Eat Your Heart Out

And the winner for the most enjoyable awards ceremony? Last week's James Beard Awards, the food-industry Oscars. Would that all winners could be as modest as these folks. When Brigid Callinan accepted her KitchenAid Book Award for "Mustards Grill: Napa Valley Cookbook," she said, "This is so cool." That's all she said. Some awards have nothing to do with food. The prize for outstanding restaurant graphics recognizes the menu or any designed paraphernalia in a restaurant. Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, Calif., won for its ethereal pears and asparagus graphics, designed by Noreen Rei Fukumori, because they embodied the soothing experience of dining at that restaurant, says Ronald Bricke, the prize-committee chair. "I think you can judge a restaurant by the cover of the menu."

But the real attraction is the feast that follows the awards. Close to 40 of the nation's top chefs each serve dishes. This requires both discipline (never take more than three bites or you won't make it to the end) and an elastic waistband.