I don’t want to put a date on it, but when I was a teenager (a while back), the rage was to wear paper dresses. They were very Warholian, A-line with a white background and black designs we colored with magic markers. They cost about $14 and lasted maybe a month.
Cut to now, and the elegant dinner party Thursday night at Hillwood Museum, where guests ogled an entirely more advanced version of the paper dress: the exquisite and elaborate designs of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. These are paper dresses no one would dare try to wear, despite the yearning, and they are meant to last.
The exhibition, “Prêt-à-Papier” is all about eye-popping prettiness, and the al fresco dinner by candlelight to open the exhibition was exceedingly pretty, too: pretty weather, pretty tables under a white tent on the lawn at Hillwood, pretty flowers, pretty women in pretty summer dresses. The de Borchgrave creations, more than 25 in all, are arrayed in the public rooms of the mansion, which guests toured before the themed dinner of Belgian endive salad, filet mignon and salmon with Belgian frites, and pink peppermint ice cream with Belgian chocolate ganache.
Drew Barrymore with her new fiancé, Will Kopelman, at the premiere of Big Miracle. Photograph by Jeff Martin.
The so-called “whale movie” came to town last night with a splashy screening and a Potomac waterfront after-party for some 1,400 people. Big Miracle is the film’s official name, and it has an interesting, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting local angle. First, you need to know the name Bonnie Mersinger Carroll.
It was 1988, and Carroll—then Bonnie Mersinger—was working at the White House as the executive assistant for Cabinet affairs. President Reagan stopped by her West Wing office to inquire about an incident that was unfolding in Alaska, where three whales (two adults and a baby) had become trapped in the Arctic Circle by rapidly forming ice. The drama was receiving national media attention. “He saw that the National Guard was involved,” says Carroll, “and he wondered what the White House could do to help. And that’s how I met Tom Carroll.”
Chris Matthews with author Sally Bedell Smith. Photograph by Jeff Martin.
There are book parties—and then there are va-va-voom book parties fit for a queen. That’s what Sally Bedell Smith got this past weekend with the Washington celebration of her new biography, Elizabeth the Queen. I daresay even the Queen herself would have been gobsmacked.
Hosts Bernard and Joan Carl—he seriously rich with private equity money, together the owners of the French luxury linen company D. Porthault, and with homes in the Loire Valley, London, and Southampton—filled the rooms of their Kalorama mansion with the prettiest spring flowers, candles, and framed photos of the royal family at work and at play, and served a comforting Anglo menu. There was even a receiving line at the front door, as Joan Carl welcomed Washington’s version of aristocracy, high and low.
Smith, for her part, never budged from the library, where she sat near a fire signing copies of the book. Her husband, Washington Examiner executive editor Stephen Smith, worked the other rooms on her behalf. There were many rooms—even a carpeted tent—and many friends.
Alice Cowie, Carolyn Jones, Doug Jones, Leslie Jones, Gouverneur Siegel, and Lauren Duffy. Photograph by Jeff Martin.
Even with 44 exhibitors offering antique wares for sale, probably the most talked-about item at the Washington Winter Show on opening night was a plate that’s not on even the market. The one-of-a-kind Lenox porcelain dish, white with a yolk yellow border, has a historic and intriguing backstory—had President Kennedy not been assassinated it could well have been the chosen pattern for the Kennedy White House china service.
Both JFK and First Lady Jackie Kennedy ate off the plate, taking turns, as they decided whether it should be their White House pattern. The legend is they liked it and wanted to go with it. But due to the President’s death in 1963, the full service was never made, and only this one plate remains.
Christopher Reiter, Juleanna Glover, Becca Glover, Pepper Watkins, Kristin Glover, and Elizabeth Glover. Photo by Erik Uecke.
Who: Juleanna Glover, Elizabeth Glover, Kristin Glover, Christopher Reiter, Pepper Watkins
What: The “night before the night before Christmas” cocktail party
Where: Juleanna Glover’s Kalorama townhouse
When: Friday, December 23, from 8 PM on
For better or for worse, I was a guest at more than 100 parties in 2011. Here are the top ten standouts:
1) The Washington Winter Show at the Katzen Arts Center (January 6)
An event that pulled together real Washington society—the elder cave dwellers and their younger counterparts—amid interesting (and a few affordable) decorative arts, good music, and good food.
2) The Tudor Place Garden Party (May 4)
It always seems to take place on the prettiest spring evening. Lush food, great drinks, sweeping lawn, beautiful flowers, women in hats, and much camaraderie among Georgetowners young and old. For anyone who wants to mingle with Georgetown, this is the party.
3) The “Wedding Belles” Exhibition Faux Wedding Reception on the Lawn at Hillwood Museum
Caterer Susan Gage re-created a post-wedding lawn party as though it were scripted by Marjorie Merriweather Post herself, including a many-tiered wedding cake. On a beautiful, softly warm evening, guests got to sip, dine, and tour the gardens and the mansion.
