Culinary Sagacity

~Thought for Food~

The Cathayans believed that the soul or mind is located not in the head but in the stomach.

Doubtless this explains why they fret so much about the preparation and serving of food.

It may also explain why their memories are so much better than ours.

Information is stored not in the finite head, but in the expandable stomach.

--Cyrus Spitama in Gore Vidal's Creation

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Congratulations to This Year's James Beard Awards Winners!

While not all of my personal picks pulled off a win, a few certainly did. I name them here first, then follow up with a few of the winners in the top categories. To read the full list of winners of the 2009 James Beard Awards, visit the James Beard Foundation website.

Outstanding Chef: Dan Barber, Blue Hill, NYC. Who could not support this selection? Dan Barber is a revolutionary, a pioneer, and an inspiration to all of us—but especially to his pastry chef, Alex Grunert.

Outstanding Service: Daniel, NYC. Even if you're not a VIP or a regular, at Daniel you'll find yourself always being treated like one. To my mind, Daniel's staff provides the best overall service I've ever experienced in America.

Outstanding Restaurant: Jean-Georges, NYC. Yes, Jean Georges is a fabulous restaurant, no denying that. But it wasn't one of my picks because I just don't think it's currently the best restaurant in America.

Outstanding Wine Service: Le Bernardin, NYC. While I haven't had the pleasure of dining at Le Bernardin yet, I will pretty soon because a good friend just started work there. In his words, "the wine list is as thick as a bible, but a lot more fun to follow."

Best Chef, Pacific Region: Douglas Keane, Cyrus, CA. Truthfully, I hadn't even heard of Cyrus until my friend Roy joined the restaurant as its Executive Pastry Chef. Having heard such wonderful praise from Roy, it's definitely at the top of my "To Eat" list next time I'm out visiting family and friends in Cali.

America's Classics: Yank Sing, San Fran, CA. It was ten years ago at least when I first ate at Yank Sing's downtown location. Since then, I have heralded it as the best Chinese I've ever had in America. I still have dreams about their roast duck steamed buns with plum sauce.

Cookbook of the Year: Fat, An Appreciation of Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes, by Jennifer McLagen. I LOVE this book! When it first caught my eye in a bookstore I ended up standing for twenty minutes exploring its pages and agreeing with the author's take on fat—an ingredient I've never misunderstood or not appreciated.

Cooking from A Professional Point of View: Alinea, by Grant Achatz. I got this book as a gift for my man this past Christmas, since then, it's been a coffee-table mainstay. Even if you're not a professional, any foodie would love the stunning pictures and inspirational flavors found in Alinea.

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