Last night was a good night for local restaurateurs, with four nearby eateries winning top honors in the Restaurant Association of Maryland’s annual awards gala.

Quench, the Rockville spot that serves craft cocktails and small plates, won for “favorite new restaurant,” despite stiff competition against restaurants such as Wit and Wisdom, Michael Mina’s hot new place in Baltimore’s Four Seasons Hotel.

“I was just happy to be there,” Quench owner Michael Holstein said about attending the gala at Martin’s West in Baltimore. And then, “we won. It’s shocking,” he said.

Jeff Eng of Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge in Rockville, won the award for Chef of the Year. “He’s a remarkably talented chef, and this is such a difficult venue to work in,” said Tower Oaks Lodge general manager Ron Robbins. “We are such a large restaurant, and so he has to be able to provide interesting and dynamic menus in a variety of different price ranges.”

Other local winners were Chef Geoff’s Rockville, which won for Wine & Beverage Program of the Year, and Greg Hourigan, owner of Bethesda’s Hard Times Café, who won the Maryland Hospitality Hall of Honor award. Hourigan, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year, gave a very moving speech at the gala, according to Holstein and Robbins.

The awards, which encompass restaurants throughout the state, are selected by popular vote via online balloting. More than 10,000 people voted this year.


In other very local awards, Dana Peritz won the annual Town of Chevy Chase bake-off on Sunday, demonstrating that spontaneity and improvisation may be the best ingredients for success.

“I made it up,” said Dana Peritz, whose lemon fudge took top place in the annual contest. Peritz said she wanted to make something with lemon, and she loves fudge, so she just put the two together, and whipped it up for the first time for the bake-off.

Bethesda’s Fraiche Cupcakery owner Nina Deva judged the competition, saying that she “loved” the combination of lemon and fudge. “It worked so well.”