Chocolate Case

The Chocolate Case from BlazHoffski / Dahl TV on Vimeo.

The widespread use of child labor, and in some cases child slavery, in the Western African cocoa trade has shocked human rights organizations and chocolate eaters. To shine a light on this atrocity, Dutch journalists seek to create their own slave-free chocolate bar. Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Veterans Building.

Goddesses of Food

How women affect the world through gastronomy, introducing chefs, sommeliers, and activists who change up the food world game. Bites from the Fig restaurants and the Fig Rig truck will be available at both screenings. Made in France and shown Friday and Sunday at noon at the Mobile Cinema.


A true story of the ups and downs of a restaurant’s first year. In it, Chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his wife open their restaurant 42 Grams, a celebrated two-star restaurant in Chicago, and documentarians look unflinchingly at the difficulties and successes of a challenging restaurant opening. Saturday at 9 a.m. at Vintage House and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Sonoma Community Center.

Cook Up a Storm

An intense international culinary competition between two rival cooks, one famous for his Cantonese street food and the other as a French-trained Michelin-starred chef. The rivals discover a common foe and combine their emotions and culinary skills, fusing East and West and uniting against a common enemy. Sunday, 6 p.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre.

Wine Movies

Sour Grapes

Sour Grapes Trailer from Docs & Pieces on Vimeo.

A young wine fan earns the reputation of a wine savant and attracts some of the world’s fiercest wine connoisseurs to his circle. When suspicious bottles are discovered, an investigation finds one of the most ingenious cons of our time. Preceded by “Somm State of Mind.” Thursday 11:15 a.m. at the House of Docs (Veterans Building) and Friday at 9:15 a.m. at Vintage House.

A Year in Port

A Year in Port documentary
A Year in Port documentary

A documentary directed by David Kennard of Marin County who previously directed “A Year in Burgundy” and “A Year in Champagne.” This film features four award-winning winemakers. Thursday, 8:15 p.m. House of Docs, and Saturday 5:30 p.m. in the Mobile Cinema, followed by a private port tasting at Tasca Tasca.

Be sure to double check times on the film festival website, sonomafilmfest.org for updated times and more information about the event. And by the way, you can buy a season pass or single à la carte tickets ($15) at the box office at the Sonoma Veterans Building lobby on First Street West or online, but not all films have single tickets available. In that case, you can take your chances and cue up for a “rush” ticket ($10) at the door of the screening venue, which can be a good gamble.

Portions of this story originally appeared in the Sonoma Index-Tribune.