Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Washington Social Diary

One of the two dining rooms where The French Heritage Society held its Fete d’Hiver dinner.
The French Heritage Society: In Washington for New Orleans
By Carol Joynt

Anyone who owns or who has ever owned an antique home knows that upkeep can be a constant challenge. You dream someone, or something, will come along to help out with repairs to the one- or two hundred-year-old roof, floors, stairs or the original windows. Extend that to family operated museum houses, old churches, gardens and monuments and then put those architectural relics in France or French-related America, add a group of Francophile Americans with deep pockets and generous dispositions, and you have a picture of The French Heritage Society.

For a quarter-century the FHS has served as the clearinghouse for charitable giving and brought new life to grand medieval and 18th century chateaux, supported restoration work in New York at the French Consulate and, significantly, channeled helpful funds to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to restore the African-American Museum, the Creole Cottages, the Edgar Degas House and the French Sculpture Garden of the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Heading into the main foyer for speeches and entertainment. Elizabeth Stribling and Ambassador Vimont listen to Imani Coppola.
Le menu.
Saving a city means saving the people, of course, and rebuilding homes; but it also requires a strong effort to save the history, too. Much of history is in architecture. For example, New Orleans “Treme” quarter, one of the oldest African-American communities in the nation. It received minor to moderate flood damage from Katrina, but there was still severe storm-related damage.

Treme is where FHS focused its post-Katrina efforts. So far, its 14 chapters – all in the U.S. with the exception of Paris – have raised more than $200,000 for its Katrina Heritage Rescue Fund. Fifty thousand went to the African-American Museum to restore the Creole Passebon Cottage; $30,000 went to the community’s central Saint Augustine Church, which suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in wind damage; another $30,000 went to an assortment of historic cottages that needed help. (FHS’s recent 25th anniversary grants in France and a few other U.S. locales totaled $435,000.)
Clockwise from top left: The center of the carpet in the main parlor of the French Ambassador's residence, and the chandelier that hangs over it; A view of one of the two dining rooms; The dinner's white and red wines, which were followed by champagne.
Last week in Washington the Society held its Fete d’Hiver dinner in two romantically candlelit dining rooms at the residence of the French ambassador, Pierre Vimont, with proceeds going to their Katrina Rescue Campaign. In keeping with the winter theme, the weather outside was, indeed, frightful, with temps in the low 20s. Inside, though, all was warm and cozy. One look in the coat room, packed solid with sables and minks, and it was clear there were out of towners mixed in with the locals, as few women in Washington wear furs.

The guests were 100 or so dedicated lovers of all things French, who paid $1,000 each for the pleasure of crystal flutes of ice-cold Mumm’s passed with canapés of foie gras and smoked salmon; a performance of classic New Orleans jazz by singer Imani Coppola, brief speeches and a relaxing and elegant dinner of Peeky toe Crab a la Mousseline de Choux-Fleur et Caviar, Agneau du Coloradoen croute, Assorted Cheeses, and Moelleux Au Chocolat with Glace Amande-Nougatine. The round tables for twelve were dressed in Porthault linens with gleaming flatware that had “FR,” (for French Republican), engraved on each piece.
The ambassador's table.
The receiving line included the always cheerful Ambassador Vimont, French Heritage Society president Marie-Sol de la Tour D’Auvergne and board chairman Elizabeth F. Stribling. In the remarks before dinner much was made of the strong ties between France and Louisiana – both historical and emotional: “Every Frenchman has left part of his heart in Louisiana,” said Marie-Sol, noting, for the Americans assembled, “you got a real bargain with Louisiana.”

Before dinner, Ambassador Vimont was presented with a gift, a book of maps of the United States. Perhaps the FHS is aware Vimont is keen on road trips and is considering the purchase a car to make a summer holiday -- as much of it as his busy schedule will allow -- of driving across the U.S. He doesn’t have a car at the moment, and when he’s not being chauffeured, he’s known to take long, long walks through the city. He is, indeed, the “Walking Man” of the song composed by his favorite American singer, James Taylor.
Singer Imani Coppola
Robert Potter and French Ambassador Pierre Vimont
Roland Celette, the embassy's cultural attache
John Gill and Mike Peabody
John Harvey and Philip Pillsbury
Pam Peabody and Ronald Lee Fleming
John Irelan, Elizabeth Stafford, and Michael Sullivan
In for the party from Dallas: Ronald Murphy, Jack Hammack, Gloria Hammack, and Clare Murphy
Camilla McCaslin and Claire Luisi
The French embassy's deputy chief of mission, Francois Rivasseau, Comte Denis de Kergolay, and the embassy's press attache, Emmanuel Lennain
Suzy Wasserman, Nina Pillsbury, and Elizabeth Rivasseau
Michel Longchampt and Jeannette Sanford Hawes
Mary and Robert Potter with Gerry and Betty Regard
Lolo Sarnoff and Berenice Reed
Ambassador Vimont with admirers
Marietta Ethier and John McGarry
One couple retreated to the privacy of the embassy's "den" for quiet conversation
The society members at the dinner were about half from Washington, with twelve in attendance from the Dallas chapter, plus other members from New York, Atlanta, Boston, Newport Beach, Phoenix, San Francisco and, of course, Paris. Among the beautiful and handsome in black tie and gowns (and jewels) were Mike and Pam Peabody, Philip and Nina Pillsbury, Lolo Sarnoff, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Francois Rivasseau and his wife, Elizabeth; press attaché Emmanuel Lennain; French Heritage Society Executive Director, Jessica London; Washington chapter co-chair, Claire Luisi, Michael Sullivan, John Irelan, Donald Shannon, Suzy Wasserman, Comte Denis de Kergorlay, Michel and Odile Longchampt, Juan Pablo Molyneux, Berenice Reed, George W. Peck, IV, Gerard and Betty Regard, Elizabeth Stafford, Guy Robinson, Robert Ritter, Joan White, Stanislas Vilgrain, Phil Levis, John Gill, Ronald Lee Fleming, Camilla McCaslin, Mary and Robert Potter, Marietta Ethier, John McGarry, John and Linda Quigg, Betsy Brewster, and Marina Brachet, and many others.

Dinner moved in a mellow way till past 11 o’clock, which late for the nation’s capital. Guests said good-bye reluctantly, but then who would want to rush to depart France only to return to the Washington cold?
A friend took a photo of some of Sophie and Katherine's cupcakes and then made them a charming graphic for over the shop's fireplace mantel.
Washington Gets Cupcaked
By Carol Joynt

What’s new in Washington? Well, the DC primary confirmed the citizens are besotted with Barack Obama, and now it seems they also have a thing for cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes. In fact, they are mad for a new store, Georgetown Cupcake, where, according to the owners, they’ve been buying fresh baked and buttercream adorned cupcakes at a rate of 1,000 a day since it opened only last week. They line up early and wait patiently for the chance to indulge.

After Barack Obama, Washington's newest addiction: Georgetown Cupcake on Potomac Street.
  Georgetown Cupcake co-owners, and sisters, Sophie Lamontagne and Katherine Kallinis.
New Yorkers, who have Magnolia in the Village, take this sort of thing for granted, but Washington has been cupcake-challenged for decades. The location of our new addiction is a charming antique white frame house on Potomac Street in, as every shop owner within a mile declares, “the heart of Georgetown.”

For me, who has a weakness for cupcakes (both the male and bakery variety) this is dangerous. A recent visit began with the scent of vanilla and chocolate filling the air at the door. The main event is a tempting display of picture perfect cupcakes, plus a menu of hot chocolate, coffee and tea. Some customers can’t wait to get out the door before devouring their purchase. Note: They are delicious.

The owners are sisters, Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Lamontagne, natives of Toronto, who have been “baking all our lives,” and who learned their recipes from their grandmother. This is the first time they’ve gone public with their passion, however.

Sophie, a Princeton grad, was working in venture capital in Boston, while Katherine was at Gucci in Toronto. Katherine went to school here at Marymount College, knew the area and, as she said, “we both love Washington,” and Sophie and her husband had moved here and Georgetown seemed like a natural fit.

