Some people take the casual route when watching the Oscar telecast. They kibitz over the best gown or most tedious acceptance speech, while noshing pizza. But it's more fun to get dressed up, invite a few friends over and break out the gold star confetti for an evening of movie star glamour — with a party menu inspired by the cinema.
This year, with 10 movies in contention for best picture honors, there's plenty of inspiration to be had, from blue-hued Avatars to the balloon-hoisted house from "Up." And of course, a movie about a world-renowned chef appears in the
best actress category.
The Na'vi never actually ate anything in James Cameron's Oscar-nominated "Avatar," but the paucity of facts never stopped creative people from speculating. Already, recipes for blue cocktails — Avartinis — have popped up online, including on Epicurious.com, which suggests adding a teaspoon of blue Curacao to your favorite martini recipe.
Gwyneth Hogarth, a mixologist and bar manager at Walnut Creek's Prima Ristorante, has a different take on the cocktails. Even though Curacao matches the Na'vi's distinctive skin tone, the blue hue comes from artificial dyes — and the Na'vi are the ultimate eco-friendly beings, she says. So, an Avatar cocktail that salutes Eywa, the Earth mother goddess of the Na'vi world, should be green, seasonal and fresh. For Hogarth, that means Absolute Berri Acai, a floral berry blend of acai, blueberry and pomegranate, muddled with mint, fresh lime juice and elderflower syrup, and garnished with edible pansies.
When it comes to menus, few partygoers would favor the Na'vi grubs and mysterious "hexpedes" mentioned on "Avatar" fan forums. Instead, Bill Peil, the culinary program director at Whole Foods Cupertino, suggests complementing such a fresh, seasonal cocktail with crisp spears of asparagus, wrapped in prosciutto with a rosemary-scented cream cheese.
Peil throws an Oscar Night party every year and has plenty of recommendations for foods that echo the movie nominees. He's planning football-inspired Candlestick Prawns to honor Sandra Bullock's "The Blind Side," this year, and grilled German sausages with sweet and sour cabbage to complement "Inglourious Basterds." Apple strudel would also work nicely for "Inglourious."
Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar chef Janine Falvo and sommelier Chris Sawyer, who do a cinematic menu for the annual Sonoma Valley Film Festival, suggest riffing on the "The Blind Side" with a Maryland-style Blue Crab Dip (although if you use Dungeness, Falvo promises not to rat you out to Baltimore residents who are blue crab fanatics). The movie is set in the South, but the main character is drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens. Pair the rich dip with Old Bay potato chips, and a crisp Ravenswood gewurztraminer.
"Heavy dramas often require pairings with powerful wines," says Sawyer, turning his attention to "Precious." "Much like the success of 'Precious,' the Stags' Leap 2006 comes out of nowhere and quickly emerges as a complex and powerful wine with aromatic notes of violet and lavender and deep flavors that leave a lasting impression on the palate."
Plus, it's delicious, particularly when paired with the Sonoma chef's Sweet Tea-Braised BBQ Ribs.
Spicy samosas or any Middle Eastern food will complement "The Hurt Locker," the explosive drama set in Iraq. And you explored South America via balloon-powered house in "Up," the Carneros pair says, so aim for an Argentine-style steak with chimichurri and a Terra Rosa 2007 Malbec.
As for the Coen Brothers' "A Serious Man," Sawyer and Falvo suggest mini-latkes topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, paired with an updated take on the sweet pink wines so popular in the 1960s, when the movie is set. The characters in the film likely drank Lancer's or Mateus, says Sawyer.
"The Muscardini 2009 Rosato di Sangiovese is an upgrade to an old idea in dry rose form," says Sawyer. "When served slightly chilled, it (has) all the delightful flavor and color, minus the sweetness."
The other menu option, says Peil, is to host a dinner devoted to a best actress-nominated role, something that is easier than ever this year since Meryl Streep is nominated for her role as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." So, serve Beef Bourguignon and don't forget Child's signature trick — repeated in the movie three times by Julie, Julia and Child's editor, Judith Jones. The beef won't brown properly if you don't dry it with paper towels before cooking.
Coq au vin is a good choice, too, says Peil. The beauty of both dishes is that they can be made ahead. Accompany them with boiled small potatoes, tossed with butter and chopped parsley, or buttered noodles, and a simple green salad. And finish the evening with Child's favorite dessert, Chocolate Mousse, flavored with a splash of orange liqueur.
An Oscar Night Party
Fresh Asparagus Rolls with Prosciutto (Avatar)*
Warm Blue Crab Dip (The Blind Side)*
Lamb Samosas (The Hurt Locker)*
Flank Steak with Chimichurri (Up)
Sweet Tea-Braised BBQ Ribs (Precious)*
Potato Latkes with Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche (A Serious Man)
Apple Strudel with Whipped Cream (Inglourious Basterds)
An Oscar Dinner a la Julia Child
Buttered Potatoes with Parsley
Green Salad with a French Vinaigrette