"James Beard was really very formal," says Michael McCarty. Which is why the McCarty version of the James Beard Annual Birthday Celebration Dinner, to be held at Michael's on Tuesday, will be black-tie.
But according to the James Beard Foundation, beneficiary of dinners held in restaurants and cooking schools all across the country, Beard "loved his food frill-less, his recipes uncomplicated and his dinner parties filled with good conversation and interesting people who appreciated and understood the simple, straightforward cuisine he presented."
Clearly there were a lot of sides to Beard. When he died a little more than two years ago, his friends were disappointed to discover that no plans had been made to preserve his Greenwich Village home or his extensive library.
At the suggestion of Julia Child, the James Beard Foundation was created to turn the house into a national culinary center, and to provide research facilities and financial grants for special studies in American gastronomy.
Some of the proceeds are raised at the Annual Birthday Celebration. Last year, dinners in restaurants across the country raised more than $100,000 for the foundation. This year, benefit dinners will be held at more than two dozen restaurants as well as at the Beard House itself, where chef Larry Forgione will be doing the honors.
New York restaurants cooking up the benefit dinner include the Four Seasons and Ballroom restaurants. In Denver, the celebration will be at the Rattlesnake Club, in Boston at Restaurant Jasper, in Mendocino at Cafe Beaujolais.
And here in Los Angeles, Michael's will serve a five-course, five-wine dinner at $150 per person. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served at 7, dinner at 8.
"It was a great party last year," says McCarty. Reservations can be made at (213) 451-0843.
If you feel like making a contribution but don't quite feel up to getting out the tux, you can order a special poster featuring a photograph of Beard taken by Dan Wynn. It costs $20 from the James Beard Foundation, 167 West 12th St., New York 10011.
FIESTA TIME: Tuesday is also Cinco de Mayo. And among the restaurants celebrating the event will be Lalo and Brothers in Encino, where mariachis will stroll through the garden while two women hand-make antojitos . . . . Sabroso in Venice celebrates the event with a $15 prix-fixe menu and mariachis in the garden. . . .And at Antonio's in West Hollywood, the festivities will include the traditional chiles en nogada , made in the colors of the Mexican flag.
CYCLING CHEFS: Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit community organization that delivers meals to the poor, disabled and elderly. Last Sunday, the term took on new meaning as meal makers got onto wheels to raise money for the organization at the Ocean Spray West Hollywood Criterium. There was Lydia Shire (Gardens at the Four Seasons Hotel) pedaling a tandem bicycle for all she was worth--in bright red pumps. She and 26 chefs other chefs, including Bradley Ogden (San Francisco's Campton Place), Ken Frank (La Toque), Axel Dikkers (Jimmy's), Donato Desnatis (Primi) and Martin Wright (Rebecca's), helped raise more than $5,000 for charity.
The highlight of the race was a special competition between Spago's Wolfgang Puck and Xavier Eizaguirre, president of Baron Philippe de Rothschild wines. Puck paid off with dinner at Spago.
Spectators at the Criterium drank cranberry juice and munched on Puck's frozen desserts. Spectators at today's Subaru Cycling Invitational in Beverly Hills will also be well fed. The first race begins just before noon, and the city is setting up a special "restaurant promenade" today from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. near the city parking lot at 438 N. Beverly Drive. Restaurants including Trader Vic's, La Scala, La Salsa and the Polo Lounge will offer food, with proceeds going to several Beverly Hills charities.