Burgundy Meets Willamette Valley: Louis Jadot’s Legendary Winemaker Jacques Lardiere Debuts His Resonance Pinot Noir

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Top right: Legendary winemaker Jacques Lardiere

“From the moment you open a bottle and pour the first glass [of a good red Burgundy], a cascade of elusive aromas and flavors captures your attention.  They begin gently and delicately, perhaps reminding you of enticing flowers and red fruits.  With a little time, they may toughen, with suggestions of rocks and metals, even animals, before sweetening again.  They reel you in, toss you back, and just when you believe the wine has reached equilibrium, it changes again.  The mind reels.  The spirit soars.”
–Eric Asimov, in his New York Times wine column the day of this lunch (February 3, 2016)

When Robert Louis Stevenson mused that “Wine is bottled poetry,” he must have been referring to a “good red Burgundy.”  We doubt Eric Asimov would disagree.

Based on countless conversations with wine professionals, we’d venture an informed guess that Pinot Noir would prove to be the single most popular red wine grape among them — and that bottles hailing from the Burgundy region of France the ones that most often win their hearts and inspire rhapsodies.

We were invited to join legendary winemaker Jacques Lardiere — who has been as much a spokesman for Maison Louis Jadot as for the region itself over a career spanning more than four decades — for lunch at Chef David Bouley‘s private Tribeca event space Bouley Botanical on Wednesday.  The opportunity to share a meal with this famously passionate and outspoken professional and to learn more about his newest wines proved irresistible.

Asimov’s wine column that day put us in exactly the right frame of mind to let Lardiere’s expressive musings — spanning wine, Burgundy, the Willamette Valley, winemaking, life and its mysteries, and punctuated by the occasional down-to-earth “Alors,” “Donc” and whistle — wash over us during what turned out to be an exquisite lunch prepared by Bouley’s team, further enhanced by such elegant wines.

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Louis Jadot’s long-time winemaker Jacques Lardiere enthusiastically shares his new Resonance Pinot Noir — created in Oregon

RESONANCE

Lunch with Winemaker Jacques Lardiere
Bouley Botanical

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Menu

Porcini Flan with Wild Mushrooms [while other guests were served Alaskan Dungeness Crab] and Black Truffle Dashi

2014 Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse
2012 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent

Gnocchi [while other guests were served All-Natural Pennsylvania Chicken Baked with Alfalfa and Clover Hay, with Organic Butter Beans, Brussels Sprouts, and Napa Cabbage]

2013 Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir
2014 Resonance Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Chef’s Selection of Mature Artisanal French Cheeses
by Maitre Affineur Rodolphe le Meunier

2012 Maison Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules Premier Cru

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Top left: Kobrand’s Catherine Cutier and wine writer Levi Dalton; Top right: Porcini Flan with Black Truffle Dashi paired with 2014 Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse and 2012 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent; Bottom left: Mini-marshmallow-sized gnocchi in a green herb sauce

“The less you are able to explain [a wine], the better it is.”
–Legendary winemaker Jacques Lardiere

The experience proved all the more provocative considering that Louis Jadot’s master of Burgundy is creating them in Oregon’s Willamette Valley — applying Old World know-how to New World grapes.

Resonance represents Maison Louis Jadot’s first wine project outside Burgundy since the winery’s founding in 1859.  Resonance Vineyard — located in Willamette’s Yamhill-Carlton wine region — is one of the oldest dry-farmed, biodynamic vineyards in the region, and features original, non-grafted rootstock.

After decades of welcoming Oregon winemakers to Burgundy to show them the ropes, Lardiere seems a bit amazed to now find himself one of them — a mere few years after announcing his “retirement” as technical director of Maison Louis Jadot.

“I’ve got one more rodeo in me,” Lardiere told us he’d come to realize through his excitement about the new venture — prompting his decision in 2013 to come out of retirement to move to Oregon and take on a dramatically new lifestyle and challenge while in his mid-60s.

The Resonance portfolio will make its debut in the marketplace over the coming two years.  Based on the wines we had the privilege of tasting this week, we’re excited, too.  The mere idea of their eventual potential makes our spirits soar.

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Top left: Resonance winemaker Jacques Lardiere talks with wine writers Michael Apstein (left) and Megan Krigbaum (right); Top right: Bouley Botanical’s kitchen team plates the next dish; Center: Kobrand’s Jennica Ossi; Bottom left: Chef’s Selection of Mature Artisanal French Cheeses; Bottom right: Lardiere is nothing if not expressive, through wine, word and gesture

2013 Resonance Winery Pinot Noir ($65):  Showcases Pinot Noir grapes from Maison Louis Jadot’s own Resonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton region.  Tasting notes:  aromatic and elegant, with notes of black and red cherries and strawberries, a hint of anise and white pepper, and a clean finish (“Wow!”)

2014 Resonance Winery Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($50):  Made from a blend of Pinot Noir, including from both Maison Louis Jadot’s own Resonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton region and the Decouverte Vineyard in the Dundee Hills wine region.  Tasting notes:  blueberries, red cherries, and strawberries, with hints of clay earth and tarragon; elegant and well-balanced, with a very long finish

2014 Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse ($35):  Half of these Chardonnay grapes grown in clay and limestone soils are fermented in enameled tanks, the other half in used oak barrels.  Tasting notes:  apples, butter, citrus, minerals, and a whisper of spice and vanilla

2012 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent ($30):  The Moulin-a-Vent cru often called the “King of Beaujolais” is just as often referred to as “Burgundian.”  Some of the grapes are destemmed before vinification in closed vats.  About 80 percent of the wine is aged in (30% new) oak barrels for 10 months.  Tasting notes:  chocolate, licorice, and tart cherries, with a long, elegant finish.

2013 Maison Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules Premier Cru ($76):  The Pinot Noir grapes from this Premier Cru Vignes Franches vineyard are destemmed and fermented in open tanks for up to a month before maturing in oak barrels for 15 to 18 months prior to blending.  Tasting notes:  paired beautifully with the cheese course, which spanned Comte, Epoisses and walnut-liqueur-washed Timanoix, and accompanied Marcona almonds

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Legendary winemaker Jacques Lardiere playfully plants one on Karen Page’s cheek after lunch — before politely apologizing to Andrew, behind the camera, for kissing his wife

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Maison Louis Jadot is at louisjadot.com.

Resonance is represented by kobrand.com.

Bouley Botanical is Chef David Bouley’s private event space located at 281 Church Street in Manhattan.  davidbouley.com

Detroit Comes to Brooklyn: Chef Kate Williams Kicks Off the 2016 Dinner Series at Traffic & Tide

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Top left: Whey Ricotta, Squash Jus, Olive Brine Pickled Carrot Peel; Top right: Detroit chef Kate Williams with Traffic & Tide host Ksenya Samarskaya; Center: The front door at 475 Kent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Lower left: Drink curator Brian Quinn with Kate Williams; Lower right: Blackened Onion Peel, Greens, Smoked Oil, Hollandaise, Pistachio

Seems like we’ve been writing a lot about funerals lately, having attended more than our share this month and last.  But that’s where this story starts:  Upon returning home after a week of travels in the Mid-Atlantic region (including Washington, DC, and Baltimore), two weeks ago we learned that Karen’s great-uncle — and husband of her godmother — had passed away at the age of 91.  So we planned a very last-minute trip to Detroit to attend his.

Even knowing that our time in the city (Karen’s hometown) would be very limited, we started researching area restaurants — as we hadn’t visited in several years, perhaps since our mezzo-soprano friend Deborah Domanski was there to perform with the Detroit Opera, when we dined together at Michael Symon‘s Roast.

We learned through our Google search that at least two area chefs had been named semifinalists for the region’s 2015 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Award.  We scanned Detroit’s “Eater 38” essential restaurants.  And we saw 2015 mentions that acclaimed Detroit chef Kate Williams was due to open a new restaurant in 2016.

Through a Twitter search, we learned that Kate already followed us — so we shot her a direct message explaining our upcoming last-minute trip and inquiring whether her restaurant had opened yet.  It hadn’t — but she asked if we need restaurant tips.  Did we!

Kate provided them in spades.  She was even thoughtful enough to check in with us during our visit to see how we were enjoying them.  Through checking out her recommended restaurants, we first came to learn and trust her palate.

So when she also mentioned that she’d be cooking dinner at a pop-up in Brooklyn called Traffic & Tide — and didn’t even blink when we asked if it would be possible to have a vegetarian version of the evening’s set menu — we agreed to attend last night.  And we’re so glad we did.

Traffic & Tide – 2016 Dinner Series Kick-Off
Hosted by Ksenya Samarskaya
Prepared by Chef Kate Williams
Drink Curation by Brian Quinn

Saturday, January 30th
Detroit River Night II Menu

Whey Ricotta, Squash Jus, Olive Brine Pickled Carrot Peel

[Grass-fed Beef Tartare,] Fermented Apple, Caramelized Shallot Egg Cream

Smoked Mushroom Stem and Caramelized Turnip Bisque, Herb Emulsion, Cheese Rind Fondue

Blackened Onion Peel, Greens, Smoked Oil, Hollandaise, Pistachio

[Duck with] White Sweet Potato, Mushroom Soy, [Duck Skin Bits,] White Raspberry

Squash Semifreddo, Barley Tuille, Candy Apples

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Top left: Smoked Mushroom Stem and Caramelized Turnip Bisque, Herb Emulsion, Cheese Rind Fondue; Top right: Detroit City rye and gin inspired the night’s cocktail program; Center: The extraordinary view from the dinner table; Lower left: Chef Kate in the kitchen; Lower right: Stove-top open-flame cooking, Brooklyn loft style

Traffic & Tide‘s website beautifully introduced last night’s trio of co-hosts:

[T&T’s founder] Ksenya Samarskaya was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and left for America in 1989, months prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Samarskaya serves on the Board of Directors for AIGA/NY, runs the branding studio Samarskaya & Partners, and is on the cusp of launching her type foundry, Solonka. Clients include Sweethaus Cafe, Light + Ladder, IDEO, Bacardi, Apple, Tiffany & Co., Google, Font Bureau, Wall Street Journal, Best Made Co., WeWork, Monotype, and Snoop Dogg Marketing.

Kate Williams is the much-touted chef from Detroit, having previously run the menu at Republic, Parks & Rec and Rodin, and having been selected as Detroit Eater’s Chef of the Year finalist for 2014….Williams [is] focusing on #uglyfood, which is about minimizing food waste on farms in an effort to feed more people and promote more hungry folks to grow their own food. An extension of the Slow Food movement, it is meant to beautifully prepare food that would otherwise be thrown away on the farm. Her own restaurant, Lady of the House, will be opening in Corktown (Detroit) in 2016.

Brian Quinn is joining Traffic Tide, so expect him with drinks in hand at some of our upcoming dinners starting in January. Brian began his work in the food and beverage industry when he co-founded The Noble Rot in 2009, an underground supper club in New York dubbed “a new form of clandestine drinking” by journalists. Many also know Brian for his cocktails, which he learned from the Milk & Honey family and incorporated into his numerous experiential events around the country, as well as writing cocktail articles for FoodRepublic.com since 2012.

We were delighted to join such a congenial global group of artists, chefs, creative directors, designers, writers, and more around the table last night to enjoy Ksenya Samarskaya‘s warm hospitality, Brian Quinn‘s thoughtful libations (inspired by Detroit City Distillery‘s gin and rye), and especially Chef Kate Williams‘ passionate cooking. Topics of conversation ran the gamut from ceramic sculptor Justin Novak‘s beautiful Detroit-inspired dinnerware to Asian home cooking to the influence of puppetry on font design.

You’ll definitely want to let your friends in New York know about Traffic and Tide’s compelling dinner series, while letting your friends in Detroit know to keep an eye out for Kate’s new restaurant Lady of the House later this year.

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Traffic and Tide is a dinner series that “exploits agile collaborative partnerships and conjures inventive convivial gatherings.”  Its upcoming season intends to include chefs representing “diverse culinary traditions, custom-made dinnerware, limited edition art objects, readings and performances…all in the context of a shared meal.”  475 Kent, Brooklyn, NY.  traffic-tide.com

Healing Through Hospitality: Dining As A “Restorative” Experience

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Our January 4th lunch at Marea: Upper Left: Chef Lauren DeSteno with Andrew Dornenburg

Restaurant (1821) from the French “restaurant,” originally “food that restores”; noun use of present participle of “restaurer” (“to restore or refresh”) is from Old French “restorer”

Last Monday after the morning Mass held in pastry chef Gina DePalma‘s memory at the Church of St. Joseph in Bronxville, NY, we sat in silence on the Metro-North train back into the city, feeling our sadness.

We live just a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal, but we didn’t feel like going home quite yet.

Instead, we pulled out our iPhone and searched OpenTable.com for lunch options.  Babbo wasn’t serving lunch, thankfully — that would have been too painful, having seen former colleagues of Gina’s at the church.

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Johnny Iuzzini’s Twitter post that had inspired us

We scrolled and scrolled through the list of available reservations.  Nothing seemed right.  But then we spotted an open table at Marea, where we’d only previously eaten as guests of winemakers in the private dining room.  It had been on our short list of places we really wanted to check out ever since Karen had had the pleasure of working with Chef Lauren DeSteno at last September’s SHARE benefit, of which Gina had long been a part.  Going Italian in Gina’s honor seemed right — so we grabbed a 12:45 pm table.

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We stopped to light two candles for Gina at St. Patrick’s

On the walk from Grand Central to Marea, we stopped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light two candles for Gina — inspired by the example of Gina’s fellow pastry chef and friend Johnny Iuzzini, whom we’d spoken with at the church service and who had mentioned this on his Twitter feed.

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Pastry chef Francis Joven’s semi-freddo

Blessedly, our lunch at Marea achieved the miraculous:  Our sadness was lifted by the warmth of the hospitality we received from our lovely server Darnelle, who told us she’d been given a copy of our book THE FLAVOR BIBLE by a former colleague of hers now cooking at San Francisco’s The Progress.  We felt nourished by Lauren’s wonderful cooking — including chestnut soup with chiodini mushrooms; pansotti with taleggio, red kuri squash, swiss chard, and hazelnuts; and acquerello risotto with wild mushrooms and parmigiano — and comforted by the St. Joseph’s wine that had jumped out to us from the wine list.  By the time we tasted two of pastry chef Francis Joven‘s creations — including bomboloni doughnuts served with lemon ricotta, dark chocolate, and bay leaf, and a salted caramel semifreddo with chocolate, banana, pomegranate, and almonds (pictured at right) — our sadness had lightened into actual hopefulness.

Gina’s funeral was the second we’d attended in less than a month, so we’d found our spirits more challenged than they’d been in a while, and ourselves out of sorts.  On Tuesday, we worked so hard to catch up on lost time that we’d forgotten to eat lunch, which had us craving an early dinner.  Skimming the list on OpenTable.com, we were shocked to see that Blue Hill had a table open at 6 pm, so we jumped on it.  We’d loved the extraordinary vegetarian dinners we’ve enjoyed there in the past, but couldn’t recall how much advance notice they required, so we called to find out.  Turns out they require no advance notice at all — but the call turned up the fact that we’d been so out of sorts that we’d actually booked for the wrong night.  We apologized, but they very graciously offered to squeeze us in anyway.  We can’t tell you how glad we were that they did.

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Dinner at Blue Hill restaurant last week; Top center:  Sliced HoneyCrisp apple with sweets; Top right: Lovely Grace welcomed us back warmly to Blue Hill; Bottom left: Potato pizza (served with scissors for cutting); Bottom center: Wine director Michelle Biscieglia; Bottom right: Andrew cuts off a sprout from the stalk of kalette

Dinner at Blue Hill took us completely outside of ourselves and our blue mood.  We were lucky enough to find Executive Chef Dan Barber in the house, with his kitchen team ably led by Chef de Cuisine Meytal Kotik, clearly another female rising star in the New York City firmament, and dining room attended by one of the most gracious and “present” front-of-the-house teams in the city, including Assistant General Manager Nicholas Larsen.

Blue Hill Chef de Cuisine Meytal Kotik

Memorably, we were presented with our first stalk of “kalette” — a brand-new vegetable (the first since broccolini) that is a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts — impaled on a bed of spikes along with a knife and a smear of a green herb sauce.  We were instructed to cut the sprouts off the stalk, and to dip them in the sauce.  It was a consuming blast — and quite delicious.  (We were so curious that we even whittled off a slice or two of the stalk to taste it — the moist but very fibrous flesh had notes of horseradish.)

Our progression of dishes also included an especially lovely salad of Winter Fruits and Vegetables, featuring celery root, lady apples, pickled potato and mushroom, and a perfectly-sliced Black Dirt Carrot Steak served with squash rings, smoked apple, and bordelaise.  The flavors throughout our meal were intense and clean, unmarred by the overuse of butter or cream.

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Black Dirt Carrot Steak

One of the highlights of the dinner was being presented with two farm-fresh eggs, and told that the chicken who’d produced one of the eggs had been fed exclusively on red peppers.  Indeed, both the eggshell and — as we saw when presented with the finished dishes — especially the egg yolk were darker in color, with the yolk a bright crimson.

We took flashless photos on our iPhone, looking forward to sharing them here.  However, this week when we tried to upload the latest version of Apple’s iOS 9 onto our iPhone, it caused our iPhone to crash.  We lost many priceless photos and other files — including all of the precious photos of our lunch at Marea and dinner at Blue Hill.  These few that appear in this blog post were rescued from our Twitter and Instagram posts.

But even without all the photos, we’ll never forget these extraordinary experiences of hospitality as healing — and we’ll be forever grateful to the kitchen and dining room teams at Marea and Blue Hill for doing what they do so well, and being a source of comfort and inspiration during a time of sadness for us.

And even with Gina DePalma no longer on this planet, she lives on, too.  We tasted it during our first visit last Friday to Sadelle’s for bagels and pastries (including a not-to-be-missed chocolate babka) that are the creation of gifted baker and co-owner Melissa Weller, an alumna of Gina’s kitchen.  We felt it in the messages we’ve received from industry colleagues and friends who read our tributes to Gina.  And we see it places like Facebook, where there’s a group called the Cookbook Junkies who are hosting an online event “Baking In Memory of Gina DePalma,” and posting photos of the dishes they’re making from Gina’s cookbook Dolce Italiano and/or in Gina’s memory.

As reflected in the roots of the word “restaurant,” good food created and served with good intentions truly restores.  And we are both so grateful for that.

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Blue Hill is at 75 Washington Place in Manhattan.  212.539.1776.  bluehillfarm.com

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Marea is at 240 Central Park South in Manhattan.  212.582.5100. marea-nyc.com

Babbo’s Gina DePalma, Winner of the 2009 James Beard “Outstanding Pastry Chef” Award, A “Cowgirl” Until the Very End

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Gina DePalma (1966-2015)

“Cowgirl up: (verb) To draw upon the core of the human spirit in times of adversity. When faced with a hard chore, it is a shift in attitude from ‘can’t’ to a positive, confident, contagious ‘can do’ spirit.”
Gina DePalma, who founded the Cowgirl Cure Foundation during her battle with ovarian cancer

“The finest pastry chef I’ve ever known.”
Chef Mario Batali describing Gina DePalma when announcing her passing via Twitter this morning (12/30/15)

Long-time Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma‘s desserts were so delicious that you could eat them with your eyes.  Take a good look at the slice of Honey and Pine Nut Tart on the cover of her 2007 cookbook Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen.  See what we mean?  Yes, our mouths are watering, too.

BabboLogoWe’ll never forget tasting a selection of her desserts at Babbo, early on into her 1998-2013 term as pastry chef of the restaurant.

We’d previously been lucky enough to have tasted our way through the desserts of some of the world’s best pastry chefs.  Like Dieter Schorner [whom Mimi Sheraton once named in Time magazine as one of the two best pastry chefs in America].  And Emily Luchetti.  And Francois Payard.  And Nancy Silverton.  And Jacques Torres.  The extraordinary desserts our forks and spoons were prodding on the table in front of us at Babbo were on a par with all of theirs — that is, among the very best we’d ever tasted.

When a dark-eyed, dark-haired woman passed our table wearing a chef’s jacket eyeing our plates, Karen virtually leapt from her seat to grab the woman’s arm.  “Are you the pastry chef?” Karen asked.  “That’s me,” Gina replied.  “Oh my God,” was all Karen could say, gesturing wildly at our almost-empty plates, as the three of us melted into laughter.  Gina was so intuitive that she immediately understood the depth of the admiration we were trying to convey, and an instant bond was formed — even before we then introduced ourselves and discovered the admiration to be mutual, given that Gina turned out to be a fan of our books.

BecomingAChef2ndEditionInterviewing her for the second edition of our book BECOMING A CHEF (John Wiley & Sons, 2003) gave us the opportunity to learn more about this smart and multitalented woman’s background, as she talked with us about her non-linear route to becoming one of America’s best pastry chefs:

“Since I’d grown up in a food-obsessed Italian-American family, I started cooking when I was eight.  I worked in restaurants from the day I got out of college.  Once the owner of a restaurant where I’d applied for a waitressing job found out I knew how to cook, he cut a deal with me:  I would cook some lunch and brunch shifts in exchange for his giving me the most waitressing shifts on Friday and Saturday nights.  So I did this while I was trying to decide between going to law school and earning a master’s degree.  Despite my subsequent jobs in a law office, and even the mayor’s office, I always found an excuse to keep cooking.  I eventually got to the fork in the road of having to decide between graduate school and cooking school, and after taking the LSAT [law school admissions test], I had applications to graduate schools, law schools and cooking schools on my desk!  In the end, I went with my heart.  While it enraged my family and made my mother cry, I ended up taking out every possible student loan, maxing out my credit cards, and going to Peter Kump’s [now known as the Institute of Culinary Education].”
Gina DePalma, as quoted in our book BECOMING A CHEF

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Gina DePalma, as featured in our book BECOMING A CHEF

Gina graduated from Peter Kump’s / ICE in 1994, and worked in some of the best pastry kitchens in Manhattan, including Chanterelle and Gramercy Tavern. She was upfront about the sacrifices that her career choice entailed, telling us:

“Making it through the first few years [as a chef] is the toughest.  You make more money than folding shirts at The Gap, but not much.  I will tell cooks who want to come to New York and cook that, ‘You gotta have game’ because it’s tough and there’s so much you’re up against every day.  Just living on the pay is really tough until you get a titled position.  At one job, I grossed $425 a week and had to live in New York on that.  Believe me, I ate a lot of Minute Rice and frozen peas!”
Gina DePalma, as quoted in our book BECOMING A CHEF

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Andrew Dornenburg, Gina DePalma, and Cesare Casella at the pre-James Beard Awards “Chef’s Night Out” party in May 2005

But her talent propelled her quickly, and in 1998, Chef Mario Batali named her the pastry chef at Babbo, one of America’s hottest restaurants at the time, which led to wider acknowledgment of her gifts.  In June 2005, the magazine Pastry Art & Design named her one of America’s Ten Best Pastry Chefs.” 

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Gina DePalma and Karen Page at the 2006 James Beard Awards

Gina continued to collect so many nominations for the coveted James Beard Foundation Award as “Outstanding Pastry Chef” that we started joking about her being the “Susan Lucci” of the Awards, and we looked forward to seeing her at the annual ceremony to wish her luck.  In 2006, Gina confided how touched she was that Jean Georges’ Johnny Iuzzini had graciously sent her flowers on his win as Outstanding Pastry Chef, wishing her luck in the future.

Soon after, we interviewed her for our forthcoming book THE FLAVOR BIBLE, and worked together on photo shoots of her desserts at Babbo so we could feature them in the book.  We loved learning more about Gina’s creative process during our interview:

“I wanted to come up with a panna cotta that was unlike anyone else’s.  I was walking down the street thinking of Italian dishes and risotto Milanese [which is made with saffron] came to mind.  This led me to think about saffron, and the idea of adding saffron to my panna cotta.  After Ruth Reichl mentioned it in the New York Times review of Babbo, Mario [Batali] told me I could never take it off the menu!
Gina DePalma, as quoted in our book THE FLAVOR BIBLE

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Gina DePalma’s extraordinary sorbets, as featured in THE FLAVOR BIBLE

It turned out that our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT was not nominated for a 2007 James Beard Award.  (As it had already been named the Georges Duboeuf “Wine Book of the Year and went on to be named the IACP “Cookbook of the Year,” we remember being shocked to read the words of one of the James Beard Book Award judges of the wine book category, which were simply not true — as indeed other critics had praised the book for its strength in providing an exacting level of detail.)

Regardless, having our labor of love passed over by the Beard Awards stung.  So when we learned that Gina hadn’t been nominated for a 2007 James Beard Award, either, we offered her our condolences.  But we ended up learning that Gina had been dealt an even more horrific blow:  a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

None of us felt much like celebrating on May 7th, so instead of attending the 2007 James Beard Awards at Lincoln Center the three of us made plans to quietly hang out with each other that night.  The evening involved burgers at Big Nick’s (which we’d written about in our 2001 book CHEF’S NIGHT OUT as having one of NYC’s best hamburgers) and it definitely involved a tasting of multiple flavors of gelato at the newly-opened Italian transplant Grom, which Gina had been raving to us about.  Between the burgers and the gelato and the conversation, we managed to help each other find perspective that bittersweet night.  We were bonded for life.

A year later, we were at the 2008 James Beard Awards to cheer Gina on, when she was again happy to find herself one of the five nominees for Outstanding Pastry Chef (though that year Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery took home the medal), and we toasted her being named Bon Appetit‘s 2008 Best Pastry Chef.

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Andrew Dornenburg, Gina DePalma, and Karen Page at the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards

And after Gina’s sixth James Beard Award nomination, we were there to cheer each other on at the 2009 ceremony.  Getting to celebrate Gina’s win as 2009 “Outstanding Pastry Chef” and THE FLAVOR BIBLE‘s win of a 2009 James Beard Book Award was all the sweeter because of the road we’d all traveled together to get to that moment.  The photo of the three of us together with our medals around our necks that night is one all three of us cherished.

Ever a fighter, Gina founded the Cowgirl Cure Foundation to raise money for ovarian cancer research, which we wrote about in our May 2009 enewsletter and to which we donated copies of our books.  And her fighting spirit was always on display via the explanation of the foundation’s name in the opening quote above.

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Gina DePalma (center) and Andrew Dornenburg (far right) pose with some of talented Pakistani “Best Chow” participants aboard The Intrepid during 2005 Fleet Week

Over the years, we’d had the pleasure of seeing Gina at events like Fleet Week’s annual “Best Chow” competition aboard The Intrepid, where we served as co-hosts and with Gina among the judges, as well as SHARE‘s annual “Second Helping of Life” event at Pier 60, a benefit for survivors of breast and ovarian cancer that featured dozens of NYC’s best chefs and pastry chefs.  And we’d get together sporadically in between, including for our first-ever visits to Prune and Rouge Tomate.

But then as her cancer challenges reared their ugly head, we tended to be in closer touch via email and social media, including both Facebook and Twitter.  It was via the latter that she messaged us on May 31, 2015:

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But we didn’t hear from her again over the summer, so we checked in again right after Labor Day to see if there was anything we could do for her or bring her, and she got back to us on September 9, 2015:

Gina: LOVE YOU BOTH soooo much. I promise to get better so we can make that happen. xoxo

We wished Gina a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook on September 16th, and then checked in again on November 6, 2015, and she wrote back immediately, going into details (deleted below) about the medical challenges she was facing:

Gina: Hello my loves. I’m still in the middle of a slow and brutal recovery at my mom’s….I’m still bed-bound, weak and on painkillers; I sleep a lot. But they got it all and I am thankful for that. Will probably start chemo again in a week or so. This is the toughest thing I’ve been through for sure.

We’d last messaged her via Facebook on December 23, 2015, posting the photo of the three of us together at the 2009 James Beard Awards, and writing:

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Late this morning — just one week later — Gina’s sister Maria DePalma-Cocozza posted on Facebook:

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Gina DePalma’s beautiful soul will soar high forever.

“Shine on you crazy diamonds!”
Gina DePalma, signing off her last blog post (9/27/15)

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Gina DePalma (1966-2015) was the Executive Pastry Chef at Babbo (1998-2013) and the author of Dolce Italiano.

You can know an important part of her through her recipes, e.g., her Almond, Anise and Orange Biscotti, her Aunt Jean’s Lasagna, her Blueberry Coconut Tart, her Cookie Cannoli with Coffee Cream, her Creamy, Dreamy Ricotta Cheesecake, her Fonduta, her Mocha Cinnamon Bonet, her Port-Soaked Dried Fruit Compote with Cheese, her Red-Wine Spaghetti with Walnuts and Parsley, her Toasted Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Amarena Cherries, her Upside-Down Quince and Honey Spice Cake, her Very Good For You Muffins, her Walnut Tart with Port Zabaglione Cream, her Zucchini Olive Oil Cake, and more.

