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Beard Awards Recap, Straight From NY (Or How to Feel Like a Groupie)

I just got back from a four-night trip to NYC. Although I was there with Joe for his birthday, it just so happened that the Beard Awards were last night. The Twitter board was jumping with SF chefs tweeting about their flights out to NYC (Coi's Daniel Patterson is apparently no longer a virgin on Virgin America).

First sighting, Thursday night: The man of the hour—or the year, for that matter—Nate "Best-New-Chef" Appleman of A16. This was before he’d learned about his Best New Chef Beard Award, but after the Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef announcement (not to mention that rumor has it he’s the next Iron Chef). When it rains … He walked past us on his way out. After a brief handshake, we got the inevitable question:
“Are you here for the awards?”
“Uh, no.”
We’re not nominated for anything.

Second sighting: Eric Ripert. We were lucky enough to be invited to dine at Le Bernardin. Ripert has his ego in check. Our lunch was beautiful and restrained. No foam, nothing frozen. He came out to greet us.
“You must be here for the Beard Awards?”
“No, no we’re not.” Smiling hard. Feeling like a groupie.

Second sighting: Nate Appleman. Going up the escalator at Top Shop (not Top Man). Look for Nate in hot-pink leggings and a one-shoulder dress soon.

Third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh: At a cocktail party that we were lucky enough to be invited to despite not being nominated for anything, hosted by Jardiniere's Traci Des Jardins and LA-based Border Grill's Mary Sue Milliken in a beautiful three-story art gallery of a house in the West Village, there was also Best Chef-Pacific nominee David Kinch* of Manresa (with girlfriend and blogger and soon-to-be author, Pim), NY-based Anita Lo of Anissa, April Bloomfield of NY's Spotted Pig, Iron Chef Michael Symon and Best Chef-Pacific nominee Loretta Keller* of Coco500 and the Moss Room. (I didn’t have to see Michael Simon to know he was there—that laugh! Heath Ledger? Symon is a born Joker.) Of course, everyone wanted to know:
“Are you guys here for the awards?”
“No.”
And we could care less.

Unless we were nominated for something.

Eighth and ninth: After a sake-laden dinner of chicken on a stick at Yakitori Totto with Pim, David and our friend Spanky, we successfully crashed the crush of people that was the pre-Beard Awards party, thanks to the help of SF publicist Andrew Freeman, to say hello quickly to chef Roland Passot of La Folie, turn on our heels and flee.

Tenth (non-chef): Michael Not-Wearing-a-Mask Bauer and his boyfriend Michael Murphy, headed out of the party themselves. Should “anonymous” restaurant critics attend parties full of chefs?

* Although my bet was on Kinch, neither he nor Loretta won. Cyrus chef Douglas Keane took home the title. For the full list of Beard winners, none of which include anything to do with 7x7 or me, click here.