Celebrating Julia Child at Border Grill

In honor of chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger being the first women to receive the Julia Award from the distinguished Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, their downtown Los Angeles restaurant Border Grill is offering a menu inspired by the famed cooking icon until Nov. 1. I recently tried the prix-fixe menu for lunch with a friend, and the dishes, infused with a Latin twist, are something you won’t want to miss.


To start the meal, the Julia Child special menu offers a bicicleta cocktail made with crisp white wine, Campari and agua de jamaica. Proceeds from the sale of this drink help Milliken’s charity Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry. It goes well with the triangular corn tortilla chips lightly dusted with salt and served with three different salsas.


The first appetizer from the prix-fixe menu, the salade niçoise, arrived featuring a handful of greens mixed with beautifully sliced seared tuna. Crispy green beans and Peruvian purple potatoes topped off this colorful salad, which also had chopped tomatoes, pickled onions, briny olives and halved eggs. Sprinkles of quinoa added a delightful crunch.


For the entrée, we ordered the tender duck leg confit sope, made with thick corn masa. Shaped in a shallow bowl, it’s fried and topped with duck confit, nutritious green purslane leaves and a sprinkling of crumbled queso fresco. A colorful succotash of sautéed summer squash, red peppers and corn complemented this succulent duck dish.

At the Julia Child prix-fixe dinner, Border Grill serves a duck duo including a seared duck breast with a flavorful jus and the duck confit sope.

The luncheon dessert is a flaming crêpes à la Julia. It’s similar to Child’s famous crêpes Suzette, yet with buttered citrus dulce de leche and whipped vanilla crema to offer a bit of Latin essence. Served very warm, it was very satisfying.


While enjoying our food, Milliken strolled over to our table to chat with us. She shared when Child visited her and Feniger’s first restaurant, City Café on Melrose, in the early 1980s and then filmed a show at Milliken’s house.

“She was an extremely hard worker, yet humble and down to earth,” Milliken said.

The  same qualities can certainly be found in Feniger and Milliken as well.

In the 1990s, the pair hosted Child at City Restaurant on La Brea for a book signing of her “Cooking with Master Chefs,” which featured the “too hot tamale” chefs.

The prix-fixe, Child-inspired lunch at Border Grill is $28 and the dinner is $38. Guests may add a cocktail for $10 or enjoy a three-course wine tasting experience for an additional $15. Each dish on the menu can also be ordered à la carte. $$ 445 S. Figueroa St., (213)486-5171.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on Sept. 13, 2018 https://beverlypress.com/2018/09/celebrating-julia-child-at-border-grill/

2017 Emmy Awards Governors Ball Celebration

Walking into the Los Angeles Convention Center last week, I listened to Cheryl Cecchetto enthusiastically reveal this year’s “Golden Grandeur” design for the Emmy Awards Governors Ball. For 20 years, Cecchetto has produced the Governor’s Ball. This year there are three balls back-to-back. The Creative Arts Governors Ball was on Saturday, Sept. 9 and Sunday, Sept. 10. On Sunday, Sept. 18, she will welcome the Emmy winners, nominees and entertainment luminaries after the televised Emmy Awards show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Event Producer for Sequoia Productions Cheryl Cecchetto

Focusing on elegance and environmental sustainability, the grand room is transformed with 5,000 paper cyclinders painted in a biodegradable gold coloring as the parties’ signature overhead art installation. The piece will be recyled and reused after the event.


Rectangular tables are dressed with rich gold thread linens and set with 25,000 pieces of china with wine glasses in a space that is the length of one football field and double the width. The exquisite floral centerpieces by Kevin Lee, owner and floral designer for LA PREMIER adorn the tables. The flowers and greenery will be repurposed as mulch following the event.


This is the 22nd year that Executive Chef Joachim Splichal and his Patina Catering team including Executive Chef Gregg Wiele, Executive Chef of Patina Catering Alec Lestr and Executive Pastry Chef Frania Mendivil prepare an elegant “golden” three-course dinner incorporating seasonal ingredients. Over 250 cooks will be in the kitchen each night. Most of the main course (filet mignon) will be cooked on-site and given immediately to the 600 servers to deliver warm to the guests.The elegant menu includes heirloom tomato salads, pan roasted filet mignon and chocolate brownies.

