Great food comes from a great chef. I’ve traveled near and far, and I had some pretty great food  and I always take notice when a chef has been recognized by this organization. Every year the James Beard Foundation awards chefs from all around the country for their efforts and accomplishments, and next week is the yearly award ceremony with several chefs from New York City being nominated. I’ve been meaning to write this blog about some of the nominees and winners of last year’s James Beard Awards located in the Big Apple, to be more specific: the ladies. Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, Missy Robbins of Lilia, and Jody Williams of Buvette Gastrotheque were nominated, while Chef Robbins took home the medal. I have dined at all three restaurants, and I’m glad to report back to you my wonderful experiences!

Missy Robbins – Lilia

20 years ago I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and it was a pretty sketchy neighborhood then. These days this part of Brooklyn has taken a huge turn for the better, and amazing restaurants have rooted themselves in this now trendy area. And so did Lilia. Located in an old auto body shop, this restaurant is worth the wait ( I waited almost a year to finally get a seat at the bar). Serving Italian dishes in this spacious eatery, I was excited to finally taste her dishes, and I was not disappointed. The food was simple, high quality, and loaded with flavor. I ordered the Grilled Clams with Calabrian Chili and Breadcrumbs. I’ve had a LOT of clams before, none of which ever tasted like this, and I loved the spiciness to them. My favorite dish of the night were the Grilled Scallops with Walnuts, Yoghurt, Marjoram and Anchovies. There were two large scallops per serving, and I could have easily had ten of them. Just unbelievably good. My pasta dish was Rigatoni Diavola, consisting of Rigatoni with San Marzano Tomatoes, Chilies, Oregano and Pecorino. It’s a super simple dish with a kick, I give it two thumbs up! I’m so glad I made the trip to Brooklyn, Missy Robbins took home the James Beard Award and its medal, and deserves another medal from me as well…..

For more info on Lilia click here

Amanda Cohen – Dirt Candy

Lord knows I’m a carnivore galore. But don’t let that fool you, I eat plenty of veggies, they’re just as tasty to me. Nevertheless, a vegetarian restaurant is never really on my go to list. Enter Amanda Cohen, and she will change your mind. I’m so glad I added her restaurant Dirt Candy to my must try list, because what she can do with “just” vegetables is damn near magic. She serves her guests two tasting menus with dishes that are not only delicious, but also a feast for the eyes. I opted for the five course menu on my visit, which was more than enough, but looking at what my fellow diners were served, I did suffer from a little case of envy. My courses consisted of: 1. Korean Fried Broccoli with Shanghai Shoots with Fermented Black Bean Bagna Cauda, 2. Portobello Mushroom Mousse, Grilled Portobellos, Truffled Crostini, 3. Brassicas, Smoked Cabbage Broth, Kohlrabi, Pickled Cauliflower, Mustard Oil and Pernot, 4. Brussels Sprouts Tacos with Boston Bibb, Crema, Salsa Verde, Smoked Avocado, Pickled Red Onions, 5. the dessert was a Mushroom with Chocolate, Mushroom Espresso Pudding, Sunflower Brittle and Thyme Blondies. I’ll be the first one to admit: I have no idea what some these ingredients are, and I could technically googled them, but I chose to just enjoy this elaborate meal that blew my socks off!

For more info on Dirt Candy click here

Jody Williams – Buvette

This little restaurant in the West Village is all that and then some. It’s a simple little French Bistro (that looks like it could actually be in Paris), you could almost miss it as you walk by. Of course there’s a sister restaurant in Paris, which might add to the authenticity of the look. I sat at the bar, right in front of stacks of beautiful plates and bowls, excited to pick from their short menu offering mostly small plates. My appetizer was Anchoiade, with was simple French bread with salted butter, topped with anchovies. decadent, salty and rich, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Next were the Moules au Curry (steamed mussels with Curry Broth and fries). This was hands down one of the best things I ever ate. I stole a spoon from the silverware case in front of me, just to finish every drop of the broth. Never mind the sizable amount of broth that landed on my shirt, just because I couldn’t get enough. The main course was Coq au Vin, which was (needless to say) excellent. What a great little spot. If you know me, then you know I don’t go to restaurants twice, but yes, I’ll be back for more mussels….

For more info on Buvette click here