Thursday, December 27, 2007

Washington Social Diary

The Christmas tree at the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue is one of Washington's most beautiful holiday sites.
By Carol Joynt

Washington at the major holidays becomes like Paris in August:
the population shrinks substantially. In part it’s the people who aren’t from here to begin with, many of them on the government payroll or in the diplomatic corps, who return to their homes far and wide. In part it’s also those who have the means to get out of town. They head for sunnier or snowier vistas.

So, Washington over the weekend began to wind down from the social Christmas frenzy. The parties became more private, smaller and definitely more about friendships than business. The social schedule at the White House ended, too, and the First Family headed to Camp David for Christmas, before moving on to Crawford for the remainder of the holiday. Congress also got out of town. The presidential campaigns, and the staff and media who tail them, are for the most part planted in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Henry and Monica von Eichel at their Georgetown home.
Good examples of this shift in tone could be felt at two parties over the weekend. One was a cocktail party at the handsome Georgetown home of Henry von Eichel and his wife, Monica Apponyi. Henry is German, Monica is Austrian.

Both have titles – Count and Countess. Henry is CEO of the John I. Haas Company, the world’s largest producer of hops and hop products. Monica is an international interior designer, based in London.

They travel a lot, and have friends all over the world, but their base is Washington, and they chose the occasion of Monica being in town to open their doors for a party of close friends.

We could only stay for a moment, but other early arrivals included Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny and her husband, Thomas; Mother Jones magazine Washington bureau chief David Corn and his artist wife, Welmoed Laanstra, who were leaving the next day for the Virgin Islands; Sylvia Addison, Mary Sherman, and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Burt, and Jane Rosenthal.
Mary Sherman and Sylvia Addison
David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine, with his wife, artist Welmoed Laanstra
Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny and her husband, Thomas
Clockwise from top left: A tray of welcoming wine in the entrance hall at the von Eichel residence; The von Eichel's dog stays close to the party food in the kitchen; A cozy sitting corner by the window; Guests in the von Eichel living room, decorated by Mrs. von Eichel, aka Countess Monica Apponyi; The von Eichel's wedding photo on a bookshelf in the den.
More scenes from the von Eichel home, one of the handsomest in Georgetown.
Down the street and around the corner in the city’s West End section of town, a festive private dinner was just getting started in the Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt Hotel. I should say, a private feast was getting started, because host Michel Morauw, the hotel’s GM, treated his dozen or so special friends to a meal of at least seven courses, each more eye – and belt – popping than the last.

Kim Luk and Michel Morauw of the Park Hyatt Hotel
His guests of honor were the French Ambassador, Pierre Vimont, and the Ambassador from Belgium, Dominique Struye de Swielande, but representing American officialdom were Morauw friends, democratic Congressman James Oberstar of Minnesota and his wife, Jean.

The two ambassadors and Morauw commended Oberstar on his French, a language he loves and has been speaking fluently since his youth.

He’s the first to tell you he buffed up his French as a young student at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, where he got a masters in European Studies. He’s also among the lucky Washington politicians who have a secure House seat, one he’s held since 1975.

While French wasn’t the primary language spoken during the dinner it was prevalent and added texture to the ambience of the meal.

Other friends of Morauw and his wife, Tess, feasting at the Blue Duck’s intimate “family” table were Michael and Maureen McMurphy, Jim and Mai Abdo, Reza and Fariba Jahanbani, Laba Whisler, Richard Strauss, and Kim Luk.
A private dinner for 14 in honor of the ambassadors of France and Belgium at the Park Hyatt's Blue Duck Tavern restaurant.
With multiple accompanying French wines, the first courses included Charcuterie, Potted Smoked Trout, an otherworldly Brulee of Foie Gras, Duck Pate en Croute; then came big platters of marrow bones with small spoons for scooping, Roasted Maine Lobster, a gratin of “Mac and Cheese” with King Crab, Roasted Chicken, Cassoulet of Country Sausages, 21 Day Dry Aged Bone-in Rib Steak, salad of Endive, Apple, Smoked Bacon, and Blue Cheese; Sweet Pototo Grits, Glazed Baby Carrots, the restaurant’s signature fat BDT Fries, Sauteed Chanterelle Mushrooms.

It’s a testament to the yum-factor of the food, and the restraint of the guests, that everyone saved room for the array of gorgeous desserts, which included Apple Pie, Banana Milk Chocolate Custard, Warm Chocolate Cake, which was set on the table flaming with Bourbon sauce; Vanilla and Chocolate house-made ice creams.

To keep the culinary high humming, Morauw sent his guests home with a fresh baked Apple Pie in a shiny blue tin and a glass vile of rare Rooibos tea. As the French would say, nous sommes aux anges.
Mai Abdo with Ambassador Dominique Struye de Swielande of Belgium
Ambassador Dominique Struye de Swielande of Belgium and Tess Morauw
Jean and James Oberstar
Guests at the Park Hyatt dinner included, left to right, Fariba Jahanbani, Michael McMurphy, Jean Oberstar, and Maureen McMurphy
Clockwise from top left: Blue Duck Tavern's signature French fries in the foreground, with rib steak and roasted chicken, and chanterelle mushrooms in the background; Richard Strauss helps himself to one of the multiple dishes at the lavish Park Hyatt dinner; Developer James Abdo; In the open kitchen, a team of chefs prepare dinner.
Whole roasted Maine lobster with drawn butter
The salad course, with Ambassador Vimont in the background
Tess Morauw listens as French Ambassador Pierre Vimont makes a point
Reza Jahanbani and Maureen McMurphy
Fariba Jahanbani of Cartier with Michael McMurphy, CEO of Areva
Michael McMurphy with Jean Oberstar
Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.

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