FullSizeRender-247Award-Winning Bartender Charles Joly of World Class Spirits made a signature Emmy cocktail with The Hilhaven Lodge Blended Whiskey for guests to sip before and during dinner.

FullSizeRender-249Ferrari Trento will offer a variety of sparkling wines for celebratory toasts, with Jamie Alexander Stewart, the U.S. Brand Ambassador to help pour over 4,000 champagne flutes.IMG_1430

Tim Irwin the Global Brand Director of Sterling Vineyards will debut Iridium, a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon in the Winner’s Circle while Emmy winners have their statuettes personalized.


Phillip Ashley owner of Phillip Ashley Chocolates will satisfy everyones sweet tooth with his beautiful artisan chocolate treats.

Musical Director Scott Mayo and the Scott Mayo Collective will entertain guests with a special performance.

Contributing Television Academy corporate partners also highlighted include: Audi®, FIJI® Water, L’Oréal® Paris, and Splenda Naturals.

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, September 17, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT on CBS.



Sneak Peek into the 68th EMMYS AWARDS GOVERNORS BALL

Today I attended a preview of the 2016 Television Academy Emmys Awards festivities at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  The opportunity allowed me to see, touch, taste and learn about this year’s “Nature’s Elegance” theme with interactive food, beverage and design masters stations.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The 2016 Emmys celebration will set a new record, planning three separate balls that will take place starting this weekend. On Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11, the Television Academy will host a pair of Creative Arts Balls. The following Sunday, September 18, after the funny and talented Jimmy Kimmel hosts the Emmy Awards live, nominees and winners will walk on a red carpet to one of  Los Angeles’ most extravagant award’s dinner and party. It’s actually the nation’s largest, annual formal sit-down dinner for 3,800 entertainment industry luminaries at the 68th Emmys Awards Governors Ball. Together that is a combined total of 7,400 Hollywood elite dining and celebrating following the award ceremonies.

April is ready to touch up stars. Photo by Jill Weinlein
April is ready to touch up stars. Photo by Jill Weinlein

I had an exclusive first look at the decor, flowers, dinner menu, cocktails, wine, bubbly, desserts and chocolates that all the Emmys nominees and winners will enjoy at the after-party Celebrations. I even had esthetician April from L’Oreal Paris sit me down in a makeup chair and provide a touch up on my face, just as she will do to all the Emmy winners in the Winners Circle.

Next stop is a glass of bubbly. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Next stop is a glass of bubbly. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Maury McIntyre, Television Academy President and COO announced that this is Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions 19th year as event producer of the grand parties. Way to go Cheryl!

Audi celebrates its sixth year participating and L’Oreal Paris has been part of the team for four years. Lovely bottles of Fiji Water with straws were passed around the room, and someone was always talking to Christina at the Cellar Door Chocolates, as she enjoyed another year at this event. Ferrari bubbly was being poured into flutes and Sterling Vineyards offered wine tastings.

Here are 10 Fascinating People I talked to during the preview:

1.Barbara Cassel, Governors Ball Committee Co-Chair announced the theme of the event this year is Nature’s Elegance. The cavernous room will be transformed into a mesmerizing garden to replicate al fresco dining for an elegant evening.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Edward Fassl – Photo by Jill Weinlein

2. Edward Fassl, Governors Ball Committee Co-Chair announced that the headline performer this year will be 22-year-old singer Jordan Smith. This talented young man was the Season 9 winner of mega popular television show – The Voice.

Cheryl Cecchetto knows how to put on the best parties – Emmys, Oscars, weddings, etc. Photo from her book Passion To Create.

3. The always personable Cheryl Cecchetto, Event Producer of Sequoia Productions shared with me that her favorite part of this fabulous party is when the guests step into the transformed room. “I enjoy seeing the expressions on their face as they glance around and appreciate the magic we create,” Cheryl said.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Patina and Babe Farmers partnership. Photo by Jill Weinlein

4. Joachim Splichal, Master Chef & Founder, Patina Restaurant Group was at the event, however I never had the opportunity to interview him. Instead I approached Gregg Wiele, Executive Chef of Culinary Patina Restaurant Group, Alec Lestr Executive Chef of Patina Catering and Executive Pastry Chef Frania Mendivil. This trio started planning and crafting the three-course menu the day after last years parties. Splichal told the Television Academy, “It is my honor and absolute pleasure to work with the Television Academy on this prestigious event for the 21st year.” This year Patina worked with Babe Farms in Santa Maria to plant seeds and grow a variety of produce just for this event. Here’s this year’s Patina Menu for the Governors Ball –

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

First Course – Colorful heirloom beets with pistachio-goat cheese “bonbons,” blood oranges, preserved lemon, roasted eggplant puree, baby fennel confit, Lolla Rosa, black olive “soil,” and tangelo vinaigrette.

