Main Dish

Ella and Frank Secretly Seduce at The Riggsby

December 1, 2016

With five restaurants in Washington already, Boston-based James Beard Award-winning restauranteur/chef Michael Schlow is a star in the kitchen. But a great restaurant experience involves all five senses - sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, Schlow says. After friends of The Dish noticed the remarkable jazz soundtrack playing on a recent Friday night, we caught up with Chef Michael at The Riggsby at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel in Dupont Circle. 

Chef/restauranteur Michael Schlow and mixologist Alex Davin (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Chef/restauranteur Michael Schlow and mixologist Alex Davin
Why do your restaurants have specially-designed soundtracks?

I believe there is a connection between food and music. When I'm cooking, there's a song in my head. I also think that music, like scent, has this amazing ability to create a new memory or pull you back to another place or time. Music draws us in and makes us remember something or someone. There's a visceral, emotional reaction. Also, everything we do here is personal. My wife designed the wallpaper.

Does it affect the food?

If you're having a meal and I played five different types of music – you would have five different experiences.

Do people come in for the music?

I don’t know, but it helps create a certain energy and they stay for it. 

The bar at The Riggsby (Photo by: The Riggsby) The bar at The Riggsby
The soundtrack at The Riggsby is wonderful.

Thank you. The Riggsby is a specific concept. I wanted it to feel trapped in another time - but not a specific decade - a little bit of all of them. I wanted the soundtrack to feel like somebody had created the greatest juke box ever over a number of decades (the 20s, 30s, 40s etc.). I wanted it to be nostalgic, but not boring.

How did you put it together?

I use a technology called Five-Motion. If it was your birthday and I knew you loved Frank Sinatra, I could have him singing when you came in. It’s that specific. I'll put in nine hours of music for a two-hour timeslot. So you won’t hear the same songs. It depends on the time of day and what we're doing. I love working on it.

Why do you like jazz?

Life magazines, from an era of cocktail conversation (Photo by: The Riggsby) Life magazines, from an era of cocktail conversation
When I hear jazz, I hear glasses clinking. Everyone is having a good time, embracing life. There's something beautiful and romantic and lush about it. It's sexy. I associate with a time when there was more conversation and cocktails – conviviality. People would gather and listen to music and then talk and eat. Having dinner at 11 was totally OK. We long for those days - at least elements of them.

Is the soundtrack specifically for the evenings?

At breakfast, there is some jazz, but it could be next to a Bob Dylan. Or Neil Young. It's more eclectic. In the afternoon and evening it goes to all jazz.  

Do you play an instrument?

Chef Jeremy Waybright with restaurant creator and owner Michael Schlow. Artist Adrienne Schlow, married to Michael, created the wallpaper for the restaurant. (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Chef Jeremy Waybright with restaurant creator and owner Michael Schlow. Artist Adrienne Schlow, married to Michael, created the wallpaper for the restaurant.
I’ve taken piano, drums, guitar lessons. None of them can I actually play. But it's a secret passion I'd love to pursue.

You should.

Maybe I will. “Rock star chef.”  

Really.

Hmmm…   


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House of Cards Chief of Staff Gets Starbucks Fix

November 27, 2016

In the new reality TV show formerly known as "Washington," House of Cards Chief of Staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) stopped by at Starbucks in Shaw at 8th and O Sts. NW Thanksgiving Day, chatting briefly with fans before heading off to Mar-a-Lago -- I mean, a turkey dinner somewhere.

Michael Kelly as White House Chief of Staff Doug Stamper in (Photo by: Netflix/David Giesbrecht) Michael Kelly as White House Chief of Staff Doug Stamper in "House of Cards"
While the show films in Baltimore, it draws extras from D.C., as well as the occasional star visit. In a March interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Kelly talked about the bizarre "life imitates art" aspect of the campaign/show, now in its fourth season, as well as how he gets into character to play the hard-as-nails Stamper, who serves the same role for President Frank Underwood that Reince Priebus will perform for Presi....Preside...Pre... (just can't write that yet) Donald J. Trump.

EW: The Underwoods are obviously scary, but Doug is scary. He’s so emotionally stunted. How do you get into that mindset? He’s not exactly evil; he’s complicated. 
Michael Kelly: At its heart, it’s all about addiction. Frank, work, alcohol, Rachel, everything, you know? … Beau [Willimon, the showrunner] said to me before we ever started, “Don’t emote. At the end of season 1, I want everyone to say, ‘What the f— is up with that guy?” From that came Doug’s voice and the fact that he never smiles. Beau laid the groundwork for that character, and I just had to say the words.

