Hosting an Oscars Party

Here’s Your Guide to Some of Our Best Recipes and the Movies

By TC Martin, Edible DC Contributor

Courtesy of  Pexels

Courtesy of Pexels

This Sunday, February 24th, the 91st Academy Awards ceremony will take place in the Dolby Theater in downtown Hollywood. If your tickets got lost in the mail like mine did, this guide is for you! Why not host our own Oscars party? It can be as exciting as attending the real event—and you get to spend the evening with your friends instead of fighting tooth and nail for a selfie with any of the nominees or god forbid, a Kardashian.

If decide to gather a gang and host your own Oscars party this awards season, remember that when it comes down to it, all great Oscars parties involve just three basic elements: the food, the viewing, and the details. If you ace those, your evening is sure to be fun and memorable (so long as your favorite nominee doesn’t get robbed).

Part I: The Food 

Recipes abound for Oscars parties, but a quick perusal of what’s out there reveals countless popcorn-heavy menus, as well as platters of shareable appetizers that would better serve a Superbowl party than an Oscars party.

This year, Edible DC rounded up some of our best recipes for home entertaining.

Winter Rosemary Galette

Just yum. If this was your favorite movie, perhaps you will agree that something savory, elegant and slightly exotic is needed here. Make a Winter Rosemary Galettes featuring squash, goat cheese and prosciutto. It can serve four people, or it can be cut into smaller slices to be shared as an appetizer.

Chicken Andouille and Shrimp Jambalaya

This Chicken, Andouille, and Shrimp Jambalaya recipe from Executive Chef Rusty Holman at Bayou can be made in large batches and served with cornbread and a green salad to satisfy a large gathering.

 

Coconut Poached Chicken Bon Choy Salad

Chef Johanna Hellrigl, of Doi Moi, shared this delightful recipe for Coconut Poached Chicken Bok Choy Salad last year. Showcasing Thai chilies, fresh herbs, and bright flavors like lime and coconut, this salad serves four, and can be made in larger batches for bigger groups.

 

Wadi Rum Cocktail

On the topic of this incredible Wadi Rum Cocktail, Chris Hassaan Francke, owner of the Green Zone in Adams Morgan, said “It’s boozy, it’s hot, it’s smoky, and it’s a little bit of sweet. What more do you want in a wintertime drink?”

 

Tuscany Country Soup

This Tuscan Country Soup from Jim Courtovich makes a flavorful soup with finely chopped pancetta to keep you warm during the winter months. Top with as much freshly-grated Parmesan as you heart desires.

 

Italian Love Cake

Pay homage to Lady Gaga’s Oscar nominations for Best Original Song and Best Actress by dishing up a dessert that echoes Gaga’s Italian ancestry: this Italian Love Cake serves eight to ten.

 

Part II: The Viewing

On Sunday, February 24th, red carpet coverage of the Oscars will begin at 6:30 pm EST, followed by the awards at 8:00 pm EST. The Oscars will air live on ABC, so for those of you who haven’t cut the cable cord yet, watching this Sunday’s awards ceremony will be as easy as flipping to Channel 7 on your TV. If you’re streaming on a device, things get a bit trickier. Nobody wants technical difficulties to cut your Oscars viewing before it even begins, so it’s best to make your streaming plan ahead of time. If you’re streaming on a device but still have access to a cable subscription, ABC’s streaming service ABC Go will let you stream the Oscars for free. If you don’t have access to a cable subscription, live TV streaming services are your best bet. Hulu with Live TV will let you stream ABC and watch the awards live (Hulu offers a free one-week trial), but other sites like fuboTV and Sling TV won’t give you access to ABC’s coverage.

 

Part III: The Details

The food and the viewing are crucial to your Oscars party; what makes the night not merely enjoyable but memorable, however, are the extra details. Here is where your creativity can shine through. Try giving your guests hand-lettered paper invitations instead of a Facebook event request or a quick text; it’ll last longer and mean much more to them. Consider crafting your own film-themed cocktails if you’ve got the time and extra hands, or put a new Hollywood twist on some of your reliable drink recipes with anything from simple garnishes to flashy glitter (be sure to buy the edible variety, though). And although there’s no reason to break the bank for one night of Hollywood glamour, bring together some décor that evokes the very event you’re celebrating. Accents like specialty drink glasses, coasters, drink carts, fresh flowers, candles, and anything else you feel adds ambience to your entertainment space are sure to be appreciated by your guests.

