Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Washington Social Diary

Nordic Cool. Nordic Festival Opening Gala dinner at the Kennedy Center.
by Carol Joynt

Two of the better occasions last week were at opposite ends of how we dress, and entertain, in 2013 -- one a weeknight white tie and tails gala and the other a weekend casual Georgetown luncheon. The gala was at the Kennedy Center, opening a month-long extravaganza of the best of Scandinavian culture.

The luncheon was at the home of architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, and hosted by his son and business partner, and his daughter-in-law, Simon and Ruth Jacobsen. The reason for the lunch was simple: friendship. Since the Jacobsen’s are of Danish heritage, it tied the week up nicely.
Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Strommen, Minister for Culture Hadia Tajik, Michael Kaiser, and Norwegian Minister of Cooperation Rigmor Aasrud.
But first things first: Nordic Cool. The gala and exhibition are part of the Kennedy Center’s international outreach program and a collaboration with Norden, also known as the Nordic Council of Ministers. Norden is a cooperative group that functions as a quasi EU, but without the intense currency and political issues.

Its focus is on culture, economy, education, environment, law, religion, welfare and gender equality in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aland. Those countries exported their art, fashion, architecture, music, food and flowers to just about every square foot of the Kennedy Center. The main exhibition occupies the rooftop terrace. Each day there are programs, lectures, concerts and demonstrations.
Michael Kaiser shakes hands with Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde.
Swedish Minister for Culture Mrs. Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth with Michael Kaiser.
The Danish and Faroe Islands delegations with Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser.
Because the tented dinner for 550 was designed to replicate the Nobel Prize dinner held each December in Stockholm, it was, to say the least, grand. The concert before dinner was by the Nobel’s orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic; the tables at dinner were arranged as so-called king’s tables, with rounds on the outskirts; the flowers were designed by the Nobel’s own Swedish flower designer, Gunnar Kaj; the guests included two authentic Nobel Prize laureates, economists Dale T. Mortensen and Roger Myerson.

There was no Nordic royalty in attendance, but there were plenty of ministers and ambassadors and U.S. government officials.
Nordic Festival Gala dinner scene.
Highly unusual for Washington, the dress for the evening was “white tie and tails optional.” The optional part was thoughtful, because white tie is not standard formal kit for men in Washington, and most of them get fairly weary of having to get done up in black tie as ofthen as they do, anyway.

Especially when women can show up wearing whatever they want. It says so much about here and now in Washington that at this most formal of occasions the attire on the dinner guests was a lot of everything: men in white tie and tails with medals, formal national dress, black tie, business suits, jackets with open collared shirts, and women in evening gowns, cocktail dresses, business attire and pant suits. 
Floral designer Gunnar Kaj, who did an arrangements for the Nordic Cool gala in the fashion of the arrangements he designs for the Nobel Prize dinner. Gorgeous table settings and flowers, courtesy of Gunnar Kaj.
David Rubenstein, in the foreground, talks with his dinner partner, the former American ambassador to Denmark, Laurie Fulton.
Everyone in Washington knows those sleek bare shoulders from a mile away. They belong to Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall.
Swedish Minister for Trade Dr. Ewa Björling.
One of the organizers of the evening said the call for white tie and tails was at the behest of the diplomats, who wanted to be able to wear their medals, as they do at the Nobel Prize dinner. Many did, which prompted Kennedy Center board chairman David Rubenstein to observe: “I’m the only person here in white tie and tails without a medal.” Not true, but his sentiment resonated with other, experienced gala-goers, who pulled out this old-school kit for the night, some who also didn’t have any medals. He later said of his formal suiting, “It’s the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever worn.” 

That said, the men, including Rubenstein, looked imperious, as if they’d stepped out of a casting call for Masterpiece Theater, and upstaged the women with their period flare.
Morten Sohlberg, owner of the Smorgas chain of restaurants in New York and New Jersey, did the menu for the Nordic Cool reception and dinner. National security author and Washingtonian senior writer Shane Harris.
The dinner menu -- crab in broth with vegetables and herbs; lamb three ways; dessert of spun maple sugar with Nordic berries -- was in the hands of Morten Sohlberg, a native of Norway, who owns the Smörgås chain of restaurants in New York and New Jersey.

