It was all the very best food and drink at the 2019 Tastemaker Awards, CultureMap's celebration of the top restaurants, bars, and culinary masters, held at the Fashion Industry Gallery in downtown Dallas on April 25.
More than 25 bars and restaurants dished out spectacular tastes in a hedonistic feast. The sixth year of the annual event, presented by Woodford Reserve and benefiting North Texas Food Bank, it drew a sold-out crowd of more than 700 attendees and proved to be the most delicious one yet.
Lines formed quickly for small plates and samples from some of Dallas-Fort Worth's most popular and influential eateries. Buzzy dishes included tripe chicharrones at Khao Noodle Shop; brisket elote at Panther City BBQ; Lady Marmalade pizza at Zoli's NY Pizza; a vivid green pea soup from Bullion, winner of Restaurant of the Year; and Bavarian pretzel bites with beer cheese fondue at The Common Table.
Some restaurants had multiple offerings. The Pyramid Restaurant & Bar served pig head taco and a mini mole tart; Al Biernat's did tenderloin with garlic mashed potatoes and for the vegans, a veggie tart; and Sauce Pizza and Wine threw down a three-course "meal" of Caprese skewers, baked beef lasagna, and dark chocolate and orange zest cannoli.
For the first time, VIP ticket-holders could arrive early and mingle in a lounge just for them. The French Room's Anthony Dispensa — a nominee for Chef of the Year — prepared an elevated food-pairing experience for VIPs throughout the night. Courses included: steak tartare with horseradish cream on brioche, paired with Woodford Reserve bourbon; quail egg on cauliflower gel and caviar, paired with Woodford Reserve Rye; and chicken parfait with herbed sourdough, paired with Woodford Reserve Double Oak.
VIP guest mixologist Austin Millspaugh crafted the most talked-about cocktail of the night in the VIP lounge. The drink, called a Kentucky Play Bill, was a take on a traditional mint julep, made with Woodford Reserve and topped with honey whipped cream, mint, baby's breath, and a whimsical garnish — homemade popcorn.
Desserts got their very own dedicated Sweet Suite, where pastry chef nominees turned out an array of gorgeous sweets, such as cookies n' cream tartlets from Bisous Bisous Patisserie; Strawberry Fields sorbet and pink goat ice cream from Baldo's Ice Cream & Coffee; mini butter biscuits with bourbon apple butter from The Statler; and dessert tostadas from Dallas Athletic Club. Sugarfina even set up a grab-and-go candy bar.
The main bar poured potent cocktails, including a Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned, a margarita starring El Jimador tequila, and the most popular drink of the night — the Gold Rush — featuring Woodford Reserve Bourbon with honey syrup and lemon juice. Korbel offered bubbly mixed with fun flavors like blackberry and mango at the Bubbly Bar; wines by Sonoma-Cutrer and beers from Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Alaskan Brewing Co. were served; and guests paced themselves at the Topo Chico Hydration Station.
But this party wasn't just a feeding frenzy; we had some awards to present. CultureMap senior editor Teresa Gubbins welcomed the crowd and introduced celebrity emcee chef Dean Fearing, who announced winners in 14 categories from restaurants and bars across Dallas-Fort Worth. They were selected by judges consisting of past winners, food and beverage industry experts, and CultureMap editors: Anastacia Quinones, Doug Pickering, Jeana Johnson, Keith Cedotal, Omar Flores, Ron Ruggless, Steve Deshazo, Tom Fleming, Trevor Landry, Darren McDonald, Lanny Lancarte, Lisa Little-Adams, Malolm Mayhew, Marcus Paslay, Stephanie Merry, and Gubbins.
One of the biggest awards of the night was for Best New Restaurant, voted on by the CultureMap readers. The winners were Taco Y Vino in Dallas and Four Sisters in Fort Worth. They were greeted with some of the heartiest cheers of the night.
Winners accepted gorgeous trophies onstage, and some stepped to the mic to give quick speeches.
Bartender of the Year winner Chris Unruh of Tiny Victories acknowledged his fellow nominees, as well as hardworking bartenders who did not make the list. "This city is so, so phenomenally full of talented people. I think we all probably deserve a piece of this," he said, wrapping up with a line that got more than a few cheers: "Let's party, man."
When she accepted Clay Pigeon's Fort Worth Restaurant of the Year award, chef Bria Downey gave props to the city to the west: "I just want to say thank you, Dallas, for hosting us, but I love you, Fort Worth."
Between feasting and celebrating, guests stopped to snap Insta-worthy photos at the Photobooth and bought raffle tickets benefiting North Texas Food Bank. DJ Blake Ward kept the beats lively all night. After the awards presentation, the Landliners Band took the stage for an acoustic set.
To make getting to and from the event a breeze, Tastemaker Award attendees got a free ride with a special code from the new rideshare app Alto.
Spotted in the crowd were Dallas dining VIPs and influencers, including prior Tastemaker winner Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, restaurateur Brad Woy, Amy MacLaren, restaurateur Amir Omar, PR mavens Susan Friedman, Cynthia Smoot, and Marcy Bales, and Best of Guide's Tammany Stern.
Also having fun were guests Alice Schermer, Amy Lockwood, Molly Jones, Del Mixon, Anne Warren, Elizabeth Clark, Laurin Byars, Marcie Pagel, Pat Pagel, Charles Harper, Parthenia Harper, Erika Castillo, Angelica Carriero, Claire McGlynn, Zach Manriquez, Alika Ray, Maggie Garza, Josh Farrell, Candace Hughes, Ilissa Hendricks, Ernest Morales, Eva Nava, Noemi Magallanes, Wendy Magallanes, Chris Magallanes, Carol Jackson, Brian Hannah, Roger Freidline, Alice Freidline, and Jim Severson.
Now go read about all the winners, and we'll see you next year.