Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The subtle entrance to The Four Seasons Hotel's dining room underplays the power game inside.

by Carol Joynt


Many mornings I wake and think how much I’d like to walk the few blocks down the hill for breakfast at The Four Seasons Hotel. I know I could count on friendly servers, a cup of rich but smooth coffee, crispy bacon, indulgent waffles, all the major newspapers and the best morning show in town. True, the most powerful breakfast in the United States is the table where the President is breaking bread, but the other Washington power breakfast occurs each weekday morning in Georgetown at The Four Seasons.

The power breakfast as we know it emerged in the late 80s, early 90s, when the liquid business lunch and the afternoon office pour went the way of all other things that were bad for us but fun. Remember when we didn’t have PDAs and the 24/7 work week and breakfast, especially among the high and mighty, was something consumed alone with the morning paper and maybe a spouse or lover. It certainly wasn’t a time for deal-making. Ah, memories.
Guests are greeted by an array of newspapers.
The Four Seasons Hotel's dining room, known as "Seasons," is brightened by a wall of windows.
All the regulars have their favorite tables, but the one in the far corner is favored by Hillary Clinton and George Will.
A large center table accommodates big breakfast parties.
But that was then and this is now and breakfast has become a significant public meal, not only for business but also for see-and-be-scene posturing, a way to start the day with a leg up. The mother (or is it father?) of all power breakfasts is at The Regency in New York, and anyone who has enjoyed the experience at 540 Park knows it’s practically an aerobic work-out as moguls, power-brokers and pretenders stand up-sit down, stand up-sit down, stand up-sit down as they table hop and throw down with each other. It’s a thrill ride.

The Four Seasons power breakfast, like Washington itself, is less extroverted but no less impressive. It is, above all, a dance of quiet influence, with a pecking order, preferred tables, meaningful nods across the white tablecloths. Conversations occur in not much more than a whisper.
In pleasant weather, the terrace is an option (and also particularly discreet).
While the powerful dine, their cars and drivers idle outside under the hotel's portico. What power looks like at 8 a.m. in Washington.
On any given day a glance around the room could find pundit George Will in one corner, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in another, Sen. Arlen Specter with his wife, Joan, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, Atlantic Media’s David Bradley, John Fox Sullivan and Elizabeth Keffer, good friends Jim Johnson and Vernon Jordan (also a Regency regular), lobbyist Juleanna Glover, money man of many portfolios, Jonathan Silver, and one or all of the Sunday talk show hosts. On other occasions there have been spottings of out of towners like Steve Wynn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks. One morning Beyonce and Jay-Z went essentially unnoticed by the other diners. If there are big doings happening in DC, The Four Seasons breakfast is reliably packed with high wattage personalities.

But lets focus on the food because it is good and worth noting, even if it is uncertain whether the power breakfast bunch care about the food. Then again, didn’t Mother always say it is the most important meal of the day?
The service at The Four Seasons is attentive but not intrusive.
Mohamed and Nagi prepare to serve a morning meal. At The Four Seasons the waffles are powerful and glorious.
The "Bakery Basket" comes with a multi-grain muffin and buttery croissants.
On any given day the Four Seasons serves about 100 breakfasts between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m., and while the food is delicious a breakfast for two can cost $65 or more. The portions are so large, though, that there is value and most customers are the expense account elite.

For this crowd the most popular items are the Mediterranean Egg White Omelet, the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, a bagel with smoked salmon and an assortment of “skillet” dishes, including a Chesapeake feast of crab, potatoes, corn, ham and Old Bay spice, roasted and topped with Hollandaise. The frittata tastes as good as it looks. On the other end of the scale, there’s a lean, globally-minded Japanese breakfast of seared Sesame Tuna with rice and vegetables. The fruit plate is brightly fresh and ample enough for two.
The Four Seasons frittata is spectacular to look at and to eat.
Virtually perfect Eggs Benedict
The resplendent fruit salad.
The Four Seasons "lemon and ricotta" pancakes.
Calling all world travelers and weight watchers: the delightful "Japanese Breakfast" includes seared tuna, Miso soup, rice and vegetables.
The Four Seasons breakfast occurs in their basement dining room, Seasons, which is used only for the morning meal and weekend brunch. The carpet is thick, the tables are well set apart, and half the room is lined with huge windows that look out on Rock Creek Park, making it cheerful. There’s also an outdoor terrace. It intrigues people that the Four Seasons would host the breakfast of choice for so many power players, given that Georgetown has no subway and is not downtown. Ah, but the subway doesn’t matter to most of these people; their cars, and drivers, idle outside. It works because Georgetown is an easy stop on the way to the White House, Penn Quarter and Capitol Hill from the power bedroom communities of northwest Washington, McLean, Va., and Potomac, Md.

