Monday, June 15, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Downtown, intown, by the Bay

The view of the Zantzinger home upon arrival.
by Carol Joynt

When I headed off to the Saturday evening party at the Chesapeake Bay home of Amy and Richard Zantzinger I didn’t think much about its precise location. I entered the address in Waze, and off we went. It was only as we started down a familiar winding rural road, and then turned right onto a long dirt road, that I realized I was headed toward my past. Their 66 acres is adjacent to the 5 waterfront acres where I lived – and loved – for a decade or so. Known as Cumberstone, this promontory of the western shore of Maryland remains hugely sentimental for me.  I always called it my “piece of paradise.”
The word “breathtaking” is not one I use casually, and it accurately describes the reaction as we turned at the sign for their home, “The Farm,” and rounded into a great open field. It was the blue evening sky of a warm day, with a slight haze, wheat fields glowing, and on the far horizon a white building. Everything about its look and setting was reminiscent of the arrival at Mount Vernon, and that impression did not change as we got closer, handed the car over to the valet, and walked up to the wide open front door. As at President George Washington’s hilltop home overlooking the Potomac River, the Zantzingers relatively subdued entrance opens to a sweeping view through the house, to the back porch and a sloping lawn to the water. Breathtaking.

Breathtaking, too, is the clean, lean décor – the very picture of the modern concept of what a seaside home should be; light, air, breezes, absence of clutter, room to move around, floors that welcome bare feet, an invitation to exhale.
Cars coming up to the entrance.
The front door. Amy Zantzinger, greeting.
Another view of the front.
The home is a weekend place. Amy, a native Californian, and the former White House Social Secretary in the administration of President George Bush, is a busy DC-based interior designer, with clients in an around Washington, but as far flung, too, as the coasts of the Pacific and the Florida Gulf. Richard Zantzinger is busy, too. His company, Mauck Zantzinger & Associates, oversees the construction or renovation of some of the most acclaimed homes in the Washington area, working with select architects and the homeowners.

Clearly it was fun for them to combine their talents, and their love of the Western Shore, to make their own little “piece of paradise.” The little secret kept by all who eschew the Eastern Shore, and live instead on “this side” of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, is that it takes less than an hour to drive from downtown DC to waterfront towns like Galesville, Deale Beach, Shady Side, and, once there, to feel a million miles away.
The dock.
Looking from the dock back to the house, with its broad porch.
The pool is adjacent to the house and bordered by a white picket fence and white hydrangeas.
The front room.
The view from the "mud" room, out to the fields that embrace the home.

Standing by the food truck parked in front of her Georgetown home, Nancy Taylor Bubes worried whether it was a party trend that had peaked. But she can put that thought to rest. Food trucks at home soirées are still very much a thing. Whether it’s lobster rolls, as Nancy and her husband, Alan Bubes, offered, or barbecue, pizza, tacos or hot dogs and burgers, it’s a fun alternative to conventional catering. Nancy said she did the truck “for the kids.” Right.
The Taylor-Bubes home in Georgetown, with food truck.
John and Kristin Cecchi and Dale Overmyer, stepping up to the Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck.
Thumbs up for the lobster rolls.
The food truck was a crowd pleaser at the party Nancy and Alan hosted for “family and friends,” a guest list mostly of people who have known each other for the last 20 years, since our children were in pre-school together, and other schools throughout lower, middle and upper school. Nancy invited the parents and the grown children.

Another guest, Deb Johns, Nancy and I met in 1992 when our 1 and 2 year olds were enrolled at the Intown Playgroup, a storied pre-K that operates in the basement of the historic Mount Zion United Methodist Church that was built in Georgetown in 1876 for a mostly African-American congregation. The Sunday gospel services are legendary.
Family and friends on the lawn at the home of Alan Bubes and Nancy Taylor Bubes.
A warm but pretty almost-summer evening.
Intown has its own legend and, if true, dates its founding to the White House, where First Lady Jackie Kennedy started the playgroup for Caroline in the mansion’s solarium. After the assassination, when she moved with her children to N Street, she took the playgroup with her and hosted it in her home, until she moved to New York and it found a new home in the Mt. Zion basement. It’s the kind of story that is too good to fact check.

Now, here we all were, moms, dads and adult children, having lobster rolls and cocktails together on a green lawn graced with late evening sun. Gatherings with old friends are a reminder that this formula is the best kind of party; conversations start in the middle and not the beginning. We remind each other that the children age while we don’t. There’s a lot of easy laughter. Add the food truck and its childhood for all.
Claire Joyce and Nancy Taylor Bubes.
DC City Council member Jack Evans and entrepreneur Ben Johns.
Richard and Lorraine Levy. Megan Gabriel and Deb Johns.
Helen Hagerty with her oldest son Terence, and Nancy Taylor Bubes.
A smile from Stuart Kenworthy, who recently retired as rector of Georgetown's Christ Episcopal Church.
The party was for all ages. But what if I don't want a lobster roll? 

