Monday, September 15, 2014

Washington Social Diary

The store front on 8th Street across from the Marine Barracks.
by Carol Joynt

It’s not unusual in cities such as New York and Los Angeles (and even Chicago and Miami) for young people who are born and raised there to go off to college and then return to make an entrepreneurial statement in their hometowns. In Washington it is more unusual, at least up until now. There are signs of homegrown talent who are remaining in the hometown.

St. Albans grad Will Sharp and his popular men’s fashion line, Durkl; nightlife, club and restaurant impresario Bo Blair, a graduate of Georgetown Prep; real estate developers, and brothers, Ben and Dan Miller, graduates of Georgetown Day School. With the opening of District Doughnut this week, new additions to the group include Greg Menna and Juan Pablo Segura, both 26 years old, who were classmates at The Heights School in Potomac, MD.
The District Doughnut brown butter version, with chocolate orange at the top and a glimpse of blueberry below.
Like New York, doughnuts are trending big in DC at the moment, trying to gain some of the “must have” fashionability of cupcakes, which have ruled here for quite a while thanks to the near decade of success and sustained quality of of Georgetown Cupcake. 

“We’re trying to re-imagine the doughnut and coffee and bring it to a new level,” Menna said when we accepted an invitation to stop by his shop two days before opening. The crisp and charming aqua-and-white store is on 8th Street near Capitol Hill, directly across from the main gate of the Marine Barracks (thus a “Semper Fry” promotion).  “That’s happened with other products – cupcakes, of course, but pizza and tacos, for example – but not doughnuts and coffee, an American staple.”
Greg Menna, enjoying the calm a few days before opening District Doughnut. A third co-founder of District Doughnut is executive pastry chef Christine Schaefer, who switched to doughnuts from graphic design.
Vanilla and cream, warming on the stove.
I recalled being ages 10 and 11 in Ohio and enjoying Saturday morning home delivery of doughnuts (and milk). Menna lit up at the idea. “We want to bring that back,” he said. They hope to have small bottles of milk along with the fresh coffee. “My own nostalgic memory is Saturday morning going with my dad, I think it was to Dunkin Donuts, back when they made the doughnuts on site.  I would get cinnamon sugar, and I loved that. We would go there every Saturday.” He met Segura in 6th grade. “We became best friends and ate doughnuts all the time.”

Opening day was this past Friday and, according to Menna, they made 1300 doughnuts and were sold out in 2 ½ hours. His goal is to get production up to 3,000 a day, “when we have the staff.”
Greg Menna, with boxes of doughnuts at hand.
Menna shoots out the door after a couple in search of doughnuts.
Menna explained the store wasn't open yet and offered a complimentary box of doughnuts.
The business was closed and the door was locked as we talked. A couple came by and looked in, longingly. As they started to walk away, Menna grabbed a box of doughnuts from the counter and shot out the door after them, handing them the box. When he returned to the shop he was beaming. “It was his birthday and he wanted some District Doughnuts.”

Note: If you don’t want to stand in line, come to The Q&A Café on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at The George Town Club, when my guest is Washington “Redskins” president Bruce Allen. It’s a lunch event and Menna is providing doughnuts for dessert. Reservations: 202-333-9330

District Doughnut
749 8th Street SE
The happy couple, eating their doughnuts and celebrating his birthday.
Another much-anticipated opening this week was of Daniel Boulud’s first Washington restaurant, DBGB DC. A week of private dinners and parties led up to the “grand opening” soiree on Friday evening for 350 invited guests, who were served a bounty of Boulud specialties at buffet tables and also passed by servers.

While the food proved to be attention-getting it was no match for a late arrival, Boulud’s baby boy, Julien, in the arms of his mother, Katherine. This made it quite the family affair, as also at the party was Boulud’s daughter, Alix, who had moved to Washington only the day before to begin a job in the intelligence industry.
Alix, Daniel, Julien, and Katherine Boulud.
Daniel himself started his career in the U.S. in Washington, when he arrived from France to become chef for the ambassador to the European Union. From here it was on to New York and you surely know the rest of the story.

The menu features some of the foods of Boulud’s Lyon upbringing, in particular sausages and pates, mixed in with favorites from his other bistros well known to New Yorkers, such as Café Boulud, Boulud Sud and DB Bistro Moderne. Of course the famous hamburger is represented. At the party they were passed in mini-burger size with tiny crab cakes topped on the beef patties. The servers could barely get out of the kitchen with them before the platters were empty.
The facade of DGGB on H Street at the new CityCenter complex.
Looking through DBGB's front window to the grand opening party
A Boulud specialty: pates.
The roasted lamb before carving.
And with the accompaniments.
Boulud checks out some final details before the opening party.
At the opening party, wine and cocktails were passed. All suited up in his crisp whites, Daniel Boulud was ready to welcome his Washington guest.
Alix Boulud at the DBGB opening party. She's a new arrival in Washington with a job in the intelligence community.
Inn at Little Washington chef/owner Patrick O'Connell greets his good friend Daniel Boulud
Patrick and Daniel.
CJ with Daniel.
Daniel poses with more female fans.
"Top Chef" star Carla Hall with ABC news anchor Jummy Olabanji and Hall's husband, Matthew Lyons.
The "crab" burger at DBGB. So popular the servers could barely get them out of the kitchen.
The crab burger is a hit with Spencer Joynt and Patrick O'Connell.
DBGB DC is open every night for dinner, for lunch Monday through Friday and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

931 H Street NW
Set for a private dinner, a view of the dining room at DBGB DC.

At the same moment as the start of his recent Saturday night party, Howard Fineman had a problem. The sky filled with thunder and lightning, rain poured and the winds kicked up to almost 40 miles an hour. Fineman wondered whether anyone would make it to the fete he planned for his wife Amy Nathan's 59th birthday. Who would plow through such an intense storm in the dark of night?

Howard Fineman makes a 59th birthday toast to wife Amy Nathan: "It really is her 59th." Not her 60th pretending to be 59.
Everyone, that's who. What's a little rain, wind and lightning among friends? Besides, the power stayed on! There would be light and ice for the Margaritas and the two food trucks parked in the alley – one serving sliders, the other serving two kinds of lobster rolls. Eh, so the A/C went. We were outside, anyway.

The mood was intimate, happy and casual, even if a little wet. We all dripped in one way or another, from the rain or humidity, but it didn't matter. For Amy, the party was on. Howard made a toast. The message: no, he and son, Nick, and daughter, Meredith, were not being cute, it really was Amy's 59th birthday.

In the garden celebrating were the Fineman-Nathan BFF's, in other words loads of the famous for Washington, as well as beyond: Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, Dr. Robert Seder and Debbie Harmon, Cliff Sloan and Mary Lou Hartman, Margaret A. Hamburg, Kathleen Matthews and Chris Matthews, Ed Markey and Dr. Susan Blumenthal, Doris Matsui, Cathy Yarmuth, Norm Ornstein, Richard Bilmire, Adam Aron, Debbie Ratner Salzberg, Shuja Nawaz, Gerson Zweifach, John Delaney, and many more.
Howard Fineman is best known from Huffington Post and regular TV appearances, and Amy Nathan is with the Federal Communications Commission. But here, at her birthday party, they were just Mr. and Mrs. Fineman.
The guests at Amy Nathan's birthday party represented all the DC tribes: Congress, State, White House, other agencies, media, business, and Sidwell Friends.
The rain stopped as the birthday party began. Raindrops, humidity? No one cared. On the left, in a pink jacket, Amy chats with girlfriends. In the foreground on the right, Tamera Luzzatto.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt