Monday, November 9, 2009

Washington Social Diary

Faux protestors greeted guests as they arrived at the 70's themed "Knock Out Abuse" dinner.
FOOD, WINE, WOMEN AND A LEFT HOOK
by Carol Joynt

Anyone who goes out to events on a regular basis knows the experiences can be grand, but they also come with a few risks, chiefly alcohol, rich food and late hours. While Washington has nothing on New York, by virtue of population alone, this is a city with rigorous and abundant social life, both public and private, but especially public.

On any given day or night, from Capitol Hill to Foxhall, with Georgetown and Embassy Row in between, there are breakfasts, luncheons, tea parties, meet and greets, cocktail parties, galas, exhibition openings, book signings, dinners and fundraisers, fundraisers and more fundraisers. The guest lists can be from 5 to 500. There’s no training program for this marathon.
The evening's theme at "Knock Out Abuse" dinner: An homage to the simpler times.
Don’t be fooled by the all-business images of exalted public buildings. Many cocktail receptions and dinners light up the Capitol after – and sometimes during – the day’s votes. Under that big dome there are all kinds of big and little rooms available for parties. An elected official, staffer, lobbyist or clever freeloader can eat and drink for days by simply dropping in here or there. Only don’t try it on a weekend. The place clears out.

These kinds of events happen at the White House, too, and the State Department, but, of course, you can’t drop in. State has a prized entertaining space, the elite and priceless Diplomatic Reception Rooms, a handsome warren of acquired and donated museum-quality decorative arts – an 18th century crib if there ever was one.

The point is, it’s possible to score a cocktail and canapé at virtually every government agency, museum and embassy.
The tables were done with bright cloths and flowers at the "Knock Out Abuse" dinner.
After a budget-minded start to the fall season – in other words, chicken every which way but raw – beef has reappeared on the menus at big-ticket soirees. It doesn’t mean the recession is over for the events industry. It's still tough for florists, lighting specialists, musicians and caterers. But this last week, at least, it felt less morose, more cheerful – even with hand wringing over off-year elections and health care legislation, not to mention the shootings at Ft. Hood.

The week began with a pleasant lunch for two at Georgetown’s Bistro Lepic with decorator John Irelan. Around the room: Margot Hahn, Hugh Jacobsen, Paula Carreiro, Patrice Miller, Eileen Shields-West, Countess Clarissa Bonde, and on and on. Hugh joined us for coffee and that prompted another lunch invitation, for Wednesday at The Prime Rib on K Street, which – stunningly for Washington – featured the elegant piano playing of Dan Ruskin while patrons had their noon meal. The possibility of Cole Porter and Cobb Salad at noon in this town is baffling but welcomed.
Something new on the modern bar: cocktails and hand-sanitizer.
"Live" art - painted and for sale on the spot. Pucci and Gucci, keeping with the 70s theme.
The dancing on stage.
Emcee Andrea Roane is welcomed to the stage by the dancers.
Thursday evening I happily accepted the invitation of chief sponsor FedEx to be among their guests at the 16th annual Knock-Out Abuse dinner, which raises money for female victims of domestic violence. Back in the mid-90s I went to one of the group’s first dinners, then small enough to fit in Café Milano. Now it has grown so large and successful it requires a ballroom, and was held this year at the Ritz-Carlton. They honored Gina F. Adams, the face of FedEx in Washington, and also the event chair, who was lauded by Knock-Out Abuse founders Cheryl Masri and Jill Sorensen.

The guests were primarily women, dressed to maximum bling, while across town at the Hilton the men had a companion black-tie dinner, called “Fight Night,” where they ogled “table hostesses” and watched a boxing match. Each year I scratch my head, trying to put together a boxing match with a charitable focus on abused women, but ultimately let it go. They raise a lot of money. At the end of the evening the men joined the women at the Ritz for dancing in the ballroom - done up in pop colors to recall the flower power 1970s.

