Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Washington Social Diary

September sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay. When it looks like this the details aren't necessary.
by Carol Joynt

Please read the below column with the perspective that it was written before the events of Monday, September 16, in which 12 people were murdered by a lone gunman at the Washington Navy Yard. While much is still to be learned about that episode, that it happened – and how and why – will have an impact on the city for the near future.

A Full First Full Week Of September

Shazamm! The lazy days of summer have been mowed under by the aggressive advance of a calendar-jamming fall. On one day in the week ahead I have five events of one sort or another, some at the same time. And what is it about September 24? How did that become the night of the perfect social storm? With Labor Day behind us, Congress back from their recess revels, and the temperatures making that welcomed pivot from steamy and heavy to cooler and drier, here’s a random sampling of the week.

If weekends are bookends, then the five days were wedged gloriously between a Chesapeake Bay sunrise and a Georgetown waxing Gibbous moon.

The first day of the first full week back in the grind had the exuberance of the first day back at high school, when life feels like an unwritten book, the pages calling for untold adventures. What more appropriate way to start than at a home football game, with Washington up against the Philadelphia Eagles. Sidebar issue: upset over the team’s nickname continues to grow and, interestingly, even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week admitted the matter needs a “solution.” Could rather be strategizing? Stayed tuned on that. For now I call them the “Landover NFL Team,” because the FedEx Field location in Landover, Maryland, is no more in Washington than the Meadowlands is in New York.
The view from a special suite as the team emerges at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The team band, marching to the team song before kick off.
We had great seats, my friend Michael Goesele and I, perched as we were in a box overlooking the 50-yard line. Whose box? Can’t say, but it came with a bar, a food buffet – including adorable iced Robert Griffin III cookies – private paneled bathrooms and field access. The field access was particularly fun. We raced down to experience the stadium at the players level. Crowded, cramped and smaller than you think. Crammed with all kinds of electronic gear, lots of security, loads of team equipment and “reviewing” stations for the refs. There was a swarm around the ESPN anchors.

We lost, but we had a good time.
Down on the field, on the sidelines, CJ shows off all the necessary access tags.
Michael Goesele, football fan and art director of The Washingtonian magazine.
Team general manager Bruce Allen was in constant motion as he made his pre-game rounds on the field.
The ESPN on-field anchor booth.
The team cheerleaders, who would later be twerking on the field, were promoted in screen billboards.
One of many ESPN cameras positioned around the field to create the Monday Night Football broadcast.
Great seat, great view. The moment when  quarterback Robert Griffin III was introduced. 

Tuesday was sign of nights to come, trying to do as much as possible in any one evening and still be home in time for a presidential address. There was an Atlantic Media party hosted by Margaret Carlson at her sunny, relaxed, spacious and yet cozy Connecticut Avenue apartment. The building is one of only a few in Washington that comes close to having the ambience of a Park Avenue pre-war. Since President Obama would soon be talking about Syria, and since Margaret is a regular on cable talk shows, there was a TV on tuned to MSNBC, however situated discreetly behind the bar.
In Margaret Carlson's kitchen, she talks with John Fox Sullivan as Matt Cooper looks on.
The guests included John Fox Sullivan of Atlantic Media and also the mayor of Little Washington, Virginia; his colleague and fellow Virginian, Elizabeth Baker Keffer; Atlantic’s events impresario Steve Clemons; Shelby Coffey, former Washington Post “Style” section editor, notably in its heyday, and now vice chairman of the Newseum, and Jennifer Nycz-Conner, who writes for Washington Business Journal. Also the current Style section editor, Frances Sellers, who boldly announced she has three jobs to fill. Boldly because even if your paper has just been sold to Jeff Bezos, maybe especially because, expect a stampede.
The bar, with MSNBC on in the background.
At Margaret Carlson's, as her party started, Jennifer Nycz-Conner (in red) talks with friends.
Elizabeth Baker Keffer.
Filling up in Margaret Carlson's living room.
From there it was off to the CNN party to re-launch the once happening but long off the air “Crossfire” broadcast. You’re asking, why bring it back? That’s simple. It’s because it was a favorite of Jeff Zucker, the current president of CNN. A perk of that job is to create or revive whatever show you wish while also keeping Piers Morgan on the air. (I’m laughing ... kinda).

