James Beard Awards Process

JBF_AWARDS_MEDALLION-BLOGThe Beard Foundation will release the list of semi-finalists for this year’s awards program next week. While we wait to find out what Maine chefs and restaurants made the cut, I thought it would be good time to research how the Foundation selects nominees and pick the winners.

Here’s what the process looks like:

October The Beard Foundation put out an open call for the public to submit their suggestions. In 2014 35,000 entries were received.

End of Year 250 regional panelists (25 for each of the 10 regions) submit their recommendations.

januaury the Restaurant and Chefs Awards Committee review submissions from panelists and the public to select the strongest contenders in each category.

Mid-February The “long list” of semi-final nominees is released.

February/March regional panelists, former award winners and committee members—about 600 people in all—vote. The top 5 entries in each category are become nominees. Ballots are sent out and votes are tabulated by the independent accounting firm Lutz & Carr.

Mid-March the “short list” of nominees is released.

March/April A final ballot is conducted with the same group (panelists, winners, and committee members) to determine the winner in each of the categories.

Early May the winners are announced at the Beard Awards Gala in Chicago.

There are a total of 21 restaurant and chef awards in 12 categories. Maine chefs and restaurants have been in the running every year for at least the past decade.

  • Outstanding Restaurateur
  • Outstanding Chef
  • Outstanding Restaurant
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year
  • Best New Restaurant
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef
  • Outstanding Baker
  • Outstanding Service
  • Outstanding Wines, Beer, or Spirits Professional
  • Outstanding Wine Program
  • Outstanding Bar Program
  • Best Chefs for each of the 12 Regions

For more information visit the Policies and Procedures page on the JBF website.

First Bite & Graziano Exhibit

Today’s Press Herald examined how people’s first date food choices sometimes signal the fate of a relationship,

Carolyn is the sort of person with several small mason jars of excellent and varied loose leaves in her cupboard at any time. She knows how to brew a cup. The prospect of a lifetime of meals and hot beverages with a man who would serve Lipton’s tea (and on a first date, yet, the time one is most striving to impress) – well, suffice it to say, there was no second date.

and an article on the Graziano restaurant exhibit and Roux & Cyr Gallery.

Over Thanksgiving, Graziano and Poland photographer Michael McAllister spent two days in a half-dozen Portland restaurants, taking photos in the kitchen and on the floor. They capped their research with a meal at the Grill Room. Using the photos as source material, Graziano made two dozen oil paintings from his experience. They hang this month at Roux & Cyr International Fine Art Gallery on Free Street in Portland. In March, the gallery will show McAllister’s photos.

Neighborhood Breweries & Maine Foodie Tours

MaineBiz has published a feature on three brewers and the steps they take to be part of the communities and neighborhoods in which they’re located.

And while both men like the popular IPA ales, when they did taste-testings in their neighborhood, they discovered they were not popular. “So we listened to our customers,” Dingman adds. The brewery is making Double C.R.E.A.M., Old Smokey pale ale, plus a hoppy season ale and rye brown ale.

The plan is to get people in the door to both taste their beers and then buy and take them home in growlers. And the men welcome other breweries in the area.

“This street is vivacious,” says Dingman, referring to the three restaurants and other businesses on the block. “Hopefully we’ll get more brewers here. The more we build up the community, the better.”

MaineBiz has also published an interview with Pamela Laskey, owner of Maine Foodie Tours.

MB: What’s the reaction to the tour?
PL: When we take people into K. Horton Specialty Foods [Portland], we serve some of the American Cheese Society’s gold award-winning cheeses and people are shocked. I remember my very first customers were from Wisconsin. I took them to K. Horton, and Kris Horton blew them away. They were ordering wheels of cheese like there was no tomorrow. I did like impressing a family of cheddarheads. I tell people the cheese in Maine is like the wine in Napa. The best stuff never makes it out of the state.

Borealis Breads Closing in Portland

The Press Herald reports that Borealis is closing their location on Ocean Street in Portland on Saturday.

Jim Amaral, the well-known Maine baker behind the bistro and the larger Borealis Breads bakeries in Wells and Waldoboro, said the building is owned by his brother, a Massachusetts real estate developer who has decided to sell the property. Amaral said he will focus on the wholesale side of Borealis, “which accounts for most of our business anyway and has been very, very busy the past couple of years.”

The space will be available for lease and Amaral “hopes another food business or restaurant will take over the space and perhaps add dinner service with beer and wine in the evening.”

This Week’s Events: Cru Night, Sherry Tasting, Bavarian Food, Share Our Strength, Whiskey Dinner

Tuesday — Ri Ra is holding a Pappy Van Winkle Dinner.

Wednesday — MJ’s Wine Bar is participating in Cru Night serving 2011 Argiolas Turriga by the glass.

ThursdaySur Lie is continuing their Discovery Series in conjunction with the Maine chapter of American Sommelier with a night focused on Sherry, and Aurora Provisions is holding a beer and Bavarian food tasting event.

Friday — Chefs Chris Gould from Central Provisions, Sansonetti and Lopez from Piccolo, Wiley and Taylor from Hugo’s and Justin Walker from Earth are collaborating on a dinner in Kennebunkport to benefit Share Our Strength.

Saturday — the Winter Farmers’ Market is taking place, Rosemont is holding their monthly Pizza Night, and there will be a wine tasting at LeRoux Kitchen.

Sunday — it’s Valentine’s Day.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Reviews: Evo, Union, Lois’ Natural, Congress Squared

The Bollard has reviewed Union,

The white bean soup ($10) was fine. Based on the menu’s description, I’d envisioned a hearty dish, but it was a thin purée, drizzled with black garlic oil and peppered with very hard, presumably pickled, lentils. The duck pâté ($14), topped with buttons of sticky marmalade and crisp frills of frisée, was a different story: opulent and rich. Two pieces of warm, ultra-crisp, deep-fried brioche compound the decadence.

the Portland Phoenix has reviewed Evo,

A softer flatbread accompanied the labneh, a simple yogurt cheese. It is smooth as can be, with an appealing brightness and tang. It was spotted with crunchy herbs and some sharp capers. Shakshuka, a hot dish made with crushed and stewed tomatoes and egg, is not exactly smooth. But it’s dippable in its cast iron bowl, and when the yolk from the egg runs into the herby tomato, things get plenty creamy. It manages to be rich but not heavy, with plenty of bite from garlic and some stewed jalapeno.

Peter Peter Portland Eater and The Golden Dish have reviewed Congress Squared,

Each dish—and there were many—were killer efforts that the kitchen team produced with suavity and assuredness.  The smoked duck breast, for example, over a cunningly devised puree of rosemary with dots of roasted grapes and garlic confit created an arsenal of flavor that put the whole chorus of fine cooking on a high note. The sweet-smoky duck breast soaking up the vivaciousness of the rosemary puree underneath was further complimented by the umami of  sweetly pungent pairing of grapes and garlic confit. [The Golden Dish]

and the Press Herald has reviewed Lois’ Natural.

But my tofu sandwich was so good – fresh and gently spicy – perhaps I’ll stick with it. A bargain at $6.90, it was generously stuffed with lettuce, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots and baked, peanut-butter-spiced tofu. It handily avoided the two cardinal sins of commercial sandwich production – the (French sourdough) bread did not get soggy, and the stuffing was not piled up in the center of the sandwich leaving the edges bare and bready.