Beard Award Fun Fact #1: there’s a red carpet. How do you navigate the red carpet when you’re very much not a VIP and coming in right behind Grant Achatz and Masaharu Morimoto? Wait for a lull in the photo taking and then stride as fast as you can in high heels. Beard Award Fun Fact #2: the pre-show champagne is in the press room and only in the press room. Beard Award Fun Fact #3: the toilets at Avery Fisher Hall flush via an ingenuous pedal. That last one was, we suspect, not much of a Beard Award Fun Fact, but whatever. It was neat.
The ceremony itself and more photos, after the jump…
This year’s awards were co-hosted by Bobby Flay and Kim Cattrall, the latter wearing a dress cut down to here. There was plenty of awkward scripted flirting, made all the more unbelievable by the fact that we saw Flay’s ridiculously gorgeous wife in the press room before the show. The light and music cues were overwhelmingly poorly timed and we in no way understand the seating. Shouldn’t nominees have been placed in aisle seats near the front? The woman who accepted the awards for Best Cookbook: Single Subject and Cookbook of the year on behalf of Fergus Henderson was seated behind us.
It was hard to take pictures from our seat.
Highlights from the ceremony: Terry Theise, winner of the Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Award, calling his wife, Gala Reception co-chair Odessa Piper, “a total fox”; Traci Des Jardins getting somehow lost on her way to present the Best Chef: Pacific award; Todd English muttering that Bobby Flay ought to be presenting the Best Chef: Southwest award, Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s regretting her decision to tell her husband not to bring a camera, Naha’s Carrie Nahabedian being generally lovely and charming, Patrick Connelly of Radius thanking his girlfriend for giving him a reason to leave the kitchen and eliciting a collective “aww” from the audience, Momofuku Ssam Bar’s David Chang (who brought not one but two alcohol-stocked party buses to the awards) surprising no one with his Best Chef: New York City win, Alinea’s Grant Achatz doing the same with an Outstanding Chef awards but giving a moving speech nonetheles; and, of course, Central Michel Richard’s Michel Richard bounding across the stage like a post-millennial Robert Benigni when his restaurant won Best New Restaurant. Notable no-shows: Padma Lakshmi, Anthony Bourdain, and Mario Batali.
Primo’s squash blossoms
After the awards, of course, it was time for the feasting. We sampled plates from 22 of the 32 tables before we couldn’t take anymore. (We also partook of several of the wine, beer, and cocktail offerings.) Our favorites? Primo’s squash blossoms with handmade sheep’s milk ricotta, heirloom tomatoes, and Sicilian pesto pantesca, Aziza ’s bodega goat cheese with tomato-citrus jam, pistacios, and argan oil, No. 9 Park’s warm Animal Farm butter soup (BUTTER SOUP!!!) with Pat Woodbury’s littleneck clams, Island Creek razor clams, and Rosenthal honey emulsion, North Pond’s anise hyssop and goat cheese sorbet with rhubarb relish and an herbed shortbread cracker, Telepan’s scrapple with a poached egg and sweet pork sauce, Vetri’s corzetti pasta with walnut pesto, marjoram, and parmesan, and Hen of the Wood’s domestic prosciutto with Jasper Hill Farm Blue Cheese and Honey Gardens wild flower honey on grilled Red Hen Bakery bread. The last was so good, we broke our number one rule for the evening and took seconds.
Scrapple from Telepan
By the time we made our way home, we were stuffed to the gills, more than a little bit tipsy, and damn close to unable to walk in our shoes: all signs of a pretty awesome night.