Hundreds of hungry fans packed the Hall of State in Fair Park for the 2016 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, the grand finale of our annual program that honors the top talent in the Dallas-Fort Worth restaurant and bar communities. This year was better than ever: Eighteen restaurants — ranging from Americano to Uchi, Revolver Taco Lounge to Ellen's Southern Kitchen, Madrina to Mudhen Meat and Greens — served up small plates that showed off the best in local dining right now.
Upon entering, guests posed for pics that would end up on Instacookies, a tasty idea from Kellie's Baking Co. that frosts faces onto cookies. Near the massive cheese display from Whole Foods, there was another photo op, complete with zany props and costumes to up the fun factor. Speaking of fun, a pair of masked and bewigged typists manned the Truth Booth, offering up witty and charming assessments of each guest that paraded and posed for them.
Awaiting partiers in the Park Place Lounge were a bubbly bar and sweets station stocked by Haute Sweets Patisserie and Fluff Bake Bar. In addition to something sparkly, attendees could choose from Herradura margaritas, Chloe wines, Alaskan Brewing Co. beers, or Perrier. As they sipped, DJ JT Donaldson provided the soundtrack.
In the chic Herradura Tequila Lounge, Bartender of the Year nominees Danny Caffall, Kyle Hilla, and Zach Potts mixed up original cocktail samples for the Bartender's Showcase. Attendees could show their love by voting for their favorite libations with golden coins, and it was Caffall's Enlightener, a mix of Herradura Reposado, citrus mix, chipotle jalapeño agave, Angostura bitters, and mezcal "mist," that amassed the most treasure.
But this party wasn't only about the eating and drinking; we had some awards to present. Celebrity chef emcee Dean Fearing revealed this year's winners to an enthusiastic crowd, who were able to cheer on Fort Worth entrants for the first time, in the categories of Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, and Best New Restaurant. Special thanks to judges Tim Byers, Jimmy Contreras, Farah Fleurima, Sarah Chastain, Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder, Graham Dodds, Jay Jerrier, Jenny Kornblum, Malcolm Mayhew, Hans Peter Muller, June Naylor, Cody Neathery, and Randall Warder, who helped us determine which would take home the titles.
Spotted in the crowd were Tastemaker Award nominees Jack Perkins, Brooks Anderson, Bradley Anderson, Courtney and Brian Luscher, and Andrew Dilda, plus partiers Linda Snorina, Gina and Derek Lynn, Richard Graziano, Julian Leaver, and Cordy Lash.
Now go read about all the winners, and we'll see you next year.