Oscar Party Tips From a Catering Expert, and a Finger Food Recipe

Fancy grilled cheese finger sandwichesWhen the world turns to Hollywood for Oscar Week buzz, we turn to the parties. Specifically our own viewing parties and what we'll serve because we, like the majority of the world, will never walk the red carpet in front of the Kodak Theater, nor will we attend any of the splashy after parties to nibble and nosh with celebrities. But we can look to the caterers who feed them for ideas.

In addition to the main fetes --The Governor's Ball, which Wolfgang Puck has catered for 19 years, and the Vanity Fair shindig -- another biggie of the night is the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party, which has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS research, education and outreach for more than 20 years. And for the last eight years, Wayne Elias and Chris Diamond, and their Crumble Catering company, have been in charge of the food.

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The two, who also own Vermont Kitchen & Bar in Los Feliz, plan and create menus for the pre- and post-receptions of the night. The main dinner is generally hosted by a celebrity chef -- this year it's Cat Cora -- which Crumble also helps prepare. They also take care of service throughout the night. Yes, these guys know how to throw a party.

Elias says that anything can wow when you start with great ingredients. "Serve dishes that are comforting but also creative," he adds. He suggests keeping to things that can be served at room temperature or cold: that way you won't be stuck in the kitchen while your friends are deciding whether they like Michelle Williams' dress or not, or when Clooney makes yet another joke at Brad Pitt's expense.

He also keeps his menus approachable. While he serves beef tenderloin with leek bread pudding, or grilled sea bass with saffron sauce for the main dinner, he sticks to elevated comfort food for the after party: sliders, flatbread pizzas, onion rings, red velvet cupcakes and olive oil tea cakes are always hits.

His raisin bread finger sandwiches filled with mascarpone, gorgonzola and sweet Asian pear, basically a fancy grilled cheese, have been an Elton John party favorite for the last six years. Although the ingredients sound lavish, the savory-sweet sandwiches are super easy to make at home. Bonus: You can even serve it for a party of one.

Mascarpone, Gorgonzola and Pear Finger Sandwiches
Recipe adapted from Crumble Catering
Makes 1 sandwich, or 4-6 triangles

2 slices raisin bread, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 Asian pear, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter

Place the bread on a cutting board and spread the mascarpone cheese on both sides, then place the Asian pear slices on 1 side, follow with the crumble gorgonzola cheese. Cover with the other slice, cheese side down.

In a pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter bubbles, add the sandwich and cook on one side until golden brown. Add the rest of the butter and flip the sandwich, cooking the other side until golden brown. If the cheese hasn't full melted, turn off the heat and cover with a lid for 1-2 minutes.

To serve, trim the crust off of the sandwich and cut into triangles or cut into large squares.

[Photo by Lesley Balla]



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Los Angeles-based freelance food writer.
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