Best Dish of the James Beard Gala

Alaskan king crab

© Michael Muser
Curtis Duffy's Alaskan king crab dish.

The past two days have been a blur of eating and drinking as the country's top chefs decended on NYC for the James Beard Awards. Of all the food I've eaten in the last 48 hours I can't stop thinking about the insanely brilliant Alaskan king crab dish Curtis Duffy and his talented crew from Avenues in Chicago were serving after last night's awards gala. I met Curtis earlier in the day and asked if it wasn't a bit ambitious to attempt to pull off a mini version of one of his hyper-creative restaurant dishes for a hungry audience of 1,200. His response: "If I'm going to NYC to cook for the James Beard Awards, I'm going to go big." He certainly did. Lovely chunks of Alaskan king crab were served in a cucumber consommé topped with a delicate three-sugar tuile that was garnished with wild-steelhead roe, kalamansi and lemon balm. The dish was complex, refreshing, artistic and came served in a little plastic cup that conveniently cradled into the top of my wine glass. I was beyond impressed, to the point where I had to have seconds. If that's what Curtis and his team can pull off for a crowd at Avery Fisher Hall, I can only imagine the full-blown version they serve at Avenues.

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