Meredith Arthur: Moonstruck

The big plaza in front of Avery Fisher Hall will always say Moonstruck to me, and I bet the nominees feel like the post-makeover Cher awaiting Nicholas Cage. It's bright and rainy out and there's a feeling of drizzled anticipation in this room. I'll try not to draw movie comparisons all night but can make no promises.

Meredith Arthur, CHOW

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Snack: Signing on

This year's James Beard Awards couldn't be more different than the last. Last year's heat wave required attire of linen and flip flops while this evening's rain requires something a bit more solid and water resistant for the red carpet. Fingers-crossed that the monsoon abaits a bit. I attended '08 solo, while tonight I have Monsieur Snack as The Escort. Fingers-crossed on that category as well. Which leaves me a bit torn between schmoozing in the press room and smooching in the theatre. Perhaps I can have my gâteau and eat it too.

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Awards Watch: Gala Gearing Up

Backstage at Avery Fisher Hall the Steinway pianos have been moved into hallways to make room for hot boxes and other catering equipment as the 28 female chefs take their positions on the promenade for the 19th annual JBF Awards gala. The Women in Food theme is evident in the bright pink table linens and the explosive bouquets of spring flowers. Between the chef stations, thirteen female mixologists from across the country are setting up their mixers and shakers. The press room is halfway set—with step and repeat in place. What's this? A Hendrick's Gin bar in the press room? Should make for interesting interviews. Countdown is 26 minutes to red carpet (tented, sadly, due to rain).

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Awards Watch: Chefs Night Out at At Vermilion

For all the intricate planning and amazing coordination that goes into the lavish and beautiful JBF Awards ceremonies, dinners, and receptions, the casual, crowded, invitation-only Chefs Night Out may very well be the most fun event of the weekend. Everyone is there—chefs, purveyors, nominees, journalists, celebrities, friends, family, colleagues, food-world legends, you name it. There's a flirtatious, chatty vibe, and the atmosphere is punctuated with surprise and delight as friends run into friends they haven't seen since last year's festivities. Tonight's venue, the modern Indian sensation At Vermilion, was a perfect setting, especially given the overall theme of the 2009 festivities: Women in Food. Once through the blockade of clipboard-clasping door people, senses were seduced by the heady scent of Indian spices from chef/owner Rohini Dey's contemporary cooking and the pounding beat of Bollywood-inflected music spun by DJ Rekha. Airy and bright, the flower-strewn space was near capacity—a total of 979 RSVPs had been received, and droves of people showed up who weren't on the list. Salman Rushdie, one of the investors in the restaurant, vied with Thomas Keller for the

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Take It to the Cleaners

It's time to decide what you are going to wear tomorrow night for the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at Avery Fisher Hall. Better make sure your shoes match your gown and your tux is pressed. You'll see co-hosts Stanley Tucci before the world sees him play Paul Child (Julia's hubby), NOLA celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, and Iron Chef Cat Cora. We're expecting sightings of Martha Stewart, Lorraine Bracco, Tom Colicchio, Jacques Pépin, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, David Chang (look for his "party bus"), and more. Check back here for live awards coverage from a team of guest bloggers as we celebrate at the Media Awards, Chefs Night Out, and at all the great restaurants around town. There's no other weekend quite like it.

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