Patina's esteemed chefs. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Patina’s esteemed chefs. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Main Course – “Turf & Turf” is thyme-roasted tenderloin and slow-braised short rib, wild mushroom pithivier, rapini, rainbow carrots, and caramelized shallot jus.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Chocolate and carmelized marshmallow with coconut? YUM! Photo by Jill Weinlein

Dessert – Ocoa chocolate crémeux with tropical coconut mousse, torched meringue, and exotic fruit.

The wines served are 2013 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, and Napa Valley 2014 Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Delicious chocolates! Photo by Jill Weinlein

5. Erika Chavez-Graziano, the owner of Cellar Door Chocolates and her chocolate-maker Christina Keller shared with me that they have made 38,000 pieces of a variety of homemade elegant chocolates. Some of my favorites include the dark chocolate peppermint bars, raspberry truffles, milk and dark pralines.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
100,000 flowers designed by Kevin Lee. Photo by Jill Weinlein

6. The stylish Kevin Lee, owner and floral designer of LA Premier told me that he has ordered 100,000 flowers from all over to provide the exquisite arrangements for the parties. He also incorporated beautiful water-wise succulent plants. Nice! Lee told me that he thanks his mom for his creative flair. He knew as a young boy that he was a creative person. “You can’t learn to be creative, it comes naturally,” said Lee. “Floral designers can arrange with technique, but you can’t be creative without flair.”

Photo by Jill Weinlein
World Class creative cocktails. Photo by Jill Weinlein

6.  The dashing Charles Joly, award-winning bartender, World Class Spirits made two drinks for the media to try. His Ketel One Moonlighter is made with Kettle One Vodka, Chamomile-Lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, Cocchi Americano, soda water and lavender sprigs with mint. His second Emmys cocktail is an Old Fashioned made with The Hilhaven Lodge blended Straight American Whiskey, sugar cube, dashes of aromatic bitters and orange peel.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
The Babe Farmers with their visual treats. Photo by Jill Weinlein

7. Both Greg and Alex of Patina introduced me to Jeff Lundberg, the President & CEO of Babé Farms in Santa Maria, CA. They partnered with Patina to plant exclusive seeds for the vegetables prepared by these esteemed chefs. Heirloom carrots, beets and fennel seeds were planted six months ago. Both chefs went up to Santa Maria to check on their Patina garden. The chefs checked on the size, quality and when to harvest 2,100 beets in colors of yellow, red and striped. They worked with the farmers on when to harvest 6,500 fennel bulbs and 27 pounds of rainbow carrots to be delivered to the Patina kitchen. Jeff told me he knew as a young boy, he always wanted to be a farmer.  While attending Cal Poly SLO, he came home to work with his mother and father on the farm. After graduation he continued working on the farm. “Santa Maria offers the ocean influences with fog in the morning, wind to bring some sunshine and fog to cool the Valley down. It’s ideal to grow fruit and vegetables,” said Jeff. “It’s important to take care of our soil, because in return it provides and takes care of out farm.”

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Touted “best bubbly on earth” Photo by Jill Weinlein

8. Jamie Alexander Stewart, U.S. Brand Ambassador, Ferrari Trento is pouring 30,000 flutes from 5,000 bottles. He excitedly shared with me that the FerrariTrento Brut NV acheived two amazing awards during The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships : World Champion Classic Blanc de Blancs 2016 & Best Italian Sparkling Wine 2016. “It’s the best award on earth,” said Stewart.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Every winner goes home with a bottle. Photo by Jill Weinlein

9. Mari Coyle, Winemaker of Sterling Vineyards shared with me that approximately 5040 bottles of Sterling Vineyards wine will be uncorked at the Governors Ball and poured into 25,200 glasses. Also, each Emmy winner will received a personalized gift box with a bottle of Sterling’s Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon. The four wines poured include a 2013 Chardonnay and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2012 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
My dream car! Photo by Jill Weinlein

10. Walking away with a goodie bag filled with spirits, wine, brut, chocolates, a LA Premier plant and recipes to throw my own Emmy Award dinner, I stopped and looked at the eye candy of Audi R8 newest sports car – What a beauty! This year’s Emmy celebration is bigger and better than in the years past. BRAVO to everyone involved in throwing three stellar parties in Los Angeles.

