Main Dish

Evans Camp puts on the Ris for Fundraiser

March 5, 2010

Councilmember Jack Evans was greeted by dozens of loyal supporters at a fundraiser for his constituent services account at Ris, the chic, almost New York hotspot in the West End. City poo-bahs from superlawyer David Wilmot to Georgetown fixture (turned Fenty administration assistant attorney general) Pat Allen mingled in the comfortable salon off the dining room, sipping good wine and nibbling splendid hors d'oeuvres.

It was a reunion of steadfast stalwarts (Barbara Kahlow of Foggy Bottom) to up-and-coming leaders (Alex Padro, Shaw) to Georgetown celebs like Nancy Taylor Bubes and Alan Bubes, CAG President Jennifer Altemus (making the rounds after touring brand new M29 via Bourbon Steak) and Peter Calafiura. (Pictured: Susan Frost, Robert Maffin of Logan Circle Community Association, and Foggy Bottom honcho Barbara Kahlow)

Altemus found out late about the event but traveled east of Georgetown in heavy traffic to say hello. "Somehow emails from Jack's office have been getting stuck in my spam folder," she said. "Isn't that terrible?" Despite a heavy schedule ahead including the the Georgetown Campus Plan and a full calendar of CAG-sponsored community events, Altemus, a Washington native and Georgetown Univ. alum holding an important role at the Library of Congress, is not slowed down by technology -- or anything else.

(Pictured: Asher Corson, Lindsey Fell, Peter Calafiura and CAG President Jennifer Altemus)

Other power women at the event included founder and chef Ris Lacoste with Jackie Ludden, events and marketing director, of the packed, eponymous West End bistro (pictured below right).

Ris (rhymes with "kiss," short for Doris) will be honored next month by the National Restaurant Association as a "D.C. Restaurant Star!" the first time the awards have been bestowed. Other honorees will include Michel Richard of Citronelle, Todd and Ellen Gray of Equinox, and Mike Curtin of D.C. Central Kitchen.

"It's really a test to open a new restaurant," said the longtime 1789 chef who conceived and is managing the jumping new venue. "I'm glad I didn't open a year ago, but we've created a space that suits the economy -- it's a great escape at a reasonable price. Plates are coming back clean. It's fabulous."

A different kind of culinary center is under construction across town -- developers of the historic O Street Market in Shaw expect a September opening, just in time for the Giant Food at 8th & O to close down for 18 months for a renovation. "You won't recognize it when it's finished," said Armond Spikell of Roadside Development, describing a concept that bore a resemblance to Georgetown's Dean & Deluca, at least aesthetically. (At left: Susan Vener Linsky and Armond Spikell flank Shaw booster Alex Padro.)

Asher Corson, President of the Foggy Bottom Association, and Lindsey Fell of Shaw were doing double civic duty. In addition to their after-hours appearance at Evans' fundraisier, they are fulltime staffers for Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh.

Jack Evans legislative aide Ruth Werner, with Rob Harlow and JoElla Straley of Petworth, self-described "fans of Jack."

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Liberte, Egalite, Fashion Take the Stage

February 27, 2010

An attractive, eclectic crowd of fashion lovers stormed the gates of the French Embassy Sunday for the culmination of Fashion Week. The event spotlighted new designers bringing a forward-thinking esprit to the Washington fashion scene. 

Kalaa, a new women's contemporary clothing line, debuted a collection designed to capture culture and world travel in a professional wardrobe. "We blend ethnic textiles with Western silhouettes" said Nisha Thirumurthy, CEO, who was inspired to start designing while working as an energy consultant in Hong Kong. "I spent hours walking through Hong Kong, looking at woven textiles." (Detail from Kalaa Collection pictured at right)

Then, the Tuck School of Business MBA took her passion back to the villages of India, where fabrics not only inspire a Western designer's eye -- but help the craftswomen who weave and sell the textiles.

"Our clothes are very wearable in day-to-day life, and they also reflect India's rich handloom  tradition," Nisha said. Her business partner, Katherine Bates (to the right of Thirumurthy, photo right), brings a New Yorker's sense of immediacy to the clothes. "Through my world traveling," said the California native, "I became more and more interseted in the exquisite cuts of high fashion products, but wanted to see aspects from my travels incorporated in the detailing." A Californian openness combines with a global flavor to inform Kalaa's designs. See more here.

