A La Carte

On The Shopping Block: The Merchants of Rose Park

March 23, 2010

Never have the shops on P Street proven to be more of a destination for the residents of Georgetown than during the white-out of Snowmageddan. While waiting, it seemed forever for those of us whose cars were parked on side streets, for the plows to come, we could still get milk at 7- Eleven, pick up dry-cleaning and have our pants hemmed at Midtown Cleaners, purchase a bottle of wine (or two!) at Georgetown Wine & Spirits, select the perfect gift at West of Soho, and get provisions at Griffin Market.   

When I walked into Georgetown Wine & Spirits at 2701, I did what manager Manuel Michalowski (pictured at right) says most women do, go straight for the vodka! (Is that a bad thing?) Men dart for the beer, which, in this case means the locker room in the back, stocked chilly with over 40 varieties. Current owner, Ankur Andy” Desai has been catering to his Georgetown customers in a tradition that dates back to 1934! Gotta wonder from where those famous Clydesdales were dispatched when Anheuser-Busch (so the story goes) had them deliver a case of Budweiser to the White House following ratification of the 21st amendment. Besides the beer and spirits, especially vodka and single malt scotch, California Chardonnays and Cabernets, Malbec, and other Spanish wines top the list as neighborhood favorites today.  Stop by in the morning for the fresh baguettes.

P Street Pictures on the corner at 2621 is where I’ve been having my artwork framed for almost as long as Judy Schlosser has been in business:  27 years. Her children are grown now. Before she was married, Judy was an accountant who could never find the right frame. She hasn’t had that problem since 1983, when she opened her first shop in the middle of the block, now home to P Street Kids nursery school.                                          


With her from the start, Susan Barreca and Drena Anderson continue to provide expert custom framing.  Don’t miss the exquisite hand-gilded photo frames from Romania on sale through April 3rd.

If she only carried the best selection of frames in the city, it would be worth a visit, but the gallery has an extensive inventory of original art, including the cities watercolor etchings of Alexander Befelein, carried in Washington exclusively by P Street Pictures for 25 years, and a personal favorite. Forty original etchings (I have his "Napoli") along with Alexander’s recently published book are currently featured at the shop. Pictured at right is his "Washington DC."

If you’ve been to Morristown, New Jersey, you might remember Yvette Hausner’s first West of Soho boutique, a personal and home accessories shop much missed when she moved to Georgetown with her husband a year and a half ago. A whimsical collection of functional art which Yvette calls “music for the eye,” luckily for us, has a new home at 2613. From pottery to jewelry to masks and mannequins, if it’s artistic, fun and functional, you’re likely to find it at West of Soho.  Pictured above is a wall arrangement of Alexandre” Sasha” Sazonov's matchbook art.

His favorite decade is the 1950’s (50’s only furnishings for his 1953 built-home) but owner Bruce Nichols carries all manner of 20th century home furnishings from traditional to modern at Metropolitan Interiors at 2603. Wedged between iconic designer chairs (including a leather Charles Eames leather or a teak and cane Hans Wegner), you may spot a rare Gilbert Watrous lamp by Heifetz. A lighting connoisseur, Bruce owns all five winning lamps (different designers but all manufactured by Heifetz) from the Museum of Modern Art’s 1950 lighting design competition.  Pictured below, in the foreground is a pair of 1970’s faux bamboo chairs.

For 10 years, Jean-Pierre Antiques has graced the corner at 2601. His “forte is windows”, says owner Jean-Pierre Sarfati.  Those stylish European displays often prompt eager patrons to call Jean-Pierre’s home in the early morning, afraid their treasures will be sold before the store opens. While decorating tastes have changed in the last decade from French provincial to Swedish painted furniture to the current trend of natural wood, Jean-Pierre always has the “touch.” Not shy about mixing a Lucite trolley with a 19thcentury Italian Santos, the shop is as popular with decorators as it is with well-traveled Washingtonians. Open seven days a week, you might want to join the decorators on “Designer Mondays.” Pictured at right, Italian and South American Santos atop an 18th Century French country pearwood buffet.

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Pass the Tasting Spoon, Pronto!

March 13, 2010

It was my kind of race: a world-wide culinary marathon, Italian-style. Twenty-one Arclinea showrooms celebrated the first “Italia in Cucina, Live Cooking Day” on March 11th. Selected by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture for its innovative artistry in kitchen design, Arclinea hosted cooking demonstrations by locally praised chefs, broadcast live from each of the participating cities (including Beijing, Moscow, Padua, Seoul, Brussels, and Barcelona).  Capital city host and Arclinea president, Ezio Mattiace, invited us into his Georgetown showroom for a little gnocchi with Cesare Lanfranconi, Spezie restaurant’s executive chef.

What is Arclinea, you’re asking?  Today, it's a modern kitchen company directed by internationally acclaimed industrial designer, Antonio Citterio. The company, established in 1816 as an artisan business specializing in woodworking, re-invented itself over a century later as a line of exquisite kitchens, each uniquely designed for its inhabitants. Continuing the tradition of fine woodwork and ecologically-sound practices, Arclinea reuses and recycles many of its materials, including the wood veneers. 

