This time of year is filled with traditions, and I just created a new one.
Before moving to DC, when I lived in Boston, I used to go see the Nutcracker every December with a close family friend. Somehow the music and the act of doing something cultural in a season often overcome by consumerism always managed to remind me what the holiday spirit is all about.
After 12+ years in DC, I created a new version of this tradition. Last week my husband and I went to see Handel’s Messiah at the Kennedy Center, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra.
Every year this performance comes to DC for four or five evenings of magic and emotion. In three parts, this two-hour oratorio composed in 1741 and premiered on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, brings the beauty of Handel’s composition, of soprano and tenor voices, of an amazing orchestra, and of course the choir.
While when it premiered in Dublin, the proceeds of this piece went to help three charitable organizations, the figurative interpretation of music historian Charles Burney’s quote is exactly what I felt that evening: this piece “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and fostered the orphan.”
Three aspects of the evening stand out for me.
First, being in the Kennedy Center. This hall is so large and impressive it served as a reminder of how small we all are and how insignificant my concerns are compared to the beauty of the world.
Second, I saw a female conductor for the first time. Nathalie Stutzmann was outstanding in leading the musicians, and somehow the fact that she is a woman made a difference to me.
Finally, we dined at Marcel’s before the show, which was the perfect civilized start to the most special evening. Their car service to the Kennedy Center was the cherry on top of a perfectly magical evening.
There are many things I adore about living in Georgetown. The beauty of the rowhouses. The gardens and cemeteries. The uneven pavements, uneven because of the roots of the old, beautiful trees. The fact that everything is beautiful no matter the season. And the people. The amazingly interesting people. In particular, a very special kind of people – writers. When I moved to Georgetown, I had no idea I lived by so many amazing authors. If you have not met them, try to. If you have not read any of their stories or books, do. It will give you one more reason to love this neighborhood.
Cathy Alter. My word for Cathy: Witty. Read her memoir Up for Renewal to get a sense of her self-deprecating and caustic wit. You will laugh and cringe. And laugh again. Read her numerous articles in Washingtonian Magazine and Washington Post Magazine. You will learn a lot, including about unusual churches a half-block from your home.
Elaine Crockett. My word for Elaine: Elegant. Actually I have three more words for her. Under-stated and under-cover and thoughtful. Her book, Do Not Assume, which takes place in Georgetown with all of the appropriate DC references and characters, is an anagram: DNA. I won’t reveal more so as not to spoil the amazing twists and turns of her novel. I can’t wait for the next one. And the next one after that.
Jane Stanton Hitchcock. My word for Jane: Surprising. I met Jane thanks to her book Mortal Friends (set in DC, another amazing novel filled with love and suspense). I then quickly red One Dangerous Lady, Social Crimes, and Trick of the Eye. And then I found out this author plays in the World Series of Poker. I am hoping her next book will tell some of those tales.
Mary Louise Kelly. My word for Mary Louise: Cosmopolitan. She went to Harvard. She worked with NPR and travelled the world for many years. Then wrote her first book, Anonymous Sources. Then she summered in Tuscany, to write most of her second book, The Bullet.
Karin Tanabe. My word for Karin: Glamorous. Half Belgian and half Japanese, she is drop dead gorgeous, even funnier, and a lover of all beauty products (perhaps from her past working at various glossy magazines and writing about beauty). Her first book, The List, takes place in DC and Middleburg, and is the best fall read ever (horses, cashmere, intrigue, and love). Her second book, The Price of Inheritance, takes place in Newport, RI, has to do with art theft, and how life never goes quite the way you expect it.
There are many more. I am sure some of them are men. These five were my first Georgetown author crushes. And my first author neighbors – it must be something about Q Street.
On the few delicious weekends that my husband and I get to spend in DC, we have a pretty set routine. Run the bridge loop. Go to SoulCycle. Stop by the Apple store to see the new gadgets. And eat at our favorite places, usually at the bar. These include Thunder Burger, TownHall, Black Salt, Rasika West End, Morton’s, and of course Peacock Café.
Last night, we decided to go out of our comfort zone and try one of the three new Georgetown restaurants recently written up in DC Modern Luxury Magazine – Chez Billy Sud. I have always loved the space this restaurant occupies, previously home of Café LaRuche. The bar area is so intimate and the side patio lovely – but what I love the most is that once inside the main dining room, I really feel like I could be in the Saint Germain neighborhood in Paris.
I have to say that we will have to add this to our list of favorite Georgetown places – I already can’t wait to go back – perhaps for brunch. The highlight of the evening were my Kir Royal, made perfectly and served in a champagne coupe glass instead of the usual flute, and the appetizers. I still can’t decide what was better: the smoked bluefish rillettes, perfectly fishy yet not too chunky, made smoother even by the crème freche, or the chicken liver torchon, which had the perfect balance of liver and Armagnac.
We chose the duck confit and the “semoules” as our main courses, which were both delightful – flavorful, delicisouly-prepared, yet not too heavy (which is always a concern of mine with French cuisine).
While a true French dinner must end with dessert, we had to pass this time – although I eyed the Plat de Fromage the couple at the table next to use was having.
Chez Billy Sud, we will be back. And now I have Paris on my mind …