Gabrielle Hamilton has been on top of the culinary world for the past couple of years. In 2011, she landed a James Beard Award for Best Chef in New York City for her simple fare at Prune, besting April Bloomfield, Wylie Dufresne, Michael Anthony and Michael White and quipping, charmingly, when she accepted the award, "All you have to do is open a can of sardines and a box of Triscuits, call it a signature dish, and you get Best Chef New York City."
This year, she was back at the ceremony, but this time for her witty, delicious and utterly real memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. She walked away with the Writing and Literature prize, and she accepted her award joking that Gwyneth Paltrow was her ghostwriter.
Thanks to her star power, it goes without saying that she packed the house last night at Frasca Food & Wine, where she turned up with a bag full of her own boxed noodles, refusing to let the kitchen make fresh pasta. And because of her sharp tongue and unpretentious demeanor, I seriously doubt that anyone walked out the door with anything other than a huge crush on her.
Hamilton spent much of the night in the kitchen, meandering through the dining room in spare moments to talk about the book or, more often, just hang out and chat. She gave one speech, and Frasca owner Bobby Stuckey introduced her by giving her and Prune credit for his decision to duck out of a lucrative "Starbucks-of-wine-bars" project, move to Boulder and open Frasca.
"Funny," said Hamilton as she took the floor. "I spend my whole life trying to convince everyone not to go into the restaurant industry."
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She talked briefly about her menu, which, like her fare at Prune, was simple and free of frills; she joked that she could "feel Lachlan's asshole tightening" when she refused to add chef Mackinnon Patterson's suggested garnishes, and she said it was fun to pretend to be a real chef in a real kitchen. And then she answered a couple of frequently asked questions about the book -- her kids are six and seven, and her mother-in-law is still alive -- but if you want to know exactly what those details relate to, you'll have to read the memoir.
And as for the food? It was a stunning meal. Flip the page for a few photos.
Bagna càuda -- a garlicky, anchovy-imbued dip -- served with fresh radishes. Crisp, curry-infused soft shell crab with frisee and watercress. These were the noodles Hamilton refused to let Frasca make. Perfectly al dente buttered egg noodles with caraway and cottage cheese. You could make this at home. Supple, roasted chicken in vinegar sauce with garlic. Mouth-puckering rhubarb with sweet lemon curd and meringue.