Hosting a Fab Awards Show Party

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By Ted Allen

I never need an excuse to host a party, but awards season just screams celebration.  All your favorite stars are getting together to celebrate the evening so why shouldn’t you. And they are certainly giving you endless things to talk about.The options for awards show parties range from a casual night of TV to a celebrity-inspired bash.

HOLLYWOOD GLAM:

  • Decorate your place in gold, white and black—stick to basic white plates and dress it up with the sparkle of gold accessories. Use lots of tea lights set on mirrored trays to make the room sparkle. I recently spray painted a plant gold. It’s so easy (and affordable!) to take ferns, branches or different flowers/plants and spray paint them gold to give a cool metallic hint.
  • This type of glam celebration requires small bites. Here are a few food ideas: trio of crostini (white bean puree, olive tapenade, oven-dried tomatoes), oysters served with mignonette, and blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto.  If you want to really go glam bash, serve deviled eggs with caviar garnish.  Only a tiny bit will give you the taste, but not cost a fortune.
  • For dessert—defy Hollywood and indulge.  Make assorted chocolate truffles and pack them in small gold boxes (any craft store will have them).  You can put the boxes on white cake stands to make a centerpiece on your table.  Also, serve my brownies in tiny little bites.
  • Rent of movie projection to show the show—they are easy to hook-up to your TV and you can project the show onto a wall.  It’s a chic way to have the TV on without having people standing around staring at a screen.
  • Serve lots of sparkling wine, like Woodbridge Sparkling or Ruffino Prosecco, in champagne flutes. Remember, everyone has a budget so don’t go crazy with real champagne, stick to a sparkling so that there’s plenty to go around.

  • Oh, and P.S. … make sure you are clear with your friends that this is more of a party —less viewing the show.  You don’t want any unhappy customers.

 

RETRO MOVIE THEATHER:

  • Capture the old movie theater feel and go a little retro for a more intimate affair.
  • Set out white or black lacquer trays with classic popcorn containers. You can order them from Amazon or other online sources, like Plum Party.  But for an unexpected twist, fill them with a more gourmet popcorn than the movie type. I have a recipe for truffle popcorn. You make a basic popcorn and grate Parmesan and drizzle with truffle butter.  But if you don’t want to make it, there are so many fabulous kinds on the market.
  • Movie Snack Pack: Put together individual homemade snack packs for everyone with movie-inspired savory and sweet treats and an empty wine glass for guests to fill up throughout the evening.
  • Get multiple bottles of the same red and white. Find something affordable and delicious like Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

 

BALLOTS:

  • Ballots are universal must at your Oscar, Golden Globes or SAG party.  There are so many great printables online if you wish to use them.
  • Have everyone place their bets for winners of each category and whoever guesses the most correct winners, wins a gift package of wine.
  • You could also raise the states by setting up a betting bracket, just like the Super Bowl host of pool. People will win points for certain things (actresses who cry, winners on category). The competition will get everyone talking and engaged in the party.

 

GENERAL TIPS:

  • Create a music playlist to have music going before and after to keep people entertained; this is a good way to incorporate songs and scores from nominated movies.
  • Try not to get caught up making the night cheesy heavily incorporating the movies. Just have fun and do it in a natural way.
  • Create a comfortable viewing room. Remember people are watching TV – and mingling—for hours—but make sure you’ve set up a good room to watch.  Put out floor pillows if seating is limited. Rearrange a little to give more people a view. That’s the whole point right?
  • When to organize: As soon as the nominees are set, you could reach out to your friends.  “The nominees have been picked, now it’s time to party.”
  • Remember, don’t go it alone. You will be the star of the evening for hosting a great party, not for doing it all yourself. Delegate to friends. Let them bring wine or some of the food.

 

Ted Allen is the host of Food Network’s “Chopped” and contributes regularly to the networks show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foodie heaven comes to Los Angeles

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Two weeks of heaven for foodies in Los Angeles are taking place this week and next.

dineLA, which recently celebrated its 5th anniversary at the W Hotel in Westwood, is taking place this week through Jan. 27, and resumes Jan. 29 through Feb. 3. Specially priced three-course lunch meals ( $16, $34 or $28) and dinners ($26, $34 or $44) are available at Los Angeles County neighborhood restaurants for those who want to try out new places without breaking their wallet. Although, I must warn, it is very easy to spend more than the fixed prices if you add alcohol or other extras to your meal.

Participating restaurants include those such as Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, which has a new executive chef,  Taylor Boudreaux. Boudreaux, who was previously the corporate executive chef for Wolfgang Puck Worldwide for many years, is offering a $34 prixe-fixed dinner menu of first, second and third course choices such as Celery Root and Apple Soup, with truffled apple slaw, Beer Braised Short Rib, with parsnip puree, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and onion jus; and Apple Guava Galette with Chantilly cream. Sounds delish to me!

