Thursday, May 7, 2009

Washington Social Diary

Young race fans make their own fun under Grace Kelly's tailgate buffet table at the Gold Cup steeplechase race in The Plains, Va.
By Carol Joynt

This is the peak of the spring season in Washington and it’s possible, if you are made that way and have a driver, to go to four, five, even six events in one night. Our weather has swung from summer sunny and hot to cool April showers that never seem to end, but rain or shine the party spirit seems lively even if less extravagant. The social events may be smaller, but on the up side they feel more intimate and welcoming.

In the last several days I’ve been to a fete at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton to unveil a new marketing scheme in their bar, including mini-paninis and jello shots; a kick-off for the Washington Opera in German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth’s groovy basement bar, which happens to be called the “Berlin Bar;” an anniversary party for Roll Call’s gossip column, “Heard on the Hill,” held at the chocolate-themed Coco Sala, where they served chocolate mojitos – and those three parties were all in one night.
Colleen Evans of Marriott and Ritz-Carlton chef George McNeil. Some of the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown's new bar food. Inset: What Mortimer's started, the mini-burger, is now a staple of almost every bar, including here at the Ritz-Carlton.
The hungry and thirsty guests at the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown.
Smoked Salmon and Arugula rolls.
The mini-paninis. They were bite-sized club sandwiches.
This is not your childhood Jello - grown up and glistening gelatin shots of vodka, rum and tequila.
Clockwise from top left: The entrance to the German ambassador's basement bar; At the controls of the upcoming Washington Opera ball - Shayne Doty and Susan Lehrman; Washington Opera supporters enjoying the "Berlin Bar" at the German Embassy; Annie Totah and Ina Ginsburg.
A gloomy day in this picture, but the Washington Opera is hoping for a gorgeous June evening when their ball occurs here on the Germany Embassy's terrace.
The view from the Germany Embassy's terrace.
Clockwise from top left: Little pizzettes at Coco Sala; Mini-burgers at Coco Sala; Crabcake sandwiches at Coco Sala; The Hill newspaper, celebrating its popular "Heard on the Hill" column.
Kate Kross of Bloomberg News. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Lyndon K. Boozer.
At the Roll Call party, Mary Ann Akers of the Washington Post, her husband, Michael Isikoff, and Christina R. Sevilla, deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative, who Isikoff described as "one of the city's best spies." He would know.
Chocolate mac n' cheese at Coco Sala. Neal Higgins, legislative director to Sen. Bill Nelson, and a friend dig into the chocolate mac n' cheese.
Coco Sala's wild n' crazy bartenders. The chocolate mojito at Coco Sala.
Last night, at the Georgetown home of Leezee Porter, there was a cocktail party for her “good friend” Raffi, visiting from his home in Canada. If you are a parent then Raffi needs no more introduction than his name. If not, you should know he is the wildly successful troubadour of charming children’s music – I know by heart the words to “Baby Beluga” – who over the years expanded his influence into more adult global projects. One of them is called Child Honouring, which, according to his website, works to “treat our young as the key to building a humane and sustainable world. It is a novel idea—organizing society around the needs of its youngest members.”
Leezee Porter and Chris Arrasmith. Raffi with Susan Eisenhower, who was very happy because she recently sold her Washington home "high" in a "down" market.
Charles "Bucky" Clarkson and Faya Causey, in the kitchen at Leezee Porter's.
Raffi with his book, "Child Honouring," which has a forward from the Dalai Lama. Click image to order. Raffi talks with guests on the back porch of Leezee Porter's Georgetown home.
These four parties book ended a weekend at the races, the annual Gold Cup steeplechase race in The Plains, Va., which was started in 1922 by members of the Fauquier Club in Warrenton and almost always happens on the same May day as the Kentucky Derby. It is a colorful, festive day of racing and drinking and racing and drinking and drinking and racing and drinking. This year I was asked to be one of the judges of the tailgate parties, which was an amusing and delicious opportunity to sample the food and drink of others. I didn’t need to bring a thing but an appetite for ham biscuits and fried chicken and a taste for Veuve Cliquot, Mint Juleps, Jack Daniels and “Derby brandy.” (Personally, I stuck to the champagne).

