After nearly three hours of awards and clapping, the cavernous Avery Fisher Hall was growing in excitement as the final James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef was starting. This was the moment we were waiting for: the names of the five finalists were unveiled on the big screen.Being a Washingtonian and having recently had a great dinner at Minibar, I had my personal favorite: Jose Andrés. Lisa Callaghan, flanked by Wolfgang Puck, opened the envelope and declared Tom Colicchio the winner for Craft. Ah, my disappointment, but also my excitement. I had never eaten at Craft, and had a trip to New York scheduled for June. Time to try it.
Five of us—including my daughter and a few high-ranking U.S. government and New York City officials—arrived early on a weekday. I convinced everyone to do the tasting menu with appropriate substitutions for being kosher and all. After all, we would get the chef's best effort.
One dish was phenomenal: the zucchini agnolotti bottarga and fried squash blossom. Unlike most squash blossoms, this one came attached to a petite summer squash. The combination of gently fried blossom with ricotta and squash was delicious. And the small rectangular agnolotti were really wonderful: al dente and bulging with zucchini that tasted as if it had been picked that morning.