Her website:  ginadepalma.net

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“We’re deeply saddened by the loss, to ovarian cancer, of Gina DePalma, a participating chef in our annual A Second Helping of Life event. In her honor, we’ve established the Gina DePalma Ovarian Cancer Support Fund. Gina meant so much to us and to the community of women chefs who gather annually to support SHARE.”
SHARE 

Gina was devoted to the work of SHARE and its support for women facing breast and ovarian cancer.  It’s possible to dedicate your tax-deductible donation to the “Gina DePalma Ovarian Cancer Support Fund” via the link and drop-down menu here.

Other Remembrances of Gina DePalma

Gina DePalma was an opinionated gal.  Please treat yourself to her cookbook Dolce Italiano to enjoy the headnotes as much as the extraordinary recipes, and check out her other writing, including her November 2013 op-ed “Pastry Chefs Rule Their Realm Without Adulation” in The New York Times and her April 2015 first-person essay “Searching for Mozzarella in the Land of Processed Cheese” for the series “What It Means To Be An American” sponsored by the Smithsonian on Zocalo Public Square.

Gina DePalma was also an accomplished and popular gal.  We’re happy to share links to other tributes to her, including these:

James Brock, Paper City  (12/30/15)

Heather Carlucci, Mountains Pigs and Food (12/30/15)

William Grimes, The New York Times  (1/1/16)

Ed Levine, Serious Eats (12/31/15)

Karen Lo, The Daily Meal  (12/30/15)

Shuna Lydon, Medium  (7/17/13)

Greg Morabito, Eater  (12/30/15)

Nicole Lyn Pesce, NY Daily News  (12/30/15)

Adam Reiner, Viaggio  (2010 profile)

Siera Tishgart, Grub Street  (12/30/15)

James Beard Foundation (12/30/15)

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“Today many of us in the NYC restaurant industry bid a sad farewell to one of its greatest talents — Gina DePalma, who lost her long battle with cancer last night. Gina created the dessert program at Babbo Ristorante & Enoteca and went on to win the James Beard Award for outstanding pastry chef in 2009. An exceptional chef, daughter, employee and friend, Gina will be greatly missed.”
Joe Bastianich, via Facebook

“Goodbye dearest Gina, you were much loved by us all, Love Lidia. Gina DePalma, @BabboRistorante’s great pastry chef.”
Lidia Bastianich, via Twitter

“My heart is heavy with the passing of a beautiful friend and exceptional talent. Gina DePalma lost her long and brave battle with ovarian cancer last night.  Gina was a supremely talented pastry chef who created the dessert program at Babbo, a beautiful writer and author, constant learner, loving daughter and loyal friend. Her passion for Italian culture, cuisine and pastry was unmatched. Gina taught us all and never stopped learning and caring, even in the face of cancer and chemo.Rest in peace, Gina. You will be missed.  xxxx”
Mario Batali, via Facebook

I loved her and admired her work. So very sad.
Rose Levy Beranbaum, via Facebook

“So so sad to hear the passing of Gina DePalma. She fought so hard for so long. Rest in peace sweet lady X.”
April Bloomfield, via Twitter

“Farewell, you fine and gifted person.”
James Brock, via Facebook

“My heart goes out to all of the friends and family of Babbo Pastry Chef Gina DePalma. She’s a great chef and was always so kind to me.”
Joe Campanale, via Twitter

“A lot of people on my Facebook feed are writing about our friend Gina DePalma.  Gina was the pastry chef at Babbo for 15 years.  More importantly she was an inspiration to so many and outspoken on the loss of quality of our craft…. I’ve felt her passing more than I thought I would.  Someone is gone who was also witness to a very special time in a very important world of mine.”
Heather Carlucci, via Mountains Pigs and Food

“Seems like yesterday Gina, we rocked out at Trash Bar yet again……. #rip Gina DePalma
Andrew Carmellini, via Twitter

“Deeply saddened by Gina DePalma‘s death. Her pastry was unforgettable as was her tenacity in fighting cancer. RIP.”
Dana Cowin, via Twitter

“Remember the recipes. Remember the fight. Only one other person I knew fought cancer as hard as James Beard award-winning Babbo pastry chef Gina DePalma, as she tried valiantly to stay on this Earth right to the end. Rest now #GinaDee — you have more than earned it. ‘I’m a misanthrope, Deb. I can’t help it. And no one loves a misanthrope…’ Well, a lot of people sure loved you.”
Deborah DiClementi, via Facebook

Gina was a warrior. I was proud to call her my friend and colleague…I will hold you in my heart, forever.”
Claudia Fleming, via Facebook

“Shine forever, Gina. We have only begun to miss you. You are, as you always were, loved.”
Seanan Forbes, via Facebook

“Rest in peace @ginadee you were an inspiration to us all. Gina DePalma
Amanda Freitag, via Twitter

“Very saddened to read about Gina DePalma.  We didn’t cross paths too often.  The first encounter was when I was jealous of her gelato spoons and cups at Otto and she helped me to her source.  That was before my career at the time was interrupted by the Big C.  Our next encounter was helping her to communicate about the Cowgirl Cure Foundation after she unfortunately relapsed.  I wish I had something poetic to say, but it just sucks.  You can read her blog posts here: ginadepalma.net.  They are beautiful.”
Will Goldfarb, via Facebook

“…A very brave and talented woman, who ruled with a lot of (extremely well-deserved) adulation. May flights of Angels lead you on your way, Gina DePalma.”
Patti Jackson, via Facebook

“2nd-to-last, very characteristic tweet from warm and witty pastry maestro Gina DePalma. RIP.  Gina:  I am looped on painkillers still, but have chosen today to re-appear with this statement: Macaroni and cheese does not need pumpkin.”
David Kamp, via Twitter

“She was one of the most outspoken, opinionated and passionate people I have ever met in the NYC food scene . Her honesty was raw and unedited, always . She courageously fought and struggled with her illness till the very end . This is what I love about Gina. She never gave up. Admirable. Nowhere was this persistence more evident than in her outstanding vision and the exacting standards she held for her craft, she strove for that perfection, always. What a phenomenal chef. Sad that your gifts cannot continue to be shared. At least now, though, you are at peace, freed from the pain of living, dear Gina DePalma. RIP my friend. You will be missed.”
James Lahey, via Facebook

“So so sad. An amazing chef, and in my brief time with her, an incredibly open, generous soul. Rest in peace, Gina.”
Francis Lam, via Twitter

“RIP to my courageous friend and extraordinary pastry chef, writer, and human being Gina DePalma. Your talent and your spirit inspired many.”
Ed Levine, via Twitter

“Eternally grateful I nudged you lovingly into letting me interview, write about and celebrate you, Gina DePalma.  Thank you for all the gifts you gave us all — funny & fantastic & wry & witty & sarcastic & serious & badass & bitter & remarkable & realistic & humble & harrowing. Thank you for always telling it like it is — no matter who was or was not listening. xoxo”
Shuna Lydon, via Facebook

“Here’s a picture of a Bonet from Gina DePalma‘s Dolce Italiano.  This is a Piedmontese specialty, which, like so many Italian recipes, has a convoluted origin story/methodology that likely varies from household to household. Untangling and interpreting this stuff is what Gina lived for, and she did so with unparalleled tenacity and intelligence. I’m so glad she got to live in Italy for a while — she so deserved it, and I could see how enriched she was by the experience.  I guess my point here, other to express my sorrow at her passing, is to profess my admiration for Gina and how she lived her life — with passion, a commitment to craft, a dogged work ethic and a hunger for fellowship. She deserved a longer life.”
David Lynch, via Facebook

