The notion of dinner and a movie can be taken to extravagant heights this weekend.
It's time for lights, camera and great feasting as Oscar night festivities commence Feb. 24 in Hollywood and on television screens around the world.
No one knows better than acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck how best to throw an Oscar night soiree. Puck has presided over the Academy's lavish Governors Ball for the last 18 years and never tires of coming up with the delectable menus he serves the elite of the film industry.
The ball, with more than 1,000 guests, including film stars, presenters, nominees and other special guests, will be held in The Ray Dolby Ballroom on the top level of the Hollywood & Highland Center.
"I look forward to the Governors Ball," said Puck, during a recent telephone interview from his California office. "We're going to have a great party."
Puck said instead of just having a "boring" traditional sit-down meal, he'll be "passing small plates." And so people won't have to get up to get their food, a team of 600 servers will bring the fare to guest tables or wherever they are in the room.
"People seem to like that so they can mingle better," he said.
Puck, fellow chef Matt Bencivenga and pastry chef Sherry Yard have created more than 50 dishes for the big party featuring a mix of recipes starring everything from creative appetizers, seafood dishes, meat recipes and fancy desserts.
Among dishes starring at the Governors Ball will be mini Kobe burgers with aged cheddar and remoulade; assorted pizzas; smoked salmon Oscars (literally shaped like the Oscar statuette) with dill creme fraiche and caviar; shrimp fritters with spicy coconut; Kombu chips with edamame guacamole; bacon wrapped dates; Chinois chicken salad with wontons and Chinese mustard dressing; chicken pot pie with black truffles; truffle macaroni and cheese; Snake River Farms New York steak with Matsutake mushrooms; lobster with black bean sauce; mango crumble; baked to order chocolate souffle cake with shaved espresso ice; chocolate creme brulee with raspberries; ribbons of shaved ice with frozen grapes and much more.
Puck said although they had a press conference last month showcasing what will star on the menu, he's always completely open to changing things.
"I can be completely spontaneous about it," he said, with a laugh.
For Puck, coming up with a menu fit for the stars has always been an enjoyable feat.
"It's the greatest honor in Hollywood for sure," he said. Though the celebrity chef hasn't seen any of the movies up for Best Picture, he said he's got the whole collection at home and will watch them eventually.
For movie fans throwing their own parties at home, Puck has some easy suggestions.
"I'd make it a buffet," he said, adding hosts shouldn't have to work too hard to serve guests and be away from the party themselves.
"One of the most popular dishes (on our menu) is the chicken pot pie," Puck said. He mentioned the pot pie as an easy at-home favorite.
"You can put that together in advance and bake before serving."
Other suggestions are a mac and cheese, a good salad, and mini burgers. Puck's mini Kobe burgers have long been a hit at his parties.
"You can also put (different foods) on skewers," he said. Champagne and sparkling wine should also be part of the glamorous feast.
For Cheryl Molenda, president of the ACF Chefs of Northwest Indiana, throwing a lavish party for Oscar night should be ultimately fun for at-home hosts.
She suggests making it a "high end appetizer" type of meal.
"The more glam the better or if whomever is hosting the event can find out the types of foods served at some of the after parties, try to copy the menu on a scaled down version and decorate accordingly," Molenda said.
Among some possible food choices from Molenda are baked wonton cups filled with a fruity chicken salad or chorizo and topped with shredded cheese and a piece of red sweet pepper to dress it up. "Then bake just long enough to melt the cheese."
She said a seedless cucumber hollowed out and filled with a smoked salmon mousse and topped with fresh dill is not only flavorful but makes a nice presentation.
For Puck, working the Governors Ball on Oscar night isn't too taxing on the nerves of the culinary pro.
"I have great people working with me so it's less stressful," Puck said.
Try the following recipe for edamame guacamole, which is one of Puck's recipes scheduled to be served at the Governors Ball.
1 cup shelled edamame
3 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium-sized ripe Hass-style avocados
Freshly ground black pepper
DIRECTIONS: Put the edamame, sour cream, lime juice and olive oil in a food processor fitted with a stainless-steel blade. Pulse until pureed. With a sharp knife, cut the avocados lengthwise in half, cutting around the pit. Twist the 2 halves between your hands to separate them. With a sharp-edged tablespoon, scoop out and discard the pits. Scoop the avocado pulp from each half into the food processor bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and process until smoothly blended, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl. Carefully transfer the guacamole to a serving bowl. Serve immediately. Makes 10 to 12 servings.