'Lord of the Rings' Feast - A Day of Middle Earth Dining at the Movies
by Jeremy Kirk
November 30, 2011
When Executive Chef John Bullington became a part of the Alamo Drafthouse family back in 2004, one of the ideas he brought with him was to show all three Lord of the Rings films, all 12 hours of them, Extended Editions and all, and serve a feast fit for a Hobbit with much of the same food the characters are talking about in the films. It was a brilliant idea, one that the Drafthouse has executed literally a dozen times now. Luckily, this past weekend, mere days after stuffing my face with all kinds of Thanksgiving sustenance, I was able to experience this feast and all the incredible accoutrements that came with it.
Seven courses. Three epic movies. One Ring to rule them all. That's how the Alamo Drafthouse was promoting this day. It lived up to every letter in those three sentences, particularly the "seven courses" part of it. It was an experience none of us, not even those who had attended once before, would ever forget.
To start our morning off, Bullington introduced the event to the sold out theater, which included more than a few patrons dressed in their favorite Tolkien garb. He explained how the idea came about, how it was something he had desired to do for a long time. He told us how he couldn't wait for his own son to be old enough to have this experience. Bullington even hinted at the possibilities for future events. With the two-part Hobbit story currently being filmed in New Zealand and more Middle Earth story to tell, this day looks to grow even larger in the years to come.
After his introduction, the first film, Fellowship of the Ring, began, and waves of nostalgia from the first time I had seen the film in the theater came rushing back. It wasn't long before our first course of the day, First Breakfast, was served. Fresh hen's eggs, crispy bacon, grilled mushroom, and rosemary seared orange came out on the first plates accompanied by a Canella blood orange mimosa. It was a meal that hit the Hobbit spot in all of us, but there was so much more to come. Throughout the first film, we were treated to Second Breakfast, strawberries and cream with an Oberhoff mead served alongside. Elevensies came after that, pan seared sausage and tomatoes with cheeses, cabbage, and pickled beets. A Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale was served as well. Needless to say, after one film and three courses, we were all pleasantly filled with epic battles and deliciously made food. Our day had only begun.
During a short intermission between the first and second film, we were treated to scenes from the Rankin and Bass Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, clips from docs on J.R.R. Tolkien, and interviews with cast and crew of the Peter Jackson films. The servers at the Drafthouse, who it should be noted are extremely hard working and perfectly efficient in their delivery, served us pieces of herbed Elven Lembas Bread (seen right). After devouring our bread - one bite is supposed to fill you up for a day - it was time for the second movie, Two Towers.
Along with The Two Towers, we were served Luncheon, which consisted of Grilled New Zealand lamb t-bone chops, a cabernet reduction with mashed potates (poh-tay-toes), roasted baby carrots and served with a Guinness Stout. After that, our Afternoon Tea arrives, tea baby greens with garlic blackberry vinaigrette, salted pork-cheese galette, shortbread, and ginersnaps. Along with the delicious hot tea that came with it, this dish provided a cacophony of mixed flavors that all added to the already incredible experience of watching the Battle of Helm's Deep. The added shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey didn't hurt matters, either. At this point, we all realized we were full and caught up in the world of orc armies and battling wizards. Alas, we still had one more film and two more courses to wage through. With the incredible food we were being served, no one felt they couldn't make it through two more courses.
The finale, Return of the King, began after another short intermission. And Dinner came right along with it, stewed Coney with taters, carrot, and leek, fresh garden herbs and crusty bread with a Woodchuck Amber Cider to help wash it down. As Sam and Frodo neared Mount Doom, our seventh and final course arrived. It was a swirl of tomato and spinach soups with a wild mushroom crouton to sop it up. This was accompanied by an N.V. Charles Bove Sparkling Brute and another sweet surprise, a slice of apple pie, to finish it all off.
As Frodo, Gandalf, and Bilbo left with the elves for the Undying Lands, we realized our day was coming to an end. Even though we had filled our bellies with seven courses, well, eight if you count the apple pie—hell, nine if you count the delicious Lembas Bread, some of which we were able to take home with us when the night ended—we didn't want the day to end, a 12-hour feast of fine film, amazing food, and wonderful drink. It was certainly a feast that anyone would be appreciative of, and fans of the Lord of the Rings saga are all but required to make the trek to Austin the next time the event comes up. It was certainly one I will never forget, and it's absolutely one I cannot wait to experience again.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy remains some of the greatest, epic storytelling ever put to film, and after experiencing them this way with the flavorful dishes John Bullington has saddled them with, there doesn't seem to be any other way to watch them. Thank you to the Drafthouse and John Bullington for putting on such an unforgettable event, and thank you to Fons PR for handling the event. To see more photos of the food, you can visit TrendHunter or Loyal K.N.G.. The event was held at an Alamo Drafthouse.