Zucker made clear Crossfire was an early TV favorite of his, he’s committed to it, and so despite unfriendly reviews and so-so ratings, time will tell. But the party was lavish. It had bars and buffets and even a jazz band. And, naturally, many TVs that would be tuned to the Obama appearance.
Sen. Rick Santorum arrives on the red carpet at the CNN Crossfire relaunch party.
The media scrum followed show co-anchor Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, everywhere they went. Flash flash, pop pop. The other anchors – Stephanie Cutter, Van Jones and S.E. Cupp – were in the limelight, too, though one step back. They appeared nervous. Cupp chewed gum. They let Newt speak first before their turns at the microphone. It will be a happy family as long as it is a happy family. That’s television.

I watched the President’s Syria speech with the audio off and Twitter on. That’s one way to follow world affairs: removed but informed and with body language.
Jeff Zucker, swearing a commitment to the rebooted CNN Crossfire.
Meaning to or not, CNN founder Ted Turner loomed over the party, at least as an image from the past.
Callista Gingrich's blond hair -- recognizable in any light, from any view.
The anchors of CNN Crossfire, Van Jones, Newt Gingrich, S.E. Cupp, and Stepahnie Cutter.
Diane Brown, Newt Gingrich, Gallista Gingrich, and John Ktenas.
Jack Quinn. CNN's Jake Tapper with Google's Jennifer Bloch, wearing her Google Glass.
The party included a jazz band and they had center stage.

The twelfth anniversary of 9/11. Until it becomes a national holiday – and my vote is it should – this date is still an occasion for remembrance and reflection. I don’t skip work but I try to do something we take for granted that’s eternally denied to those who died. Hugging loved ones, for example; a good meal with a friend, and a toast to those who gave their lives and to those who love them and miss them.

It seems no one books social events for that date, so far, and hoping it remains that way. It would be too weird to be at a gala on 9/11.


Thursday was an interesting “ladies luncheon” at Café Milano for Tiffany Bowen. The occasion was more serious than social but still social enough, because it was also a reunion after summer. The co-host with Tiffany was Elizabeth Thorp, publisher of the family-centric website, and also just named the new editor of Capitol File magazine. The guests included Sissy Yates, Susanna Quinn, Rebecca Cooper, Leslie Foster, Kate Bennett, Annie Lou Berman and Jennifer Nycz-Conner.
Tiffany Bowen at a lunch in honor of Skyler's Gift.
Tiffany is the wife of NFL player Stephen Bowen, who once played for Dallas and now plays for Washington. Both are New Yorkers, with lots of family on Long Island.

In 2010 Tiffany went into premature labor with twins, Stephen and Skyler. Skyler succumbed to an infection at only weeks old.

