Amai won the TimeOut New York 2008 Reader’s Choice award for Best New Tea House in New York City. How great! We had no experience going into this, and I’m really glad that we were able to create something that people enjoy. I am honored.
The awards were announced at a ceremony on Monday at Webster Hall in the East Village. Andrew, Queenie and I attended and finally got to wear something other than our typical bakery gear. When we entered the lobby it was a little dark and eerie inside, and reminded me of the Haunted House at Disneyland. Since they didn’t tell us much about the awards, I wasn’t sure if it would be a casual or formal event, or if it would involve food. After we finished checking in, we went upstairs to the main hall where there was much more light, an open bar and about 20 round tables set with cheese and crackers. NYCTV was there interviewing people, but the three of us headed straight for the snacks and drinks. We’re not exactly big names in the food industry, so we didn’t have much mingling to do.
We sat down at the table next to two nice ladies from Philip’s Candy Shop in Staten Island, nominated in the Best Candy Shop category. They said that they dip anything that’s good to eat in chocolate, and have been around for decades (originally based in Coney Island). They were great, fun ladies to sit next to throughout the night. Before the awards began I went to the bathroom, and on my way back one of the organizers from TimeOut asked me if I was “Kelli from Amai” and I said yes, so he sent me over to be interviewed by NYCTV. I tried not to over-analyze this move, but I took it as a good sign that at least he knew who I was. The TV host asked me a few questions about Amai, and then I sat back down with Andrew and Queenie.
When the ceremony began we had no idea what was going on because we could barely hear the hosts on stage. The microphones were too low, so we did our best to follow along but I missed about 90% of the show. Luckily I did hear when they called our name, and I worked my way up to the stage to get the award. It was a plate glued to a plaque with our name and category inscribed on it. I shook the host’s hand and sat down (no one gave acceptance speeches except for the 1st annual lifetime achievement award winner, Florent Morellet).
When I brought the award back to the table the first thing everyone noticed is that the award plate was chipped. I like to think it is there to remind us that we’re not perfect, but it might look at little tacky on the wall. TimeOut says they will send us a new award, so hopefully they will remember. The show started at 7pm and was finished by 8:30pm, and everyone cleared out quickly. We did manage to meet the President and his assistant from Tafu, our fellow nominee, but I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone else.
After it was all said and done, Queenie, Andrew and I walked back to Amai to share the award with Tamila and Elvina, the baristas still working hard at the store. Then we went to celebrate by having a burger at Stand in Union Square. It was the perfect way to finish the evening. The hamburgers and fries were great, but it was the toasted marshmallow shake that made the meal. The shake perfectly captured the smoky, sweet flavor of smores and was possibly the best shake I’ve ever had.
It was a great night, and I always love to see the people behind the restaurants nominated for the awards. You can see a complete listing of the critic’s and reader’s choice awards at TimeOut.com.
Thank you to all of the voters, TimeOut and our wonderful customers!