Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Washington Social Diary

Bonnnie McElveen-Hunter greets a guest arriving at her Georgetown mansion for a Senate wives luncheon.
By Carol Joynt

In newsroom politics it doesn’t get more daunting than to be the guy who succeeded Ben Bradlee. But that’s exactly what Leonard Downie, Jr., did in 1991, becoming executive editor of The Washington Post after several years as managing editor.

Leonard Downie's novel, The Rules of the Game.. Click to order.
What did he do with that powerful and challenging role? First of all, he didn’t try to be Ben Bradlee, except in the quest for outstanding performances from his sprawling, talented and often self-important staff.

Downie kept a studied low profile and steady hand and during his run the Post won 25 Pulitzer Prizes, a record six of them just last year. Then, after basking in the glow of that success, he stepped down to let new publisher Katherine Weymouth anoint her own executive editor.

He also announced he’d just handed in the manuscript for his first novel. It was a dazzling bit of timing and star turn for a man who’s probably and contentedly never before had the word “dazzling” appear in the same sentence with his name. (He’ll correct me if I’m wrong.)

Downie’s novel is now in bookstores. It’s called The Rules of the Game, a tale of Washington political and newsroom intrigue that was well received by critics. Novelist Stephen Amidon, reviewing the book for the Post, called it “savvy.”
Why is that man's face smudged? Because he's Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post's restaurant critic, joined by other former and current "Posties": Bonnie Benwick, Len Downie, Sietsema, Joe Yonan and Annie Groer.
Downie signs his novel. Author Leonard Downie advantageously protects the identity of Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema.
He said Downie, “writes about the corridors of power as if they all lead to an exclusive back room at a Vegas casino, where several high-stakes games are in progress, each watched over by a remorseless security team with an agenda all its own.” I cite that review because The Washington Post, being the Post, probably went out of their way to find a reviewer who was not a shill.

Downie has been enjoying a series of book parties and readings and the most recent was Monday night at the new CulinAerie, a cooking school that also makes for a nice party venue and where the delicious food and wine got as much attention as the author.
Wilma Consul of the CulinAerie staff. In charge of the wine, volunteer sommelier Lawrence Redmond.
The pots and pans at rest at CulinAerie. Book party beverage basics - iced soda, water, wine and beer.
Crisps of pine nuts and parmesan. Delicate blossoms of phyllo with goat's cheese and sun dried tomato.
CulinAerie's Deviled Eggs. Fried risotto and cheese balls.
The best journalists have a keen appreciation of timing, so Downie no doubt was amused that the date for the party, chosen weeks ago, turned out to be the same evening President Barack Obama had his first televised East Room press conference. That’s stiff competition in this town. Friends and colleagues ate, drank, bought the book, lauded Downie, and kept an eye on the clock.

One of the guests was Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema, who after comfortably posing for a group photo with Downie, realized it would be on the web. Food critics don’t ever want their pictures out there. “Please, please, you have to edit me out,” he implored. I promised to smudge him and destroy the evidence. So, don’t any restaurateurs come after me for the photo, unless you want to pay my restaurant’s rent and property tax for the next year. (I’m kidding, Tom. It’s in a lock box).
Booksellers Sheryl and Virginia, who did not want to give their last names. Rafik Muawwad and Tony Ryan.
Leonard Downie, Jr., with CulinAerie owners and party hosts Susan Watters and Susan Holt. Almost newlyweds Ann Casso and master chef Gerard Pangaud. Journalist Annie Groer.
Phyllis Jordan and her husband, Navy Capt. Brian Wilson. Marsha Muawwad and Janice Downie.

As with much of the East Coast, it felt like springtime in Washington on Tuesday, which was emphasized at Bonnie McElveen-Hunter’s bright and cheerful Georgetown luncheon for the Washington Performing Arts Society and singer Barbara Cook.

The buffet from Susan Gage Caterers was a culinary essay in spring foods: an array of light salads — Chicken with Grapes, Feta with Tomato and Lettuces, Roasted Vegetables — as well as Grilled Salmon, Quiche and Sweet Potato Rolls. Perfectly chilled white wine was passed on silver trays. Outside the garden was almost balmy enough to consider some laps in the pool.
Early arrivals gather in the entry hall at Bonnie McElveen-Hunter's luncheon on behalf of the Washington Performing Arts Society.
McElveen-Hunter's living room.
The dining room before luncheon was served.
The buffet from Susan Gage Caterers.
Inside there were dozens of guests, many of them Senate wives, Diplomatic wives and other women of note. The few men were significantly outnumbered. Needless to say, everyone talked at once. During a brief break to praise The Washington Performing Arts Society and Cook – who performed the night before at the Kennedy Center – McElveen-Hunter urged guests to tour her newly-decorated home.

She wanted everyone to take particular notice because the work was done by her sister, Tweed Bogache. McElveen-Hunter, a communications executive and former Ambassador to Finland, is the head of the board of the American Red Cross.
McElveen Hunter's home from the garden.
The Botero in the den. View of the pool.
A fountain in winter. Ice despite the warm February temperature.
Luncheon host Bonnie McElveen-Hunter urges guests to tour her home which is newly decorated by her sister.
In little pockets all over the beautiful rooms there were interesting conversations. The one that involved me was with Capricia Marshall and Buffy Cafritz. Marshall said she has accepted an invitation to be President Barack Obama’s Chief of Protocal, though the appointment won’t be announced officially until the “process” is completed. Washington loves process.

