Your Table is Ready

James Beard Awards

Plat du Jour Tuesday May 7, 2013: 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards

It’s been 24 hours now since the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony in New York, the “Oscars” of the food world. Hearing about the extensive after-parties across New York last night and this morning, it seems like now the winners can finally pause post-hangover and reflect on last night’s ceremony.

If you can get past the usual arguments about how there is absolutely no way for the Awards to truly be correct since it’s impossible for there to be an actual “best” restaurant or chef, then the James Beards are a very important measuring gauge of where dining is today in the first half of 2013. You also need to get past the strange 3-D fonts on the winners pdf, something I’m less thrilled about.

Best New Restaurant, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

Best New Restaurant, State Bird Provisions, San Francisco

It’s exciting to see the hard-working chefs, service staffs, and restaurateurs get to dress up and have their big night in New York. They absolutely deserve it.

From here, we raise our glass to last night’s winners, wishing them the best for years to come and thanking them for their relentless desire to ask questions about what and how we eat, coupled with their unwavering pursuit of dining excellence. (more…)


Plat du Jour, Wednesday February 27, 2013: Thoughts on the 2013 James Beard Awards Semifinalists

Lots of news happened the past few weeks (what meteor?) while your faithful writer was on assignment outside of the country (it is amazing how liberating and efficient each day is when traveling without a phone or computer!). For the purposes of this food and drink savvy audience, of course the big news was last week’s unveiling of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards’s restaurant and chef awards semifinalists. The James Beards are considered the “Oscars” of the restaurant world. They are every bit as anticipated by the industry and every bit as controversial. Take your pick as to which is harder: seeing every film made in the year or dining at every restaurant in the country (that would be considered for an award, so Olive Garden doesn’t count).

Rich Table’s Sardine Chips

As a food writer, I’ve probably been to more of the nominated restaurants than the majority of the dining public, but that doesn’t mean I’ve even made a slight dent into the list of semifinalists. I know about most of the chefs and restaurants. I just cannot tell you for instance that Khong River House is a far better experience among the nominated best new restaurants compared to The Whale Wins. I can say that Rich Table would get my vote over Ox and State Bird Provisions, but all of them are very worthy honorees. Maybe The Whale Wins, though, would beat out Rich Table?

IMG_8581

The key to take away from this list and the final winners of the James Beard Awards in May is that this is a more a list taking the pulse of the dining scene right now than it is the Olympics awarding legitimate Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals. If the 2012-2013 season for restaurants showed me anything and is demonstrated by the semifinalists, it’s that creative small plates with lots of modern and ethnic flares are most in vogue and can be found all over the country from Mateo Tapas in Durham, N.C. to Bierbeisl on the outskirts of Beverly Hills.

I’m most excited about the “Outstanding Bar Program” category, the only category that seems very focused and accurate, and the one I’ve actually sampled through roughly half of the nominees and each one is stellar. My personal vote goes to Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, but how dare anybody make me choose that over The Cedars Social in Dallas, Cure in New Orleans, New York’s Pegu Club, or Clyde Common in Portland. Add to that Abbott’s Cellar, the beer bar in San Francisco that has changed everyone’s concept of a beer and food pairing restaurant. (more…)