JBFA_2010.jpg There’s something refreshing about a media event where attendees actually eat. Add to that the fact that the most politically charged statement of the night had to do with honeybees, and you’ve got yourself a convivial evening. At NYC’s Espace last night, the 2010 James Beard Foundation Media & Book Awards were abuzz with familiar foodies, including Chicago chef and nominee Rick Bayless, Momofuku chef and nominated cookbook author David Chang, and everyone’s favorite Swede, chef Marcus Samuelsson, who arrived with a super-tall plus one in tow. The vibe was relaxed and upbeat (we hear it’s a lot more fun than tonight’s gala), and the cocktails were flowing: We sampled champagne and a refreshing gimlet (ahem, “Cucumber Mint Creole” from Pegu Club mixologist Audrey Saunders) before sitting down to a five-pieces-of-stemware dinner. (One guest evidently couldn’t handle this liquid feast and was escorted from the event around 8:30 p.m. after his tablemates complained.)

This year marks the first time the book award winners were announced with the broadcast and journalism awards rather than the chef awards gala, tacking on 12 awards to the already lengthy program. Co-hosts Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods on The Travel Channel, and Kelly Choi, host of Top Chef Masters, emceed the 3.5-hour affair with equal parts humor and efficiency. Zimmern took home the prize for TV food personality, so his demeanor and suit were boosted for the latter half of the ceremony with the ultimate accessory — a gold medal. [Ed. note: This probably distracted guests from his verbal slip early in the night when he said "recipe for sex" instead of "success," eliciting a requisite round of giggles.]

More details and what we ate, plus a photo slideshow and the complete list of winners, after the jump…

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