“Sweet @ginadee, the friendliest, talented, mentoring, wonderful human being I have ever known. RIP. You will be missed.”
Georges Mendes, via Twitter

“Mayes & I were heartbroken to hear the news last eve. We will miss you. @ginadee you are 1 of a kind.”
Jeremy Noye, via Twitter

Gina DePalma — a GREAT pastry chef, wonderful writer and all around terrific person is gone. A great loss to us all. RIP.”
Ruth Reichl, via Twitter

“I love you so fucking much. Always.”
Allison Robicelli, via Facebook

“The most talented, lovely, funny and fierce. I’ll miss you Gina. Rest In Peace.”
Phil Rosenthal, via Twitter

“Rest in peace dear Gina. You were one of a kind from the first day I taught you at Peter Kump’s you stood out more than a good student, a super person. I was so proud of your achievements but to me you remained sweet Gina- kind loving and with that wry sense of humor. Will miss you so much.”
Rosa Ross, via Facebook

Gina inspired us all to be great, and pushed on one more in that direction than herself. She also pushed us all to be good to others while striving for greatness. I will forever miss her and will forever continue to follow her mantra.”
Colum Sheehan, via Facebook

Gina was the coolest person and I am so heartbroken to hear this, I really thought she would crush the cancer — all the more reason to support SHARE.”
Ivy Stark, via Facebook

“Rest well @ginadee.  You fought so hard. You will be missed very much.”
Bill Telepan, via Twitter

Chef Gina inspired everyone who met her with her extraordinary culinary talent and generous heart.  Watching her deal so bravely and candidly with ovarian cancer these past seven years was inspiring and heartbreaking to all who knew and loved her. Our food world is a better place because of her contributions.”
Susan Ungaro, James Beard Foundation President

Wake: Sunday, January 3, 2016, 4 pm – 8 pm, Ruggiero and Sons Funeral Home, 732 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers, NY.  Additional details on website:  RuggieroAndSonsFH.com/tribute

Mass: Monday, January 4, 2016, 9:30 am, St. Joseph’s Church, 15 Cedar Street, Bronxville, NY

Enter America’s Most Outstanding Chefs and Restaurants By Dec. 31st in the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards

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The James Beard Foundation Awards are often referred to as the Oscars of the food world.”
–CNN

Winning the 1996 James Beard Foundation Book Award for “Best Writing on Food” for our first book BECOMING A CHEF changed our lives. Without it, we might not have felt the validation we needed to leave our respective career paths to pursue writing about food professionally.

And if we hadn’t, then we certainly never would have also won the 2009 James Beard Foundation Book Award for our groundbreaking work THE FLAVOR BIBLE.  That Award was a dearly welcomed early acknowledgment of the eight years of blood, sweat, and tears we’d poured into that reference — one that later went on to be named one of the 10 best cookbooks in the world of the past century by Forbes, and one of the 100 best cookbooks of the last 25 years by Cooking Light.  Nor would our other work have had the wide-ranging influence it has been able to have — among academics, beverage experts, chefs and others.

We recognize firsthand the invaluable potential of the Awards to validate some of the best work being done by food professionals around the country — both standard bearers of an aspirational level of excellence as well as rising stars blazing new paths in the field.  Yet after noting glaring omissions among the 2015 Award Semifinalists, we believe it’s increasingly important to voice one’s opinions.

The 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards are currently accepting entries for the Chef and Restaurant Awards in 21 different categories — but you’ll have to come out of your post-holiday cocoon and act fast to make the deadline of December 31, 2015.

We’re both working our way through the entry form, happy to have a chance to enter and celebrate some of the most deserving restaurants and professionals who have made their mark on the American dining scene, both over the decades and even in recent months — and will be updating this blog post in the coming days as we do.

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Karen Page, Chef Gabriel Kreuther, and Andrew Dornenburg

First up?  “Best New Restaurant.”  That’s an easy one for us, as we had the pleasure of dining there just last night — as we also have on numerous other occasions since the restaurant’s eagerly-anticipated opening this summer.  Described by Steve Cuozzo of the New York Post as “NYC’s most beautiful new restaurant” and awarded three stars by Pete Wells of The New York Times, Gabriel Kreuther in New York City has re-awakened New York’s excitement for fine dining, and especially for the talents of the restaurant’s gifted namesake chef, of whom we’ve been fans since first tasting his cuisine during pre-opening friends and family week at USHG’s The Modern.  The rest of the team at GKNYC — including gracious GM Thierry Chouquet and wine director Emilie Perrier (whom we’ve followed from Asiate to Joel Robuchon to Ai Fiori) — are also world class.  gknyc.com

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Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread

Up next is “Outstanding Baker.”  This is also an easy one for us, as for more than two decades now we’ve been hardcore admirers of owner Amy Scherber‘s baked goods at Amy’s Bread — which we’ve tasted both in a number of the 200 restaurant and other wholesale accounts she services daily as well as in her own retail locations sprinkled throughout the city, including at Chelsea Market, and in Greenwich Village and Hell’s Kitchen, not to mention new kiosks opened in 2015 (e.g., at the New York Public Library) as well as her new retail store The Pantry by Amy’s Bread, which showcases locally-sourced ingredients from New York and other nearby states.  Amy is a perfectionist when it comes to bread and everything else she sells (including our birthday cakes of choice for many of our birthdays over the years) — and her leadership is evidenced by her annual participation in events like SHARE’s annual “Second Helping of Life” event benefiting survivors of breast and ovarian cancer.  She’s also been recognized in the pages of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal this month as one of NYC’s leading “Age-Smart Employers” for her age-blind hiring process.  amysbread.com

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Karen Page with Audrey Saunders at the 2015 Citymeals Chefs Tribute at Rockfeller Center

[Added 12/29/15]  In the competitive and fast-growing [with exciting newcomers like Tempo Dulu‘s Trevin Hutchins in Portland, Maine] category of “Outstanding Bar Program,” we have to give props to a groundbreaking contributor to the field:  “Cocktail genius” (according to New York and others) Audrey Saunders and her 10-year-old Pegu Club in NYC, which “forever changed the cocktail game,” to quote the headline of a Grub Street feature that also rightly characterized the Pegu Club as “one of the most significant cocktail destinations in the world.”  In an article by Pete Wells in Food & Wine,  Saunders is described as as “part scholar and part priestess.”  Saunders is overdue for hosannas.  peguclub.com

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Chris Long and Shelby Stevens, in their garden at the Camden Harbour Inn in Maine

[Added 12/29/15]  For the category of “Best Chef: Northeast,” we start by thinking about whose restaurant we’re most eager to get in a rental car and return to, having had the pleasure of enjoying many impressive meals in the region over the past year or two.  Long-time fans of Boston’s dining scene, we’re more newly enamored of a number of Portland, Maine, standouts — including husband-and-wife team Chef Damian Sansonetti and Pastry Chef Ilna Lopez‘s new Piccolo, where we loved our single meal there.  But having been blown away a half-dozen times now at the Relais & Chateaux-affiliated Camden Harbour Inn in Camden, we’d have to give the nod to engaged Co-Chefs Shelby Stevens [an alum of Coi and Daniel] and Chris Long [an alum of Charlie Trotter’s who was named 2013 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year] at Natalie‘s.  The restaurant was the only restaurant in the state of Maine included on OpenTable’s December 2013 list of the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America.  We wholeheartedly vouch for the restaurant’s deserving its spot on that list, considering every invariably creative and perfectionistic tasting menu we’ve had prepared by this gifted young duo to have been well worth the six-hour drive from Manhattan.  camdenharbourinn.com