The blooming of CityCenterDC is an interesting and promising phenomenon in downtown DC. In a location that once was essentially barren, a sprawling parking lot adjacent to the city’s convention center, there is now a contemporary development of ritzy rental apartments, condos, offices, restaurants and retail stores. Its principal investor is the nation of Qatar, an infusion that got the project to the finish line. Everything about CityCenter is high-end, in particular the shopping, which includes Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp, Loro Piana, Burberry, Paul Stuart and, as of last week, Carolina Herrera.
Carolina Herrera and her crew.
The esteemed designer herself made an appearance at the lively opening party, which was heavily attended by the DC fashionistas who report or blog about fashion and a good sampling of those who do the hard core shopping. Accompanied by her daughter, Patricia Herrera Lansing, Herrera also attended a small dinner later at Fiola Mare.

A deejay pumped music into the crowded boutique, where servers passed drinks and bite sized grilled cheese sandwiches. It seemed there was a photographer for every ten guests, and so there was a lot of posing and flashbulbs flashing.
Virginia Coyne, who is with Washington Life magazine. Amy Baier and Jamie Dorros.
Aba Kwawu with Pum Lefebure. Jummy Olabanji of ABC News.
Kathleen Biden, Mark Ein, and Elizabeth Thorpe of
Capitol File.
Carl Ray, who does the make-up for Michelle Obama.
CityCenterDC is probably the closest Washington comes to having an open air mall for rich people. Think of the Bal Harbour Shops in Miami, with its breezeway appeal, and you’ll get the picture, though absent the palm trees. Like Bal Harbour, in addition to the shopping there are restaurants, including the steakhouse Del Frisco’s and Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen + Bar, with more to come. Dior and David Yurman plan to open, and also Momofuku.

The challenge for Washington isn’t attracting the luxury merchants – with a good lease, a lot is possible – but it's a high bar to attract a high-roller shopper to the nation’s capital, when they have other shopping options so close in New York, and the globe-trotting capitals of the world. A good measure is three years. If a retailer makes it through the first three, they may well stick around. But browsing is free, and the restaurants are a pleasure, and don’t leave the premises without stopping in Rare Sweets for a cookie.
Carolina makes her entrance
The official guest list was heavy with White House staff, particularly those who work closely with First Lady Michelle Obama (a CH fan). Here’s just some of who were on the list: Abeer Al Otaiba, Alicia Calderon, Abby Fenton, Bethany Bentley, Amy Baeir, Carl Ray, Deesha dyer, Caroline Cunningham (both of them), Debbie Dingell, Amanda Polk, Amy Rice, Angela Bobo, Diego Joya, Christopher Reiter and Juleanna Glover, Capricia Marshall, Candace Ourisman, Anna Soellner, Amy Moeller, Holidae Hayes, Heather Podesta, Elizabeth Thorpe, Cori Sue Morris, Carolyn McLean Robbins, Cheryl Masri, Hilary Phelps, Giovanna Lockhart, Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Cristian Becker, Elaine del Cerro, Eun Yang, Fran Holuba, Howard Riker, Jamie Dorros.

And more: Jonathan Capehart, Kathleen Parker, Jessica Duby, Mercedes Valado, Mark Ein, Kristen Cecchi, Kathleen Biden, Jummy Olabanji, Judy Kurtz, Johnny Wright, Maria Teresa Kumar, Melissa Maxfield, Sloane Hurst, Sarah Zlotnick, Michael Schaffer, Robin Givhan, Nicoe Venable, Pam Stevens, Stephanie Cutter, Susanna Quinn, Septime Webre, Nancy Miyahira, Meredith Koop, Ximena Gonzalez Rojas, Virginia Coyne, Tim Lowery, Tara Luizzi, Suzy Jacobs, Shirley Henry, Rebecca Cooper, Paulette Aniskoff, Pascal Blondeau, Nycci Nellis, Mary-Frances Wain, Samia Farouki, Kristin Jones, Kim Sajet, Kelly Collis, Deesha Dyer, Cindy Clark, Brian Eklund.
Patricia Lansing, Nicole Warner, Carolina Herrera, and DJ Mia Moretti. Barry and Marla Beck, founders of beauty empire Bluemercury.
Selah Collins, Patricia Lansing, Carolina Herrera, Susanna Quinn, Eun Yang, and Fran Holuba.
Jamie Dorros, Amy Baier, and Rebecca Cooper of the Washington Business Journal.
Art Collins, Robin Givhan, and Selah Collins.
Carolina Herrera and Robin Givhan, who had just given the designer quite the stylish write up in The Washington Post.
Heather Podesta and Penny Lee.
Johnny Wright, who styles Michelle Obama's hair, with the First Lady's personal assistant.
Pascal Blondeau and Christopher Reiter.
Carolina Herrera has a moment with her daughter, Patricia Lansing.
Jeanne Wolak, Marissa Mitrovich, Missy Edwards, and Maria Trabocchi, owner of Fiola Mare, site of the after-party dinner.
Alma Ramos, Hilary Phelps, and Elaine del Cerro.
Eun Yang, Christopher Reiter, and Pum Lefebure
Aba Kwawu and Selah Collins. Artist and photographer Pascal Blondeau with Laith Alnouri.
Jonathan Capehart with Selah Collins and Art Collins.
DJ Mia Moretti at work.
Photographs by Carol Joynt (Zantzinger & Bubes); Jeff Martin and TAA|PR (Carolina Herrera).

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt