Almost Beard-less Pugetopolitans don't make much of a showing among this year's nominees for James Beard Foundation Awards for culinary excellence. Two notable local chefs>"/>
Almost Beard-less Pugetopolitans don't make much of a showing among this year's nominees for James Beard Foundation Awards for culinary excellence. Two notable local chefs make the running, but only for their cookbooks—Tom Douglas (in the "Americana" category) for Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen (William Morrow, $30) and Jerry Traunfeld (in the "Single Subject" category) for his Herbfarm Cookbook (Simon & Schuster, $40). The only Seattle chef up for a regional "Best Chef" award is the Painted Table's Tim Kelley, with four competitors evenly divided between Portland and Hawaii. But there's some reflected glory in seeing Mario Batali, whose Babbo won best new restaurant in the New York area in 1998, up for his own award this year, which must make his poppa Armandino, legendary sausage- and sandwichmaker of Salumi in Pioneer Square, proud as Punch. Bye Bye Brie, 'allo, Eva James Hondros and Amy McCray have big plans for the little Wallingford restaurant formerly known as Brie & Bordeaux. The husband-wife team—he the former Spanish Table wine manager, she ex-chef at Chez Shea—have come up with a highly personal approach to menu design. At Eva (named after Hondros' grandmother) the diner chooses from "firsts," "seconds," and, purse and appetite willing, "in-betweens." Samples of McCray's easy but robust approach from each category: truffled duck consomme with roasted garlic dumplings ($7) or oysters rolled in pappadam crumbs and panfried with cucumber raita on the side ($8); pappardelle pasta in a short-rib ragout ($16) and a sort of Latin cassoulet matching spicy sausage, apple, bacon, white beans, and cider ($14); in-betweens of mussels steamed in lemon and cream with garlic toast ($14), a prosciutto, grilled pear, and arugula salad ($11), or semolina gnocchi in an exotic mushroom ragout ($14). Did we mention desserts? Rest assured, there are desserts. The wine list at Eva is extensive, with a brave selection of hard-to-find half-bottles. By June, Hondros hopes too have a room adjoining the 32-seat restaurant remodeled into a free-standing wine bar with its own tapas-style snack menu. (Eva, 2227 N 56th, 633-3538). New menu, old view The kitchen barely had time to cool at Leo Melina before the space overlooking Elliott Bay reopened as 96 Union. Former Sazerac chef Bryan Weener's menu promises "Mediterranean morsels with fresh-from-the-Market flavors." Grazers will favor items like pears and polenta in Gorgonzola cream ($7), goat cheese- stuffed grape leaves ($7), and pancetta-braised greens ($4); heartier appetites might gravitate to first-week specials like chicken tagine with couscous and almonds ($15) or the black-pepper pappardelle pasta with forest mushrooms ($16). The wine list is southern European with a dash of California. Among the most attractive aspects of the 96 Union space is the huge veranda, seating 80; if we're really heading into a drought, it will be a great spot for drowning our sorrows. (623-3783) Tidbits to share? E-mail email@example.com.