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Beard Finalists - Orfaly, really?

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The Beard finalists came out this morning.

http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2010/03...

How does Orfaly make the cut again?

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  1. Clearly they haven't been to Pigalle in, oh, at least a year.

    -----
    Pigalle
    75 Charles Street South, Boston, MA 02116

    1. I have to say that with the exception of Tony Maws (and noting that I have not been to Xaviar's), I find the list a bit perplexing. Pigalle has clearly slipped a ways, and while Marco is one of my favorite North End spots, it doesn't seem extraordinary next to some other Italian restaurants in Boston. Arrows isn't what it used to be, either, though I am a fan of Summer Winter. Leviton is excellent in his category, but tops in the Northeast? I find that a little hard to credit, much as I like Lumiere. I don't understand the nominating process, whether past winners are eliminated from consideration, who chooses, what the criteria are, etc. (Nobody's asking me.)

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      17 Replies
      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I agree, it's a pretty strange and sad list.

        I think it may be a somewhat accurate reflection of our dining scene here, though. We're pretty stagnant here in the NE, I think. Trends come 2-3 years late, there are very few really exciting restaurants, and most places just shoot for the middle. I wish we had some of the excitement and growth the NW is seeing these days.

        1. re: DoubleMan

          Really? That's exciting - heading to Seattle tomorrow - any recommendations regarding what's radically interesting relative to Boston that I should seek out - I have one free evening this week and no car.

          1. re: rlh

            rlh, when you get to Seattle, sit at the bar at Crush, get anything with lobster (yes, their lobster tops any I've had in Boston) or the sous vide short rib (either one melts in your mouth) and a cocktail while you're there. stop at Spur also for cocktails and bites, if you can. if you find yourself in Pike Place around lunchtime, try the pastrami or reuben at NY Deli, it compares very favorably with Sam LaGrassa's, or fried smelts and gumbo at Steelhead diner (a block N of Matts). oxtail congee and panfried shrimp chive dumpling at Monsoon if you can get out there weekend brunch. a few more here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/590613

            1. re: barleywino

              Excellent list here and in the link - thanks VERY much - I wish I had a few more days there - Spur may have to supplement my usual stop at Zig Zag for cocktails. Lobster that tops Neptune in the North End and Moulton's in Medford at Crush? This may well be a must-try. Thanks again.

              1. re: barleywino

                Took your advice, went directly to Crush upon landing, sat at bar, requested anything lobster, but alas, nothing on the menu, however...there was something that definitely rivals or probably surpasses any Boston area lobster option:

                (sous) chef heard me and offered to make me butter poached fresh king crab (apparently it was whole and live about 20 minutes earlier) on pureed fresh hearts of palm with rhubarb and fennel (and they charged me for just the regular scallops dish) - amazing is an understatement - and I also got to participate in some mixology taste testing what they had underway for a special event the next day - great people, great service, stellar food - and I went to see Murray at Zig Zag afterwards for a nightcap - then it was warm and sunny the next morning in Seattle - true perfection. Thanks very, very much for that priceless tip!

                1. re: rlh

                  glad you enjoyed! I miss Crush ;) ... next time, Spur!

              2. re: rlh

                Also, check out this DrinkBoston entry on Seattle craft cocktail bars: http://drinkboston.com/2009/11/30/i-d...

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I agree. Zig Zag is a truly magical place (if you like to drink).

                2. re: rlh

                  matt dillon's the corson building is amazing. it is rare that i have been so enthusiastic about a meal start to finish.

                3. re: DoubleMan

                  That seems a little harsh. I think most places shoot for the middle in most cities (with some exceptions, of course). The James Beard Foundation tends to nominate chefs who aren't necessarily at the vanguard in other regions too. That was frequently my experience in the Mid-Atlantic, where they often picked undoubtedly very talented chefs who had perhaps peaked a year or two before, while leaving the most aggressive, interesting (young) chefs off. I suspect it is more a lack of creativity on the part of judges or a tendency toward big names. There are many excellent chefs in Boston and New England doing great work who aren't on that list, or on the long list of nominees:

                  Lara and Steve Atkins, The Kitchen Table Bistro, Richmond, VT
                  Stephen Cavagnaro, Cavey’s, Manchester, CT
                  Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, Megan Chase, and Ted Lafage, Chase's Daily, Belfast, ME
                  Dante de Magistris, Il Casale, Belmont, MA
                  Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland, ME
                  Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon, Straight Wharf Restaurant, Nantucket, MA
                  Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit, ME
                  Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME
                  Steve Johnson, Rendezvous in Central Square, Cambridge, MA
                  Michael LaScola, American Seasons, Nantucket, MA
                  Michael Leviton, Lumiere, West Newton, MA
                  Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, MA
                  Marc Orfaly, Pigalle, Boston
                  Bruce Tillinghast, New Rivers, Providence
                  Sai Viswanath, DeWolf Tavern, Bristol, RI
                  Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT

                  Among others, Ana Sortun, Jamie Bissonnette, Barry Maiden would all make that list more interesting and suggest more of the range of Boston's dining scene. I don't get to eat at most of the nicer places in town so can't speak with great experience, but am sure others can think of many other names here and elsewhere in NE that would suggest greater breadth here.

                  -----
                  Lumiere Restaurant
                  1293 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465

                  Craigie on Main
                  853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  Pigalle
                  75 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

                4. re: MC Slim JB

                  Past winners must not be eligible, since Rob Evans of Hugo's in Portland (who won last year) isn't on the list, and Hugo's blows both Arrow's (vastly overrated and resting on their laurels) and Lumiere (I agree, great place but not one of the best in the NE) out of the water. I haven't eaten at the other places, but hopefully Tony Maws can get this award which he does so richly deserve, IMHO.

