News & Politics

A Night Out: 54th Annual Corcoran Ball

What: 54th Annual Corcoran Ball.

Where: Corcoran Gallery of Art.

When: April 17; 7 PM cocktail reception, 8:15 sit-down dinner followed by dancing.

Cost: Individual tickets $500 and up.

Who: More than 1,000 guests attended the ball, which benefited the Corcoran’s outreach, educational, and scholarship programs. Some VIPs included White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, jewelers David and Sybil Yurman, former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt, Korn/Ferry executive Nels Olson, lawyer and former counsel to the President Jack Quinn, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, former Louisiana congressman and Livingston Group founder Robert Livingston, DC councilmember Jack Evans, founding AOL CEO Jim Kimsey, and ambassadors galore (England, Turkey, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Japan, Chile, Australia, and Monaco were all represented).

Scene: This black-tie affair began with a cocktail hour in which guests meandered through Maya Lin’s “Systematic Landscapes” exhibition, mingled in one of the many decorated dining rooms, and grabbed a drink at Club Corcoran, the chic bar/lounge upstairs that overlooked the main hall. Trumpeters summoned the guests to dinner from the gallery’s main staircase, and the three course-meal had barely finished before people got up to dance.

Photographs by Chris Leaman. 

Music: Cocktail hour included a strolling sting quartet as well as a band upstairs. Post-dinner entertainment can be described as wedding music (think Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” performed by older men on guitars, trumpets, and piano).

Decor: The decor nearly upstaged the art. Each room was meticulously decorated with a different theme, from jungle to garden to “under the sea.” Everything from the chairs to the napkins to the gorgeous towering floral arrangements from Jack Lucky Floral Designs matched to fit the theme of its specific room. In the main hall, strings of glass bubbles hung above a dining area.

Most fun room: The “under the sea” room. Lights under each table glowed through sheer blue tablecloths, and giant-squid-size floral arrangements resembled a colorful coral reef. Sea-anemone-shaped votives, starfish and shells were placed around the tables, and orange-yellow lights projected a school of fish on the walls.

Most opulent room: Originally part of a grand Parisian home, the gallery’s gold-trimmed neoclassical Salon d’Or was outfitted with shimmery pink tableclothes and napkins and plush seat covers. Gold-rimmed glasses and gold-colored cutlery made the table sparkle like the room itself.

Sexiest room
: With dim lighting and purple ovals projected across the wall, this upstairs dining room felt more like an exclusive nightclub than anything else. In fact, it was the only dining with its own lounge area, complete with modern black leather sofas and dark-purple cylindrical pillows. Each table had a dark-purple rose centerpiece atop a silver tablecloth with large black circles.

Best napkin fold: Every room had its own elaborate napkin fold—from green napkins folded like plants in glasses to gold napkins coiled like cinnamon buns. But the winner in this category was the pale-blue starfish-shaped napkins in the “under the sea” room.

Food and drink: Several open bars served wine and top-shelf liquors. A sit-down dinner started with an organic-greens salad with curried pineapple and wild Gulf shrimp along with lemon-basil biscuits and herb palmiers. The main course was a filet of grass-fed beef with a Syrah glaze and multicolored carrots and organic greens. The meal was capped off with a bittersweet free-trade chocolate-mocha-and-crème-brûlée torte.

Keeping it green: As further proof that green is all the rage these days, the stemware was made of recycled glass and table linens were made from natural fibers and repurposed and recycled fabrics. The dining tables were borrowed antiques, and the chairs were made of sustainably harvested European beechwood. Not to mention the energy-efficient LED lighting, local garden flowers, and the “certified green” catering.

Bold-face names: 4 out of 5
Swankiness: 5 out of 5
Exclusivity: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 3 out of 5
Total score: 16 out of 20

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.