From the red carpet to the comfort of your home

Among Oscar nominees, presenters and other celebrities said to affect consumer opinion, home entertaining and casual chic held court at Hollywood’s gifting lounges preceding the big day. Bling took more of a supporting role in 2012. In fact, between the inspired wine, spirits, cocktails and essentials, it may have been great to be nominated (or at least invited to the party, or at least a viewing party), but there was also something to be said for having an Oscar night shindig at home, at least with some of the handy essentials celebrities brought home.

Here are the highlights. We would like to thank the “academy” of intrepid event planners who brought these inspiring products together.
   During an intimate dinner at the “it” restaurant Eveleigh in Los Angeles, Gins of England, which include the Beefeater and Plymouth Gin, a select group of foodies were shown the right way to glam it up at home with a British sensibility, especially with Meryl Streep poised to win Best Actress for The Iron Lady. Luxurious basics like prime rib, fine cheeses and dreamy toll house cookies were accessorized with these fine cocktails from a bar staff known for its emphasis on market fresh ingredients:

Tonic of Life
2 oz Beefeater gin
1 oz tonic
Top with 4 oz soda

Bon Poire
1½ oz Plymouth gin
¾ oz pear and marjoram vermouth
½ oz Cocchi Americano

The Eveleigh
1½ oz Plymouth gin
¾ oz Rooibos-infused vermouth
¾ oz Barolo Chinato

Red Carpet Rosie
1½ oz Beefeater 24
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz rosemary simple syrup
¾ oz lemon juice

   Fine milled soap, like these Italian bars offered at the Secret Room, don’t only make nice accents for the guest bathroom, but also great party favours and conversation starters. Other sensory pleasures proffered included a Macallan Aged Scotch Bar, a Wolfgang Puck Cappuccino Lounge, Cap Rock Winery Reserve Wines and cocktails by VuQo Coconut Vodka tailor-made for a rooftop pool party (at the l’Ermitage, which seemed to be home to an unusually high number of suites this year).

Manila Bay Breeze
2 oz VuQo vodka
1 oz orange juice
1 oz cranberry juice

VuQo Cali
2 oz VuQo vodka
2 oz lemon-lime juice (calamansi)
dash simple syrup (optional)

Serve as a layered cocktail and garnish with an orange wheel.

   At her now fourth annual Valentine Romance Oscar Lounge & Party, impresario Doris Bergman continued to take the approach of essentially welcoming you into her home, even when she’s actually taking over a restaurant like la Bohème or Gonpachi. What makes it homey and approachable is that she and her team make sure to include those little extras that will have guests talking long after the last award is handed out. She always makes sure there are things for people who tipple (Blue Angel Ultra Premium Vodka), people who sip tea (Kusmi tea), and those wanting to try something truly new and unusual before their friends do (Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Plata Tequila). You can’t have a pre-Valentine’s Day–Grammy–Oscar party without artisanal chocolate and Bootleg chocolate certainly fits the bill. Those gentlemen guests channelling their inner movie mogul would also probably enjoy Leon cigars, produced in LA but crafted in the owner family’s long-standing Cuban heritage.
   Roger and Lynn Neal also made sure there were quality beverages and food that matched the luxury beauty products and accessories they brought together at the l’Ermitage Hotel’s garden suite area. We found the German-made Heaven on Heels to be quite ingenious, especially for the patio parties that will be coming up this spring—a crafty add-on for shoes that add to even the basic pump’s wow factor while preventing you from sinking in to shaggy carpets or fresh springtime lawns.

   Their bar was well stocked with wines from Temecula’s Lorimar Wines, Dama Tequila (designed with women consumers in mind), Cold House Vodka (a new, buzz-worthy artisanal vodka brand) and Dirty Blonde Cocktails ready to drink. Even with a plethora of skinny cocktails, Dirty Blonde Cocktails is a no-brainer for those who are taking no chances and want to fit into their slinky dress. The airy mix of California sparkling wine and fruit essences also pair well with canapés and salads.

   Marley Coffee was a conversation-starter, given its organic certification and its origins (Bob Marley’s son Rohan is the founder). However, the fresh brewed coffee was the perfect thing to keep the adrenaline in light of the literally dozens of suites that carpeted the city.
   Wow Creations introduced guests to ravishing red wines from Gnarly Head and Chocolate Box Wine.

   The Chocolate Shop Wines, which are blended specifically to pair with fine dark chocolate, were sampled with Mary Louise Butters Brownies (www.buttersbrownies.com) offered to celebrities across the way.

