By Adele Chapin Posted July 7, 2011, 10:45 AM EDT
The 29th annual Rammy awards once again honored the heavy hitters of D.C.’s restaurant scene last week, this year embracing a colorful Venetian carnival theme that included masks, ribbons, and a stiltwalker.
Hosted by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the restaurant award gala was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel for the seventh time. Winners included Estadio for new restaurant, a first-time win for Todd Gray of Equinox for chef of the year, and wins for husband-and-wife duo Kyle Bailey of Birch and Barley and Tiffany MacIsaac of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, for rising culinary star and pastry chef, respectively. Chef José Andrés of Jaleo and Made in Spain fame earned the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award and a standing ovation from the crowd with his sincere speech paying tribute to Washington.
Many of the 1,500 D.C. area restaurateurs and foodies took this year’s Carnevale da Cuisine dress code to heart and dug their bedazzled masquerade masks out of Halloween storage—or, in the case of M.C. Sue Palka of Fox 5, hot-glued feathers from Michael's at 4 p.m. that afternoon, as she announced in her opening remarks.
The event repeated last year’s successful award ceremony followed by a buffet format, as opposed to the seated dinner during the presentation of past years. “People really like to see friends, it’s a night for all party givers to party; they like to mingle instead of being seated,” said association president Lynne Breaux.
After the award presentation ended at 8:00, hungry guests headed for the ballroom, queuing up at pavilions sponsored by Cuisine Solutions, Mexico, Chile, Australia, and the Nordic countries for dishes ranging from Aussie steak sandwiches to Cuisine Solution’s sous-vide 72-hour beef short ribs. Bright banners hung over each pavilion, while masks and roses topped the reserved tables on the ballroom floor. Guests danced to pop tunes from the Onyx band (from Washington Talent, Photo & Video) and sampled a plethora of cocktails from mixologists at D.C. hotspots like Bourbon Steak, ChurchKey, Founding Farmers, Proof/Estadio, and Tabard Inn.