                  -----
                  Lumiere Restaurant
                  1293 Washington St., West Newton, MA 02465

                  1. re: kimfair1

                    I really like Hugo's, but while it was deserving of its award, I don't think it's head and shoulders above Craigie. The two strike me as having a lot in common.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      They do have a lot in common, and they are my two fave restaurants in NE, however, I have to give a slight edge to Hugo's as I've preferred his six course blind tasting to Craigie's (which is generally how we go at each place). It's not head and shoulders better, just a hair. I've had some dishes at Hugo's that use molecular gastronomy that I don't see Tony Maws doing. Nothing too crazy, but stuff like a cocktail sauce "pearl" on the oyster amuse, or one dish of hamachi I had that included saffron rice crispies.

                      It also probably helps that although I only eat at Hugo's about every three monhs when we visit the wife's family in Portland, everyone in the restaurant knows us and recognizes us (to the point where we were given a comped charcuterie plate the last we were there the weekend before Christmas).

                      The bartenders know us at Craigie, but I've had the same wait staff over and over and they never seem to (I'm not bitching as they are far busier than Hugo's), but it's always a nice touch at Hugo's for us.

                      1. re: kimfair1

                        I've only been to Hugo's a couple of times, but I know exactly what you mean about warmer-feeling service. I don't really dig the dining room at Craigie, prefer the bar or a table in the bar.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          Yeah, we pretty much restrict ourselves to the bar tables or bar at Craigie as well. For service reasons as well as having access to both menus should we decide not to do the tasting.

                          1. re: kimfair1

                            Last time we went to Craigie we arrived to be told we would be seated in the dining room, as the bar was full (despite the fact that we had made and confirmed a bar reservation). I pointed to an empty 4 top in the bar area, and said thanks, but no thanks, we'd prefer to sit in the bar as requested. After much discussion in the cramped entry area, we were finally seated at the bar table, where we were presented only the main dining room menu and had to ask for the bar menu. Unfortunately this was representative of some recent awkward experiences with service and front of house there.

                    2. re: kimfair1

                      past winners are definitely not eligible. you need to be active in a single kitchen for at least 10 years to qualify for the next award, "outstanding chef."

                  2. Seems to me once you make the list, you stay on the list until you win - which isn't to say that people don't jump the line (a la Patrick Connolly) but it seems like nobody gets taken off unless they win.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Fenway_Frank

                      nope. steve johnson has been nominated in the past and not yet won. he is not on the list this year.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        there were a couple years in between his Blue Room days and Rendezvous, no? Perhaps they didn't feel it appropriate to nominate a chef who wasn't working in an active kitchen.

                        Either way, there are exceptions to every rule.

                        -----
                        The Blue Room
                        Hampshire and Portland streets, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        1. re: Fenway_Frank

                          I know Johnson is listed as the chef at Rendezvous, but does he actively cook, or is he more a design-the-dishes-but-not-run-the-ktichen type? I always see him in the dining room there in mufti, not chef's duds. (That may not matter for the purposes of these awards.)

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            You're right. Whenever I walk by he is in dining room. And never in chef whites.
                            Raises an interesting question re: Marc Orfaly too, then. He's nominated specifically for Pigalle but with Marco and the summer stints on Nantucket the last couple years how often is he actually behind the line?

                            -----
                            Pigalle
                            75 Charles Street South, Boston, MA 02116

                            1. re: Fenway_Frank

                              From what I can tell, this is specifically the root of Pigalle's recent decline in my eyes. He was focused on that failed Restaurant L revival for a while, too.

                              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                              -----
                              Pigalle
                              75 Charles Street South, Boston, MA 02116

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                i agree about orfaly. some chefs, like oringer, seem to manage delegation successfully, but others don't do so well and execution suffers badly when they are not in-house.

                          2. re: Fenway_Frank

                            he was nominated last year, but not this. rendezvous has been open i think since 2006.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Last year's nominees for Best Chef Northeast were:
                              Rob Evans (winner)
                              Hugo's
                              Portland, ME

                              Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
                              Arrows
                              Ogunquit, ME

                              Michael Leviton
                              Lumiére
                              West Newton, MA

                              Tony Maws
                              Craigie on Main
                              Cambridge, MA

                              Marc Orfaly
                              Pigalle
                              Boston

                              I think Steve might have been on the long list of semi-finalists but not nominees.

                              -----
                              Craigie on Main
                              853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                              Pigalle
                              75 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114

                      2. from here:

                        http://www.jamesbeard.org/files/2009_...

                        James Beard Foundation holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October of each year. This year, over 15,000 entries were received. The independent accounting firm, Lutz & Carr, tabulates these entries for the Restaurant and Chef Committee. Based on the results and eligibility requirements for each award, the committee then produces a nominating ballot that lists the 20 semifinalists in each of the 19 Restaurant and Chef awards categories, some of which include Outstanding Restaurant, Best Chef in 10 different U.S. regions, Rising Star Chef of the Year, Outstanding Wine Service, and Best New Restaurant. (See this year’s semifinalist list at the end of this press release.

                        )

                        The list of semifinalists is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 400 judges from across the country. This panel, comprised of leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators and past James Beard Foundation Award winners, vote on specific award categories to determine the final five nominees. The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners. The governing Awards Committee, board of trustees, and staff of the James Beard
                        Foundation do not vote, and the results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners at the Awards Ceremony in May.

                        1. I don't see it on the list but boston globe food section nominated for best in the nation along with washington post and san fran chronicle. congrats to sheryl julian!