   While nobody likes party crashers on any occasion, Bite Lite Candles deter some of LA’s most unwelcome guests (mosquitoes and other annoying insects) with the gentle persuasion of lemongrass and other herbs that peacefully keep those buggers at bay.

   Debbie Durkin’s Eco Oscar Suite got the home entertaining part right, probably more so than they imagined when they staged the event at a stately old mansion where scenes from Best Picture winner The Artist was filmed. Prime sponsor Shaklee’s Get Clean Kits (which have played a starring role at many of Debbie’s events) were presented to VIP guests. While the kits may seem like a bit of an investment, they always win kudos for their space-saving concentrates (no having to go to the market to buy a new bottle of something) and non-toxic components. Clean and non-toxic are a must, after all, if you entertain at home.

   Absolut may have marketing on its side, but the newly launched Kanon Vodka may give the Swedish big fish of vodka a run (or swim) for its money. Besides the fact that its certified organic status will make it popular with your health-conscious friends, the bottles are made from recycled glass, and are 100 per cent recyclable. The entire distillery is run on electricity sourced from wind and waterpower, and corporate offices are heated from steam produced in the fermentation process. Its byproducts are reused in other industries or recycled into biofuel for local buses.
   Quite a conversation-starter, as are some of the cocktails:

Picnic
2 oz Kanon
2 oz watermelon chunks
2 oz lemon lime soda
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup

MF Rainbow
2 oz Kanon
1 slice of orange
1 slice of lemon
1 slice of lime
½ oz simple syrup
cranberry juice

Put the lemon, lime and orange in a tall glass and gently press out the juice with a bar spoon. Add vodka, simple syrup, crushed ice and top with cranberry juice. Muddle watermelon in mixing tin with lemon and simple syrup, add Kanon, shake, strain into rocks glass over ice, top with lemon lime soda. (Created by Jan Warren at Dutch Kills.)

Grape Cooler
2 oz Kanon
4 grapes
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup

Muddle grapes in shaking tin with lemon and simple syrup, add Kanon, shake, strain into Collins glass with ice, top with soda, garnish with a grape or lemon wedge. (Created by Jan Warren at Dutch Kills.)

   Elsewhere at Debbie Durkin’s palatial spread, we were impressed with how something simple like a baby blanket could be transformed into very grown-up, sophisticated luxury. Minky Couture’s designs are right on-trend with their animal prints, Moroccan, Parisian salon and Asian-inspired designs. The founder (pictured below) even got resourceful and transformed extra pieces into stylish scarves that combine sparkle and softness to fend off the chill of mercurial Los Angeles weather.

   Though many people are doing the collapsible ballet slipper, and a few high-end sneaker companies introduced their own versions, we had to admire the spin the people at Solz put on their product in varieties for men and women. Also in the works from this company: a solar panel backpack that charges laptops and Ipads.

   It would not be a GBK suite without a large cake from Hansen’s Bakery (long a favourite baker for many a Hollywood studio, agency, PR, and entertainment industry firm), Gavin Kiley and his team did not disappoint with their selections for those cuddling up at home.

   MyPillow, the self-adjusting memory foam pillow, was back, while the Green Polka Dot Box gave VIP guests a huge care package that had plenty of items ready to go for an organic Oscar celebration. However, its effusive, friendly CEO Rod Smith was even more enthusiastic about the fact that his company is not just bringing convenience to organic grocery shopping but making it more affordable to people outside Hollywood by its ecommerce format and website approach to merchandising established and cutting-edge organic food brands.

   Jacques Pepin’s California Caviar Company, meanwhile, puts to rest the rumour that Russia still corners the market for great caviar. In fact, the many varieties they offer are ethically harvested and prepared in America, but still boast the velvety texture and taste connoisseurs crave.
   If you just cannot live without your closets when you go on the road, Max Mirani comes to the rescue with a carry-on bag, the Move mobile closet–suitcase that becomes a proprietary shelving system to keep clothes organized and preventing the need to unpack or repack. One less thing to do, so you can get right to showing your holiday photos and trying those cocktail recipes you learned in Bangkok or Israel!
   The Alive Expo Green Pavilion was true to its pioneering eco-suite roots. However, they offered guests some surprising indulgences including exceptional olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Bari Olive Oil. While the classic oils are fantastic for Italian, Spanish and Greek food, we loved this company’s sense of adventure with their tandoori- and chili-pepper-infused varieties as well as powerful but velvety garlic- and basil-infused varieties.

   The oils, gorgeously presented in martini glasses, prove that liquid gold exists and it sparks up any kind of food ensemble. •

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