Photo of writer
Photo of writer

Watch the Emmys Awards show on Sunday, September 18 at 7 p.m. on ABC.



Interview with Mrs. Patmore of Downton Abbey

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Actress Lesley Nicol – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Yesterday when I entered the Shrine Exposition Theatre for a preview of the Screen Actors Guild gala awards ceremony, I noticed the talented actress Lesley Nicol. She plays the adorable, no-nonsense cook whipping up elegant dishes for the aristocratic Crawley family. Mrs. Patmore rules the kitchen staff and has a motherly relationship with her kitchen helper, Daisy.

Usually in a frumpy servant outfit on the show, Lesley was a striking “lady in red” with her coiffed strawberry blonde hair. She offered me a friendly and beautiful smile as we were introduced before our interview.

Here are 10 tidbits I learned about one of my favorite characters in the #1 PBS Drama Series – Downton Abbey:

  1. She wanted to be a nurse or flight attendant as a little girl, because she liked the uniforms.
  2. She was very shy as a little girl. After appearing on stage in a show, she said the experience gave her power and she was hooked.
  3. Her first play was a 12-year-old boy in ‘Androcles and the Lion.’
  4. She graduated from the London’s Guildhall School of Drama in the 1970s.
  5. While filming the last episode of Downton Abbey, Lesley told me, “The cast and crew were giddy like school children can get on the last day of school.” She shared with me that when Jim Carter who plays the butler Mr. Carson started getting choked up during his last scene, she did too. She said “Two big crew members went into the corner and sobbed when ‘It’s a Wrap’ was announced. It was a very emotional day.”
  6. She is the voice of a fairy godmother in a Disney Television animation – Goldie and Bear

    Writer with one of her favorite Downton Abbey characters
    Writer with one of her favorite Downton Abbey characters
  7. Lesley now lives in Los Angeles.
  8. She also appeared as Rosie in the West End production of Mamma Mia!
  9. Years ago, she was the face of Tetley tea in the United Kingdom.
  10. Lesley is a celebrity ambassador for her charity AnimalsAsia. This organization has rescued 500 bears and cares for them in sanctuaries in China and Vietnam. They also educate and work to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam. AnimalsAsia lobbies to improve the welfare of companion animals, promote humane population management, and prevent the cross-border export of “meat dogs” in Asia.

Watch Lesley Nicol in the final Season of Downton Abbey on Sunday evenings on PBS at 9 p.m.


The 67th Emmy Awards Governors Ball

IMG_7968The largest formal sit-down dinner is coming up on September 20 at the Los Angeles Convention Center after the 67th Emmy Awards show. The 4,000 nominees and winners will leave L.A. Live and walk inside a beautifully transformed ballroom by Sequoia Productions.

Guests will be handed a flute of Ferrari Brut NV Trento DOC Metodo Classico or a Emmy Cocktail made with Tequila Patron by mixologist David Alan and his team from the Patron Spirits Company.  Emmy guests will be led to their tables for a splendid three-course Patina Group sit-down dinner.

They will be entertained by International superstar Andrea Bocelli and 16 time Emmy and Grammy Award-winning producer and songwriter David Foster.

This year’s theme of The Governors Ball is “Reigning with Radiance” offering spectacular shimmering hues and rich vibrant textures. It’s classic grandeur in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

IMG_7946This is the 16th year that the talented Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions has designed the exquisite party  working her magic. They assembled 30 sparkling Swarovski crystal chandeliers that are 27-feet tall and drop down to the center of the tables. Over 45,000 Swarovski crystals were used to create 536 crystal strands.

The lavish table settings include linens with colors of rose gold, ivory, silver, amber blush, and champagne. There are 12,000 pieces of china, 11,400 wine glasses and 4,000 champagne flutes.

