Portland Hosts James Beard Awards Pre-Announcement Soiree

Nestled in the west hills of Portland, the beautiful Multnomah Athletic Club played host last night to the must-attend spring event in Stumptown – the James Beard dinner in Oregon. With finalist announcements only hours away, chefs from around the city – some past winners, some nominees – served bites and brews to a packed house of food and wine lovers.

Escaping the kitchen confines for an evening, a number of Portland’s revered chefs, including Matt Lightner, Jenn Louis, Scott Dolich, Gabriel Rucker, and Cathy Whims, were all in attendance to pass out plates. Crowd favorites included ricotta cavatelli with pork belly ragu from Lincoln’s Louis, chickpea fries from Park Kitchen’s Dolich, beet-pickled deviled eggs from Christopher Israel of Gruner, Thai-styled steamed buns with sweet shredded pork from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, and herbed ricotta gnocchi with Oregon dungeness crab from Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place’s. Tasty beverages included cocktails from Ryan Magarian of Aviation Gin and Kyle Webster of St. Jack, along with wines from Willamette Valley Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, Anne Amie, and Hawks View.

Chef Naomi Pomeroy, along with her right hand woman, Mika Paredes, was also at the event, doling out a Cattail Creek poached lamb pastry with pickled sour cherry and spring herb salsa verde. Pomeroy, who’s Beast is a popular haunt with both Portland residents and visitors, will make an appearance as one of this season’s cheftestants on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters”, premiering April 6th.

With proceeds of the evening’s event going to the James Beard Foundation’s Northwest Culinary Arts Scholarship benefiting the students of the Oregon Culinary Institute, many students were there to assist chefs with mise en place and plating. Students from the culinary program at the Art Institute of Portland were also behind the table assisting chef, and previous James Beard Foundation award winner, Cory Schreiber.

Later today, I’ll be at the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award finalist announcements here in Portland (where I’ll have my fingers crossed for all the Portland nominees, as well as the lovely chef Stephanie Izard). You can follow my live tweeting over at the Daily Blender Twitter account, or catch my wrapup of the JBFA shortlist here on Daily Blender tomorrow!

Later this week, my exclusive interview with New Orleans chef, and 2010 James Beard Foundation award winner, John Besh.

~Jennifer Heigl

*Photo credits: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender

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