Day 2 – The Festival Gala! You may remember me mentioning that the Napa Valley Film Festival knows how to throw great parties. My favorite has always been the annual Gala. It is one of the biggest parties I have ever attended and is a continuous onslaught of food, wine, cocktails, celebrities and live music! This year was absolutely no exception. Learning that it was going to be held at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, I struggled to envision it. I should have known better than to worry about it with the film festival in charge of the party planning. The evening began with a walk along the red carpet with everyone dressed in their cocktail attire and looking glamorous!
I’ve never seen the Center lobby look this stunning! Filmmakers, actors and directors were mingling with the crowd. Along with over 30 different culinary options there were 50 vintners, a cigar lounge, 10 live music performances throughout the evening, Stella Artois beer & cidre, and artisanal cocktails served at the Clever Root Bar. And the gorgeous Von Saal Lounge offered drinking and dancing on the Center’s stage! This year, hands down, offered the most vegan-friendly options since the Festival began. All of the previous years were very meat-centric. Of course, there was still plenty of meat being served but this year they had almost a half dozen vegan and vegetarian choices. All they had to do was make the nibbles without the cheese and voila’ – vegan! Surprisingly, Cole’s Chop House was my first stop. I did not expect this classic American steakhouse to offer anything vegetarian, let along vegan, but they had a delicious fruit chutney served on a crostini and were happy to make us a couple without the cheese. I always have to remember to never make assumptions! My next stop was at Azzuro Pizza’s table. Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised. They made several crostinis heaped with butternut squash & a drizzle of oil. They were simple and incredible! Lindt chocolate was giving away full sized chocolate bars so I slipped a couple of their dairy-free dark chocolate into my handbag! As I wandered through this incredible playground for the 21 and older crowd with a glass of wine in my hand, I next had some delish hummus & veggies from Tarla’s Mediterranean Bar + Grill. As I wandered past Napkin’s Bar + Grill table, I noticed huge bowls of chips, guacamole and tomatillo sauce. Vegans score again! My final, and probably favorite, find at the Gala was a fig and macadamia nut crostini, offered by Celadon. It was amazing!
As recently as last year, I was considering not attending the Gala anymore because of how incredibly unfriendly its food choices were. In fact, they actually carted a slaughtered pig through the lobby of the Copia and roasted him for all to eat. Even living in a non-vegan world, I was horrified by the total disregard the other party goers showed and that the Festival planners thought that was a good idea. I am so glad that the tides have turned and attitudes are becoming more open to offering some compassionate choices! The food aside, it is a party that should not be missed!
Day 3 – Celebrity Tribute
Day 3, I was back to work on the red carpet. Every year the Festival honors actors for their achievements and creative innovation. This year, they honored Bruce Dern for his long and distinguished career. John Travolta was also honored for his many contributions to the film industry. Keegan-Michael Key was honored with the Trailblazer Award to for his diverse skills and wide-ranging talent. Rising Star honorees included Finn Wittrock, Evan Peters. Lydia Hearst and Zoe Kazan.
You know me…I couldn’t be easy and ask about their career or what projects they were working on. Instead, I found out some wonderful little gems about each of them. I was a bit disappointed that Bruce Dern could not attend the Tribute since he is such an avid and life-long animal rights activist. But I did learn that Lydia Hearst helped design vegan handbags for Puma a few years ago and her cousin Amanda through the organization Friends of Finn raids puppy mills and gives these dogs and puppies a second chance. CLICK HERE to see the interview! Finn Wittrock recently did a photo shoot with dogs for an animal welfare campaign that is helping get dogs into forever homes. In the midst of this he also adopted a dog! CLICK to check out his comments! Evan Peters also adopted a dog a couple years ago instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. CLICK HERE to see the
interview! And most exciting of all was when I asked John Travolta if he would consider going vegan to prepare for a role and he said yes! In fact, his good friend Forest Whitaker, who was a long time vegetarian before becoming vegan, is so enthusiastic about his diet that John is tempted to give it a try. And though Kelly Preston admits to eating everything, she not only raved about some of the delicious vegan meals she has had but told me that I was glowing! How cool is that?! CLICK HERE to see what they had to say! Though I haven’t followed John Travolta’s career much since Pulp Fiction, I will always have a place in my heart for him. When I was in fourth grade, I got to go to the movie theater with a big group of kids and Moms to see Grease. Grease was the first movie that I had ever gone to that was for adults. Not a cartoon, not a Disney movie…a real live film! I had also never seen a musical before. But once they started singing and dancing, I was hooked forever! And even at 9 years old, I thought Sandi and Danny made a beautiful couple! So for that, John, I will always be a fan!
Here we are with 3 days down and 2 more to go. Be prepared for more screenings, filmmaker Q&As and one more red carpet! And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!