Don’t wait for a business deal to give this breakfast a try. Go for the people-watching and the satisfying food. Reservations can be made easily on Open Table. Request table “52.” It will put you in the middle of the action.

Not every power player wants a formal breakfast, or a costly breakfast, and to that end The Four Seasons has some admirable and affordable competition within a three-minute walk of the hotel.

Seasons Restaurant
2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC
The sign says it all.
Across the street from The Four Seasons is Furin’s, a neighborhood stalwart that is Georgetown’s quintessential community coffee shop. It’s beloved by locals. I’ve seen the Chief of Police there and quite a few other famous faces including, a week ago, Jill Biden, the wife of the Vice President. Her Secret Service detail were so discreet that few customers knew she was in the room. Furin’s is family owned, proudly “not a chain,” cozy, open every day until early evening, serves breakfast until at least noon and has, in my humble opinion, the best pancakes in Washington. They are brilliant. They also carry the city’s best bagels, from Georgetown Bagelry.

Furin’s breakfast menu is “down home” in the best sense. I have a friend who swears by “The Georgetown” – home fried potatoes, two eggs (any style), two sausage links or two slices of Virginia ham, served with toast, muffin or biscuit for $8.99. My son prefers “The Corcoran” – pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage or ham, also for $8.99. They will refill the coffee until you are ready for lift-off.

2805 M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

Across the street from The Four Seasons is Furin's, beloved in Georgetown as the quintessential coffee shop, but with power customers. Jill Biden contemplates her breakfast order at Furin's of Georgetown. (The ghoul in the background is NOT a Secret Service agent.)
The Furin's breakfast menu, available until at least noon and later on weekends.
Famous faces are common at Furin's. The sunny front window at Furin's.
A basic cup of Joe at Furin's.
At Furin's, Washington best plate of pancakes. Furin's is in one of Georgetown's older buildings, with original floors. They also serve lunch and "early" dinner items.
At Furin's the bagels are the best in town - from Georgetown Bagelry (which is actually in Bethesda, Md!!)
Fresh Danish at Furin's.

A lovely two-block walk from the Four Seasons along the C&O Canal will bring you to Thomas Jefferson Street and, hard by the canal, the bakery café known as Baked & Wired, another beloved Georgetown breakfast destination.

Baked & Wired is owned by Teresa and Tony Velazquez. They created an urban sanctuary that is young, laid back, and a coffee lover’s dream come true. If a sensational cappuccino and a “donut muffin” is the only way to start your day, this is the place. In line at the coffee bar are men and women in suits, scruffy dudes wearing messenger bags, runners just back from a sprint on the tow path, Georgetown matrons on their morning walk, artists from the many nearby advertising agencies (for which Georgetown is a hub). But boldfacers also show up at Baked & Wired, including Owen Wilson, Maria Shriver, Ben Stein, Lauren Graham and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.
Customers sit outside in the autumn sun at Baked & Wired. Inside and online at Baked & Wired.
The staff are lively, amusing and warm. It’s such a pleasant place to sit alone, go online or meet a friend. Relax on the velvet sofa or in the leather chairs, gape at the “MaMa Grizzly” painting of Sarah Palin, sip coffee and talk. There’s no rush. In addition to bagels and irresistible coffee cakes, B&W has all kinds of eggy quiches, including Broccoli and Cheddar, Ham and Gruyere and “Manly Quiche,” with sausage and veggies. The nutty and fruity house granola is called “crack” for a good reason. However, if you need a morning sugar jolt there are enough varieties of fresh baked cookies, pies and cupcakes to keep the system WIRED for hours.

Baked & Wired
1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
Baked & Wired is famous for its coffee, quiche, baked goods and youthful ambience.
Art work abounds at Baked & Wired. ... all kinds of art work. This piece is called "MaMa Grizzly."
A Baked & Wired cappuccino.
At Baked & Wired the toast-your-own bagels are from Whatsa Bagel.
A perfect mate for a cuppa Joe: Baked & Wired's "donut muffins."
In addition to human food, Baked & Wired makes delicacies for man's best friend.
The cupcake display.
Cupcakes up close: German Chocolate and "Unporked" Elvis.
The morning scene at Baked & Wired.
Morning coffee with a friend.
The "back room."
Customer poems on the wall at Baked & Wired.
The house granola is called "Hippie Crack"; a good gift, but dangerous to have at home.
Lined up for morning coffee.
Don't leave Baked & Wired without a few chocolate chip cookies for later in the day.
Good humor in the morning: sign over the ladies toilet at Baked & Wired. Ha ha ha.
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