Kevin Lee of LA Premier is providing flowers again for the Governors Ball with 400 floral arrangements on the tables and around the room. Arrangements feature white roses, calla lilies, white cascading orchid stems and 2,500 flickering candles.

Chefs Alec Lestr and Gregg Wiele
Chefs Alec Lestr and Gregg Wiele

Patina Restaurant Group has designed an exquisite three-course gourmet menu created by esteemed chef and founder of the Patina Restaurant Group, Joachim Splichal, along with Chef Gregg Wiele the West Coast Culinary Director of Patina Restaurant Group and Alec Lestr Executive Chef of Patina Catering. It’s the 20th year that this catering team has created a one-of-a kind menu with a cooking production team of 18 executive chefs and 205 on-site cooks to prepare 4,000 dishes

Servers will deliver a wildflower honey poached forelle pear salad with lavender and fennel-scented Sonoma goat cheese, with fresh sliced figs, spiced walnuts and quince with a quince vinaigrette. It’s paired with a glass of Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay. This is the first year that Penfolds has been part of the Emmy team. They are so excited to be serving their South Australian wine and is offering a signature black wood wine box with a bottle of their Penfolds Bin wine.

After the salad, guests will be served a plate with filet of beef tenderloin with a red jus and béarnaise espuma. It is accompanied with a slice of herb-scented potato terrine, King trumpet IMG_7958mushrooms, yucca chips and roasted cherry tomatoes. Servers will pour glasses of Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz to pair with the filet.

Dessert is a single origin Ghana brownie with Zephyr popcorn Chantilly, Cara Crakine and baby bourbon caramel. It was created by the talented Patina Pastry Chef Frania Mendivil. Pots of tea and Groundwork Coffee Co. coffee will be poured at each table.

Throughout the evening guests can sip on Natural Artesian Water presented by FIJI Water.

For winners seeking more chocolate, there will be chocolate stations with over 1,000 pounds of Cellar Door Chocolates. Each station will offer a variety of of nine different chocolates for people to taste throughout the night. This is the second year that Cellar Door Chocolates owner Erika Chavez-Graziano has offered her Kentucky chocolates to the ultimate Emmy party.

Pastry Chef Frania Mendivil
Pastry Chef Frania Mendivil

For those who need a makeup touchup, celebrity makeup artist April Chaney and her team will be on hand with a L’Oreal Paris makeup area to make sure each guest looks their best.

Watch the Emmy Awards on September 20 at 8 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. PT.

66th Television Academy Emmy Awards Governors Ball

DSC_0916Yesterday I went to the Television Academy in NOHO for a sneak peek on the plans for this year’s ultimate Emmy® after-parties: the 2014 Creative Arts Ball on Saturday, August 16 and the 66th Emmy Awards Governors Ball on Monday, August 25.

This year’s  Creative Arts Ball’s and the Emmy Awards Governors Ball theme is  a “kaleidoscope of color.”

7,000 guests including all of the year’s nominees, presenters, invited attendees and the most Emmy Award winners will toast with glasses of BV Vineyard wines at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

According to Governors Ball Committee Chair Russ Patrick, “This year’s theme and décor are metaphors for the creative excellence, vibrancy and richness of our industry and this television season. When guests walk into the West Hall, it’s our hope that their collective breaths will be taken away.”

Event producer Cheryl Cecchetto, of Sequoia Productions, added, “Our ultimate after party will be a sensory delight, offering sights, sounds, cuisine and hospitality that cannot be found anywhere else.”

Guests will be welcomed by dazzling  red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple colors throughout the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Entertainment this year includes special guest vocalist and recording artist Judith Hill (20 Feet From Stardom) at the Governors Ball, backed by The Red Hot

Patina Executive Chef Alec Lestr
Patina Executive Chef Alec Lestr

Band, a high-energy Top 40 band. Extreme Beam will captivate partygoers with their dynamic dance routines.

On the south end of the ballroom, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy dancers will liven up the evening performing to the beats spun by DJ CoryLive. Rounding out the evening’s entertainment is String Theory, a hybrid performance ensemble renowned for their large- scale performance installations.