The menu this past weekend, at $2.75 per cupcake, included Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Hazelnut, Red Velvet, Bubblegum Pink, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl, Mocha, Chocolate and Vanilla, Chocolate Mint, Key Lime, and a line of decadent specials known as Chocolate “squared,” Vanilla “squared,” and Chocolate “cubed.” Imagine the outcome after sending one of those cupcakes to your cupcake.

What does it say about Washington that the citizenry are lining up to buy cupcakes? Good things, I hope. Like, for example, that we do have a sweet side.
Clockwise from top left: Katherine Kallinis gets boxes ready for business at Georgetown Cupcake; Customers line up to get in and then have to decide between Red Veltvet, Key Lime or Chocolate "Squared" or "Cubed" cupcakes (2).
Clockwise from top left: The raw ingredients for great cupcakes; "today's cupcakes" at Georgetown Cupcake (2); Georgetown Cupcake co-owner Sophie Lamontagne rushes to get more cupcakes out on the counter. They've been selling 1,000 a day.
A montage of lots and lots of cupcakes.
"Special to the New York Social Diary"

Meanwhile -- Super Tuesday was not only a day for the Presidential
hopefuls in Washington, but an opportunity for eighty of the area’s social, political and philanthropic elite to sparkle with De Beers celebrating the opening of the new Tysons Galleria store with a Sparkling Dinner of Exceptional Diamonds. 
"The Lindens," Washington's oldest house.
The elegant dinner was given in honor of the Washington Ballet Spring Gala Chairs,  Jean-Marie and Raul Fernandez and was held at The Lindens, the immaculately  restored, 350-year-old home of the Honorable Ken Brody. 

The evening began with a champagne reception where the guests such as John and April Delaney, David and Katherine Bradley, Jim Kimsey, Britty Cudlip, John Firestone, Arturo and Hilda Brillembourg mingled with ballerinas and had the opportunity to dress up with the diamonds from the new collections designed by De Beers Creative Director Raphaele Canot, including “Ice on Fire,” “Secrets of the Rose,” “Talisman,” and “Radiance.”

The Tysons Galleria store is the fifth De Beers store in North America, following the 2005 launches in New York and Beverly Hills; and the 2007 launches in Las Vegas and Houston.
Ballerinas dressed in Swan Lake tutus with De Beers COO, Hamida Belkadi and De Beers Worldwide CEO, Guy Leymarie
Guy Leymarie, Worldwide CEO of De Beers, made a special trip from London to join Hamida Belkadi, COO of DeBeers for this special occasion. Septime Webber, Creative Director of the Washington Ballet, opened the seated dinner inviting guests to enjoy the five-course dinner complete with chocolate wrapped De Beers truffle cakes. The evening was punctuated by Frank Sinatra ballads from the Ballet’s new performance Genius.
De Beers also presented the Washington Ballet with a fabulous watch from the new Talisman collection with more than 2 carats of pave white diamonds surrounding a rough diamond center with white crocodile strap. This piece will be auctioned at the Ballet's Spring Gala.
Ambassador Said T. Jawad with Mrs. Shamin Jawad
Cindy Jones and Washington Ballet Creative Director Septime Webber
Ambassador Welile Nhlapo
Lorie Peters and Jack Davies
Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov and Svetlana Ushakov, Hilda Brillembourg, and Carl Colby
Charles and Beth Kohlhoss with Guy Leymarie
April and John Delaney with Kay Kendall
Councilman Jack Evans with Dorothy and Bill McSweeny
Camille Cooper and Jim Kimsey
Guy Leymarie and Septime Webber
Jack and Leah Gansler
David and Katherine Bradley with April and John Delaney
Ambassador Chan Heng Chee and Richard Thompson
Ambassador Chan Heng Chee and Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov
Mrs. and Dr. Ali Ghatri
Washington Ballet Spring Gala Chairs Raul and Jean Marie Fernandez
Marie Kezempur, Guy Leymarie, and Hamida Belkadi
Britty Cudlip
Selda Bensusan, Erin O'Mahoney, and Cindy Jones
Chocolate covered truffle cakes
Guests left with chocolate covered strawberries
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.