"For me, going to the awards is like coming back to a college reunion."
Any serious eater out for a late bite at a high-end restaurant last night likely found him- or herself in the middle of a non-stop party. And I mean party. Why? New York chefs, restaurateurs, and sommeliers cleaned up at the 2010 James Beard Restaurant Awards.
And when these competitive folks celebrate, they party hard. At Eleven Madison Park at 2:00 in the morning, Best NYC Chef winner Daniel Humm and Daniel Boulud leapt up onto a reservationist's table to lead a horde of fellow dancers in an air guitar rendition of "Sweet Child of Mine." Similar celebrations were going on at Marea (best new restaurant), Daniel (restaurant of the year), Colicchio & Sons (Tom Colicchio was named best chef), and Jean-Georges (best wine service). The serious eaters (Carey, Erin, Alaina and her husband, honorary serious eater Anil Dash) couldn't help but participate in the aforementioned festivities—because we were in fact one of the New York-based winners ourselves.
We spent the awards themselves in the lively press room, where we chatted with the winners as they came off the stage. They started serving the food before the awards were finished—hey, people were getting hungry—and I have to say the food was uniformly delicious. The highlights? Butterscotch budino from Mozza in Los Angeles, uni with basil tofu from Bouley, and an insane crab concoction from Peninsula.
For me, going to the awards is like coming back to a college reunion. I reconnect with chefs and restaurateurs and food writers and bloggers from around the country that I rarely get to see otherwise—Boulevard's Nancy Oakes, Babbo's and Serious Eats's own Gina DePalma, the pride of Birmingham, Alabama, Highland Bar and Grill's Frank Stitt, my good buddies John T. Edge and Robb Walsh, Midtown Lunch's Zach Brooks, Thomas Keller, Salon's Francis Lam, Daniel Boulud, Rick Bayless, John Besh, and Mario Batali and his lovely wife Susie, whom I've known for almost twenty years.
Mario, Susie and I have a tradition of going out for Chinese food after the Beards, but this year we all went down to Otto for a feast that included the finest green beans I've ever tasted. They were crunchy and sweet and a little hot, and we couldn't get enough of them.
The Serious Eats contingent and I had a blast hanging, eating, and drinking with the Batalis, Gina DePalma, John Besh and later Nancy Silverton and her terrific daughter Vanessa. The serious eaters conspired with Mario to get me, a teetotaler the rest of the year, drunk. (They may have succeeded.)
Eventually we moved on to Eleven Madison Park, which for one evening had been turned into the loudest, most raucous foodie party imaginable.
The aforementioned Daniel Boulud, another good pal, likes to enjoy himself at these functions, and this year was no exception. Besides his air guitar duet and pas de deux with Daniel Humm, Boulud did end up dancing on the bar, a familiar perch for him at these affairs.
My favorite moment of the night was Alaina and Erin dancing in one of the private dining rooms on the second floor of Eleven Madison Park overlooking the dancing throngs. For the first time, live from New York, it was the Serious Eats dancers gettin' down—and why not. It was indeed a good night for the Serious Eaters and for New York.