Paul Grieco attacks an adoring fan (photo by Kat Kinsman)

On Monday, Lincoln Center was descended upon by the food & beverage community who harbored an insatiable hunger and thirst.    

Between the number of kegs cashed, martinis housed, Champagne guzzled and bites of food gobbled up, if one were to convert the ounces of alcohol and butter consumed to kilowatts, you could have lit the Empire State Building for 48 hours.

The Rat Pack: Matt Stinton (Beverage Director), myself and Jordan Frosolone (Chef de Cuisine) (photo by Kat Kinsman)

The James Beard Awards 2010 came and went in a flurry of tuxedos, ball gowns, facial tucks and a sea of plastic appetizer plates. 

It was a night coupled with a gruelingly long ceremony honoring every facet of the food and beverage industry along with a special Who’s Who of industry royalty who invade Lincoln Center with a desire to reconnect with friends and devour bite-sized morsels like they were last nib-lets of food on the planet (read: “like savages”).    

This year, we at Hearth and Terroir were fortunate enough to have three of our own ragtag crew nominated for awards.  Chef Marco Canora for his cookbook, “Salt to Taste”, Paul Grieco for “Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional” and Steven Solomon for “Best Restaurant Graphics” for his work at Terroir (his second year in a row).  Not too fuckin shabby.    

My journey through the night in a nutshell:    

1) Bubbles with Bobbafett    

I'm the Original Ganster, kid. All others are lame imposters.

Pre-event Champagne and nib-lets at Chez Grieco.  Featuring pre-show entertainment of his son attacking us with a Nerf dart gun while wearing a Bobafett mask (yet he insisted it wasn’t “Bobafett” but some new Star Wars character…yeah, whatever, its Bobafett, kid!  Show some respect!)    

2) The El Guapo Escort    

Steven Solomon: Nominee for Best Restaurant Graphics

Hired-van ride to the edge of the red carpet at Lincoln Center where I’m quite convinced Steven Solomon donned his lucadore mask to a shocked group of photographers and journalists (please send all my photos to my attention immediately).    

3) The Dynamic Trio    

An intensely long, three hour ceremony hosted by Alton Brown, Wolfgang Puck and Lidia Bastianich.  My take on the hosts?  Alton: gets funnier ever time I see him.  (Although, I still can’t watch what has become of Iron Chef America).  Wolfgang: an industry leader and a true professional, but boy does he start to sound like a bizarre Austrian Muppet after a couple of hours.  Lidia:  classy and poised, but somebody please ask her to stand closer than 7 feet from the microphone.  What did she say?  Did you catch that?  Oh, fuck it.    

4) The Heart of the Awards    

The “American Classics Award” is the best.  What a great award and so inspiring to all of us who work in the industry.  The James Beard Foundation spotlights often tiny restaurants found on the back roads of Americana built on passion, hard work and love.  One was a frickin fry shop, for God’s sake, but damn are they inspiring with their devotion, integrity and support of their staff.  And if I’m ever in Alaska, please hold me a table at the Gustavus Inn where I’ll feast on Salmon and Crab pulled from the waters at its front door.    

5)  Shovel-It-In, Slam-It-Back Fiesta    

A James Beard attendee up close

Like hungry wolves being held at the gates, the attendees were released upon the poor souls at the food and drink tables like piranha devouring a cute baby gazelle who happened to fall into the Amazon river.    

6) Craft Beer on the West Side    

Once sufficiently lubricated, our disparate crew rallied into a cohesive army party platoon and made our way to Coliiccio & Sons (Tom won!) where wood-fired pizzas and thirty-odd beer taps flowed like soothing shower heads.  And once again, the poor souls at the bar were mobbed like desperate senior citizens clamoring to drink from the fountain of youth.  Ponce de Leon makes an awesome Pilsner, grandma!    

7) Lighting up Terroir|Tribeca    

And then , the game was truly afoot and it was time to return to our new home in Tribeca to the food, beer and wine chapel where we worship the bounty of the ingredient, the grape and the grain.  An armada of Champagne flutes and wine glasses were strategically  placed on the bar, the only armaments the staff could thrust between themselves and the party jackals that bust in like the culinary SWAT team.    

Ink poisoning in the name of Terroir wine bar (photo by Kat Kinsman)

8) The Long Ride Home    

Hours passed…laughter filled the room.  Friends and fans united.  Revelry was afire.  I managed to slip out sometime around 3 am and got into a cab.  I began to hear: “sir…sir…Sir…SIR” which wouldn’t go away no matter how much I willed my ear drums to ignore the sound.  My eyes opened to reveal a caring and compassionate cab driver.  “Your home”, he said.  And with that , I ascended to my 5th floor palace high in the Queens sky where I cursed whoever the fucking genius is that created the cuff links and button inserts that stood between me and my bed.    

We may not have walked out with any awards but that’s not what its really about.  Its about saluting an industry filled with passionate misfits that work insane hours, who obsess over details, who know how to laugh with their hearts.  And who know how to knock back a pint.  Here’s to you, Mr Beard.    

Maybe next year we can all show up in pajamas and have a sleepover…then we won’t have to go through the agony of tearing off all those layers of clothing at 3 am with a massive bun on.    

James Beard: "Yes, this will be perfect for my hangover..."



2 Responses to “James Beard Awards 2010: Race You to the Beer Table”

  1. JoAnn Lesh says:

    Ok, you’re officially invited to Southeast Alaska and Gustavus Inn. Come to our table and try the king salmon, halibut and sablefish, and maybe the smoked sablefish and salmon or sushi, octopus, dungeness and king crab. We have a wild edible at every meal too. You can catch your own too.

  2. JoAnn, I am so in. I will bring a trunk of the finest wine and beer available produced in NY state and we will form the cosmic NY/Alaska forcefield that will move mountains. When is the next flight out?

Leave a Reply