One week Two weeks Three weeks Four weeks ago, I finished off a heavy weekend – cocktails at Flamme and all you can eat/drink at Korean restaurant Ssam on Friday, dinner at Argentine steakhouse Obelisco on Saturday, and brunch at Capital M, a menu tasting at Mao Mao Chong, and the Beijing Foodies dinner (a second stop at Ssam) on Sunday – by going to the Beijinger Restaurant Awards party at the Renaissance Shuangjing the following Monday. I thought I had already posted my notes from the event but it appears I did not so here they are. And if they have a hint of delirium, blame it on that 72 hours of food and drink…
- The Beijinger did not reveal the cheaters. Next time I’ll bring big character posters to put the pressure on them.
- A rep from Vandergeeten — which supplies our fair city with Stella, Hoegaarden and other brews — convinced me to try a cocktail of Kriek’s cherry beer and KISS raspberry vodka. Smells like Kool-aid. Drink too much and you will need first aid. Be careful with this one.
- The results (see here) seem reasonable but as usual the event featured no shortage of outrage over certain categories and I heard several groups griping that The Tree again won for best pizza. They in turn had different opinions about who should have won. You mean different people like different kinds of pizza? What a revelation. I didn’t vote for The Tree (I like the pizza but do not consider it the best) or the two runners up, Kro’s Nest (it might make my top five but not number one) and Gung Ho (I find the crust brittle so I usually only order it when in the mood for the Greek salad) but went rogue with a write-in for Nasca Café (I like the combination of crust, sauce, and ingredients). My second pick probably would have been La Pizza, which also didn’t win. Does that mean everyone who voted for The Tree, Kro’s Nest, and Gung Ho is an idiot and the world is going to the hot place in a hand basket? No. It just means more voters in this particular magazine’s contest chose those places.
Such things happen in lots of categories. Hatsune wins every year for best Japanese and my foodie friends then complain that it is an American take on Japanese food. So what? The awards are a gauge of what the readers like. Again, Element Fresh won as best American food which also riled some foodie friends who wonder how it can possibly beat places like by Blue Frog, Chef Too. I voted for Union Bar & Grille. At such times, I find it best to forgo the outrage and have another cherry beer / raspberry vodka.
- I don’t imagine it is easy to perform at 5 PM on a Monday in front an already tipsy crowd but The Jackson Twinz and Zero did a good job. They also seemed open to my idea that I buy a matching suit and join them to create the Jackson Threez — or maybe Jackson Tripletz is better. We upped the ante to possibly include former Beijinger dining editor Tom O’Malley and now I’m thinking we need one more person — I’ve seen Andy Bright from Union bang his head off the bar top in frustration / perfect rhythm a few times, thus suggesting some musical talent — to create the Jackson Fivez.
- Scott Taylor, marketing head of The Beijinger, deserves some recognition for having the biggest tie knot to shirt collar ratio of the night (see photo below).
Anyway, I like The Beijinger parties given the chance to meet people in the bar and restaurant business and enjoy a drink or two. The ballroom looked good, especially that portable bar in the middle, and we had plenty of room to mingle. The Beijinger did a good job on the signage, including the backdrop and the 50 or so banners that each listed a category and its winners. And we had our choice of Belgian beer, ice cream and waffles, Kiss vodka, iF Juice, Grand Marnier drinks, Capitano coffee, and more. Including a big tuna near the entrance for those who wanted a whack of meat or to catch a whiff of something pungent.
Again, good stuff, and I don’t want to be one of those people who bitch and complain about an event even as I enjoy all the freebies and walk off with a gift bag. And I usually have more fun at these awards than at those run by City Weekend and Time Out, so I hope the following comments are taken as constructive.
I know there was an effort to keep this year’s ceremony tighter by only announcing winners in four categories and having the rest listed on banners around the ballroom. And I know there was an effort to impart knowledge by getting Jennifer 8 Lee as a speaker. But the reality is that people get engrossed in catching up on industry news and grabbing free drinks, the award sections were too short to get any momentum and it was hard to hear at times, and this all meant few paid attention to what was happening on stage. I think this show could have used more flash, flesh, and funk. Here are my admittedly amateur suggestions for a schedule:
2:30 PM: The doors open, the drinks and snacks are available, people trickle into the ballroom.
3 PM: When you have the Jackson Twinz and Zero, why wait until the end to get the party started? Throw them up front to get people into a funky mode from the get go. These guys do a great upbeat version of eighties tune Purple Rain. Maybe they could do one of Hungry Like the Wolf or Baby Got Back (Ribs) or some other “classic” tune that suggests a food angle. (I realize an introductory speech is needed to explain the awards and how the results are reached but some of that material could also be beamed on the screens placed around the ballroom.)
3:15 PM: Announce the winners of a handful of arcane / joke categories not included on the ballot. Maybe announce what place received the most write-in votes even though it is closed. Or an award to the chef involved in the most restaurants picking up awards — I’m guessing Jeff Powell who has done work with The Orchard, Kro’s Nest, Element Fresh, Gung Ho, and Flamme. It would be a chance to inject some humor into the event and give some recognition to people in the food and beverage community. At the end of this section, have about half of those 50 banners — the ones that list the winners of each restaurant category — either marched out or unfurled while those results are simultaneously beamed on the screens.
3:30 PM: Have a “quiet” time with music in the background so people, many of whom are just arriving or have only been there for 30 minutes at best, can grab a drink / find their friends / check those banners. Then have a performance that gives into two of our deepest cravings – food and scantily clad people cavorting in horribly cheesy outfits. I’m thinking a combination of cavemen / cavewomen clad in leopard skin loin cloths / bikinis and dancing with giant drumsticks of the animal rather than the musical kind. I admit the concept is still hazy but I have no doubt people would watch something like this, even if it were in horror.
3:45 PM: Announce the winners in three or four popular and contentious categories like Best Burger and Best Pizza. People love to bitch about the winners of these categories so give them their money’s worth even if entry to the restaurant awards is free.
4 PM: Have the DJ or the Jackson Twinz do another set in the lead up to the big prizes like the best new restaurants and the best restaurants overall.
4:15 PM: Announce the four big prizes. I don’t know if this is possible but if The Beijinger could first announce the three finalists in each category and get the reps on stage, and then announce who is the winner and who is “outstanding”, I think that would be more interesting. (Note: Given some of the rivalries, you might have to frisk people for steak knives and the like.)
4:30 PM: The Jackson Twinz and Zero come out one last time and do some upbeat songs. Bonus points if the cavemen / cavewomen with their giant drumsticks perform at the same time.
4:45 PM -Midnight: Cherry beer and raspberry vodka.
Then at Midnight, every goes to The Tree for a pizza party….