By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
And she just laughed.
Blitzkrieg bop: Meanwhile, right down the hall, the crème de la crème of the food press (plus a few unusual hangers-on) were gathering for free pre-award cocktails and shoulder-rubbing courtesy of the folks from the Beard House. It was a good crowd -- lively, geekish, just a couple hundred journalists and their dates all bound up in jackets and ties and pantyhose and trying not to look uncomfortable while liquor purveyors pushed a selection of New Orleans-style drinks (all seemingly some combination of bourbon, rye and bitters) and angry, white-gloved waiters offered trays of passed apps. Gourmet's Ruth Reichl was mobbed everywhere she went, but Gael Greene slipped easily into the crowd to find old friends. Other serious literary heavy-hitters were sprinkled about, although it was hard to tell who was who because no one was wearing name tags. The most dangerous place in the room to stand was between Jay McInerney (nominated for an M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, a little like Candace Bushnellbeing nominated for a Pulitzer) and the champagne.
I bumped into Jonathan Kauffman from the East Bay Express (one of our company's papers) and we spent the early part of the evening trying to identify other alternative-newspaper writers by how badly dressed and poorly shaved they were. Frayed cuffs, goatees, crooked ties, old Fishbone tour T-shirts showing under pressed, white button-down Oxfords -- you know, the usual stuff. The standard method for finding alternative reporters is to hang out close to the bar and wait to see who's pouring free drinks into their pockets for later -- but we were in a room full of food writers, and that behavior could have described anyone.
Because I'm a full-circle kind of guy, I liked that I was seated next to Jon Gluck, the deputy editor at New Yorkwho wrangles all the food writers and was there as moral support for Marshall Sella. I wanted to ask whether the magazine's current restaurant critic, Adam Platt, could still get away with something like spending a month and a half in France with a porn star, staying in Paris and eating at La Tour D'Argent and expensing it all to the magazine when he got home -- but expense accounts never came up. Instead, we talked about fishing, and a little bit about Colorado, and how much bigger, better and tougher New York was than Denver in every respect (his opinion, not mine).
The theme of the night was "Cajun Country," and all the speeches and all the presenters had something to say about the rebuilding of New Orleans. As did dinner, which was four courses, plus apps, plus petit fours and dessert, and I'm pretty sure there was crawfish in everything. Across the table from me was Joel Warner, a Westword freelancer nominated for his story "Mr. Big" (November 3, 2005), about a McDonald's mogul who outsources drive-thru orders, and somewhere on the other side of the room was Kristen Browning-Blas from the Denver Post, nominated for her food section and up against editors from the San Jose Mercury News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Before they started reading off the awards, it was feeling like a good night for Denver.
And even though after it was all said and done, I lost (to Jonathan Gold from the LA Weekly, another Village Voice Media paper) and Joel lost and Marshall lost, Kris brought home the gold. So it wasn't a great night for Denver, but it was a pretty good one. And as everyone says, it's an honor just to be nominated. As for the Post win, I ran into Kris on the sidewalk after the event (she was on her way to dinner with Post critic Tucker Shaw), and she looked like she was having the time of her life.
Afterward, a bunch of us losers went and got liquored up on eight-dollar beers and eleven-dollar cocktails and badmouthed McInerney (who won the M.F.K. Fisher) while we watched Barry Bonds hit his 713th home run. Across town, Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson from Frasca were propping up the bar at Babbo (along with a few friends) in anticipation of the chef awards the next night (where Lachlan would lose the Rising Star Chef award to Corey Lee, current chef de cuisine at the French Laundry, where both Lachlan and Bobby once worked). But by last Tuesday, May 9, everyone was back in Denver, and everything was back to business as usual.
I talked to Bobby on the phone early the next day, and he said it was wild, just knowing that there were so many people from Denver in NYC that weekend. Would've been wilder had we all come home with medals, but what are you gonna do? "It's an honor to be nominated. That's what they say, right?" Bobby asked. "And it really was."
Yeah. Meanwhile, I'm booking a flight to Paris and a table at Taillevent. I may not have won the critic's award this year, but I'm damn sure going to start living like one. I just hope my boss is prepared to reimburse me.