Then Cafritz turned to me and recalled a NYSD column I’d written more than a year ago – having to do with a Vanity Fair expose on Washington social life. “You said I was mean spirited,” she said. (Actually, I wrote she was the “meanest of the mean.”) I didn’t know what would come next. A glass a wine in my face? Nope. She smiled and said, “You were right. I was mean. I’ve felt bad about it, too.” Which goes to show that virtually everyone in this city has well-honed diplomatic skills.
The recital after lunch performed by Rolyndria Anderson, accompanied by Stanley Thurston.
McElveen-Hunter encouraged guests to tour her newly-decorated Georgetown manse. This pillow was on the chair at the top of the first landing.
The master bath. In the dining room, cookies on the side table.
The master bedroom.
A guest bedroom.
Guests at the WPAS luncheon included co-hosts Jane Cafritz, Debbie Dingell, Elizabeth Keffer and Mary Mochary, as well as Michelle Fenty, Debbie Jarvis, Leslie Hazel, Zelda Segal, Congresswoman Dina Titus, Lucky Roosevelt, Elaine Webster, Diane Thomas, Lena Scott, Jaylee Mead, Honey Alexander, Ronit Ziswiler, Myrna Cardin, Rachel Tinsley Pearson, Catherine Wheeler, Susan Porter, Ellen Noghes, Ellen Bennett, Ulrike Scharioth, Hadassah Lieberman, Linda Bond, Ann Hand, Desiree Rogers, Goli Ameri, Hong Le Webb, Grace Bender, Tiffini Greene, Carla Diggs Smith, Lynne Kaufman, Caroline Croft, Bitsy Folger, Martha Dippell, Jill Cooper Udall, Franki Roberts, Andrea Somogyi, Susie Dicks, Shamin Jawad, Elizabeth Duggal, Robin Hammer and Janice Kim.
Buffy Cafritz and soon-to-be Obama Administration Chief of Protocal, Capricia Marshall Barbara Cook, who was the guest of honor at the luncheon.
Lucky Roosevelt, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and Desiree Rogers. Hadassah Lieberman.
Ann Stock of the Kennedy Center. Washington, D.C.s "First Lady," Michelle Fenty with Isabel Ernst.
White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers talks with Barbara Cook, who performed for the WPAS at the Kennedy Center the night before the luncheon. WPAS President Neale Perl with Rachel Tinsley Pearson.
Bitsy Folger and Caroline Croft. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and her sister, Tweed Bogache.

The Washington National Opera held their mid-winter Gala Saturday night under a full moon and in the Mellon Auditorium, a building that’s temple-like façade was well in keeping with the evening’s theme of a night in ancient Greece.

NYSD stopped by only for cocktails, but got a full report later from the Opera’s public relations manager, Michelle Pendoley, who said that even with necessary budget cutbacks – they reduced ticket prices by half – “the buzz was mostly about the fun, fresh feel ... and composition of the guest list. Many people remarked happily that in addition to our regular guests a younger set turned out.” Pendoley said “attendance was very slightly lower than we expected, but we still netted quite a bit” and, she added, “the dance floor has never been so full.”
The Washington Opera Mid-Winter Gala at the Mellon Auditorium.
Guests included: Neil Alpert and Kate Marie Grinold, Albert and Gay Barclay, Timothy and Sue Albrecht, Douglas and Nina Boggs, Caroline Boutte, Peter and M.A. Brickfield, Dianne Bruce, Conrad Burns, Kevin Chaffee, Robert and Mandy Delk, Claire and Tim Cooney, Bruce and Susan Eisen, Kenneth and Diane Feinberg, David and Sheila Feinberg, Benno Gerson and Nina Corby, Vankirk and Cynthia Fehr, Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Francoise Mallias, Arthur and Jean Held, Mike Harreld, Andrea and Martin Kalin, Amanda and Carter Hood, Michelle and David Korb, Karyl Lynn and Moshe Mossbacher, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and Madeline McElveen, Michael and Patricia Oxley, William and Maureen Torgerson, Philip and Nina Pillsbury, Tony and Heather Podesta, Amanda Rautenberg, Patricia Bennett Sagon, Robert and Olga Ryan, Roxanne Roberts, Savvas and Amy Savapoulos, Peter and Debbie Sonnenreich, Daniel and Laura Strouse, Judith Terra, Lewis and Ann Townsend, Robert and Kate Waters, Kenneth and Dorothy Woodcock, David and Elizabeth Wilson, Francis and Anna Young.
Miss "Washington DC" Kate Marie Grinold, Neil Alpert, and Teri Galvez. Caroline Boutte, Linda Victoria Courie, and Charlotte Buxto.
Judith Terra and Cinnie Fehr. Grace Koh with Greg and Kristin Muhlner.
Rebecca Miller, Matt Forke, and Sally Cox. Mark Weinstein and Mandy Delk. Grace Koh and Sanju Bansa.
Sally Cox, the Greek Ambassador, Alexandros Mallias, his wife, Rebecca Miller, and Vassilis Mallias. Sharon and Bruce Bradley.
Madeline McElveen and Bonnie McElveen-Hunter. Mike Walker, Heather and Tony Podesta, Vesna Giaja, and Matt Forke.
Theoni Hughes, Niki Kopsidas, Vasiliki Tsaganos, and Marsha Xintaris. Bothwell Lee and Marcia Mayo.
Photographs by Carol Joynt & Russell Hirshon (The Washington Opera). Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.