Sunday, July 08, 2007

Night with the French Rat

No, I'm not referring to my latest boyfriend, I'm actually talking about a French rat. THE French rat.
Step aside Mickey Mouse, there’s a new rodent in town. Remy the rat joined Disney execs and a stew of French stars at the Paris premiere party for animated hit “Ratatouille.” Following an afternoon screening on the Champs-Elysees, waiters with giant forks and knives, valets on stilts and singing waitresses animated the red carpet before guests enjoyed a night of dining and dancing under the Alexandre III Bridge.
Disney served up a magical evening with the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance and a massive food tent filled with gourmet grub from caterer Le Notre wishing all guests a bon appetit.
“I’m so proud of this film. I love Paris so it makes it really fun that the film was set here,” said director Brad Bird who flew into Paris for the occasion. Producers John Lasseter and Brad Lewis, Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and Chairman Dick Cook also made their way to “zee most beautiful city” for the gastronomic gala.
“It’s really quite a love letter to France,” said Cook. He added: “There’s no sequel in the works yet but a little dessert would be good.”
Speaking of desserts, Le Nôtre can be “le mien” anytime – not only was the room decorated with a giant puff pastry, but the chocolate fountain and colorful, tasty mini-éclairs were like out of a dream (actually, I’m almost certain I’ve had dreams just like that.) If you are what you eat, I’d like to be an éclair from Le Notre – long, lean, sweet, hard on the outside and smooth on the inside. Le Notre served up palette-pleasing cuisine fit for a king…or a seven-inch high rat with a keen sense of smell.

It was the cheesiest party I’ve been to in awhile. Literally – there were at least ten different kinds of fromage to choose from, and bread to accompany it. Chefs in white hats served differnt kinds of pastas, raviolis, meat and potatoes on tiny little plates. The Disney execs sat at reserved tables in a special “VIP” section as waiters brought them a selection of the culinary offerings. Us plebians, however, had to visit each food station ourselves, carry our own plates, lift our own forks to our own mouths – it’s a rough life, I tell you.
A handful of sommeliers also proposed wine-tasting for guests. After 178 glasses of said wine, the rat pack moved to the large dance floor of Showcase for night of tail-swinging and booty shaking.
Brad Bird told me on his way inside: “It’s great to be in Paris, especially when someone else is paying for it.”
I’m sure it is, Brad. Disney, would you care to donate to the “Rebecca Leffler is a poor journalist” Society? Cash, check or free catering from Le Notre accepted.
The event was star-studded, but certainly not a celebrity galaxy. French B-list stars brought their children to the event, and, to my utter disappointment, Guy Savoy was a no-show. However, celebrity chef Cyril Lignac, who lent his voice to the French version of the film, did make an appearance. It was love at first bite. No, he didn't actually bite me (not yet anyway) but I think his soup of life could use a little sprinkle of Leffler sauce. "The cooking world is very enclosed, so in order to achieve such detail, Disney needed to consult real chefs. It's thanks to their precision that the film succeeded," he told me. The conversation continued as follows:
Me: Do you make a Ratatouille in your restaurant?
Cyril Lignac: Actually, yes, it's funny, I make a stuffed zucchini flower filled with [insert long, complicated amazingly delicious sounding french recipe details here, I was too focused on his beautiful eyes and inviting smile to really pay attention but I know it sounded good]
Me: So when are you coming over to cook for me?
Cyril: Is that a proposition?
Me (speaking): Ben non!
Me (thinking): Of course, anytime baby!

Bob Iger told me: “We’re very pleased with this film. The reviews are well-deserved. It’s a magnificent film. It’s animation in its most evolved form. You could almost smell the food when you watched the film.”
He’s right. Pixar’s attention to detail is so incredible, I wanted to stick a fork into the screen and taste the little rat’s creations. It was honestly one of the best films I’ve seen all year – and not just the best starring a rodent, humans included as well. I had a smile on my face from start to finish. I sincerely hope an animation Oscar will fly into Brad Bird's nest of awards come February.
“One of the challenging things we didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to get the food to be delicious-looking,” said executive producer John Lasseter.
Well they certainly succeeded – santé!

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