James Beard Awards: Best Bites


Mozzarella maestro Nancy Silverton slicing baby burrata at the James Beard Awards Gala.

As I noted earlier, shooting at the red carpet and covering the ceremony for nearly five hours left me famished. Next up was the gala reception, two entire floors of food and drink tasting stations. Despite the deep crowds and the difficulty of navigating, eating, and drinking without spilling, this was ultimately the best part of the night.

Redandblack The picture doesn't do it justice, but Back Forty, the East Village offshoot of Savoy restaurant, served an incredible sweet, spicy, and salty cocktail called "The Red and the Black" (after Stendahl, nach). The drink combined muddled strawberries, tequila, lime juice, and black pepper simple syrup. What's more, the rim was coated with sugar, salt, and pepper. If you're into savory/sweet combinations, this was the perfect drink. In fact, I had two (need to learn how to make this at home).

Cheese_2TFS hero Nancy Silverton represented L.A.'s Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza with two amazing mozzarella dishes at her station. Burricotti (right) -- described to me as a "mozzarella balloon" filled with ricotta -- was paired with a braised baby artichoke stuffed with pine nuts and currants.. Equally delicious was burrata served with braised leeks and a mustardy vinaigrette. The dish was topped with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs, a genius (and delicious) contrast to the rich and creamy cheese and leeks. I'm filing this technique away for future reference.

Tamales Maricel Presilla of Hoboken's Cucharamama served corn tamales with a fava bean relish and a generous helping of sweet thick-cut smoked bacon. I really need to go have dinner at the restaurant. Now that I live in New Jersey, I have no excuse.

This post concludes The Food Section's coverage of the 2008 James Beard Awards: Want more?
»James Beard Awards: The Red Carpet
»James Beard Awards: The Winners
»James Beard Awards Live!


James Beard Awards: The Red Carpet


Clockwise from left: Todd English, the family Bastianich, and Tom Colicchio walk the red carpet.

The Beard Awards ceremony was preceded by an hour's worth of chefs, restaurateurs, and other food industry types strolling across a Hollywood-style red carpet.

Confused tourists traversing Lincoln Center stopped and gawked as everyone from established print media like the Wall Street Journal to web TV ventures you've probably never heard of, snapped pictures and shot footage of the arriving guests. I wedged myself in with paparazzi and took some shots of my own.

This has become a very glitzy affair, and while food stars may not dazzle or work the red carpet as effortlessly as movie stars, one minor gastro-celeb seemed to know how to strike a pose for the paparazzi: that would be Marcel Vigneron, the villainous runner-up from "Top Chef," season 2. Below, a slideshow of the many faces of Marcel:

After the jump, a complete gallery of my red carpet snaps:

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James Beard Awards: The Winners


Wylie Dufresne, nominee, and David Chang, winner of the award for Best Chef, New York City.

Listed below are the major winners from yesterday evening's James Beard Awards. Grant Achatz took home the prize for Outstanding Chef, Gramercy Tavern won for Outstanding Restaurant, Central Michel Richard was awarded Best New Restaurant, and Gavin Kaysen of Cafe Boulud won the Rising Chef of the Year Award. The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was named Cookbook of the Year. The complete results are listed at jbfawards.com.

Joe Bastianich/Mario Batali
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

Grant Achatz
Alinea, Chicago

Gramercy Tavern, NYC
Danny Meyer

Central Michel Richard, Washington, DC
Chef/Owner: Michel Richard

Gavin Kaysen
Café Boulud

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Tartine Bakery
San Francisco

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Ten Speed Press)

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James Beard Awards Live!


Thomas Keller makes his debut on the red carpet at Lincoln Center for the James Beard Awards.

7:17 p.m.: We're here at Lincoln Center live blogging the James Beard Awards. We've actually been here since 5:00 p.m., but technical difficulties delayed our start. Alas, here we are. To catch up, briefly, the ceremony began with an introduction by Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro followed by the introduction of the co-hosts Bobby Flay and Kim Cattrall. Not surprisingly, there were several Sex and the City references, all of which fell a little flat.

8:03 p.m.: The big news thusfar is that David Chang (of Momofuku fame) has yet again been honored for Best Chef, New York City. The man is invincible. Look for inevitable wave of pro-Chang praise and backlash tomorrow.

8:16 p.m.: So, where are we? We're in the press room, which is adjacent to the main hall. Basically, almost everyone is ignoring the live video and seems to be discussing where the best parties will be. In fact, a reporter from a major daily newspapers is sitting next to me and just told me, "It's more boring than watching the Golden Globes at home." Hmmm. We're heading toward the last third of the program.

8:38 p.m.: Thinks have actually calmed down in here, and, this is amazing, the live video feed is actually showing activities on stage rather than a powerpoint-style display of the nominee and winners. we're closing in on the major awards of the evening. Starstruck moment: Thomas Keller just brushed by me.

8:44 p.m.: Outstanding Pastry Chef award has been given to the crew at San Francisco's Tartine: Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robinson, who takes the stage with baby in tow.

8:49 p.m.: Blogger sitings: Amanda Kludt and Ben Leventhal of eater.com, Josh Ozersky of New York magazine's Grub Street (with medal around his neck for his win at Friday's media awards), and Jennifer Leuzzi of Snack.

8:58 p.m.: Best new restaurant award just went to Central Michel Richard in Washington, DC. He bests Mario Batli and Nancy Silverton's Mozza. Richard, who happens to be enormous, bear hugs Danny Meyer, who presented the award. More bear hugs. Then, before leaving the stage, Meyer announces that Richard will receive a one-year lease on a Lexus. The audience cheers. It ws a beautiful moment when he won, but this is a little cheesy, don't you think?

9:01 p.m.: Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali receive the award for "Outstanding Restaurateur" and Bastianich accepts on behalf of Batali (who does not show). He thanks his mother, Lydia Bastianich, for teaching him to be a restaurateur and thanks his wife for "letting him be a restaurateur."

9:06 p.m.: The outstanding restaurant award goes to Gramercy Tavern and its owner Danny Meyer. Meyer gives a shout out to former Gramercy Tavern chef Tom Colicchio.

9:11 p.m.: The final award of the evening, for outstanding chef, goes to Alinea's Grant Achatz. Rather than thank specific people, he wants to tell the story of when he was starting out, 22 years old at The French Laundry. "I was in awe," he says. He lauds Thomas Keller and talks about his amazement with "the push" in Keller's kitchen. "I pulled that in thinking it would make me a great chef," he says. "What I didn't know is that it would actually save my life." Achatz, who suffers from a form of tongue cancer, talks about what this meant for his battle with disease. He thanks the audience for their support. "I'm kind of in awe. It's an amazing honor, and I really appreciate it."

9:16 p.m.: That's it. The ceremony is over, and everyone is heading to the gala to eat (finally).

9:29 p.m.: The press room has emptied by half. I'm starving, dehydrated, and light-headed. I'm going to get some food, some drink, and then head home. This is just the beginning of the evening for all the partiers. Look elsewhere for reports on the party scene Monday.

Updated 6/09: Read more live blog coverage:

»Liveblogging The 2008 James Beard Awards [eater]
»Liveblogging The 2008 James Beard Awards Continued! [eater]
»Live from the JBF Awards [Official James Beard Foundation Blog]