Outstanding Restaurant of the Year?
  • Outstanding Restaurant of the Year?
The James Beard Foundation's [JBF] annual awards ceremony was billed by Time magazine as "The Oscars of the Food World." That makes my annual PAC Glutton Awards something akin to the Golden Globes—or it will as soon as I get Ricky Gervais on board, and find a place other than my living room to hold the ceremony.

Each year the JBF's nominee list reads like a who's who of the best, most buzzed about eateries and chefs in the nation. Of course, Portland represents.

Hit the Jump for the full list of Portland nominees and some brief commentary.

In the big time this year we find Higgins Restaurant and Bar nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Higgins has been a heavy hitter in the long view of Portland restaurant history. Chef Greg Higgins is certainly one of those responsible for the city's move to farm to table cuisine. It would be great to see the place win, especially considering the restaurant's name has been seen less and less among upstarts like Olympic Provisions and Beaker and Flask.

For Rising Star Chef of the Year, Portland has two nominees (and a connection to a third). Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon has said (in an interview with the O in 2007) that he has no interest in ascending through the food rank and file. That doesn't keep people from nominating him for awards. In 2007 Food and Wine magazine named him Best New Chef, and he was a finalist for the JBF's Rising Star last year. It's possible he may take home the award this year. But that would mean he'd have to beat Matthew Lightner of Castagna. I haven't been to Castagna since Lightner took the helm late last year, but I have been hearing very good things. Apparently so has the JBF.

Another favorite to win the Rising Star Chef award this year is not from Portland, but did cook for Portlanders for awhile at the now closed Fife. The red-bearded Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill in Atlanta briefly called Portland home before heading south and landing a spot on the last season of Top Chef, where he made it to the finals. All I'm saying is that I'd be comfortable claiming a Gillespie win for Portland.

Things continue to look amazing for Ping as it receives a Best New Restaurant nomination from the JBF. My review of the place last year was lukewarm, but it didn't stop me from listing their duck stew as one of my favorite dishes of 2009. With all the recent attention, maybe I should go back and see if things have changed since my review. I'm more than willing.

I'm incredibly excited to see Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery nominated for Outstanding Wine and Spirits professional. He is the Godfather of Portland's craft distilling community and his McCarthy Single Malt scotch is simply to die for.

Finally, Portland dominates the Best Chef Northwest nominations, edging out Seattle seven nominees to six. The nominees are: Oswaldo Bibiano (Autentica), John Gorham (Toro Bravo), Jenn Louis (Lincoln), Naomi Pomeroy (Beast), Andy Ricker (Pok Pok), Cathy Whims (Nostrana), and one more for Gabriel Rucker. I wonder if there's any significance to the fact that all of the restaurants are on the East side, with the majority in Northeast Portland?

So, a big (belated) Mercury congratulations to all the local nominees. Keep in mind, this is the long list. The short list of finalists will be announced in a month, and we'll keep you posted on who makes the cut. In the meantime, go out to eat and pick your favorite to win.