• Getting a James Beard Award is one of the biggest honors in the culinary world. This week, the Beard Foundation released a list of the semifinalists being considered for the medals; the list will then be winnowed down further, and the awards will be handed out in May in New York City. Lots of local names are in the mix:
Ashok Bajaj (the Oval Room, the Bombay Club, Ardeo, Bardeo, 701, and Rasika)
José Andrés (Minibar)
Best New Restaurant
(And a shout-out to José Andrés, whose LA restaurant, the Bazaar, is in this category, too).
Rising Star Chef of the Year
Johnny Monis (Komi)
Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional
Todd Thrasher (Restaurant Eve)
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve)
Anthony Chittum (Vermilion)
Haidar Karoum (Proof)
Peter Pastan (Obelisk)
Tom Power (Corduroy)
Vikram Sunderam (Rasika)
• Besides getting an early nod from the James Beard folks (see above), omnipresent Spanish chef José Andrés is racking up the praise for his new LA restaurant, the Bazaar (which, incidentally, borrows a few things—the Philly cheesesteak, the foie-gras lollipop—from Minibar here. Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbila anointed it with a four-star review this week, writing, “Bite by bite, the restaurant delivers an intoxicating magic.” The paper says it’s her first four-star review since 2005.
• Barton Seaver, the carefully bed-headed, crush-inducing chef/conservation activist/St. Albans grad, abruptly left the Georgetown restaurant Hook last year. He’s been lying low since then, but now comes word that he’ll soon be back in the kitchen. The place? The new Blue Ridge, a venture from Eli Hengst (Sonoma; formerly, Redwood and Mendocino Grill) in DC’s Glover Park. Expect a casual vibe, an ample back patio, and—no surprise—locally sourced ingredients.
• Kinkead’s chef/owner, Bob Kinkead, is opening a new place on the Annapolis waterfront. The future Hell Point Seafood will be “Kinkead’s lite,” he tells the Washington Post, but also “a third cheaper.” He’s planning for an April opening.
• Ray’s the Steaks reopened in its bigger Arlington location early last week. And although it might seem that everything owner Michael Landrum touches turns to gold (or most recently, burger-mania), even he’s got problems now and then. On opening night of the new Ray’s, the place flooded with smoke due to a blocked duct in the exhaust system. Seems somebody wedged a garbage bag filled with fast-food detritus inside.
Landrum describes the scene on DonRockwell.com: “Guests with asthma were leaving the restaurant choking. Other guests were getting up from their tables, eyes-watering and coughing, to get enough fresh air to be able to go back and get another bite of steak (kind of like when Tommy Lee Jones comes up for a breath of air so he can go back to trying to rescue stuck passengers in the airplane that is rapidly filling with water).”
Meanwhile, Rockwell riffs on theories about who could have placed the offending bag: Is it “a farewell card from Guajillo”? “A welcome card from Me Jana”? Leave your own who’d-wanna-smoke-out-Michael-Landrum scenarios in the comments!
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