By D. Channing Muller Posted June 26, 2012, 2:52 PM EDT
WASHINGTON Planners reconfigured the layout at the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's 30th annual Rammy awards on Sunday night at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Attendance remained unchanged with 1,500 chefs, sommeliers, restaurateurs, and other industry members, but the new setup allowed for a better crowd flow throughout the night’s three portions.
With guests donning festive hats in cohesion with the Hats Off to Restaurants theme, the evening began with an hour-long reception, this year sponsored by Chile. The awards presentation took place in a separate ballroom, with 200 fewer seats than in 2011.
The presentation ballroom had seating for just 700 to allow for more standing room around the perimeter of the space. Organizers estimated that nearly 300 people remained in the reception area, where the bars remained open for the first time throughout the 60-minute presentation and a live feed showed the awards, said association president Lynne Breaux. She said the changes were intended to reduce the crowding that was felt last year. Afterward, guests headed into the grand ballroom for dinner and dancing.
The association worked with Hargrove Inc., Amaryllis Inc., Design Army, and Party Rental Ltd. to design the space for the Hats Off to Restaurant theme with colorful draping, hat-themed graphics, and hats from various professions and costumes adorning the tables. The team used smaller four-foot tables instead of five to encourage a smoother flow of guests. The four food pavilions from Australia, Spain, Virginia, and Cuisine Solutions each served appetizers, small plates, and desserts that represented their individual cuisines and local ingredients.
Award recipients were determined primarily by a panel of seven food writers and educators with three categories—Neighborhood Gathering Space, Power Spot, and Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene—voted on by the public via the Washington City Paper’s Web site. Top honorees included Black Jack for Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene, Fiola for New Restaurant, and Jeff and Barbara Black of the Black Restaurant Group for Restaurateur of the Year.