Bridesmaids director Paul Feig on eating chicken mole in Utah and shabu-shabu in Italy.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten while traveling?
While I’ve had some odd sea urchin dishes and offal that would make me sound more adventurous, the most unusual dish I’ve eaten this year was at the Met Restaurant in Venice, which is located inside the Metropole Hotel. The dish was unusual because it sounded like it was going to be terrible. It was called shabu-shabu al Barolo and was described as “a piece of Piemontese beef cooked in boiling water for 20 seconds,” which immediately brought back images of my late grandmother’s horrendously bland, gray boiled chicken. But it was absolutely delicious. The beef was tender beyond belief, having been dipped in a broth of star anise and served with seasonal vegetables and a Barolo red wine sauce. It made me wonder even more just how my grandmother made her chicken so absolutely tasteless. Perhaps if she had only used a bit of star anise?
What is the best food-related souvenir you’ve ever taken home?
Though it’s tempting to say “my ever-expanding stomach after every meal,” weirdly, my favorite souvenir was an abalone shell that I took from Daniel in New York City. I was enjoying the tasting menu, and one of the courses was this unbelievably fantastic abalone that was sliced up and sitting on its half shell. After I finished the religious experience of inhaling this delicacy, I saw the beautiful pastel rainbow of colors playing on the abalone’s pearl-like inner shell. I immediately wanted to take the shell home with me but then dismissed the idea, not wanting to come off like a tourist or some arts-and-crafts hobbyist who was going to glue two googly eyes onto it and turn it into a cutesy soap dish. But as I sat and stared at the shell, the image of it ending up in a landfill somewhere filled me with sadness. And so I embarrassedly asked the waiter if I could take it with me. He was very friendly and put it in a bag, which he then left for me in the coat-check room. After dinner, I walked the 30 blocks back to my apartment, only to realize I had forgotten to claim my shell when I left. And so I walked all the way back and got it. Googly eyes or not, I knew it would make one hell of a soap dish. And it did!
What dish or food item do you wish you could teleport into your kitchen on a daily basis?
I don’t know if I can choose just one. Too many great dishes are vying for the title. There’s the spaghetti alle vongole and homemade pizza bread from Le Grottelle on the Isle of Capri, the caviar egg from Jean Georges in New York City, the steak and mango casserole they occasionally serve at Maggie Jones in London, the razor clams from Fiaschetteria Toscana in Venice, and the incongruously fantastic chicken mole from the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City—all of which I dream about regularly. But if forced to choose, I guess I’d give about anything to have the frog legs and roast chicken from Chez L’Ami Louis in Paris appearing on my kitchen counter every 24 hours. Most of all, however, I am begging some supersmart scientist to hurry up and invent this amazing food-teleportation machine already, since I am now officially starving thinking about all of the above dishes.
Paul Feig’s next film, The Heat, comes out in June 2013.