Main Dish

Despite Fear of Flying, She Soars: The Washington Diplomat's Anna Gawel

August 11, 2019

Posing with a cutout of The Diplomat’s cover page. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Posing with a cutout of The Diplomat’s cover page.
The Washington Diplomat, premier publication of the diplomatic and international communities in Washington and New York, celebrates its 25th Anniversary this fall. In a canabalizing media landscape, that's several lifetimes. A treasured, endangered species. How do they do it? With a readership of 120,000 including nearly 200 embassies, The Diplomat combines in-depth international news and commentary with features on culture, food, arts and the international glitterati of the D.C. social scene. We caught up with its managing editor Anna Gawel recently during a brief interlude between overseas jaunts.

How did you get to the Washington Diplomat?

I stumbled into it. I’m from the area, and I studied journalism at the University of Maryland. I majored in broadcast and did some stints at a local radio station and a PBS Show, “To the Contrary.” But I realized that I really preferred more in-depth reporting and so I began looking on the print side. I wasn’t familiar with The Diplomat but discovered that it was a really nice, independent, family-owned publication. So I started there as an assistant and just slowly made my way up. I really enjoyed the diversity of the work and am really proud of what we produce. 

Anna with husband Thomas Coleman at the White House Correspondents’ Pre-Party that The Washington Diplomat hosted at the U.S. Institute of Peace this May. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Anna with husband Thomas Coleman at the White House Correspondents’ Pre-Party that The Washington Diplomat hosted at the U.S. Institute of Peace this May.
What’s your favorite thing about your work?

I think especially in today’s chaotic media landscape, to have the luxury of stepping back and taking a long-term perspective instead of ambulance-chasing the daily headlines is incredibly interesting to me and rewarding. Being able to still do in-depth, long form journalism with a focus on foreign affairs is still sadly a bit rare. To produce that quality content that is still appreciated and to write about things that number one, really offer context on complicated issues -- so we kind of have this huge broad outlook on the world – but then also to really get into the grassroots of the diplomatic community here – whether it’s covering art exhibitions or ambassadors speaking at local think tanks – I always describe it as this hybrid of world news but also a local, grassroots, community-oriented publication.  

Teenage Anna and her Polish grandmother, celebrating Christmas Eve (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Teenage Anna and her Polish grandmother, celebrating Christmas Eve
How did you get interested in international affairs?

I was actually born in Warsaw, Poland, and my family moved here when I was very young – four years old. This was shortly before martial law was instituted in ‘82.  And so I think coming from an immigrant background you kind of inevitably grow up with that international perspective. The combination of growing up in D.C. where you can’t avoid politics – my parents were always interested in it and we would talk about it at the dinner table – and also having that international connection – it kind of became a natural fit. And then of course after 9/11, when I really started working in the industry, it coalesced to the realization of how much international affairs impacts people’s backyards.

Do you like to travel?

I love it. My husband and I visited Peru a few months ago, and we just got back from an Alaska cruise. I pride myself on being a bargain travel hunter, so whenever I see a good deal, I kind of snap it up. Over the years for work I’ve been to Taiwan, Morocco. Most recently I went to Jamaica for a big climate change conference where Richard Branson and the Caribbean governments are opening this new initiative to make the Caribbean the world’s first climate smart zone.  

Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru last year. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru last year.
You have the travel bug.

Oh, of course! I don’t think you can be working in international affairs and not want to see what you’re writing about. Although I don’t pretend to be that brave and head into Libya or Syria. I have some brave freelance writers who do that. When you grow up in a multicultural household it’s a natural instinct. My husband loves to travel.

Do you prefer to go overseas when you travel?

Anna Gawel, age 16, on her first solo trip to Paris (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Anna Gawel, age 16, on her first solo trip to Paris
I do. I often discuss this with ambassadors, because their inclination is to visit as much of the U.S. as possible. Whereas when I have free time my inclination is to visit as much of Europe or other parts of the world as possible. And something I notice is that I really haven’t visited many parts of America. I’m trying to make a vow to visit more of the U.S., more of the Midwest and the West Coast. I know ambassadors who have visited all 50 states. They’ve made it their mission. So that kind of spurred me to visit more of the U.S.

Holding her May 2019 cover profile of the New Zealand ambassador at a discussion The Diplomat hosted with the Estonian ambassador at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel. (Photo by: Courtesy of Anna Gawel) Holding her May 2019 cover profile of the New Zealand ambassador at a discussion The Diplomat hosted with the Estonian ambassador at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel.
Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.

I almost never watch TV or movies. I’m a reader and I only get my news from print (naturally). The only thing I watch occasionally to decompress are Bravo’s “Real Housewives” series or World War II documentaries. Also, while I love traveling, flying absolutely terrifies me!

Is there anything you would like to say that I haven’t asked about?

We are so grateful for the diplomatic community’s embracing us. You’re nowhere without your audience and we certainly wouldn’t have made it 25 years without them. We’re proud and we would like to think we have done a service, but in the media landscape when you hit 25 years – you have nothing but gratitude.

