What do you get when you mix a four-course meal, sixteen diners, a roofdeck, and an impromptu outdoor movie theatre? Reel Tasty. This seasonal dinner series takes advantage of a blank wall on the side of a building in Greenpoint and the culinary creativity of its founders—and lucky for us, it's open to the public!
Name: Jason Anello & Aimee Bariteau
Occupation: Founders, Reel Tasty
How did Reel Tasty come to be? J: Every year around Thanksgiving I host "Thanksbringing," a gourmet pot luck for my friends. Two years ago Aimee attended the party. She planted herself in the kitchen with me and immediately matched my rhythm—and at that moment a kitchen collaboration was born. The "Reel" part of Reel Tasty synthesized the moment I moved into my apartment three years ago. As soon as I saw the two story, windowless wall adjacent to my 50ft deck I thought, "movie theatre". Putting together our love for cooking, my past life as an art director and my bloodline trait for building stuff, REEL TASTY season one kicked off with The Goonies and two giant Bo Ssam pork butts in May 2009.
Do you think there's a connection between food and movies? J: Aimee and I see this completely differently. I don't think there is an inherent connection between the two but I do think that the idea of a "Gourmet Movie" is interesting. Movies are passive and Eating is not—at least not at my table! For me, putting them together was more about decorating that two story wall. Every dinner an unexpected thing happens when we put on the movie. People get quiet. My expectation was that guests would continue to mingle and chat right through the movie but now, as we are in the middle of our second season, I don't think this behavior is going to change. Every evening when that movie starts the chatty-16 person table becomes silent.
Aimee: The cliché of the "dinner and a movie" date is a cliché for a reason. But food is a connector—it brings people together. And movies do the same thing; there's something pleasurable about sharing the experience with other people,- even if they're complete strangers. Reel Tasty is all about creating that communal feeling.
How do you select the movies (and then create the menu), or vice-versa? Aimee: We like to keep an interesting rotation of movies that we love—from comedies like Airplane! to classics like Rear Window. We normally pick our favorite movie and then develop the menu around that (e.g. mako ceviche for Jaws; a Baby Ruth-inspired dessert and Rocky Road ice cream for The Goonies).
What are your all-time favorite movies about food? J: Hmmm, tough one. I am a Slapstick/Action Adventure guy so I can more easily talk about stupidity and explosions BUT I'd say Sideways is in my top 5. Normally thought of as a wine movie, it has some delicious meals that remind me of the couple years I spent living in California.
Aimee: I dream of a day when I can chew the "cream of tomato soup-roast beef and baked potato with sour cream-blueberry pie" gum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Also, Ratatouille will always hold a place in my heart because I was attending culinary school at the time it was released. The importance of food and the role it plays in our lives is so beautifully portrayed in the climactic scene with the food critic.
What's in store for this season? J: This season will have a few new surprises like a Sideways wine pairing twist. Beyond that we have been sourcing much more locally. Our wines and vegetables come from 3 blocks away, Dandelion Wines and Rooftop Farms. We also struck deals with a couple of our favorite bars in the 'hood to serve guests one last free drink on their way home.
We also have two exciting projects: first, we are working on a food experience book of Season 1, with recipes, stories from the kitchen and commentary from our guests; proceeds will go to our favorite breast cancer and homeless charities. Second, and maybe most exciting, is a pop-up Reel Tasty! I'll just say this: keep an eye on those big blank walls at the ends of waterfront streets in Brooklyn. If you are not on the mailing list you want to get on it for this.
Do you ever sneak snacks into the movies in? If so, what? J: Once a year I have a ritual. I pick the hottest, muggiest weekday of the summer and play hooky from my day job. I go to an Italian deli and get a huge hero with the works—a soppressta, ham cappi, provolone, sweet pepper, olive oil, lettuce, tomato, red wine vinegar and fresh ground pepper giganta and head to the biggest theatre I know in the mid afternoon. My sandwich and I sit completely content in the empty 63 degree theatre and watch an action-packed summer blockbuster. This summer? The A-Team. I can't wait.
Aimee: I bring peppered bacon salt to sprinkle on the movie theater popcorn (but no "butter-flavored topping").
What are your favorite local hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? J: Carmine's Pizza on Graham or Five Leaves—I am a sucker for those ricotta pancakes.
Aimee: I live in Hell's Kitchen and my go-to place is Casellula. Once, due to an error from their machine, we weren't charged for my husband's beers—so the next time we ate there, I brought some of my "Oreo cookie" cookies, and now they know us by name. Also a fan of the great beer selection at The Pony Bar. It gets a bit crowded after work, but there is always an interesting mix of beers on tap and some solid bar food to accompany the drinks.
What NYC foods do you crave the most often when you're not in town? J: Pizza. Not Grimaldi's. Not Di Fara. Not Motorino. Pick any hole in the wall pizza joint that does not have air conditioning or a line—that's my spot. My favorite is Ben's Pizza (at Spring and Thompson).
Aimee: Last summer, my husband and I went to India in July for eight days—we ate incredible food in unbelievable heat, but the second we got home, we poured ourselves bourbons on the rocks and ordered delivery from Lazzara's (square pepperoni that we throw in the toaster oven to ensure that the cheese is extra well done). Nothing could have been more satisfying.
You're in Greenpoint: what's not to be missed in your neighborhood? J: Anella. And, not just because we share the first 5 letters of our name. Aimee: The Greenpoint Food Market! My husband and I sell salted chocolate-almond toffee, bourbon caramel sauce and "Oreo cookie" cookies there under "bean & apple."
What's your favorite hidden gem in NYC? J: Anthony's Deli on Graham Avenue. Go at lunch for the freshest Italian food ever. Out back there is a little yard with picnic tables. During the summer Anthony sometimes does wine and food pairings.
Aimee: La Rosita on 47th between 10th and 11th .