Where: The Westin Grand, 2350 M St., NW
When: Sunday, February 24, 6:30 PM
Who: A slew of unrecognizable Washington VIPs. (Hey, VIP in Washington doesn’t always mean you look familiar.) The most awesome person we met: James McCarthy, president and CEO of the Snack Food Association. Now, that’s a fun business card.
Scene: After a welcome from “Joan Rivers” (the lucky were pulled onto a mini-stage for a sham interview), guests walked down the red carpet into one spectacularly decorated room after another. Setup had begun Thursday to transform the Westin’s breakfast nook, outdoor courtyard (tented for the event), and more into rooms representing each movie nominated for Best Picture. Some were straightforward—a giant wooden oil rig loomed in the center of the There Will Be Blood room—and others more abstract (the Juno room sported hot-pink fur-covered stools that only a teenager would buy). Speakers played each movie’s soundtrack, which drew us into the Juno area for a good chunk of the night. But no matter where you perched, you could see at least one screen broadcasting the real red carpet and award presentations. After a few hours of mingling, people actually sat to watch.
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Food: More than 40 types of appetizers—also themed to the five Best Picture nominees—gave guests even more reason to room-hop. Highlights: the Michael Clayton mini Reubens and Riesling poached pear; Juno Kobe-beef sliders; Atonement shepherd’s pie, pear-and-Stilton salad, and delicate Victorian lace cookies; There Will Be Blood “edible leather” (fancy beef jerky); and No Country for Old Men tender short ribs with achiote glaze. Thumbs down to the western-themed dessert tamales, but props to the jars of malted-milk balls and Swedish fish in the Juno room, complete with white Chinese takeout boxes to snag a few for the ride home.
Drink: With at least one bar in every room, the liquor selection—beer, wine, bubbly, Patron Gold, Woodford Reserve, Skyy, Tommy Bahama, and much more—pretty much hit it all. Guests also enjoyed (surprise!) themed mixed drinks, including British favorite Pimm’s cocktails in the Atonement room and Juno blue Hawaiian slushies, a blend of rum, blue Curaçao, pineapple juice, and other alco-poppy ingredients. A nice finishing touch: a to-go coffee bar in the lobby.
Boldface names: 2 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 5 out of 5
Exclusivity: 4 out of 5
Total score: 15 out of 20