Patina Catering, under the direction of acclaimed Chef Joachim Splichal and the Patina culinary team lead by Chef Alec Lestr and Chef Greg Wiele, has created the three-course menu for each Television Academy after-party. The first course salad mixes peaches and heirloom tomatoes with buratta, candy striped figs and marcona almonds. The main course features filet mignon, a potato “bone” filled with golden potato puree, caramelized cippolini, crisp lacinato kale and zephyr squash, in a sauce of red wine and artisan grapes. The dessert is a contemporary take on chocolate s’mores designed by Patina Restaurant Group’s Executive Pastry Chef Carlos Enriquez.

The official chocolate provider to this years Emmy Awards is Cellar Door Chocolates. Erika Chavez- Graziano and her team is making thousands of sweet treats for the guests. The chocolates pair nicely with BV wines or Fiji Water.

Kevin Lee from LA Premier flowers told me he and his staff will be making 700 floral center pieces for the event.

The Creative Arts Ball and Emmy Awards Governors Ball are produced by Sequoia Productions. Both events will take place in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center immediately following the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on August 16, and the 66th Emmy Awards on August 25, respectively.

DSC_0915Watch the 66th Emmy Awards airs live Monday, August 25 (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) on NBC and will originate from the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. The awards will be hosted by Seth Meyers.

Host Your Own Academy Awards Oscar Party

DSC_0734Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a “Stars Under The Stars” Oscars Preview of the Governors Ball at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Under a canopy of twinkling lights I was in awe to experience what our Hollywood Elite will get to experience on March 2.

One of the first people I interviewed was the lovely winemaker Alison Crary from Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley. Known as one of the finest wineries in Calistoga, “Sterling is very excited to again, exclusively pour during the Academy Awards event,” said Crary. Directors, writers, actors and actresses nominated and their guests will be offered a glass of Sterling wine as they walk off the red carpet and into the Dolby Theatre. After the awards show, 1,600 Academy guests will proceed to the Governors Ball, where Sterling wines will be paired with the culinary creations of Chef Wolfgang Puck. Guests attending the Governors Ball will sip limited production of 2010 Reserve

Chardonnay and 2008 Reserve Cabernet. Sterling Vineyards is produced by Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines.

Since I wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award this year, I learned from various professional party planners at the event, some easy steps to make my own Oscar Party at home.  


Cheryl Cecchetto and Gary Levitt of Sequoia Productions, Renowned Celebrity Event Producers recommended to click and print from the link http://cdn.media.oscar.abc.com/media/2014/pdf/2014/nominees_ballot.pdf to print out Oscar party ballots to distribute to my guests to predict the winners before or during the show. Have prizes on hand for the guest who selects the most winners. Alison Crary recommended a bottle of Sterling wine.


The Governors’ Ball was decorated in hues of olive, rust, aubergine, turquoise, bronze with subtle splashes of glitter. Use many of these colors as accents in your tablescape, napkins, and glassware.

Mark’s Flowers decorated the tables with garden roses, hydrangeas, moss, birch, and wisteria will be used throughout the space. Pick up DSC_0743these flowers at your local Farmers Market and make some arrangements or place the flowers in vases throughout your home.   

Greeting & Guests Arrival

As each guest arrives, greet them with a range of wines or a signature cocktail.  Don’t forget to be a responsible host and set out water and other non-alcoholic beverages! I may consider a Blood & Sand, first created in 1922 for a Rudolph Valentino movie of the same name. http://cocktails.about.com/od/whiskeyrecipes/r/Blood-And-Sand.htm

Download more cocktail recipes that the stars will be sipping: https://transfer.taylorstrategy.com/message/jumyIRynO2d0776XFtDeKx



Have John Legend, nine-time Grammy Award winning songwriter-singer playing in the background. He will take the stage at the Governors Ball.

Food & Wine Pairings

Since Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 12Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 09Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck, along with chef Matt Bencivenga and his team are creating over 50 of his most famous dishes that he has served throughout 20 years at the Governors Ball, I thought I would go online and pull up some of his easy to make dishes to serve at the party, from homemade potato chips, salads and assorted Wolfgang Puck signature pizzas – http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/recipes.

Set out Sterling Vineyard Wines next to the food display with notes of  suggested pairings. Such as pairing homemade potato chips with Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The lively acids in the wine complement to the chips.