Celeste Vella
hosted the tailgate party that won first prize. It was her fifth win. She was assisted by her sister, Allison Williams, and mother, Dorothy Burns and other family members. It featured a long table of made-from-scratch goodies like sweet potato ham biscuits, perfectly rare tenderloin with three sauces, crab dib, “Derby Pie,” cheese straws and big, fat juicy strawberries with fresh Chantilly cream, as well as Mint Juleps with fresh mulled mint.

I was particularly taken with the ingenuity of the spread put out by contestant Grace Kelly, with help from her sister, Debi Angiletta. The decoration was a stuffed duck. As she waved her hand toward the aluminum trays of various meats and fish – goose, duck, buffalo, deer and rockfish – Grace said, “everything on this table was killed by my husband.” If there’d been a prize for being indigenous, Grace would have won by a head (though fortunately there was none in the buffet).
The prized Virginia Gold Cup, circa 1922. Andrea Roane and Angie Goff at the Virginia Gold Cup races.
The buffet in the VIP tent at the Virginia Gold Cup races.
Fried chicken, Gold Cup style.
Sampling the Virginia country ham in the VIP tent. Mary Swift and Gay Estin.
Beside the course at the Virginia Gold Cup's VIP tent, where guests needed special ribbons for entry.
You will obey: gentlemen from the Virginia sheriff's office.
A meeting of officials and jockeys before the races begin.
Warming up to call the races to order. A jockey, and his saddle, get weighed.
The #1 tailgate party, featuring Celeste Vella's perfectly pink roast beef.
Tailgate party winner Celeste Vella, her mother, Dorothy Burns, and sister, Allison Williams.
Celeste Vella's sweet potato ham biscuits.
Celeste Vella's "Derby Pie" - it's everything that's bad for you but tastes so good.
Listening to the National Anthem.
Tailgate judge Tarver King samples a contestant's Mint Julep. Tarver is chef at the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg. Carol Newlind's tailgate spread.
Tailgate contestant Carol Newlind's home made fried chicken.
Carol Newlind's freshly chopped pork barbecue.
Gold Cup tailgate contestants Julie Muncy, Carol Newlind and Mackenza Muncy.
Tailgate contestant Louann Toomey. She placed second in the competition. Louann Toomey's tailgate spread.
Louann Toomey's "shrimp mold," which the judges found quite tasty.
Louann Toomey said her speciality was "Bourbon Slush," on the left. On the right are frankfurters with cheese on a toothpick.
This was not in the tailgate competition, but one group of race fans served a silver tray of Jello shots.
Tailgate judges and their friends move from one contestant to another: Christopher de Paola, Tarver King, Dianne Murphy and Angie Goff.
One of the tailgate bars at the Virginia Gold Cup. The race course is behind them.
"The Bachelor" star Andy Baldwin, on the right with his date, greets friends. Tailgate contestant Grace Kelly.
"Everything on this table was killed by my husband" - tailgate contestant Grace Kelly.
Enhancing the punch.
A former of bleacher seats. What's a Gold Cup without a cigar and a julep? Ashley Elkin, enjoying the afternoon.
The Jack Russels had their own race before the horses hit the fields. Some photos do better without a caption.
A unique and festive "bet box" that was filled with green stuff.
"Would you like a glass of Derby Brandy?"
Not a tailgate contestant, but should have been.
There are horses racing at the Gold Cup, but the main event may well be imbibing. "Cheers." Stephanie Green with John Arundel, whose family run the Virginia Gold Cup.
Guests at the Gold Cup's "Summer House."
Some actual horse racing.
Out in front.
A winner takes a bow in the "Winner's Circle."
A beauty leaves the paddock for the race course.
Hats are a big part of the Virginia Gold Cup. They have them for sale on the premises. At the end of the race, Celeste Vella with her swag for winning first prize in the tailgate contest.
Some people bring family photos to their tailgate parties.
This is called dressing up the family pick-up truck.
While the horses race some fans do a dance.
If the other foxes only knew.
Can I go home now, please?
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.