The closest thing the food industry has to the Oscars, the James Beard Foundation Awards, announced its list of semi-finalists this week, and Seattle’s shown up over and over. The “long list” gives the first glimpse into who will be up for finalist, and eventually for the award in May.
In an indication of a bright future for Seattle, two of the 27 picks for Best New Restaurant were here and, intriguingly both are beverage-centric as much as they are food-focused. Matt Dillon’s Upper Bar Ferdinand earned praise for its delicate take on wine, sake, cider, and the local foods that pair well with them, and No Anchor, the beer bar from Rob Roy’s Anu Elford and partners, serves a seafood-focused menu of brew-friendly updated comfort food and runs the bar as a combination of Beer 101 class and beer-nerd wet dream.
Similarly, the Rising Star Chef of the Year award indicates that great things are coming up in Seattle cooking. The award for chefs 30 or younger recognized three deserving up-and-comers in the area: Brady Williams who took over at Canlis, Maximillian Petty who brought his innovative ideas from Austin to the top of Queen Anne at Eden Hill, and Jay Blackinton, whose Hogstone’s Wood Oven on Orcas Island is actually evolving into two places, in order to properly showcase both his pizza and the tasting menu he offers.
Many of Seattle’s perennial front-runners showed up again at the top of their class: Evan Andres of Columbia City Bakery for Outstanding Baker, Canon for Outstanding Bar Program, and Canlis and Wild Ginger for Outstanding Wine Program.
Other Seattle superstars recognized for being at the top of their game include both Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce and, of course, Upper Bar Ferdinand, and Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn for Outstanding Chef, Café Juanita for Outstanding Restaurant, Ethan Stowell for Outstanding Restaurateur, and Wayne Carpenter of Skagit Valley Malting in Burlington for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional.
Meanwhile, in a showing worthy of the general level of service and dessert in this town, nobody local showed up on either the Outstanding Service or Outstanding Pastry Chef lists.
Finally, in the ongoing battle between Portland and Seattle for Best Chef Northwest, Portland fielded eight nominees, and Seattle just seven, though it’s a close race (Idaho also had two nominees, Montana, Alaska, and Wyoming one each). However, Seattle’s competition is stiff, including Nathan Lockwood of the now-tasting-menu-only (and still worth the splurge) Altura, Eric Donnelly of RockCreek and the stellar new Greenwood steakhouse, FlintCreek, Shaun McCrain, who won accolades previously at Book Bindery and now wows at Copine in Ballard, and oft-nominated Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule (who, technically have a restaurant in Portland as well). Mike Easton, whose Il Corvo is somewhat smaller and more informal than most on the list, earned a much-deserved spot on the list and Edouardo Jordan, whose new diner, JuneBaby opens soon, earned a spot with Salare. And next door to Salare, in perhaps the best building for eating in the city, is the sleeper hit. We’ve told you about Wataru. The Seattle Times, Thrillist, and The Stranger have all told you, but still, somehow, the best sushi in town still seems to be sneaking by people - thankfully not the judges for these prestigious awards.
Good luck to all the local nominees -- full list here.