The Washington Diplomat will host a reception at the Embassy of Argentina Oct. 11 to celebrate its 25th anniversary with friends from the diplomatic corps, U.S. government officials and the business community.


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El Camino Blazes a Trail to Great Mexican

August 4, 2019

Fresh, fresh, fresh (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Fresh, fresh, fresh
El Camino, the Mexican eatery in Bloomingdale, is blazing a new trail with fresh classics, artisan cocktails, and elegant design. Under captivating new ownership by chef Marvin Solorzano with partners Elsa Guerra and Angel Zavala, the restaurant is finally on a par with its neighbors Red Hen and Boundary Stone, stars of D.C. and the region.

At the soft opening, guests swoon over chicken and beef flautas and tacos. The guacamole grabs you with its out-of-the garden freshness. This chef-driven menu delights the senses with creative classics.

The neighborhood is known for restaurants that draw city-wide notice. Now, Bloomingdale can really brag.

Prickly Pear and Mango Margaritas, a taste of heaven (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Prickly Pear and Mango Margaritas, a taste of heaven
El Camino ("road" in Spanish) is not just the path to home-made, fresh cuisine. A margarita on the rocks was transformed by cucumber and a subtle garnish, rather than salt. Mixologist Angel Zavala then poured a frozen prickly pear and mango margarita for a guest to sample. They don't call him "Angel" for nothing -- these potions are straight out of heaven. 

Elsa Guerra and Marvin Solorzano (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Elsa Guerra and Marvin Solorzano
The redesign (which Solorzano and the team did themselves) has created a much more elegant, inviting open space. El Camino will be available for private parties, as well as serving dinner, brunch and great happy hours seven days a week.

Solorzano and Zavala met at Alero, the longstanding Cleveland Park establishment, and have worked across the D.C. restaurant scene. 

Angel Zavala, mixologist (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Angel Zavala, mixologist
But for them and partner Elsa Guerra, this is not just business. Having renovated the interior with their own hands and creating everything from scratch, they're invested with their time, money and belief. Solorzano directs the menu and supervises the kitchen, Zavala is busy creating cocktails and Guerra assists with the books and the front of the house. El Camino, a boon to Bloomingdale, is their baby. 

El Camino is located at 108 Rhode Island Ave. NW.

 

 


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Diplomatic Star's Departure Dims the Lights in D.C.

July 29, 2019

Henry David Thoreau, the American trancendentalist, famously journeyed into the woods to get away from the congestion and chaos of the city.  “I went to the woods," he wrote, "because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." 

Klaas Keirse of the Embassy of Belgium, Emma Nilsson of the Embassy of Sweden, and Tom Kelly of the British Embassy (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Klaas Keirse of the Embassy of Belgium, Emma Nilsson of the Embassy of Sweden, and Tom Kelly of the British Embassy
Friends and admirers of the Embassy of Finland's beloved First Secretary Sara Stenroos gathered on a terrace under the Embassy's forest canopy to say good-bye as she leaves Washington -- for now -- to take on an assignment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki.

Sara's elegance, intelligence, generosity and warmth left a mark in Washington.  She and Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi not only have been champions of Finnish culture and its leadership on the environment and creating a more peaceful world, but they have also been active in supporting those around them, from the diplomatic community, to humanitarian and justice causes, to artists of all kinds. 

Dr. Antti Stenroos (Sara's husband), Steve Smout of the Embassy of Belgium, and  Dora Zombori of the Embassy of Hungary, and (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Dr. Antti Stenroos (Sara's husband), Steve Smout of the Embassy of Belgium, and Dora Zombori of the Embassy of Hungary, and
Those raising a glass to Sara recently "in the woods" included Tom Kelly of the British Embassy, Emma Nilsson of the Embassy of Sweden, Klaas Keirse and Steve Smout of the Embassy of Belgium, Dora Zombori of the Embassy of Hungary, Valerie Kirkpatrick, Perry Lum and Emma Hathaway of CARE, Matthew Costello of Finn Church Aid Americas, and Michael Yen-Kai Chen of the Taipai Economic and Cutlural Representative Office in the United States. 

Sara said: "Having lived previously in the States, transatlantic relations have always had a special place in my heart. My three-year tour in D.C. taught me many valuable lessons in diplomacy, but in particular, it substantiated once more the importance of making personal connections. What is more, my family and I developed friendships that will undoubtedly endure for the rest of our lives."

Valerie Kirkpatrick, Emma Hathaway and Perry Lum of CARE, with Michael Yen-Kai Chen, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. (Photo by: Beth Solomon) Valerie Kirkpatrick, Emma Hathaway and Perry Lum of CARE, with Michael Yen-Kai Chen, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.
Journeying "into the woods" at the Embassy of Finland in Washington will continue to be a path to a peaceful, beautiful, kind oasis in the middle of Washington's chaos, thanks to the Finnish people and Ambassador Kauppi's elegant leadership. And we hope to see Sara's sparkling light among the beautiful trees at the Embassy soon again. 

Kiitos paljon, Sara! Come back soon!

 


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