4) David and Katherine Bradley’s Pre-Party for the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (April 30)
Essentially every party the Bradleys host is a winner. They have that gift. But they throw a doozy of a true foodie dinner the eve of the WHCA bash. The exclusive guest list is “A” all the way: corporate, political, media, social, and some Hollywood.
The 2011 Excellence in Nursing honorees, from left to right: Stephen Perez, Cathy Williams, Jacky Schultz, Carol Ryan, Nancy Munro, Heidi Maloni, Col. Bruce Schoneboom, Elizabeth Bradshaw, Helen Obidiran, and Deborah Thomas. Photographs by Eric Uecke and Kelci House
Out of hundreds of nominations in 2011, The Washingtonian selected ten extraordinary individuals to be honored with the Washingtonian Excellence in Nursing Award for their contributions in the field of nursing. All ten honorees and eight honorable mentions celebrated their achievement at the first annual Excellence in Nursing awards reception at the House of Sweden in Washington, DC. The event began with a cocktail reception, followed by a three-course seated dinner, a presentation of awards, and dessert. Crocs and NOVA Uniforms were sponsors of the event, and Children’s National Medical Center, Georgetown University Hospital, Inova Juniper Program, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Suburban Hospital, and VMT Long Term Care Management showed their support by sponsoring a table.
Lindsey Becker, Rebecca Loveridge, Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Josie Taylor, and Cori Sue Morris. Photographs by Jeff Martin
What: March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction of DC
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC
When: Wednesday, November 16, from 6 to 9:15 PM
Tickets: $200 for individuals; $2,000 for reserved tables of 10
Who: The night boasted a lineup of all-stars from the Washington restaurant scene. Chefs Ris Lacoste of RIS and Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar presided over tables laden with sought-after small dishes, while Jo-Jo Valenzuela of Old Glory BBQ served up signature cocktails. Chef Robert Wiedmaier, the master behind Brasserie Beck, the Tasting Room and Mussel Bar, graced the ballroom as the event’s signature chef, and ABC7 anchor Leon Harris served as the evening’s emcee. Lauren Fleming, seven-year-old March of Dimes ambassador, and her mother, Nikki, warmed the room with their touching story and heartfelt thank-you.
Scene: Top DC chefs served up good eats for a good cause to a post-workday crew. Fresh from the office, foodies meandered among tables graced with bountiful amounts of local delectables. They mingled and ate, but mostly ate. On occasion, they took breaks to recover from overfull stomachs to bid on silent auction items. During the night’s live auction, Signature Chef Wiedmaier stole the show, interrupting auctioneer Jim Miller to up the ante on his own donation. Instead of auctioning off a single five-course tasting for ten people at Brasserie Beck, he offered up two for $2,000 a piece.”That’s the way it’s done,” Wiedmaier said.
Food and drink: Delectable seared scallops from Hank’s Oyster Bar rested on beds of creamy cauliflower fondue, indulging seafood lovers. Bastille Restaurant’s hearty Jerusalem artichoke soup greeted taste buds with hints of garlic and pieces of chicken confit, while B. Smith’s shrimp and grits spiced things up. Michel Richard Citronelle offered the sweet-toothed crowd a dessert they couldn’t refuse: crêpes suzette garnished with orange zest. Burger, Tap & Shake appealed to the kid in everyone, as regular chef-auction attendee Rob Stern pointed out. There’s nothing like seeing men in business suits unwinding with miniature root beer floats and brownies after a long day at the office, he joked.
David McCullough and his wife, Rosalee, join his former student Cathy Merrill Williams (left) at the American Concil of Trustees and Alumni award ceremony Saturday evening. Photographs by Zaid Hamid
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. Since 1995, it has worked with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to endow the next generations with a high-quality education that will prepare them to be informed citizens.
Most Powerful Women Debbie Dingell, Julie Rogers, and Mary Kay Henderson. Photograph by Erik Uecke
The Washingtonian honored the 100 Most Powerful Women featured in the October issue at a luncheon at the elegant St. Regis hotel. The honorees were encouraged to bring as a guest a woman with talent and tenacity whom Washingtonian should watch in the future.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was the presenting sponsor of the luncheon, and managing partner Chris Simmons served as the keynote speaker. Washingtonian partnered with Vital Voices, an international organization dedicated to identifying, investing in, and bringing visibility to women around the world. Guests had the opportunity to appear on a mock Washingtonian cover, thanks to Event Digital Photography. Lexus, the automotive sponsor, provided a sleek RX 450h, which was parked out front for attendees to admire. Floral arrangements by MultiFlor decorated the venue, which was equipped with tables and linens from Select Event Rentals. Music inside and out was provided by Elan Artists, while Event EQ coordinated the audio and visual elements of the afternoon's presentations.