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Counting Happy Customers Not Stems at UltraViolet

June 27, 2016

I wanted to see for myself how Fabio Ripoli designs the most exquisite and unique arrangements. He's been doing this now at the shop he owns at 123131st Street for close to 10 years, and every time I see (or am lucky enough to receive) an UltraViolet creation, I'm dazzled.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

So I asked him what makes him so good at this. "I always like to please people," he says. "Always trying to do something different." Im thinking that lots of people may have those same intentions and the result is far from enchanting. "Nothing goes out the door unless we love it," he adds.

Aalsmeer Flower Auction (Photo by: Fabio Ripoli) Aalsmeer Flower Auction

For the first time, this spring Fabio traveled to the Netherlands to see for himself where 80% of his stems originate. There, the largest flower auction in the world is held in a huge greenhouse. It's where what Fabio selects twice a week through his local distributor is cut that morning and flown to DC the following day. One of the reasons that his bouquets last so long.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

The other 20% come from local distributors, primarily from Wollam Gardens.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Today when I stopped by, Fabio was working on an arrangment with only the parameters of price, vase size and color scheme. He went to work starting with Kiwi Branches.

Starting with the Kiwi Branches (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Starting with the Kiwi Branches

As we chatted, he went downstairs for some Coral Charm Peonies and added them to the Amaryllis, Hellebores and Thistle.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

Looked finished to me but just then, the customer came in as he was adding the finishing touch: the subtle two-petaled Siamese Calla Calla Lily!

"We have no recipes here," explained Fabio. "I always start with a vision, but each arrangement is unique. We never count stems, it's really all about making the customer happy."

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

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Karin Tanabe's 'The Gilded Years' is Pure Gold

June 19, 2016

Anita Hemmings (Photo by: Archives & Special Collections, Vassar College Library) Anita Hemmings

Busboys and Poets recently hosted a conversation with Georgetown-based author Karin Tanabe and LaFleur Paysour, communications director for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The occasion was the launch of Tanabe's third novel, The Gilded Years, based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, a descendant of slaves who passed for white and graduated from Vassar College. This, at the turn of the 20th century, a time when African-Americans were banned from many universities and 20 years from women being allowed to vote. 


As only Tanabe can, she weaves a poignant, coming of age drama, set in a time of great privilege for some, into a page-turning reminder of unconscionable social unjustice.


As I did with The List and The Price of Inheritance, I devoured The Gilded Years in one sitting. Tanabe answered my most pressing questions.


JB: Did you write the book in sequence or did you start with the denouement?


KT: Surprisingly, I did write the book in sequence, though that wasn’t really my initial plan. But as I developed Anita’s character, I felt that I needed to write her for a long time before I could pen the end, as it is such a pivotal scene. It’s not how I wrote the last two books, but it worked for The Gilded Years.  

Craig Fischer & Daphne Fischer (makeup by Ada) with the author at Busboys and Poets (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Craig Fischer & Daphne Fischer (makeup by Ada) with the author at Busboys and Poets

JB: How did you research dialogue for the period?


KT: Oh, the language. Let me tell you, there was more than one instance when my first editor, the woman I use before I turn it into my editor at Simon and Schuster, wrote “anachronistic” in big red letters. So even though I really tried to stay true to the era, it was something I had to work hard on. I remember when I was fact checking my book, I had a scene where the girls want to go get ice cream cones and it took until my fifth read for me to realize that the ice cream cone didn’t exist back then.


As for researching specific language, I was looking not only at a short time period, 1896 to 1898, but at a very particular group of women. These young women were some of the most educated women in America. The Seven Sisters colleges, Vassar in particular, were as good as it got in the Gilded Age, so these women spoke very differently than other teens and twenty-somethings of the era. So I mostly read things written by and for these women. I read every issue of the Vassar student newspaper from 1895 to 1900, which was quite helpful. 


Also, I was able to buy Anita’s yearbook on eBay, which was filled with poetry and short stories. And the author Jean Webster, who was class of 1901 at Vassar, set both her books When Patty Went to College – 1903

And Daddy Long Legs – 1910 at Vassar. They were incredibly helpful when trying to learn about the girls every day lives, and definitely their speech. 


Now with Anita’s speech, her father was a janitor and her mother was an innkeeper during the summers. They certainly did not have college educations, and most likely did not have high school educations. But they were still at least on the fringe of elite black Boston, and I wanted them to sound that way.


JB: Was the photo in the book of Anita the only one available? Any of her husband, children, siblings?


KT: I have several pictures of her family, but there were limits of how many I could put in the book. The one of Anita that I used was the first I ever saw of her and has the most meaning for me. She was quite a beauty! 



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Legendary Watergate Hotel Reopens

June 15, 2016

Tuesday evening marked the eagerly awaited return of a legendary property. Owners Jacques and Rakel Cohen of New York-based international real estate developer, Euro Capital Properties, celebrated the grand reopening of the iconic Watergate Hotel following a $125 million renovation. 

Guests check-in (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Guests check-in

VIP's including former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and wife Elizabeth Dole, actor Vincent De Paul, William Kennedy Smith and his wife Anne Henry and Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea, Miguel Ntutumu Evuna, among others, celebrated the reopening of the historic property. 

Cotton candy-garnished champagne (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Cotton candy-garnished champagne

With a playful nod to The Watergate's distinct heritage, guests checked in with 1960's-inspired secretaries -- complete with typewriters, rolodexes, and cigarettes on the desk. The extravagent black tie mid-century-themed opening party dazzled guests with sumptuous decor, impeccable service, ever-flowing champagne and delicious cuisine.

Andrea Cohen chats with Cindy Adams in The Next Whiskey Bar (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Andrea Cohen chats with Cindy Adams in The Next Whiskey Bar

Festivities began on a red carpeted terrace and continued into the Moretti Ballroom, named after Italian architect Luigi Moretti who originally designed the hotel to look like a sail on the Potomac.

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

The hotel’s current owners tapped world-renowned designer Ron Arad and Italian designer Moroso to complement the avant-garde architecture with bold curves and mid-century modern design while restoring some of hotel’s original structures including the staircase and indoor pool. Acclaimed architectural and interior design firm BBGM was the architect for the project.

Ice sculpture sushi bar (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Ice sculpture sushi bar

“The Watergate is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous and illustrious hotels in the world,” said Rakel Cohen, Senior Vice President of Design and Development, Euro Capital Properties. “We paid meticulous attention to every detail in its renovation and we’re excited to bring our vision to life. Its intrigue is driven by evocative design, from the deep-rooted retro feel to the mystique that lies behind every curve of the hotel’s architecture.”

Dancing in the Moretti Ballroom (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Dancing in the Moretti Ballroom

Before a music-filled evening of dancing, guests enjoyed cocktails, a lavish buffet, including an ice sculpture sushi bar, and signature whiskey tasting in The Next Whiskey Bar. 

Watergate pool (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Watergate pool

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