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James Beard Foundation lists wine, beer and spirits pro award semifinalists

Who’s the top wine, spirits or beer professional in the country?

You’ll find them among The James Beard Foundation’s 2013 list of semifinalists for its annual award, the nation’s most prestigious recognition program honoring professionals in the food and beverage industries.

Finalists will be announced March 18 and the award will be presented on May 6 at Avery Fisher Hall at New York City’s Lincoln Center.

award-largeThe James Beard Foundation is a New York City-based foodies’ organization, named for the late cookbook author, educator and champion ofAmerican cuisine.  The Beard Foundation offers a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of American  culinary culture.

The list of semi-finalists, in alphabetical order:

The 2012 award winner in the category was Paul Greico, owner of Terroir Wine Bar in New York City.

The nominations were derived from  an online open call for entries that began in mid-October. This year, more than 44,000 entries were received, a list which the foundation’s restaurant and chef committee reviews to determine eligibility and regional representation. Based on the results and eligibility requirements for each award, the committee then produces a nominating ballot that lists the semifinalists in each of the 20 restaurant and chef awards categories, which include outstanding wine, spirits, or beer professional. The list of semifinalist nominees is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country. This panel, which includes  leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation winners, votes on specific award categories to determine  final five nominees in each category. The same judges then vote on these five nominees to select the winners. The governing awards committee, board of trustees, and staff of the James Beard Foundation do not vote, and the results are kept confidential until the presentation of winners on  May 6.

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New Yorkers offer Jan. 15 toast to beer import pioneers Vanberg & Dewulf

373483_121612931339906_766731895_nDo you remember the first time you had Duvel? How about Saison Dupont, Rodenbach, Scaldis or Boon?

Without Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield we may never have had a chance to try any of these classic Belgian beers.

Back in 1982, having departed a life in Belgian where they worked as ex-pats, for the U.S., they decided to import the beers they had come to love. Their company, Vanberg & DeWulf, today continues to import Belgian beers—and from other counties, albeit with a somewhat changed portfolio of beer. They moved from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Chicago and some of the portfolio names are the same, some are gone and there are new ones, such as Lambrucha, Lambickx, and DeCam.

Wendy Littlefield

Wendy Littlefield

Their mission was to support the  independent, family-run breweries and indigenous beer styles that expressed the spirit of a country the size of Maryland that today has almost 200 breweries.

They also conceived and built Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y., which they sold to Duvel Moortgat. Moreover, they published the first edition of “The Great Beers of Belgium” by Michael Jackson and to pioneer cooking with beer education at the Culinary Institute of America and The James Beard House. For their efforts, they were the first Americans inducted into the Belgian Brewers’ Guild.

Don Feinberg

Don Feinberg

Last year, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of Vanberg & Dewulf, Feinberg and Littlefield arranged a nationwide Coast2CoastToast with sanctioned bars and retailers hosting tastings. It took place Nov 15. But not in New York, which was just beginning to recover from Hurricane Sandy.  The company estimated that a third of its New York accounts suffered damage and about 20 percent of its New Jersey venues were shut.  Their New York wholesaler, Brooklyn-based Union Beer Distributors, had been flooded by the storm surge.  They postponed the New York version of Coast-to-Coast to Jan. 15.

Now, that day is at hand.

On Long Island, where I am based, Waterzooi, the Belgian-style restaurant in Garden City, has been designated an official host for the toast. There are 50 venues in and around New York City playing host. You can find the list either on this interactive map or at Union Beer’s web site.  In Manhattan, the Gingerman is offering 28  brews starting at 6 p.m.

Twitter followers can keep up with the latest on Coast-to-Coast-Toast-2 by following  #C2CT.

I certainly toast their success and wish them continued good fortune.

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