Chef Phillip McDonald Showcases Pizza Bar’s Coveted Crab Toast at Food Film Festival South Walton by Susan Benton
When movie lovers and foodies come together to view the best of today’s food documentaries while being treated to a taste of the film’s subject as it rolls, it has a name — The Food Film Festival.
George Motz, the documentary filmmaker and Travel Channel host behind the award-winning “Burger Land,” and author of “Hamburger America,” the book and film, is also The Food Film Festival creator and director. It sprang from his imagination while at home in Brooklyn in 2007. “Food Film Festival came about because of ‘Hamburger America,’” Motz says. “A friend asked that I show the film in his restaurant, and we would eat while viewing the film. It went so well that I came together with other food filmmakers and we started a festival.”
The team in place has completed 19 festivals in seven cities, with 72 events in the last nine years. And in April, the team made its debut in South Walton, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Emerald Coast Theatre Company and Food For Thought.
Hosting a bevy of award-winning chefs from the South, including Ryan Prewitt of Pêche Seafood Grill in New Orleans, Braden Wages of Malai Kitchen in Dallas, and Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow in Atlanta to name a few, The Local Palate Magazine also invited a handful of premier area chefs to participate. Phillip McDonald of Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar showcased the restaurant’s artisan sourdough toast topped with fresh lump crab and herbs at the Friday night VIP event, and Dave Bishop oversaw the Sunday brunch held at Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
“The chefs we have whipping up film-inspired dishes at The Food Film Festival South Walton are undoubtedly talented. We know this because we hand selected them,” says The Local Palate publisher Joe Spector.
Those like myself in attendance at the Friday night VIP event mingled with the chefs and filmmakers over creative cocktails and hor d’ouerves. Chef McDonald’s presentation of naturally leavened sourdough toast topped with crab was a crowd pleaser, and already has a cult following with regulars visiting the restaurant.
“People are crab crazy here,” McDonald says. “It was great to be selected to be part of the Food Film Festival. And I was especially excited to promote the breads we are beginning to make in house and serve at Pizza Bar, as well as Bud & Alley’s. We have added talented bread baker Brittney Gardner to our team, and are looking to add more bakers as the program grows.”
Fortunately, I was able to nudge Chef McDonald into sharing his recipe with The Seaside Times readers. The umami, or rather savory taste of the char on the bread, combined with the fresh local crab, and notes that the fennel brings, are what really make this toast shine. It is everything shellfish lovers are seeking when visiting Northwest Florida, specifically Seaside.
For more information on Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, call (850) 231-3113 or visit the website at budandalleys.com. Look for the restaurant’s fresh baked breads at the Seaside Farmers Market on Saturdays, schedule and supply permitting. c
Susan Benton is a freelance food and travel writer, blogger, and the owner of 30AEATS.com.
Crab Toast With Fennel (serves 4)
(Be sure to use a rustic bread that is thickly cut, as it is important when grilling. This recipe can be easily adapted to double or triple depending on your needs.)
• 2 thick slices of country sourdough or other type of rustic bread
• 3/4 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, shelled
• ½ head of fennel, shaved thin
• 2 scallions, chopped
• 1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, chiffonade
• 1 tablespoon of chives, minced
• 2-3 tablespoons of house mayo or brand of choice
• 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• Chili de arbol to taste
• Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
• Extra virgin olive oil
Grill slices of sourdough.
While bread is grilling, place crab, fennel, scallions, herbs and mayonnaise in a bowl. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Add lemon juice and taste again for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Split the crab mixture between the pieces of sourdough making sure to evenly cover each slice of bread. Sprinkle with chili de arbol. Cut each piece in half on the bias and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.