Speaking of flavor, Mie 'n Yu's Emily Jarmuth and Oliver David donned stylish designs from Georgetown as they surveyed the scene from the VIP lounge. The eclectic international restaurant has consistently raised the fashion and global hipness factor in Georgetown. For her part, events manager Jarmuth wore several items of clothing bought in Georgetown boutiques. "It's the only part of Washington with a distinct style," Jarmuth said. "It's our Manhattan." For his part, Oliver is a fashion designer himself. "I'm insprired by Edith Head," he said, referring to the famous Hollywood costume creator. (Emily Jarmuth and Jimmie Jones, FashionWeek DC associate producer pictured at left)

Just beyond the catwalks and the camera's was a mini-boutique set up by Heydari, the Georgetown women's clothing designer. "Heydari" is Mariam Heydari, who combines and exotic Eastern aesthetic with a modern women's sense of movement and style. "After 25 years in retail," her Web site says, "I learned that clothing has to be comfortable, in motion and at rest." Light fabrics float around the body, flattering and concealing in just the right measures. Heydari's captivating collections have led to three separate stores in the area, including Helia's at 1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW. A new jewelry line in gold, silver and gun metal offers pearl wearers a stylish yet simple alternative to the repetitive and mundane. See more here.  

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CAG Goes Underground to Investigate Black History

February 25, 2010

"Escape on the Pearl," Mary Kay Ricks' gripping tale of the largest mass escape of fugutive slaves in American history, was the topic of the February meeting of the Citizens Association of Georgetown at Mt. Zion Church on 29th St. Monday. In the spare but elegant main hall of the church, speaking to about 100 Georgetown residents, Ricks swept away the monochromatic myth of courageous whites helping meek and frightened blacks as they escaped slavery on the "Underground Railway." Instead, she described some of the clandestine and extreme measures to which blacks had to go to escape legalized bondage.

The event drew a wide cross-section of Georgetowners.

"I shouldn't admit it, but I don't come to these meetings that often," said Carl Colby, filmmaker son of William E. Colby, the ex-CIA director. Colby is set to release a two-hour documentary film about his controversial father, who also lived in Georgetown. "I'm a huge fan of Mary Kay and her husband Tom Ricks." The latter, erstwhile author of Fiasco and Washington Post reporter, will appear in the documentary premiering this spring.

Besides the official history on the agenda, there was plenty of unofficial history of the meeting's attendees. Frida Burling, hosting the author at her home before the event, greeted Colby like a son. "We've been friends for four generations," the stately Burling announced. Burling's son, David Winslow Burling, was Best Man at Colby's wedding. (Pictured at left: Pamela Hinds, Frida Burling and Bo Jonsson)


The Big Brains were out in force. Patrick Clawson, Deputy Director for Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and senior editor of Middle East Quarterly, also came to hear Ricks' remarks. "I am a regular at CAG meetings," he said. Clawson described enthusiastically a historical reenactment in Georgetown in which he had participated.

But academics weren't the only ones interested. Carter Bowman of Mt. Zion introduced Ricks with some stirring words, and Catherine Bowman, his sister (at left, with Thomas Brock) offered a real-life perspective on the evening's topic. "I was born and raised in Georgetown," she said. "There are only nine black families still living here."

In the 1920s, Bowman said, Georgetown was segregated. "We had separate schools, separate churches." Black families were concentrated between 24th and 28th Streets, she said. Above P Street, all the residents were white. President Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed for equality among the races, and the most stringent forms of segregation eased. Then, with the advent of the Kennedys in Georgetown, the atmosphere became more tolerant, Bowman said, but the rising profile of Georgetown as a social hub drove real estate prices up. "What became of the black people of summer?" Carter Bowman intoned, introducing Ricks. "They forgot their history, and they died."

CAG President Jennifer Altemus had a parallel experience in her professional role at the Library of Congress, hosting the Dalai Llama during his visit to Washington last week. "He was so calm," she said. "He was so humble and relaxed. He made everyone feel at ease." That's the same feeling Altemus, CAG executive director Betsy Cooley (pictured above between Patrick Clawson and Jennifer Altemus) and program director Robin Jones gave the attendees as they gathered for a pre-meeting reception on the church's first floor.  

But don't be deceived. Altemus is busy preparing her fellow board members for the public discussion of the Georgetown University plan, which will likely stir debate. The University's aggressive growth and sometimes high-handed attitude toward residents has evolved into a cautious coexistence.

Speaking of controversy, ANC Commissioner Bill Starrels expressed displeasure that Philly Pizza, which, due to community efforts, was supposed to be shut down by D.C. regulatory authorities, was still operating. "Someone called them today, and they said they'd be open til 12:30 a.m.," he said, shaking his head.

Carl Colby with longtime friend and Georgetown doyenne Frida Burling.

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