BELLINGHAM - At Pickford Film Center's showing of "Babette's Feast," reel food became real food as movie-goers dined on buckwheat blinis topped with crème fraiche and caviar, quail in puff pastry, and rum cake.
Those were among the dishes seen in "Babette's Feast" and served up by Jessica and Mataio Gillis, the co-owners of Ciao Thyme in Bellingham, and their crew on Thursday, Dec. 6, during Cinema Thyme.
A collaboration with the Pickford, Cinema Thyme features a food-themed movie and includes appetizers and meals catered by Ciao Thyme, and drinks.
"It really stems from Mataio's brain," Michael Falter, Pickford's program director, said of the idea of pairing a movie with an unforgettable meal inspired by said movie. "I loved the idea immediately."
Cinema Thyme also was inspired by the special bond Mataio Gillis had with his late mother over movies and food, the Gillises said.
The first Cinema Thyme was in September. It dished up "Big Night," a 1996 drama that featured an Italian feast centered on a complicated baked pasta dish called timpano that also formed the centerpiece of that evening's meal, which was served in the lobby of the Pickford.
The second Cinema Thyme, on Thursday, featured "Babette's Feast," a 1987 Danish drama that has at its heart a sumptuous and uplifting French meal served to the elderly denizens of a remote coastal village by Babette Hersant, a gifted chef who fled Paris in the wake of a tragedy.
"Chocolat" and "Waitress" are next in line for Cinema Thyme.
In the minutes before the 66 people began arriving, chef Mataio Gillis took a break from preparing the evening's meal and walked into the lobby of the movie theater on Bay Street, where Jessica Gillis and others were decorating three long tables with tablecloths, napkins folded into fans, sparkling glassware, and candles in silver holders.
"Sexy," Mataio Gillis said as he looked at the table settings, which resembled what diners would soon see on the screen.
"What's the count down at this time?" he asked wife Jessica.
"Fifteen," she answered.
Soon after arriving to the reception before the movie's start, participants were munching on two types of blinis, including the buckwheat and caviar version that had a star turn in the film, as well as deviled quail eggs on fingerling potato chips - washed down with Gruet blanc de noir sparkling wine from New Mexico.
As the movie played, more morsels were served to correspond with the action on the screen.
During a scene featuring dried fish hanging on a line, Ciao Thyme workers brought in a delicious black cod mousse canapés.
Mercifully, their version of bread soup - made with Breadfarm bread, Kulshan pale ale, aged white cheddar, cream and caramelized onions, and served in small cups - was a hearty lip-smacker worlds away from the brown gruel first served to the village's residents before Babette got her hands on it.
"Don't you think that would have been Babette's version of that soup?" Jessica Gillis said of Ciao Thyme's interpretation.
After the film, movie-goers filed out to the three tables for dinner, which included a French-based soup that replaced the famed turtle soup featured in the movie. The Ciao Thyme crew decided against serving turtle because of their own environmental concerns and because they didn't know if eco-conscious Bellingham would be willing to eat it.
"We want to be authentic with the movie, but we also want to honor that we're in a different time and place," Jessica Gillis said. (The movie takes place in 19th-century Denmark.)
The dish consisted of a consommé poured over a small round of butter-toasted bread topped with quail egg yolk and chicken breast poached in white wine - delicate yet rich.
And then there was the quail, sitting inside puff pastry with perigourdine sauce, arguably the main attraction of the movie and the dinner.
"That sauce took three days to make," Jessica Gillis said.
It was spooned over the succulent quail, which was accompanied by a medallion of house-made foie gras.
The meal included salad dressed with a light vinaigrette, bowls of fruit, a cheese plate and glasses of pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
And that rum cake, which was just sweet enough.
As they ate their dessert, Kay Sardo and Dennis Lane - fans of "Babette's Feast" and Ciao Thyme - said the evening hit the right note.
"The food lived up to the movie," she said.
Lane said he liked supporting Pickford and Ciao Thyme - and what they offer.
"We need to go beyond the meat and potatoes sometimes and experience food," he said.
What: Upcoming movies for Cinema Thyme are "Chocolat" on March 7 and "Waitress," to be scheduled.
When: Reception at 6:30 p.m., with movies beginning at 7. Appetizers and drinks are served at the reception and during the movies, followed by family-style fine dining in the Pickford Film Center lobby after the film's showing.
Where: Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St., Bellingham.
Admission, includes food and film: $85 per person for Pickford members, $100 per person for nonmembers.
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.