The Napa Valley Grille is a great place for Happy Hour. In addition to its tasty and reasonably priced happy hour menu and drinks, the patio with its  comfortable couches is a great place to hang out with good friends. (napavalleygrille.com/westwood)

Executive Chef Dakota Weiss of NineThirty restaurant at the W Westwood-Los Angeles is offering during dineLA some tasty bites like Porcini Bisque soup for a first course choice on both lunch and dinners menus, and Seared Idaho Trout with Haricot Vert on the dinner (lunch menu is $22, dinner is $34). Weiss will compete on Bravo’s next Top Chef series, “Top Chef Texas,” one of the many places she’s lived.

NineThirty offers a chic, yet comfortable place to dine, with many delicious menu items. During a visit celebrating the opening of the W’s CHILL ice skating rink, my companion and I had a dinner of spaghetti squash lasagna that had grilled Portobello mushroom, charred tomato coulis, house-made ricotta and fresh basil, a side of sweet potato fries with truffle aioli, and a delicious flat-iron steak. The food is simply, yet elegantly presented and the flavor of all the ingredients in each dish can savored fully with every bite. Small plates are priced from $15 to $22, and large, $18 to $48. There’s also a special fixed priced menu at $52, which includes one small plate and one large, dessert and coffee. If you add a wine pairing, it’s $82. (ninethirtyw.com)

More information about dineLA can be found online at dineLARestaurantWeek.com

 

 

 

 

 

Fusion of Food & Form Give Life to La Figa

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Chef & Photographer Join Forces To Envision New Art Form

For Tiberio Simone and Matt Freedman, two of the most beautiful things in the world are food and the human body – not necessarily in that order.

“Food is not just sustenance to me,” said Simone, a James Beard award-winning chef. “In culinary school, it is taught that how one serves and arranges a meal on the plate is almost as important as the preparation of the dish itself. Our senses are aroused not only by the taste, smell and texture, but also by how food is presented visually.”

Freedman, known as one of Seattle’s finest photographers and creator of the iPhone app Burning Man: A Photo Essay, agrees with Simone, and also believes that one of the oldest traditions in art is the photographic representation of the human form.

“Photographing the nude is one of the most revered tests of a photographer’s mettle,” Freedman said. “It’s not about sexuality, but sensuality and how a photographer can transcend modern mores and portray the simple, elegant beauty of the human form. When Tiberio – who was already one of my best friends – had the crazy idea of making art by placing fruits and vegetables on people’s nude bodies, I knew I had to photograph it. His artistic vision was a perfect match for my own.”

That project became “La Figa: Visions of Food and Form” (www.LaFigaProject.com), a coffee table book that features a spectacular collection of sensual photography – models wearing nothing but Simone’s edible creations.

“La Figa examines the relationship between food, touch and the ingredients that make life delicious,” Simone said. “It’s a unique hybrid of fine art photography and food. We combine the images with stories and even a collection of my favorite recipes. To us, it’s about natural beauty and fresh flavors. It‘s about our human connection with the food that we eat and how fresh food brings our senses to life, and tunes us in to our most primal instincts for flavor and pleasure.”

When they first embarked on the project, the models were mostly young and slender women, but Simone and Freedman later added men, partially to fulfill a request made by women who knew about the project.

“Then I realized that fruit and vegetables have something in common with people’s bodies – they come in different shapes, sizes, tastes, and smells,” Simone said. “So I started adding people of different ages and shapes. The La Figa concept is the idea that we can find beauty in everything and everyone around us. I wanted our pictures to accurately convey my message. On our first shoot, I completely covered a woman’s body with over 1500 slices of cucumber. In the five years since then, Matt and I have done more than 50 photo shoots together for La Figa, in hopes that it will help me to spread my philosophy about the importance of food and touch as the basics ingredients of a good life. These photos range from pomegranate lingerie, to a white chocolate warrior. To make these images, I had to create many techniques to keep the food fresh, bright, and beautiful on the body – long enough for Matt to take dozens of photographs. We hope the end result will stir people’s souls, pique their curiosity, and most importantly, inspire them to eat well, and make love.”

Excellent food, great views at The Sunset (Malibu)

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The first floor dining room offers a great view of the beach, and, of course, the sunset.

If you’ve got great food, a nice atmosphere, including a view of the beach, and first-rate service, then it all comes together as a fantastic evening out.

The Sunset Restaurant on Westward Road provides all that and more.

Recently remodeled upstairs and downstairs, one can dine in a casual setting (downstairs), or a more private venue with an exclusive tasting menu featuring three “Acts” with 15 courses (upstairs).

