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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Hollywood's elites are gathering in Los Angeles tonight for the annual Academy Awards. If your ticket got lost in the mail - I am sure that's what happened to mine - never fear, there's still time to throw your own festive Oscar bash. For some ideas, we have enlisted the help of Dan Shapiro. He co-owns the Modern Bite Bakery in L.A. and he's a big-time movie buff who knows a thing or two about hosting a good Oscar party. Dan Shapiro joins us from his home in Los Angeles. Welcome to the program, Dan.

DAN SHAPIRO: Thank you.

MARTIN: So, I understand you have thrown some pretty legendary at-home Oscar parties. Tell us about some of the best, most memorable moments.

SHAPIRO: Our parties are always a lot of fun. First of all, we start by inviting people who we know are really into the Oscars and who are movie buffs themselves, so that we're not going to have a lot of people chatting during the show.

MARTIN: Oh, yes. That's key.

SHAPIRO: You know, we always spice it up with some fun food and some fund drinks that are always themed to the movies. And then to throw in a little bit of competition, we always have a ballot going where people can vote on which films and actors and actresses they think will be actually taking home the awards.

MARTIN: OK. So, you mentioned food. Any good party obviously starts out with good food. What are your suggestions for a really standout Oscar menu?

SHAPIRO: Well, everything that I'm making this year is four or five ingredients that you can just pick up at the grocery store and put together pretty quickly. I was thinking of ideas that could match nicely with some of the films. So, first up is a baked brie, which is a nod to "Midnight in Paris." Then we're going to do a simple seared tuna, which is sliced and served either on cucumber rounds or baguettes.

MARTIN: Oh, that seared tuna sounds delicious. Is that a nod to a specific film?

SHAPIRO: Oh yes. That's a nod to "The Descendants," to Hawaii. Bacon-wrapped dates, which are a classic old favorite, which are a nod to "The Help." And then pigs-in-a-blanket with mustard, a great baseball food, which are a nod to "Moneyball."

MARTIN: And I understand there might be some Cracker Jacks happening?

SHAPIRO: Yes. As a fun snack, we have "Moneyball" Cracker Jack. It's like a kettle corn that we make adding sugar and some ground pepper and then topping it off with melted butter and roasted peanuts, again, for the baseball theme.

MARTIN: That sounds delicious. OK. So, those are our snacks. To drink, you have to have delicious signature cocktails of some sort in mind, I imagine.

SHAPIRO: I am a big proponent of serving different types of drinks. So, I love serving champagne as the guests are arriving and having it ready at the door right as they come in.

MARTIN: I mean, it is the Oscars after all.

SHAPIRO: Exactly.

MARTIN: What else? What else is on the drink menu?

SHAPIRO: So, then as people have had a chance to sit down and start to eat a little bit, I've got two drinks this year. One is a mint julep, which is, again, a nod to "The Help" and then another Hawaiian drink is the scorpion, which has rum and lemon juice and orange juice and brandy.

MARTIN: Yum. And the ballots. A lot of people do this - if you have an Oscar party, you can add a little competition by having your guests actually fill out ballots. Walk us through how you do that.

SHAPIRO: Well, it's very simple. You can easily Google Oscar ballots and find many sites that have them all ready to print out. What we do is we assign a point value. So, the highest numbers of points goes to the best film. That would be 10 points. All the way down to smaller categories, like Best Sound Editing, which might only get two points. We invite people come to the party during the red carpet ceremony, and that's on in the background. And during that time, people are chatting and filling out their ballots. But they have to be done by the time the ceremony begins, at which point we collect either $10 or $25 - whatever number you want - and that money goes into the pot for the winner of the...

MARTIN: Oh, so, there's a cash prize?

SHAPIRO: There is a cash prize, yes.

MARTIN: That's pretty good. That's a good incentive. It's not, you know, a fake Oscar trophy.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, it definitely raises the stakes and makes it more exciting.

MARTIN: Dan Shapiro is the co-owner of Modern Bite Bakery and a veteran Oscar party host. He spoke with us from L.A. Hey, Dan, good luck planning the party.

SHAPIRO: Thank you so much.

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