Posts Tagged ‘Jacques Pepin’


WWJPD: The James Beard Awards

May 8, 2009


It happens that MG and I were invited to the James Beard Awards the other evening. We were not being honored this time around, nor were any of our affiliations, which is fine. I like to think we were invited more as eye-candy and perhaps as a pinch of comic relief for our table, which is also fine. The truth is, that by the time we got to the dining room and each guest had four working wine glasses and one full beer glass in front of them, we were all pretty comical. There was talk of summer homes and yacht building and I just had to check the spelling of the word yacht.

After the awards ceremony there was the Gala Reception where everyone got to rub lapels and eat some bites from restaurants around the country. The standout for me was from a place on the west coast, Cafe Juanita (Kirkland, Washington). Chef Holly Smith celebrated her ‘west-coastness’ by pairing luxurious morsels of king crab legs with a little scoop of green apple sorbetto. This was garnished with a sprinkle of sweet crab butter powder. Crab. Butter. Powder. …which, she explained to me, was created by mixing maltodextrin with the flavored butter. Crab (or lobster or shrimp) butter is one of those waste-not items that simmers the scraps and shells of the crustacean in butter very slowly to draw out all the flavor those bits have to offer. From there it can be seasoned accordingly (and apparently turned into a powder with the addition of some clever creativity on the part of the chef). The crab remained center stage as the bright, crispness of the sorbet was teased by the buttery powder melting seductively over it all. Clearly I was a big fan of this simple yet innovative amuse bouche. Anita Lo of Annisa also had a nice offering and, coincidentally, it also involved an icy element. The dish was a tartare enhanced with Asian flavors (spotty in the memory here…) and topped ‘to order’ with a flavored ice. This was delicious and especially perfect with the tartare because it kept the chill on it, which is key when enjoying raw food.

The real highlight of the evening, not yacht talk or gluttonous hors d’oeuvre consumption, was meeting the kind and gracious Jacques Pepin living legend, fairy godpapa. He truly seemed to enjoy himself as the room filled with people and cameras flashed away. We spotted him from a balcony and sauntered down to make his acquaintance as some of the herd moved toward the dining room. He was not hurried, he was not annoyed that another fan wanted to say hi. Actually he was so totally cool that since this meeting, when dealing with people or dealing with food, I find myself asking What Would Jacques Pepin Do?