Actually, it was Kelly's Stamper voice in Starbucks that first attracted the attention of this reporter. Even "I'll have a venti chestnut praline latte" can sound weirdly menacing, when spoken in "Stamper."

In a typical House of Cards storyline, the Chief of Staff gets physical and threatens to strangle the in-over-his-head White House press secretary. 

But we're not expecting under-qualified Cabinet officials (Ben Carson) or White House staff members, right?

They're all going to be terrific...


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Embassy Series Swings Upbeat with Nicaraguan Jazz

November 21, 2016

Music lovers forgot downbeat election news for a decidedly upbeat escape Friday, sailing into the warmth of the Embassy of Nicaragua as The Embassy Series presented jazz pianist Darwin Noguera and his talented trio, which ferried the standing-room only audience far away from post-election cares to an ocean of music with currents of Tito Puente, J.S. Bach and American Songbook stars such as Jerome Kern.

Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell welcomes The Embassy Series' Founder/Director Jerome Barry (Photo by: The Embassy Series) Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell welcomes The Embassy Series' Founder/Director Jerome Barry

The evening's hosts, Ambassador Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker and his wife, Minister Counsellor Miriam Hooker, are used to weathering wavy political seas. Hailing from Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, Campbell previously served in Washington during the Reagan administration, when the U.S. was actively supporting the anti-government Contras in Nicaragua. At that time, Campbell oversaw the Embassy's outreach activities and congressional relations. Hooker was an oft-quoted diplomatic spokeswoman here.

The Embassy Series board member Antonio (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The Embassy Series board member Antonio "Tony" Dias and Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell discuss the performance and world events

Some post-election worries added chop to the dinner conversation, but Noguera offered syncopated solace. The trio played a sunny, stirring set, including Ruby My Dear, a jazz ballad composed by Thelonious Monk, which was recorded later by Carmen McRae as Dear Ruby. The original song describes the pain of losing -- a lover, in this case -- and the need to sail on.

Though he's away

You'll sing his song

You'll carry on

Ruby, My Dear

Left to right: Kathy Baczko, EVP & Chief Development Officer, Fabretto Children's Foundation, Minister Counsellor Miriam Hooker, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Nicaragua, Anne Howard-Tristani, Consultant for Diplomatic & Educational Outreach, The Embassy Series (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Left to right: Kathy Baczko, EVP & Chief Development Officer, Fabretto Children's Foundation, Minister Counsellor Miriam Hooker, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Nicaragua, Anne Howard-Tristani, Consultant for Diplomatic & Educational Outreach, The Embassy Series

The Embassy Series, founded by Jerome and Lisette Barry, brings performing artists to embassies in the nation's capital "uniting people through musical diplomacy." Upcoming events include performances at the embassies and ambassadors' Residences of Romania, Russia, Hungary and Switzerland. A holiday French Cabaret at the Embassy of Luxembourg is already sold out. 

Antonio (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Antonio "Tony" Dias, Member of the Board of Directors, The Embassy Series, and partner, Jones Day, with E.J. Strickland, noted jazz drummer
The organization's work comes at the perfect time. "Music exists in a divided society and world to bring people together, and that has always been our mission," said Gary Tischler, consultant to The Embassy Series. "Music soothes our troubled state of mind and allows us to feel greater solidarity with the best instincts of mankind," added Founder/Director Jerome Barry. He should know. The organization has presented more than 600 concerts since its founding in 1994. 

This performance also honored the Fabretto Children's Foundation, providing education and nutrition programs to underserved children in Nicaragua.

Doris Price Lerner and Dr. Norman Lerner (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Doris Price Lerner and Dr. Norman Lerner

A classically trained pianist starting at age nine, Noguera studied in Cuban conservatories in Miami, and now draws from a range of influences including Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Danilo Perez, Debussy and Bach. Drummer E.J. Strickland, twin brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland, also composes and studied piano. Downbeat Magazine described his drumming as emitting "fields of cumulative energy, clouds of feather-touch and heavy-handed syncopations, latent with power like an oncoming storm." 

Tamir Shmerling, a bass player from Shkelon, Israel, was awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has since performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Kennedy CenterJazz at Lincoln Center, and many international venues. He served as the bassist in the Israeli Defense Forces Orchestra from 2005 to 2008. Read more at The Embassy Series website.

Music lovers enjoy the Darwin Noguera Trio at the Embassy of Nicaragua, sponsored by The Embassy Series (Photo by: The Embassy Series) Music lovers enjoy the Darwin Noguera Trio at the Embassy of Nicaragua, sponsored by The Embassy Series


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