Executive Chef Soerke Peters has created a mouth-watering menu for both up- and downstairs.

The Sunset Bistro menu (downstairs) features something for everyone-from burgers to artichoke ricotta ravioli.

The Sunset Bistro menu (downstairs) features something for everyone-from burgers to artichoke ricotta ravioli.

The organic beets in the roasted beets salad come straight from the farmers’ market and the combination with endive, walnut and goat cheese in an orange honey vinaigrette is delightful. For those who love meat, the hanger steak, served with matchstick potatoes, beef jus and roasted garlic aioli, is tender and tasty.

The downstairs special menu features rotating items such as the Lobster Salad-a huge ball of lobster served with tomato confit, chives, avocado and mixed greens-and the smoked salmon flatbread-a thin crisp flatbread layered with lemon cream cheese, dill, mixed greens and topped with thin slices of salmon.

 

The upstairs dining area offers a quieter, upscale experience.

The upstairs tasting menu, which rotates weekly, can feature such fare as Sonoma Valley Foie Gras, served on a brioche, with blueberry rosemary jam and toasted hazelnuts, traditionally prepared Oyster Rockefeller, and Crispy Squid smoked with paprika aioli in Act I, several salad offerings (including the roasted beet and the lobster salad) and clam chowder in Act II. Act III offers meat dishes such as Filet of Beef served with creamed spinach, roasted pee wee potatoes and spring vegetables, or Roasted Jidori Chicken, which is prepared with cous cous, tomato confit, olives, marcona almonds and spinach, as well as fish dishes (scallops with English pea risotto) or the artichoke ricotta ravioli.

The idea is that diners can taste all 15 dishes on the menu, however, if someone wanted to order a la carte, they could choose from the items they wanted as well.

The decor upstairs with its white leather booths, black lacquer tables and chairs, sisal carpets and low-key lighting is like an elegant living room, while downstairs the boisterous and friendly atmosphere is a great place to have dinner with the family or a bunch of friends.

The bar menu at Sunset Restaurant features the exotic to the basic.

After dinner, you can stay for live music Tuesday through Friday night, one of the few venues in Malibu that offer it.

(One “sweet ending” that cannot be missed, either up or downstairs, is the chocolate cake. Made without flour, it is the creamiest, most chocolaty, melt-in-your-mouth delicious cake to be had anywhere.)

 6800 Westward Beach Rd.; 310.589.2027

Fresh Fare at Mogan’s Cafe (Pacific Palisades)

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Mogans Cafe in Pacific Palisades offers fresh fare at reasonable prices.

In any new restaurant owner’s venture, there is the attempt to make a mark, to put your own stamp on an eatery, and to offer the best fare possible, with hopefully reasonable prices. Ryan Newcomb of Mogan’s Cafe in Pacific Palisades is such an owner.

A few months after he and his partner bought the place, he was found at the outside patio of the cafe, which is located in Highlands Plaza at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Palisades Drive, building a wall to separate the dining area from the food serving station. Newcomb said he knew exactly what he wanted and to get it right, he decided to build it himself.

It is such care and concern that make a visit to Mogan’s Cafe a breath of fresh air. This care extends to the extensive menu, which Newcomb said has not changed much since he took ownership in December.
Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the offerings are extensive. The dinner menu lists breakfast, lunch and dinner items on its own. The variety of almost a dozen sandwiches-from the Cajun chicken breast, with red onion, cilantro pesto and mozzarella cheese on grilled sour dough to the hot brisket sandwich, prepared with slow roasted brisket with onions, apple juice, wine and herbs and served with caramelized onions and roasted garlic mayo-will whet the appetite of any food aficionado.
Oh yes, there are the paninis, too, and the salads, gourmet burgers, stir fry, a large range of appetizers and the specialty main courses, which include a plethora of chicken dishes, from Marsala and Picatta to Flat Grilled Chicken. For a Mexican flair, try the steak or tofu fajitas, or the tostadas of chicken, fish or veggie. There’s even fish and chips that can be downed with beer, or wine if you prefer. A recent daily menu listed fresh halibut served with steamed veggies (cooked perfectly, with some crispness) and freshly whipped potatoes. The daily soup, butternut squash, was creamy, sweet and simply delicious.

Newcomb is definitely not new to the restaurant scene; he’s been the manager of Mogan’s for the past five years, and after much consideration and consultation with his business partner, he decided to make an offer to the previous owner that couldn’t be refused.

Once you’ve made a visit to Mogan’s, which is only about a 15-minute drive from the Malibu Pier, you won’t be able to refuse a second visit, and a third, and ….

Mogan’s Cafe, 548 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades, 90272; 310.454.0040; www.moganscafe.com

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