Keep these three elements (food, viewing, and details) in mind, and your party Sunday night is sure to be a blockbuster! If you’re looking to go out to watch the Oscars, there’s no shortage of events happening in the DC area. Commissary DC is offering an Oscars Night mixology class at their P Street location where guests will learn how to make three Oscar-themed cocktails, and Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill in Georgetown is hosting an Oscar in Style Soirée featuring “several epicurean treats from Dyllan’s menu, passed assortment of hand rolled sushi, and bubbly served all night long.” Other Oscars-related events can be found here.

 

Break Bread, Make Policy

Winning dinner party tricks from a lobbying guru

 By Susan Able, Photography by Hannah Hudson

With his charming half-grin, Jim Courtovich swings open the front door of his gracious Woodley Park home and welcomes me in. It’s late morning and Courtovich is half prepped for a dinner party, the kitchen filled with the rich scent of chicken stock simmering away in a huge copper pot. Apron-clad with a phone tucked under his chin, he talks business strategy about an upcoming project while chopping vegetables for a Tuscan soup.  

Founder and CEO of Sphere Consulting, a DC communications firm that just celebrated its 10th anniversary, Courtovich is one of those rare birds who entertains seemingly effortlessly, constructing an entire dinner party for eight or 18 in a day (with a little help from a cast of local college students who “house-tern” and learn to braise at his elbow.)  

For this DC lobbying guru, the best way to do business in “this town” is around a dinner table chez him; good food and good wine go a long way to smoothing difficult conversations, whether it be matters of party politics or state. “People come over and get to know each other over a great dinner, and yes, we end up doing a little bit of business. I’m lucky to be able to blend my passion for cooking with my work,” says Courtovich. 

Growing up in Winchester, Massachusetts, part of a large Greek family, gathering to eat was everything. Men were in the kitchen and on the grill as much as the women. 

“Food was a big deal for us, and all my male relatives could spit-roast a lamb like you’ve never seen. Part of my DNA is bringing people together. In my family, we never made a meal that served fewer than 12 people. Anything else was called a snack.” 

 Courtovich designed his home to facilitate his passion. Two kitchens—one upstairs and one downstairs—serve as base camps for prep; he even boasts a “charcuterie” room, a marble-countered space with a commercial-style refrigerator, a serious meat slicer and shelves of copperware. There is a formal dining room, but two other large dining spaces are used for more casual affairs. Dozens of cookbooks line the bookshelves in the Courtovich kitchens. At night, he cruises through them to relax and to garner ideas: Favorites are Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More and Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Flavors of Tuscany. The Balthazar Cookbook is a “touchstone” for him. 

 “Greek food inspires much of my cooking—but I also live in South Carolina part of the year, so I’m starting to merge those cuisines. Greek sausage mashes up in Southern-style gravy,” Courtovich adds. “I’m trying to write a cookbook, but work gets in the way. It will be about city cooking and entertaining with tips that show how make everything easier.”  

For Courtovich, holidays mean opening his home for gatherings—from intimate dinners to his famous large parties for 50 or more, held on sequential nights with rotating guest lists. And this pro entertainer has hacks for that. As he explains, successful entertaining relies on a plan and depends on a circle of trusted vendors, reliable shortcuts and proven recipes. 

This holiday dinner for eight showcases the “Courtovich” approach: a strong appetizer program, show-stopping main courses and a simply elegant layer cake from Sweet Teensy Bakery.  

Jim Courtovich on Entertaining    

  • Create a vendor triangle—mine is a florist, my butcher at Wagshal’s and Calvert Woodley for wine. My route is up Wisconsin, over to Connecticut and then home—it’s efficient; I know how much time it takes. 

  • Place orders ahead as much as you can for things you are picking up; let them know when you are coming. Saves time. 

  • Do a theme party. People love simple food; for the debates this fall I set up a hot dog bar. Who doesn’t like a hot dog? All the toppings, plus deep-fried tater tots. So easy and everyone was crazy about it. 

  • Even a sit-down dinner doesn’t have to be formal. I’ve served chicken and biscuits for a business dinner. 

