Main Dish

Senator and Samantha Strauss Sparkle in Starbucks

January 26, 2010

It was a gray afternoon, but you'd never know it as Samantha Strauss, daughter of Sen. Paul Strauss, sauntered into Starbucks with her Dad on upper Wisconsin Ave. Sunday. Whether it was the serene glow of a beautiful 8-year-old, or the huge, lime green smoothie she carried, the room got brighter as the two stopped in during their weekend errands.

"This is our regular Starbucks," Sen. Strauss said. Indeed, we've seen him lugging campaign paraphernalia many a weekend since he began serving in the Shadow seat in 1997. He hasn't fielded much serious competition for that seat in some time, but in 2008 Strauss ran for the Ward 3 Council seat now held by Mary Cheh. That was a battle.

More importantly, Samantha allowed that she is in the second grade at Stoddert Elementary School. Stoddert is not far from the site of the annual Palisades 4th of July parade, where Samantha started to come into this world on July 4, 2001. "We rushed her mother to GW Hospital during the parade, and Samantha was born," Strauss said. "That whole parade every year is for her birthday, right Samantha?"

Of course, Dad. So what's on the minds of public school parents these days? In Georgetown, it's turmoil at Hardy, questions about the future of Duke Ellington, and of course the stunning statements made by Chancellor Michelle Rhee to Fast Company magazine that seemed to label hundreds of laid-off teachers as criminals, even child molesters. It may be time for a course called "PR 101" for the high-flying schools chief...

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Investigation: Dish Probes Luxury Hotel

January 13, 2010

I arrived to slightly shivering palm trees at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Some have called this the best hotel in America. Travel + Leisure calls it the No.1 hotel in Florida in this month's issue. My lawyer told me this. I could hear the meter running skyward as he gave me the history of high ratings of this hotel. A lobbyist I know stopped a conference call to tell a story about the great service he experienced here. My brother says he's always wanted to visit. Is it a guy thing? Lots of golf courses and ocean-front towers shooting up out of the swamp. What makes this a No. 1 hotel? Another friend raved about the linens. High thread count alright, but they're slippery. The Georgetown Dish investigates...

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Heather & Tony Podesta Host Dolce DiVita

January 10, 2010

Scusi, but we left Georgetown Thursday night to attend a book party for Venetian chef Luca DiVita, friend of Heather and Tony Podesta, at Tosca downtown. The party marked the American premier of DiVita's cookbook Venice, Food and Wine (lineadacqua).

Tony and Heather love Italian food. So much, they bought an apartment in Venice to be closer to Alle Testiere, DiVita's restaurant. "We wanted to be able to open a second bottle of wine and walk home without falling into a canal," Tony said.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius grazed through the chef's samplings. Italian food is healthy, remember? The sea bass with the bechamel and the cod with braised sweet onions were excellent. The tender scallops and the swordfish ravioli with tomato and ricotta were no slouches either.

The chocolate mousse with crunchy hot pepper dessert was fantastic. Self-control? We did that in 2009.

Superlobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta know how to pick their restaurants. Tosca is an elegant gem, its reputation as a power gulch notwithstanding. On TripAdvisor, Alle Testiere is rated #7 of 524 restaurants in Venice. Frommer's Guide writes: "The limited seating for just 24 savvy (and lucky) patrons at butcher-paper-covered tables, the relaxed young staff, and the upbeat tavernlike atmosphere belie the seriousness of this informal osteria."

More dramatic dishing about the osteria is at Chowhound.

All the items we sampled (except the scallops) are in DiVita's cookbook. If only we could cook!

Asked not if she cooks but whether she speaks Italian, Heather offered a hint: "Tony is fluent in reading Italian menus."

At the party: Donna Marie Artuso, Affairs of the Art, Nora Halpern, Americans for the Arts, Jay Bonitt of Eli Lilly, Paolo F. Valentino, Corriere Della Sera, Mary Jordan and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post, attorney Scheryl Portee, Juanita Colbert, Linda Banton of Lockheed Martin, Tom Sneeringer of US Steel, Donald Gilligan, brother of Secretary Sebelius and President of the National Association of Energy Service Companies, private equity honcho Mike Stakias and Jean Stakias, lobbyist Patrick Collins, the Podesta Group's Ellen Haas, heading up the firm's Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy Practice,  Scott Salmon of US Steel and Stephanie Salmon of the American Foundry Society, and Sandy Ford Miller and Jill Miller, Heather Podesta's parents.

Nancy Kasler contributed to this article.

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