The buzz of the evening circled around cast members of “The Real Housewives of Washington, DC” – Lynda Erkelitian – who were at the event, hoping to have their Bravo network cameras in tow. But, according to more than a few who witnessed the snub, the camera crews were turned away at the door. Hey. Not fair. Now that it’s cast and ready to roll, Washington gatekeepers should relax and let the show happen. It might actually be fun.
Angela Jones-Warner, ready to a-go-go. Ann Jordan and Myra Moffett.
The much commented upon boots of Dondi Dahlgaard. The top half of Dondi Dahlgaard, a veterinarian.
Kimball Stroud. Danielle Sigwalt looks over the silent auction catalogue.
Jennifer Blacker, Shelley Golinsky and Neada Jafari. Jill Sorensen.
The dinner's emcee, Andrea Roane. Pamela Pressley.
Cheryl Masri and Myra Moffett. Georgette Farkas.
Cindy Jones and Gina Adams. The feet of Cindy Jones and Gina Adams.
The women were decked out in bling.
Primping in the powder room. Inset: The ubiquitous hand-sanitizer.
Annie van Meter and Cindy Jones. Her Bravo cameras were barred at the door, but "Real Housewives of Washington" castmember Lynda Erkelitian wore her game face. With her is Paul Wharton.
Clockwise from above: The program; The wine; The dinner of tenderloin of beef and crusted sea bass with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.
Cheryl Masri. Denise Grant and Amy Overton.
The bubbly at dinner. Pamela Sorensen and Myra Moffett.
Holidae Hayes, on the right. Jayne Sandman and Kathryn Rand.
From FedEx: Daryl Anderson, Rashaan Hicks, Kathryn Rand, and Randy Conyers.
FedEx made an on-stage delivery to Gina Adams: a Dior handbag.
Friday was unusual. An invitation from an Oregon winery, Echo West Vineyard, to please go out to dinner at a high-rated Washington restaurant and have a bottle of their new Cabernet, Viola V, courtesy of the winery’s owners, Lloyd and Lois Piercy.

They picked the restaurant, Citronelle, which made news earlier in the year when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had a romantic “date night” there. A friend and I enjoyed champagne, the wine, multiple small bites before our first and second courses, plus cheese, dessert, chocolates and petit fours. Thankfully it was a cool and clear night, because we needed a good hour’s walk after dinner. (Note: the wine is not on Citronelle’s list.)
The sculpture and pond at the entrance to La Maison Francaise, aka The Embassy of France.
I didn’t think there would be any fuel left in my tank on Saturday, but I’m glad there was just enough in reserve to get me over to the French Embassy, also known as La Maison Francaise, for the extravagant 10th anniversary “Champagne Tasting.” Never turn down this invitation if it falls into your mailbox in the future.

The fete was sponsored by and raised funds for the French-American Cultural Foundation, with the help of the Embassy’s smart cultural attaché, Roland Celette. It was literally a feast of great French bubbly: Moet & Chandon, Pommery, Krug, Taittinger, Veuve Cliquot, Laurent-Perrier, Ruinart, Nicholas Feuillatte, Pol Roger, Louis Roederer, Janisson. One’s flute was never empty.
At Ruinart, drinking with two hands. Rolane Celette, the French Embassy's cultural attache.
Some of the champagnes ...
The rose from Laurent-Perrier was especially good with the many chocolate desserts at the fete.
A number of noted local restaurants provided the food, which ranged from Blue Duck Tavern’s yummy veal terrine, to Griffin Market’s insane wild mushrooms on polenta with fresh shaved white truffle, to Zentan’s “Singapore Slaw,” and decadent desserts like Patisserie Poupon’s delicate mound of chocolate cake with crème brulee filling and CoCo.Sala’s chocolate covered strawberry cheesecake on a stick.

Did I say I walked the half hour to and from the French Embassy? I had to. It was that or rehab.
A spoonful of smoked salmon with creme fraiche and caviar. The French, interestingly, lined up at another table serving cheeseburgers.
Blue Duck Tavern's veal terrine.
The "Singapore Slaw" from Zentan Chef Laura Bonino of Griffin Market shaves white truffle onto wild mushrooms and polenta.
Extremely decadent and delicious desserts were plentiful at the champagne party. Patisserie Poupon's "La feuille d'automne au chocolat et sa creme brulee" was addictive.
Co Co.Sala's chocolate-covered strawberry cheesecake on a stick.
Guests were welcomed to as many refills as they desired. A silent auction featured many items that are uniquely French.
An evening devoted to eating and drinking and eating and drinking.
Clockwise from top: Enjoying sips and nibbles at the Embassy's bar; Waiting for a helping of "Singapore Slaw" from Zentan; There were also small cafe tables and candle light at the champagne fete; Champagne makes you happy.
A group of staff and friends from the Embassy of France.
This is how you drink champagne and dance at the same time.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: caroljoynt.com.