Create a pizza bar by purchasing pre-cooked pizza dough and setting out a bowl of sauce, shredded cheese, and a variety of both meat and vegetable toppings.  Each guest can then pick and choose to create their own personal pizzas.  To save time cooking, partially bake the crusts before everyone adds their toppings. The meat toppings  pair nicely with the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, the vegetable toppings with the Carneros Pinot Noir.

Wolfgang Puck's Pastry Chefs - Romain Lenoir, Della Gosset and Kamel Guechida
Wolfgang Puck’s Pastry Chefs – Romain Lenoir, Della Gosset and Kamel Guechida

Wolfgang Puck’s pastry chefs Della Gossett, Kamel Guechida and Romain Lenoir prepared some of the most exquisite desserts for the Ball, such as chocolate dipped strawberry cheesecake pops, funky chunky chocolate popcorn and tiny golden Oscar statures. Set up a dessert bar with multiple small bites that are perfect for pairing Baileys and coffee.

Follow these tips to host an Academy Award party that is worthy of having your name as a winner on one of the elegant DSC_0749Marc Friedland famous envelopes.

SCRW 39th Annual Award Dinner at The Ranch

IMG_1279As a new member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, I attended my first awards dinner on March 11, 2013. Held at the magnificent restaurant, The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim, over 200 restaurant writers, Directors of Food & Beverage, chefs, managers and servers gathered in the Saloon for wine tasting and appetizers before dinner was served.

Some of the hors d’ oeuvres included chilled jumbo Mexican white shrimp in an atomic cocktail sauce and a spoon of cold smoked Skuna Bay salmon topped with Hass avocado, a Ruby red grapefruit segment and crunchy pink peppercorns to enhance the flavor and texture. They paired nicely with a Chardonnay from Majestic Fine Wines. The white wine had notes of apple, peach and brown spices.

Sitting at Table 9, I was fortunate to sit with some fascinating people in the wine and restaurant industry. To my right was the debonair John Thornton sitting with his lovely wife Sally and charming son Steve. They are the owners of Thornton Winery in Temecula, CA. Steve runs the winery smoothly. John excitedly shared with me details about their upcoming Jazz series. To learn more about the  jazz schedule, go to: http://www.thorntonwine.com/champagne-jazz-series.

We talked about Thornton’s sparkling wines, while enjoying Executive Chef Michael Rossi and Executive Sous Chef Evan Stanley’sIMG_1281 Alaskan King Crab Gazpacho with mango, apples and Easter egg radish. Servers poured a thin “soup” of Edwards Ranch Estates Valencia oranges and cucumbers.

I learned that the winery creates their sparkling wines by using the traditional Methodé Champenoise. Knowledgeable tour guides lead guests throughout the winery explaining everything from the fermentation tanks & en tirage in the caves to the disgorging process. Fortunately, we all received a flute of sparkling Brut from the Thornton Winery to celebrate the announcement of various awards.

James Woodin, the President of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, was a captivating Master of Ceremonies. He graciously announced the winners of the Special Awards with humor and gratitude.

Happily everyone at my table won awards. The John M. and Sally B. Thornton Foundation won an Appreciation Award for their continued support to The Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund. Their generous donations help students of culinary and enology at Glendale Community College, Orange Coast College, San Bernardino College and Riverside Community College.

The Thornton Winery has an on site gourmet restaurant Cafe Champagne. The Thornton’s IMG_1282won the Golden Bacchus Wine Awards.

To the left of me was the gorgeous Kristi Melani and charming Gary Maggetti, General Manager, Food & Beverage and Store Operations at The Walt Disney Company. Greg continually stood up to receive awards for his restaurants inside California Adventure and Disneyland in Anaheim. Some of the awards went to the Chefs at  Ariel’s Grotto, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Napa Rose.

The Owner/Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Andrew Edwards of The Ranch. His chefs made a certified Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with a cabernet reduction and sun-dried cherries. It paired nicely with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gallo Family Wines.

IMG_1286Pastry Chef David Rossi won the 2012 Pastry Chef of the Year. He served us his James Beard House winning Milky Way With A Twist. It had Valrhona Chocolate, malted Nougat and a scoop of delicious salted caramel ice cream. It was fabulous and went nicely with a sparkling Brut from my new friends at Thornton Winery.

Plates of Mignardises arrived with home-made chocolates and confections. Everyone left The Ranch with a big smile on their face.