Monday, June 22, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Hello Summer

Hail from Tropical Storm Bill. It melted faster than bag ice.
by Carol Joynt

It has been some week and weekend as we ushered in summer in Washington, which likes to think of itself as northern, but at least in terms of climate, remains much more aligned with the steamy south. We should always remember the nation’s capital is built on swampland.

The condensation on my windows has been opaque in the mornings for a week. My hair is a fright wig. The greenery in the garden has doubled in lushness. A morning walk, at a healthy but not intense pace, still results in much sweat. Water seems to drip from everything and everywhere. I want to stop and ask tourists, “Why do you come here this time of year?”  But I know in return they would press me, “Why do you live here this time of year?”
A peek out the basement door as Bill rolled over DC.
The back garden, growing as it rains.
There was excitement this weekend, though, and it was two-fold. The remnants of Tropical Storm Bill rolled through on Saturday evening, bringing heavy rain and actual hail. Not Midwestern baseball-sized hail, but nickel-sized ice nuggets that made a crackling, pinging racket as they hit brick, wood, metal, glass. I went out in the storm to pick up a few pieces (we don’t often get hail in the city), just to see what it felt like. Hard, cold ice, but it melted faster than store-bought bag ice. The hail happened only once, and was brief, but the storms lasted through the night, with thunder and lightning and inch-an-hour rain. Chubby rain. My garden grew another couple of inches overnight.
For sure, "chubby rain."
Fortunately for Washington baseball fans, Bill’s monsoon hung outside the city until after pitcher Max Scherzer locked down an exciting afternoon no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates; only the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Nationals history. Jordan Zimmerman, last season, was the first.

The game was a galvanizing moment across the city. At the stadium, the stands were wild, people on their feet. In the 9th inning, in bars from Cleveland Park to Shaw to Barracks Row to Georgetown, fans held their breath. I watched on the TVs at the bar of The George Town Club, noshing on a fresh lobster roll, sipping a martini (Friday was National Martini Day, btw), while my son – who had just completed an impressive Abraham Lincoln mural for a private client – had a beer and a crab cake sandwich. Those last pitches produced some anxious moments. We couldn’t chew or swallow, we just stared at the screen.
What pitching a no-hitter looks like. Max Scherzer gets doused by teammates. He made the record books and the Nats beat the Pirates 6-0.
Drenched in chocolate, looking like the last scenes of "Carrie."
After the last out, Scherzer’s boisterous teammates tore from the dugout to embrace him, and to douse him with chocolate syrup, which is a new thing, replacing whipped cream, but – on TV at least – as the chocolate oozes down a player’s face and shoulders, has the effect of looking like the blood-drenched last scenes of “Carrie.” Oh, well, everyone was happy. And then the skies opened up.
A private commission for a residential terrace in Adams Morgan, this mural is the latest work by graphic designer (and CJ son) Spencer Joynt. The owner wanted something "DC-centric," and thus Honest Abe.
In a sports-themed way, I got to a restaurant this week that had been inviting me for months. STK Steakhouse, a chain out of New York, which opened in Washington a year ago. They opened as a steakhouse for ladies but when that theme got no traction here the owners quickly silenced the “female-friendly” campaign and settled into being a regulation steakhouse in a city where steakhouses still hold sway. Just as we are the steamy south we also are, for better or worse, a meat and potatoes town. And, as far as I can tell, all our many steakhouses are quite welcoming to women.

STK head chef Marc Hennessy .
What evolved, though, was STK became the steakhouse of choice for the sports crowd, the city's major league football, basketball, baseball and soccer players, and visiting athletes, too. "Sightings" started popping up in the gossip columns. Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Wizards players John Wall, Kris Humphries (a friend of the owner), Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden; when the Seattle Seahawks came to town to play the Washington Redskins, Super Bowl ring-wearing Richard Sherman came in with a group of friends; the Ravens Jimmy Smith was spotted; the Redskins DeSean Jackson celebrated his 28th birthday with 20 friends, including singer Ashanti; also the Redskins D'Angelo Hall, Pierre Garcon, the Capitals Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green, tennis star Martina Hingis, members of the sports media show up, too, including ESPN's Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, and assorted team managers and coaches.

When chef Marc Hennessy came to the table to say hello, I had one question: what do the athletes eat? He said they prefer to order items that are not on the menu. For example, fried chicken. He obliges. They also go for the large, medium and small steaks, which come with a choice of seven toppings. Interestingly, he said, a lot of them do watch what they eat. In the modern era of pro sports, these very expensive players are in training year round, with team dieticians, and sometimes their own agents, prescribing regimens for keeping the muscle but avoiding the fat.
The sleek interior of STK Steakhouse on Connecticut Avenue in downtown Washington.
The year-round fireplace.
The bar on the earlier side of the evening, but the deejay, on the left, keeping up the energy.
Bread with dipping sauce.
Tuna tartare under a sombrero of taro chips.
An appetizer of grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and chili oil. 
The daily fish crudo with green apple, pickled fennel and grainy mustard.
Crispy lobster tails with pickled chilis. 
A stack of fried potatoes.
The STK steak tartare.
The melt-in-your-mouth glazed short ribs in a horseradish cream.
I dined with my neighbor Christopher de Paola. It was good we came with our appetites. Marc sent out extra dishes to augment what we ordered – an eye-popping feast, suitable for a tackle, and I took some pictures as best I could in the dim light, which felt cooling on a hot evening (and, as on other nights, with rain outside). The glazed short ribs were, as they should be, melt in the mouth delicious. The trio of ice cream cones was a clever way to end a summer dinner.
Chris de Paola contemplates a feast. ... and smiles. On his plate is the bone-in ribeye.
The owners of STK like to boast it is “not your daddy’s steakhouse,” but instead “modern” and “chic.” It definitely is a break from the traditional white tablecloth American steakhouse concept, and if the steaks and the sports star sightings aren’t enough of a draw, there’s a deejay at the bar who pumps high-energy tunes into the room as early as happy hour.

STK Steakhouse
1250 Connecticut Avenue NW
Mini ice cream cones. 
ENDNOTE: Attention sports fans: My monthly Q&A Café interview this week will focus on sports, with ESPN’s entertaining “The Sports Fix” team of Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan. We tape at The George Town Club on Thursday, June 25; seating begins at 4:30; drinks and heavy snacks, $25. Also, thanks to an introduction made by DPC, “Primates of Park Avenue” author Wednesday Martin will be the guest for a lunchtime interview on Thursday July 16, when we’ll also have her book for sale. Seating for that is 11:30. Fee $35.

Reservations for both: 202-333-9330 or
Photographs by Carol Joynt

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt