To prove that point, in a whirlwind two days, we encountered Bond, Brangelina and Beard, at three star-studded shindigs. It started with Bond, James Bond, as Sony/Columbia Pictures unspooled “Spectre” at a morning-before-wide-release screening on Thursday, November 5, 2015, then invited the lucky crowd (a mix of Academy Award Music Branch voters and voting members of other groups – like my critics’ voting group, the BFCA, who give the Critics Choice Awards out in January) to join singer Sam Smith for lunch at Craig’s in WeHo. As Herbie Hancock, David Foster and other music luminaries dug into delicious Honey Truffle Chicken, Spaghetti Squash Primavera and a crazy good Chocolate Pizza (for dessert), Smith made the rounds of the sold-out restaurant along with Jimmy Napes, his songwriting collaborator, together chatting up their “Writing on the Wall” tune that opens “Spectre,” the 24th James Bond film to be unleashed on the world. “The first Bond movie I saw was ‘Tomorrow Never Dies,'” the 23-year-old Smith recalled, then proved he’s not as young as he seems, by adding, “But my favorite Bond song is ‘Diamonds Are Forever.'” And who is his favorite Bond? Sir Roger Moore, it seems. Smith is already an internationally renowned musician, but being a part of the Bond franchise cannot help but launch his career into the stratosphere. Speaking of stratospheric stars, Brangelina descended on the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard that evening, to open the annual AFI Fest 2015 Presented by Audi. Angelina Jolie Pitt and Brad Pitt brought all their glitter and glam to the opening night gala, as “By the Sea” celebrated its world premiere. First, Hollywood’s golden couple worked the crowd on the boulevard, gladhanding and taking selfies with fans, working the red carpet like champs and then presenting the film, which the pair produced and Jolie Pitt wrote and directed. It’s the first time they have starred in a film together since “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” in 2005, where they first met. “By the Sea” is a languid tale of a marriage in crisis, as Jolie Pitt mentioned in her introduction to the film. “This is an emotional film about grief and loss,” she explained to the packed house. But there was no grief at the jammed after party, held at the Roosevelt Hotel across the boulevard. Brad and Angie (who changed from one gorgeous gown to another from red carpet to party) arrived early and stayed late, greeting anyone and everyone who approached. Proving once again that they really are the nicest power couple in Tinseltown! On Friday, it was time for the Beard – James Beard, that is. At the last stop of the massive 10-city James Beard Foundation’s Taste America national epicurean tour, Los Angeles foodies celebrated in style. Held at the lovely Wilshire Ebell, the “Night of Culinary Stars” (which raised funds to benefit the foundation and its many culinary programs, scholarships and other initiatives) began with a cocktail reception that showcased the talents of incredible local chefs and presented a large silent auction as well. There was a sea urchin brioche from James Beard Award winner Timothy Hollingsworth of Otium fame; a densely flavorful smoked kabocha salad by Squirl’s Jessica Koslow; luscious diver scallops with sunchokes and radishes by the Ebell’s own Louis Pechan; and the seriously yummy oxtail sopes served up by Ray Garcia (Broken Spanish). All washed down easily with two special Bacardi Gran Reserva rum drinks created by chef/mixologist Ari Taymor or wines from the Paso Robles Cab Collective, making for an opening party that could have been more than enough to satisfy most appetites. But that was only the beginning, as soon the much-anticipated dinner was served. Atlanta-based James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson created the second and third courses, a farm egg with crispy rice and then a Snake River Farms New York strip, but it was the first and last courses that seriously sparkled, both from local Los Angeles chefs. The crunchy cucumber and cherry tomato salad created by Animal’s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo was fresh and bright, while the peanut butter chocolate mousse (and assorted little sweet bites) done by Republique’s Margarita Manzke had everyone swooning with delight. So it wasn’t too surprising that at the after party held at Manzke’s Republique outpost, partygoers found a way to keep on eating. And who wouldn’t, when that famed eatery offered up Black River Russian Osetra caviar served up on crispy potato chips, Gruyere and potato beignets and a groaning board of charcuterie and cheese tidbits?
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