Restaurant Writers Bestow Awards

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“And the winner is…”

That phrase was heard repeatedly Sunday during the Southern California Restaurant Writers’ annual awards dinner. We’re happy to report that numerous Newport Beach restaurants received awards in various categories.

As SCRW members, we voted on the award recipients, who were judged on criteria including food, service, ambiance, appropriate beverages, and parking.

We were elected to announce the Golden Bacchus awards for best wine lists. Not content to simply name the winners, we wrote an intro that we hoped might add a touch of class, and humor, to the evening.

“Earnest Hemingway once said, ‘Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing,’” I told the crowd of nearly 300 restaurateurs.

“Robert Lewis Stevenson called wine ‘bottled poetry,’” added Stasha. “But leave it to Shakespeare to make the connection between superb cuisine and wonderful wine: ‘Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.’”

“The recipients of the Golden Bacchus awards have been chosen for their impressive wine selections and stellar cellars,” I said.

Stasha turned and stared at me. “Stellar Cellars?”

I shrugged and nodded, wondering what I’d said wrong.

“Oh brother, Chris, “ she shook her head. “Enough of the brilliant banter, let’s present the Golden Bacchus awards.”

We proceeded to announce the winners. Twenty restaurants throughout Southern California received a Golden Bacchus award, including two in Newport Beach: Bayside Restaurant, and Five Crowns.

“I love Five Crowns, but I wasn’t aware they had that kind of a wine list,” I whispered to Stasha during the awards dinner.

“I know—and the irony is they just closed their doors for a month to remodel the restaurant,” she added. “Oenophiles will just have to wait until they reopen.”

“And Bayside—I go for the live jazz, and always order a glass of wine, but I’ve never really perused the wine list, which I’m told is extensive. I guess I’d better give it a good read next time I go,” I told her.

We were both very happy that Donatella and Franco Barone of Il Barone Ristorante were named Restaurateurs of the Year.

They certainly deserve it. Franco Barone left Antonello Ristorante two years ago to open his own restaurant, and that’s when the economy was at a low point—not a great time to start a business.

But they’ve made it work, because that’s what happens when you have an impeccable reputation in the culinary world, and a good following among foodies.

We skimmed the awards booklet that contained a list of winners by city and counted 46 award winners from Newport Beach, nine from Corona del Mar, and three from Balboa or Balboa Island.

“That’s very impressive,” I noted.

“And why not? Newport has some impressive restaurants!” Stasha interjected.

Among the restaurants receiving awards for American cuisine were Landmark Steakhouse, The Arches, Bungalow, Billy’s at the Beach, Palm Terrace at The Island Hotel, and Coliseum at Pelican Hill.

For Continental cuisine, the Five Crowns and The Ritz were the top winners.

“Two of my favorites!” exclaimed Stasha. “For best French restaurants, they have two more of my favorites: Traditions by Pascal and Brasserie Pascal.”

“I’d be alarmed if he wasn’t on the list.”

“Andrea at Pelican Hill is tops for Italian!” exclaimed Stasha. “And of course, Il Barone is listed, as is Rustica. Hmmmmm…Cucina Alessa. I don’t know them, we haven’t been there.”

“They’re on our ever-growing ‘must dine there’ list,” I said.

“Oops. It looks like someone made an error here – they’ve listed Pescadou under the Italian category,” Stasha noted. “You can’t get more traditional French than that place.”

She continued reading.

“First Cabin at Balboa Bay Club made the list for their Sunday Brunch, and so did Back Bay Bistro.”

“Here,” she offered me the list back. “My eyes are swimming.”

“Wildfish and Harborside made the Seafood list, longtime favorite Royal Thai made the Thai list, Kitayama is on the Japanese list…”

“I’m getting hungry,” interrupted Stasha. “Dinner better arrive soon.”

“Me too, but just think of all the other restaurants we’ll dine at this year that might be candidates for a Southern California Restaurant Writers award next year.”

“Ahhhh, so many award-winning restaurants, so little time.”

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