He also owns the 150-acre Blenheim Hill Farm near the Catskills, which produced the bread, meats, vegetables, fruit and herbs that were used to make the food. Lamb carcasses were delivered to and butchered by his chefs at the Kennedy Center. A first, Sohlberg said. His team also prepared the canapes served during cocktails -- including memorable Swedish meatballs. 
Benedicte Brocks, a member of the curatorial staff of Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Diana Holman, who fessed up to being a true Nordic blond, is also a resident of Washington and a supporter of the Kennedy Center.
The evening’s hosts were Kennedy Center president MIchael Kaiser, board chairman David Rubenstein, and co-chairs Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Marilyn Carlson Nelson and Glenn Nelson. Guests included ambassadors Peter Taksøe-Jensen of Denmark, Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, Guðmundur Árni Stefánsson of Iceland, Wegger Strømmen of Norway, and Jonas Hafström of Sweden, as well as these ministers: Rigmor Aasrud of Norway, Paavo Arhinmäki of Finland, Halldór Ásgrímsson of Iceland, Ewa Björling of Sweden, Katrin Jakobsdottir of Iceland, Marianne Jelved of Denmark, Annika Olsen and Björn Kalsö of the Faroe Islands, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth of Sweden, and Hadia Tajik of Norway. Also Maestro Sakari Oramo of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. The U.S. presence was led by Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, White House senior advisor David Edelman, State Department assistant secretary Ester Brimmer, State Department under secretary Robert D. Hormats, and assorted diplomats and other officials. 
Trumpet Fanfare.
Víkingur Ólafsson performs.
The dinner entertainment: Scandinavian folk songs performed by a trio of sisters.
The Gaup Sisters.
Bringing out the swag bags. Hooking a swag bag on the back of every chair.
What’s not to like about a Saturday lunch on a gloomy day at the end of February? Call it Nordic Warm. Hugh, Simon and Ruth Jacobsen cheered a group of friends with a long, lazy, delicious and wine-filled repast at Hugh’s Georgetown home (of his own design, of course.) Simon and Ruth and their young son live directly across the street in a similarly splendid white-on-white abode. Architecture groupies need only to stand in the middle of 28th Street to get vibes from both. 

Hugh’s living room, in the rear of the house, has floor to ceiling glass windows that put guests practically in his expansive and evergreen French garden. The dining room, at the front, has a handsome bay that oversees the street. The window is also where Hugh plants his Christmas tree each year.
Jim Lehrer, Hugh Jacbosen, and daughter-in-law Ruth Jacobsen.
The lunch was no more and no less than a gathering of friends, who included Jim and Kate Lehrer, John P. Irelan, Christianne Ricchi, Brian Quintenz and  Dr. Ernest Brown. Brown talked about his interesting profession as a house-call doctor. That’s what he does; he goes to the patient.

His clients are hotels, embassies and private individuals who, for whatever reason, want the doctor to come to them rather than vice versa. He had many stories to tell, but all in confidence, of course. The wines were French and the meal -- salad, steak and chocolate cake -- was prepared by a chef from the French embassy.  
Coming into the dining room.
Apart from listening to Ernest talk about house calls, the conversation rambled here and there and turned also to a serious matters. No, not world affairs or sequestration or Speaker John Boehner’s perehaps tenous future. Nope. We talked about mice, because mice are ubuquitous in Georgetown, at least in homes with basements and most Georgetown homes have basements. I don’t know a homeowner who doesn’t have a mouse story to tell.

At lunch we regaled each other with our mouse-hunting stories, typically ending with the mice winning, shared methods of attack, the names of exterminators, laughed, and accepted this is a problem that may never be solved, therefore code - in a way - for the economy. Then, Simon brought out more wine. 
Kate Lehrer and Simon Jacobsen.
Ruth Jacobsen and her guests.
Jim Lehrer regales the table.
House call doctor Ernest Brown and Brian Quintenz.
Jim Lehrer and Ruth Jacobsen.
Interior designer John P. Irelan.
Kate Lehrer and Hugh Jacobsen.
John P Irelan and CJ.
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