  • This is important: Trade off things that are easy to buy and customize. For my crab balls, I buy pre-made crab cakes, then roll them into balls, coat them with panko breadcrumbs and deep-fry them. 

  • For apps, keep them smallish in size and easy to pick up. If you are standing up, talking to people, how big do you really want something to go in your mouth? It should be one bite. 

 Menu

Lamb Kofta with Tzatzki Dip

Salmon Ceviche 

Jim’s Famous Pizza 

Crab Balls  

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Filet Mignon with Herbed Butter (Caption on the filet describing prep) 

Roasted Asparagus (Caption mentioning prep on asparagus) 

Lobster Mac & Cheese  

Sweet Teensy Red Velvet Cake

Fresh Take on Fish Feast

By Cathy Barrow, Photography by Jennifer Cubas

Styling by Elizabeth Duncan Events and flowers by Philippa Tarrant

There’s nothing old school about this holiday tradition

By 5pm on December 24, Washington’s office doors have long clicked shut. Reagan National Airport begins to recover from the overflows of members of Congress and their staff who have fled town. Many expats will be gone.  

One cadre of Washington residents will spend the holidays here because home is somewhere around the globe (and a plane ticket is not in their personal economic recovery plan). But for many more of us, here’s no place we’d rather be. We love the quiet of holiday streets emptied of the masses, our nation’s Capitol bathed in winter light. Perhaps Christmas Eve is just another day. Yet, there is an undeniable celebratory twinkle in the air.  

Rather than press a virtual nose against the glass while forking cold takeout from a cardboard container, savvy Christmas “orphans” plan a celebration with their Framily—the friends they love, the family they choose—and together they make a new tradition. While some of those gatherings include a meal from a home kitchen, many opt to spend the holiday at festive restaurant tables. 

Around the city, there are spectacular options for holiday meals. French bistro Le Diplomate offers a Christmas Eve menu. On the 23rd, DGS Deli repeats the Chinese-Jewish deli mashup with guest chefs from around the city. And Osteria Morini Pastry Chef Alex Levin serves sufganiyot for Hanukkah.  

Since 2011, Chef Fabio Trabocchi has served up “an indulgence menu” based on the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes at his downtown restaurant Fiola, recently awarded one Michelin star. The Feast is also served at Casa Luca and Fiola Mare. The meal reflects Trabocchi’s native Italy, where there is a long tradition of a seafood feast on Christmas Eve and, in his case, seafood on the table every holiday. 

“It is the essence of celebration: caviar, lobster, black truffles, oysters,” he said. “We repeat those items every year but in brand new executions.”  

Served on Christmas Eve, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a spectacular array of seafood dishes traditional to the Italian table. Cookbook author Domenica Marchetti (Preserving Italy, HMH) parses the details: “Italians always had seafood for Christmas Eve—numerous types. My mother was born in Italy and had never heard of the idea of counting the number of fishes. It’s more of an Italian-American custom to count seven—or, in some places 13—fish.” 

As a young chef in Italy, Trabocchi might have enjoyed these meals in restaurants, but it is infinitely more common to feast with family and that is the spirit with which he infuses his menu. It’s celebratory, beautiful and filled with opportunities to dazzle. 

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The first year, Chef Trabocchi’s menu honored each of the seven fish, but diners cried “uncle!” too soon, leaving some food languishing. The following year, he reworked the menu to express the seven in five exquisite dishes. 

From the briny oysters served atop a perforated ceramic tower, to a plump Maine scallop nestled in a puff pastry shell topped with a perfect disc of black truffle, to the buttery seared foie gras and lobster poached in Barolo, every element feels like a gift. 

EDC had a chance to preview Fiola’s 2016 Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. If you can’t get your Framily there this year (reservations fill up quickly), here are four recipes to add to your own holiday table. 

Feast of the Seven Fishes Menu 

from Fiola’s Chef Fabio Trabocchi 

A Winter’s Tale (Holiday Punch)

Shigoku Oysters & Prosecco Zabaglione 

Ahi Tuna Crudo Puttanesca

Baked Maine Scallops & Winter Black Truffle 

Gnocchi Crab & Caviar

Risotto, Langoustines, Sea Urchins 

Lobster, Foie Gras & Barolo 

White Chocolate Panettone Bread Pudding