Tiffany and Stephen became aware of other families whose babies died in prematurity, but who couldn’t afford funerals. Tiffany said in some jurisdictions their tiny bodies are treated as medical waste. “How is this happening in this country?” she asked. “How can we have mothers walking away from the hospital with nothing?” They started Skyler’s Gift in 2012 and since have paid for 45 funerals, and look forward to growing their foundation and doing much more. “Even though it came out of such tragedy we’re happy to be helping so many people,” Tiffany said. “Life is going so great right now.”
The view of the private luncheon for about 20 women at Cafe Milano.
Tiffany Bowen and Susanna Quinn.
Sissy Yates, Elizabeth Thorp, and Rebecca Cooper.
The NFL's Washington braintrust, Adolpho Birch and Kenneth Edmonds. Caught in the rain, but safe inside, David Sutphen of the Brunswick Group.
Lisa and Erik Huey. He's the DC face of the Entertainment Software Association, aka, video games.
Thursday evening started in a rain storm. The party was at the Hawk n’ Dove on Capitol Hill, hosted jointly by the NFL and the Entertainment Software Association. Everyone who came in the door was dappled with “chubby” rain drops. My friend David Sutphen, also the two men who are the NFL brain trust in DC – Adolpho Birch and Kenneth Edmonds – plus that adorable couple, Erik and Lisa Huey. He is the ESA in DC. Joining me was my NYSD colleague Ned Brown, but Ned was hungry and hustled down the block to Bearnaise, the new steakery opened by “Top Chef” star Spike Mendelsohn.
Celebrity chef, Spike Mendelsohn at his DC French bistro, Bearnaise.
People say the “Top Chef” stars are rarely if ever in their restaurants but, guess what? Spike was there, and he hung out with us for the time we were there, as we stuck our forks into escargots, salads, steak tartare and sipped a few glasses of wine. The ambience was lovely, heightened by the wide open doors and the rain outside. Spike’s inspiration was Le Relais de l'Entrecôte in Paris, and it with the doors open to the weather it had a distinct French vibe.
The bar at Bearnaise.
The photo may be a little chaotic, but frites and escargot and bread and butter and wine were delish.
Steak tartare with handmade potato chips at Bearnaise
Ned and I raced across town to the National Geographic Society for the opening of Jim Lehrer’s third play. You know him from the PBS Newshour, but he’s also a prolific writer, especially of novels. His new play, “Bell,” is about Alexander Graham Bell, and for me, at least, it was a history lesson. It is the briefest of runs; it closes this weekend, but I hope they bring it back for others to see. The opening night after-party was a rare meeting of the power crowd. But, you know, that’s the draw of Jim Lehrer.
On stage at the National Geographic Society, Rick Foucheux portrays Alexander Graham Bell in a play written by Jim Lehrer.
Playwright and former PBS Newshour host Jim Lehrer at opening night of "Bell." Michael Beschloss.
James Wolfensohn and Allan Greenspan.
Carolyn Peachy, looking relaxed and happy on a night off.
2012 NatGeo "Adventurer of the Year" Cory Richards.
James Wolfensohn and Ned Brown.
Ned and I also skipped across the street to the Jefferson Hotel to have a quick cocktail in the bar which looks like something – with its burnt orange hues – created by Hermes. We struck up a conversation with the young woman sitting alone beside us, Brooke Parks, a New Yorker, and a Shakespearean actor, waiting to connect with her mother, who was in town on business and due back at the hotel shortly. So, we kept her company and we three told stories and laughed a lot.
New York actress Brooke Parks at the bar at The Jefferson, waiting for her mother.

TGIF. Wrapped up the week with drinks and steaks at the bar at The Palm in the company of three terrific dudes, again Michael Goesele, plus Shane Harris of Foreign Policy magazine and Adam Mahr, owner of A Mano in Georgetown, getting in his pre-sunset, pre-Yom Kippur meal. He literally did scarf up his meal and bolt while it was still light out.


The weekend called for a return to a new favorite restaurant. I’d been craving the food if not the drive to the location – a Day’s Inn motel on New York Avenue N.E., which can be comparable to the LIE.
The New York Avenue northeast location of some good eaten' in DC.
The inside is an oasis compared to the outside highway and parking lot. But in an era of restaurants where mega million interiors are the draw – Panda Gourmet’s interior design cost maybe $500 – the reason to make the drive is the food. It is authentic (and spicy) Sichuan cuisine prepared by chefs from the region, who were brought over by the owner, who is also Chinese.

Why out on a highway in a Day’s Inn? One of the managers explained that the owner of the motel is Chinese and that a number of the rooms are residences for Chinese government workers who are assigned to the embassy here. It was a good fit.  (The food may be better than at the embassy.) Panda only recently opened, and at the moment most of the patrons are Chinese. But anyone who is serious about authentic Sichuan should go, and take friends.
The sign on the door at Panda Gourmet. Please translate. We think it means "authentic Chinese food inside."
Inside Panda Gourmet. Not grand, but clean and pleasant.
Spicy Szechuan chicken with vegetables.
Saturday night was more delicious spicy food, but at a distinct change of venue – back in Georgetown at a “Fiesta” party hosted by Larry Calvert and Mike Mitchell at their charming, handsome home and back garden with pool and lawn and, especially nice, the three-quarter moon hanging high over the tops of the magnolias. It was more or less a block party of friends who live along P Street (and a few of us from beyond).

Margaritas and grilled-on-the-spot chicken and steak fajitas and a tasty hot salsa verde catered by Guapo’s. Larry, who is a realtor and a baker – or maybe a baker and a realtor – prepared “Margarita-To-Go” iced cookies for guests to take on the way home.  A nice touch, and so good, and a pitch perfect sweet end to the week.
Mike Mitchell and Larry Calvert.
Looking from inside the Calvert-Mitchell house out to the garden.
And from the garden back toward the house.
The buffet of chicken and steak fajitas. The margaritas were at another table.
The waxing Gibbous moon over Georgetown. Down below, Dr. Terrence Keaney, among others.
To take home: iced "Margarita's To-Go" cookies.
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

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