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Karen Page, Curtis Duffy, and Andrew Dornenburg, in the kitchen at Grace

[Added 12/29/15]  As a native of Detroit and Chicago, Karen especially takes a lot of hometown pride in the rising tide of restaurants in the Midwest, which keep getting better and better.  We make it to Chicago at least two or three times a year, and enjoy eating our way through exciting newcomers just as much as old favorites.  But our April 2015 dinner at Grace truly wowed us, leading to this pick for “Best Chef: Great Lakes”:  Chef Curtis Duffy‘s tasting menu the night we were there was entirely transporting, with his creative sensibility well-matched by an exacting attention to detail.  Industry colleagues who took our advice to check Grace out in May 2015 while in town for the James Beard Awards told us they were just as smitten.  We’re also very happy to experience creative talent like Quilted Giraffe alum Chef Phillip Foss‘s finding great expression and a national audience at EL Ideas in Chicago, which we noted during our unforgettably fun and delicious October 2015 dinner there drew guests from both coasts — Los Angeles to Washington, DC.  grace-restaurant.com

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Charleen Badman of FnB

[Added 12/30/15]  In mentioning our entry for “Best Chef: Southwest,” a bit of background is in order:  Andrew is a proud alumnus of Anne Rosenzweig‘s Arcadia, which was the first New York City kitchen in which he had the privilege of cooking professionally.  Both of us are huge admirers of Anne’s New American cuisine, which we long enjoyed at her Manhattan restaurants Arcadia, Lobster Club, and Inside, the last of which helmed by chef and co-owner Charleen Badman.  Early on, we found Badman to be as shy as she was talented — that is to say, extremely.  But over the years, we wore her down during our frequent visits through our constant amazement at her ability to make even the simplest dishes taste so delicious and our incessant questioning about how she was able to accomplish that, so it was probably inevitable:  We became friendly.  We’ll understand if you suspect our judgment of her extraordinary cooking may be clouded by our acknowledged affection, so please do not simply take our word for it:  Trust instead the major Phoenix media, which all named her FnB the city’s “Best New Restaurant” in 2010, and trust Food & Wine, which referred to it as “the epicenter of creative Arizona cuisine.”  Badman ain’t nicknamed “The Vegetable Whisperer” for nothin’ — we can still hear those whispers from our home in Manhattan, where we still long for Badman’s cooking and dream of our next visit to FnB.  fnbrestaurant.com

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Karen Page with Vedge pastry chef Kate Jacoby and chef Rich Landau

[Added 12/30/15]  We loved eating our way through the Mid-Atlantic region (including unforgettable meals at Fiola Mare, the Inn at Little Washington, Komi, Rasika, Rose’s Luxury, Vetri, and Zaytinya) over the past couple of years, with one of the very best meals we enjoyed being the creation of Chef Mark Levy at Magdalena at The Ivy in Baltimore.  Believe it or not, we’d argue that Baltimore just might be home to the single Best New Restaurant in the greater Washington, DC area.  But as Magdalena opened just this year, and the “Best Chef” Awards require a minimum three-year stint, Levy has another couple years until he’s eligible.  That leaves the field wide open for our enthusiastic recommendation of Rich Landau of Philadelphia’s Vedge and V Street as “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.”  Some quipped that Ginger Rogers was the superior dancer, as she was able to do everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in high heels.  Given the ability of America’s best plant-based chefs to create stunning meals — satisfying even to hardcore omnivore foodies — from their more limited palette of ingredients, we think of the country’s best vegan and vegetarian chefs as the Ginger Rogers of cooking.  Rich Landau’s cuisine in particular bursts with extraordinary flavor, texture, and creativity, and as critic Alan Richman noted when naming Vedge one of America’s “12 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2013” in GQ, “Nothing was absent from this meal, and let’s not forget that meat and fish weren’t present.”  Landau has also helped to infuse Philadelphia’s burgeoning restaurant scene with a significant vegan sub-current, given many who trained with him who have gone on to open their own places (e.g., Blackbird Pizza, Hip City Veg, Miss Rachel’s Pantry, and Sprig and Vine). vedgerestaurant.com

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Chef Amanda Cohen at Dirt Candy

[12/30/15]  While our Ginger Rogers analogy is still fresh in your mind, we’ll  continue with our entry for “Best Chef: New York” — an impossible task, given the extraordinary talent this city’s restaurant kitchens boast, absent said analogy.  There are so many restaurants in our home city that we love and crave and wish we could visit even more often, and so many New York chefs deserving of recognition and praise, that it’s painfully hard to zero in on just one.  But if one of those chefs manages to elicit equal crave-ability without even relying on meat, isn’t that even more impressive — a feat that, say, lifts her above the crowd like Fred Astaire’s arms?  We believe so.  We fell in love with Amanda Cohen‘s restaurant Dirt Candy on our very first visit when it didn’t even seat 20 guests in the East Village.  Now that it’s moved to new Chinatown digs and more than doubled in size (both the restaurant and the menu itself), on visit after visit we’re continually “re-awed” by her ability to celebrate vegetables like literally no one else through dishes like her Broccoli Dog, Korean-Fried Broccoli [which she describes as “crack in broccoli form”], and Brussels Sprouts Tacos.  Beyond her cooking prowess, Amanda is an outspoken leader in the field, switching over to a no-tipping policy at the restaurant even before uber-restaurateur Danny Meyer did the same, and wielding a wicked way with words to lament how and why women chefs are too often overlooked.  dirtcandynyc.com

Other categories include:

Outstanding Chef
Outstanding Pastry Chef
Outstanding Restaurant
Outstanding Restaurateur
Outstanding Service
Outstanding Wine Program
Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Best Chefs in America – By Region
America’s Classics

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The 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards are accepting entries in the Chefs and Restaurants categories through Thursday, December 31st.  Membership in the Foundation is not required to complete an entry form.

For additional details, visit jamesbeard.org/awards and under the first paragraph “2016 James Beard Awards Call for Entries,” click on “Submit an entry here.”

Winners will be announced at the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards to be held May 2, 2016, at the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

Giving Thanks for a Few Hours of Happiness This Week at Restaurant DANIEL

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Certain restaurants can knock down the barriers between you and happiness for a few hours.  Every taste seems to transport you to another world, while every gesture of the staff convinces you that you live in the privileged center of this one….DANIEL, which turned 20 this year, can make you feel that way.”
Pete Wells, in The New York Times  (July 23, 2013)

The more we read the headlines (from Paris to San Bernardino), and the more unpredictability we experience in the world, the more we want to make the effort to create and hold on to happy memories during our lifetimes.

Saturday night turned out to be a very happy memory, as we celebrated our “30-Year Meetiversary”:  Our 30th anniversary of the first night we met each other, the Saturday after Thanksgiving back in 1985.

As we were in Manhattan last week celebrating Thanksgiving 2015 with friends (at a lovely table of 10, including natives of California, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Sweden), our choice for dinner for this momentous occasion was easy:  Chef Daniel Boulud‘s extraordinary Restaurant DANIEL, where we have celebrated more big birthdays and anniversaries (i.e., those ending in 5s and 0s) than perhaps any other restaurant on earth.