Arclinea's metamorphic kitchen

With a zero tolerance for imitation Italian food and wine, the mission of the Ministry of Agriculture is to protect and promote Italy’s rich culinary history. So Chef Cesare was a perfect choice. Starting his Washington career as opening head chef for Café Milano, he later joined Roberto Donna’s Galileo restaurant and quickly became its executive chef. While cooking at James Beard House, Cesare met Chef Enzo Livia, owner of Spezie restaurant, and they soon joined forces where Cesare took the helm as executive chef.

The chef prepares dinner

As often happens when you invite friends over for dinner, everyone hangs out in the cucina, even when the living room is luscious leather-clad Poltrona Frau. The two companies share a modern aesthetic as well as a showroom.

Poltrona Frau, Arclinea's Georgetown "living room"

Thursday night was no exception. Masterfully presiding over the gnocchi di ricotta and ragu de carne alla Bolognese (notice the purple LED lights above the stainless steel stove keeping the fresh basil ready for pesto sauce), Chef Cesare shared some of his family recipes from Lecco (in the Lake Como region) with the 100 plus invited guests.  Per favore, savor the sauce, sip the wine and salivate over the décor.  I know I did!

Read more on Live Cooking Day in other cities.


Ezio introduces the menu to his guests

... prepared with a little help from the chef's friends including Ciro Monti (right)

Rita Venturelli, Italian Cultural Institute Director with Caterina de Carlo and Ezio Mattiace

Georgetown attorney, David Harrison with long-time friend, Cesare

Ezio with Tomaso Veneroso, US President of Confederation of Italian Entrepreneurs Worldwide

Enjoying the pasta

... the company

... and the wine with a view to neighbor Alchemie-Forever

Arclinea is at 1010 Wisconsin Avenue. Tel. 202.333.4161

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Playing With the White Box

March 6, 2010

Within hours of Monday’s opening, I saw for myself how much fun “playing with the white box” can be. M29 Lifestyle, an eco-kid-pet-friendly shop on the grounds of the Four Seasons Hotel is a fusion of the artisanal and international, with lines from jewelry to toys, doggie beds to folding bikes. Upstairs, in the 4,000 square foot space, formerly occupied by Coldwell Banker, is the largest (and bullet-proof) Four Seasons Presidential Suite.

"Bringing great retail to the guest experience” is what M29 Lifestyle is all about, according to Deborah Bush, Director of Retail for Chicago-based Strategic Hotels and Resorts. Deborah’s done this before, most recently with six boutiques in Chichen Itza, Mexico, but never on the street where her parents were married.  Prior to joining Strategic, a passion for visual merchandising led Deborah to Bloomingdale’s in her hometown of New York where she directed an executive training program before moving on to iconic fashion houses Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, and Bottega Veneta.

Each regional luxury boutique is unique to the locale, and M29 Lifestyle is no exception. The welcome mat is out for all at the corner store (yes, 29th & M) where an eclectic array of wares is displayed atelier-style in an industrial white-walled space with floor-to-ceiling windows.

“With something for every type of clientele, M29 appeals to the international visitor as well as the local customer," says “Liliana Baldassari, Public Relations Director for the Four Seasons Hotel, and she will be sure to send her guests here for that unique treasure. With 35 different vendors, eight exclusive-to-Georgetown lines, there’s something for everyone, starting with me, their first customer who loves her black Monserat DeLucca’s “Besso” bag (as modeled by Deborah Bush in photo).

Personal service and attention to detail are as integral to the concept as trunk shows and rotating art installations (Maggie Horne the first of many). For Allyson Wilder, M29’s manager and associate, Natasha Froelich, listening to customers will help keep the changing inventory cutting edge and fresh.

 Natasha Froelich, Allyson Wilder, Liliana Baldassari, Deborah Bush with Jess Brown Dolls

Four Season's concierge, Jeff Morgan stops by to greet Allyson Wilder

Essential Media Partners Glenn Weiss and Mark Kulkosky

Allyson and Natasha with Jonh Derian decoupage plates

Starting with the exclusives, here’s what you’ll find now: Baltimore jewelry designer Carolina (former stylist for Ralph Lauren), Monserat De Lucca bags (minus one), Marika Charles one-of-a-kind apparel (created with a special machine), Chan Luu, Vietnamese jewelry designer with her signature wrap bracelets, Moyna’s foldover beaded clutches and embellished minaudieres (pictured at right), Sway vintage and new jewelry, Beryll sunglasses, Jess Brown dolls designed for her daughter, and coming soon: Penelope Chilvers footwear & bags.

Dish about John Derian’s decoupage plates, test-drive an Areaware collapsible bike, and wonder where does the time go with a Project watch on your wrist.

M29 Lifestyle at 2800 PA Ave NW is open daily from 10 am to 7 pm, Monday thru Saturday and 12 to 5 pm on Sunday. Telephone: 202.295.2829

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