Keith’s Lamb
I haven’t had better lamb than that grown by Keith Martin outside Pittsburgh, but until now the only place I could taste it was the French Laundry and Alinea, which would amount to a lot of dough if you just had a hankering for a good chop.  It’s now available in NYC at Graces and, I believe, Jefferson’s and Dean and Deluca.

So why should a Cleveland boy who doesn’t shop for food in New York City care?  Because it bodes well for good food in this country, not to mention small farmers.  I wrote this column about it for a trade mag called Restaurant Hospitality.

People have asked what I thought of the Beard Awards results.  I didn’t see any surprises in the books category, or any categories for that matter. Maybe the Ducasse win over the CIA Pro Chef edition and Michel Richard’s book, which I posted about last year, but I haven’t seen the Ducasse book. Glad to see Richard win best chef, and a couple of long time chef-nominees win in their regions, Des Jardins out west and Frank McClelland in Boston. I wish Michael Symon would have won for Midwest, but can’t argue that category, won by Alinea’s Achatz. And David Leite’s taking the best internet site category is worthy.

Another reader asked if I would accept a Beard Award, given what I’ve written and if so, has told me to stop being a hypocrite.  He raises an excellent point.  I hadn’t thought about it because I wasn’t nominated. I’d have to think about whether to decline an award. I have obligations to my publishers, who seem to think it helps book sales (debatable); they’d be pissed if I declined (and maybe already are for even talking about it). Also the awards and the organization with which I have a problem, are now separate entities. Also, it’s fun to win awards whether they mean anything or not (sadly I suppose).

But yes, it would have been difficult, and hypocritical, this year to accept one, given how out of touch the .org still is and my public feelings about it. Did anyone read the letter by a Carole Wurster in the Times Wednesday, referencing the Nick Fox article?  That’s exactly the sort of attitude that makes the place stink.  See Michael Rosen’s comment in the previous post and weigh it against the letter.  Yeah, I’d have had to refuse.

Now, Elaine Cicora won a journalism award for her profile of me in a Cleveland tabloid, and this delights me for Elaine’s sake (I was also glad in a subversive way to be a small part of the awards even if I wasn’t invited). So I still get pleasure from the awards themselves and respect the people nominated. Maybe we need to think not aonly about the cult of the celebrity chef (which more than anything has fueled the foundation) but also about the cult of awards in America? What DO they mean?

I was in the city during the Beard’s for other work I can’t go into just yet, but I spent almost all my time at Landmarc, the new incarnation of Marc Murphy’s Tribeca restaurant.  Good solid neighborhood food, just like downtown, I’m told, French and Italian bistro fare, straightforward, no frills.  It’s open till 2 every night.  Big comfortable room.  But I’d never wine sold the way this place does.  No wine by the glass.  Lots of half bottles.  And yet the prices are virtually at cost.  So you can get a half bottle of excellent wine for less than you’d spend on a glass at most other places.  Or if you want to try a great wine, you can do a half bottle and not break the bank.  A Quintessa Meritage for $63, for instance, a Bourdeaux-grapes blend from the Napa Valley (a full bottle retails for $150). It’s got to one of the best places in the city, if not the best, to drink wine. For someone who’s wine bill typically out paces his food bill, this is going to be a place I return to.