After very warm greetings from charming service director Karim Guedouar and GM Pierre Siue, we were thrilled to let Chef Boulud’s kitchen select our vegetarian menu, and sommelier extraordinaire Raj Vaidya (whom we featured in our book THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE) select our wines — and to simply take the night off from thinking too much about any of it, for a happy change of pace.

As some fine-dining chefs expand their reach into increasingly casual restaurant concepts (as exemplified by Chef Boulud himself, who subsequently opened Cafe Boulud, db Bistro Moderne, DBGB, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud and L’Epicerie here in Manhattan, so you can experience his culinary creativity at a variety of price points), it was lovely to affirm the important role of fine dining for marking momentous occasions, such as the celebration of a three-decades-long relationship:

We clinked Champagne flutes.  We tasted.  We talked.  We reminisced about 30 years of tasting and talking.  We blew out a candle on the dessert whose plate had been inscribed in icing, “Happy 30th Anniversary.”

And Restaurant DANIEL’s extraordinary team created a happy memory that will warm our hearts forever — even when the day’s headlines leave us cold.

DANIEL
Happy 30th Anniversary
Saturday, November 28, 2015

Menu

PERSIAN CUCUMBER SALAD
With Young Radishes

CAULIFLOWER VADOUVAN AND PICKLED ROMANESCO

“OPEN” RAVIOLI WITH ROASTED PORCINI
Caramelized Salsify, Swiss Chard, Taboon Cress

CAROTTE
Fricasse of Carrot
Taggiasche Olives, Capers, Crunchy Wood Ear Mushrooms,
Queen Anne’s Lace, and Pink Peppercorn Oil

ALBA WHITE TRUFFLE
Guntersberg Agnolotti

GREEN LENTIL RAGOUT
Caramelized Onion, Sprouted Lentil Salad

RED KURI SQUASH PUREE
Garlic-Scented “Berkoukes” Semolina
Crispy Shallot, Pioppini Mushroom, Nastrutium Salad

YOUNG BEETS BAKED IN SEAWEED-SALT CRUST
Black Caradamom, Sicilian Pistachio
Chive Aioli, Horseradish Creme Fraiche

CELERY FRICASEE
Black Trumpet, Wasabi Leaves,
Confit Yukon Gold Potatoes

GRATIN OF FALL ROOTS
Cipollini Onion, Domestic Mushrooms, Bread Tuile

CHESTNUT CASSIS AND COCONUT DACQUOISE CAKE

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Chef Daniel Boulud‘s extraordinary Restaurant DANIEL is one of our very favorite places on earth to celebrate a very special occasion.  It is at 60 East 65th Street (bet. Park and Madison) in Manhattan.  212.288.0033.  DanielNYC.com

Ringing In Thanksgiving Eve Backstage at Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” Starring Jessica Hecht

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Top Left: Actress Jessica Hecht with Karen Page at the 2014 SHARE benefit at Pier 60; Top Right: Karen Page with Jessica Hecht backstage after last night’s performance of “Fiddler on the Roof”; Bottom Left: There wasn’t a bad seat in the house at the Broadway Theater; Bottom Right: The village of Anatevka, Broadway-style

“I’ve often said that Jessica [Hecht] is what saints would be if saints were fun. I found myself standing next to her mother on opening night and saying, ‘Was Jessica always like this?’ Even her mother said, ‘You know, she always has been, she has this radiance.’”
Playwright Richard Greenberg, quoted in The New York Times

Scene:  After last night’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof, Karen and Andrew enter the theater’s stage door on 53rd Street near Broadway, encountering the Stage Door Guy.

Us:  “We’re here for Jessica.”

Stage Door Guy:  “Which one?”

Us:  “There’s more than one Jessica?”

Stage Door Guy (smiling, and raising an eyebrow):  “SO many Jessicas, SO many Adams!”

Our Jessica was Jessica Hecht — who co-stars as Golde with Danny Burstein‘s Tevye in this new Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, which started previews on November 20th, making last night’s show its fifth performance.

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Jessica Hecht last starred on Broadway in the Tony-nominated play The Assembled Parties. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the recent revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge opposite Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson. Her other Broadway appearances include the revivals of Harvey opposite Jim Parsons, Brighton Beach Memoirs opposite Laurie Metcalf, Julius Caesar opposite Denzel Washington, After the Fall opposite Peter Krause and Carla Gugino, and her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-winning play The Last Night of Ballyhoo. On film, she will next be seen in Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia. Ms. Hecht’s extensive television work includes her recurring roles on “Bored to Death” opposite Ted Danson, “Breaking Bad” opposite Bryan Cranston and “Person of Interest.”  Well known for her role as Susan on “Friends,” she also starred in “The Single Guy” with Jonathan Silverman, and in James Brooks’s “What about Joan?” with Joan Cusack. Her many memorable performances include guest appearances on numerous television series including, “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie,” “ER,” “Seinfeld” and the forthcoming Marvel series, “Violet.”

In what’s become a new Thanksgiving Eve tradition for us (having seen Alan Cumming and Emma Stone in Cabaret last year), we love seeing theater and being around the pre-Parade bustle of Times Square — and Fiddler on the Roof was an easy choice this year.  Karen remembers seeing the film version starring Topol in a Detroit movie cinema with her family the year it opened, and that it was the first movie that ever made her cry.  Even her Catholic family had to have the cast album, which was played countless times — so much so that despite never having seen the movie again nor any staged production since, she still knew 90% of the lyrics last night.  Andrew didn’t have any prior exposure to the story or the music, other than the words to “If I Were a Rich Man.”

And besides, we’re already long-time admirers of the impressive talents and range of 2010 Tony Award-nominated actress (for A View from the Bridge) Jessica Hecht, whom we’ve had the pleasure of encountering over the past decade at the annual SHARE event she and Karen support every fall benefiting survivors of breast and ovarian cancer.  Harvey was to Andrew’s family what Fiddler on the Roof was to Karen’s, so of course we also caught her hilarious physical comedic performance with “Big Bang Theory”‘s Jim Parsons in that Broadway production a few years ago.

For getting in the Thanksgiving mood, Fiddler on the Roof and Jessica Hecht’s warm backstage welcome (and thoughtful introduction to yet another Jessica: fellow food enthusiast Jessica Vosk, who plays Fruma-Sarah) proved the perfect combination.  The current Syrian refugee crisis came to mind during closing scenes of the displacement of the villagers of Anatevka, reminding us that the challenges of oppression are ongoing, and those of us fortunate to be living in the United States have much to be thankful for today — not to mention a responsibility to those less fortunate around the globe.

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Don’t miss Fiddler on the Roof starring Danny Burstein and Jessica Hecht at the Broadway Theater at 1681 Broadway (near 53rd Street) and at FiddlerMusical.com.  Previews are already in progress, and the show’s official opening is December 20th.

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For discounted tickets, download our new favorite app TodayTix.com — and if you use discount code CVSWG, you’ll get $10 off your first purchase.  (You’re welcome.)

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And to help refugees around the globe this holiday season, visit the UNHCR Donation Page:  “UNHCR helps refugees and other displaced people around the world survive, recover and rebuild better futures. Your gift will go toward providing life’s most basic needs and rights – like shelter, water and food, and safety and protection from harm.”