A La Carte

Hats on, pinkies up for Fairmont’s tea party

November 13, 2011

In a tribute to all things tea, The Fairmont hotels and resorts around the world celebrated National Tea Day, November 12, 2011.

Mary Bird, food and beverage director, Hubert Billod-Morel and Pat Skantz (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Mary Bird, food and beverage director, Hubert Billod-Morel and Pat Skantz

A most delightful setting for any celebration, the lobby in The Fairmont Washington, D.C. was transformed into a sun-drenched English garden party, complete with scones, clotted cream and raspberry jam.  

Executive sous chef Ian Bens and executive pastry chef Aron Weber created the lovely tea fare, in honor of Washington Protocol Expert Carole Randolph.

Pat Skantz toasts to tea (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Pat Skantz toasts to tea

Arranged by Fairmont public relations director, Diana Bulger, guests included Barbara Ayers, Julie Taboh, Pauline Vahati, Mary Bird, Pat Skantz, Peggy Conley, Barbara McConaghy and Sharon Oakley.

Enjoying mini-sandwiches and pastries as the tea steeped, guests toasted the most cherished of British traditions with a bit of the bubbly, wine and cocktails.

Fairmont’s new regional vice president and general manager, Mark Andrew stopped by to visit with the guests.


Sharon Oakley, Carole Randolph, Peggy Conley, Diana Bulger, Julie Taboh and Barbara Ayers (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Sharon Oakley, Carole Randolph, Peggy Conley, Diana Bulger, Julie Taboh and Barbara Ayers

Mark Andrew chats with Carole and Diana (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Mark Andrew chats with Carole and Diana

Pat Skantz and Carole Randolph (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Pat Skantz and Carole Randolph

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Departing for the Mandarin Oriental

November 8, 2011

Prepare to land in a tranquil oasis where your arrival is met with orchids and cranberry hibiscus tea, a most welcome sign that anything herein that buzzes or vibrates will be invigorating, not an interruption from the office.

This first visit was about starting to turn back the clock …. naturally. Nothing invasive or aggressive. No chemicals, no injectables, no down time.

Mission: to infuse my skin with vitamins while re-educating the muscles beneath the surface to regenerate cells.  

As Mandarin Oriental Spa director, Penny Kriel  explains, “The Mandarin has always had a reputation for being very holistic and committed to 100% natural and paraben-free products. With a desire for more results-driven treatments, we researched CACI, which has been quite popular in the U.K., and discovered this incredible non-invasive treatment.”

The Spa has partnered with the Somme Institute, which uses “Molecular Dispersion Technology 5 (MDT5) a revolutionary vitamin/protein delivery system that allows highly engineered vitamins (A, B3, B5, C and E) to go deep within the skin, repairing years of sun damage …” 

Mary Kong, my friendly aesthetician with flawless skin, invited me into her treatment room as she described the treatment. "CACI (Computer Aided Cosmetology Instrument pronounced Casey) brings your face back to what it once was. Like workout for the body, it’s a workout for the face. It lifts, tones, tightens, smoothes and resurfaces, It treats light scars and pigmentation, peels and exfoliates.” To be precise, the Mandarin uses the CACI ULTRA model which combines facial toning with skin regeneration technologies.

Mary Kong prepares guest for CACI facial (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Mary Kong prepares guest for CACI facial

Before she started, Mary said the texture of my skin was good and well hydrated. Diplomatically she asked if I was getting enough sleep and whether I was under stress. No and yes. Dark circles, wrinkling around the eyes, all areas she wanted to focus on.  She was candid. “I could sell you a new eye cream but there’s no substitute for rest, managing stress and a good diet.” So the good news, my moisturizers were working. But my hair was dry so a Moroccan Oil mask was in order, left in during the 80 minute CACI facial.

With the Mandarin since it opened in 2004, Mary was as enthusiastic as if she had just started with the five-star luxury hotel group. “It’s a wonderful spa, a mix of the holistic and results-driven, where aestheticians have the creative freedom to customize treatments for all our guests.”

As I reclined on a firm bed covered in fluffy white towels, Mary applied the ultrasonic handset “vibrating at 27,000 vibrations per second.” Soundlessly applying pressure, the wand exfoliated while it power cleaned.  

This time, A-Bomb, a Somme Institute moisturizer, was applied. Using the same micro-currents, my face was left super-hydrated after the cream was infused deep into my skin.

La Bella Donna make-up room (Photo by: Judith Beermann) La Bella Donna make-up room

Next, LED light therapy to soften lines. With a “wrinkle comb” resembling a metal spatula, Mary painlessly plumped out and softened deep lines, especially around the eyes.

Immediate result:  Skin refreshed, firm and no signs of redness. For maximum benefits which are expected to last over a year, a series of at least six facials within two months is advised. Basically the muscles are retrained to generate new cell growth after repeated treatments.

The most appealing part is that results are entirely based on my face. No artificial plumping, no changing the original facial proportions with fillers or Botox to mimic a younger version of me. Love the principle of restoring youthful firmness using my own muscles.

Meet me back here in January for a full report.

The Mandarin Oriental Spa offers customizable treatments for the face and body and carries (exclusively to Washington, D.C.) La Bella Donna, a line of anti-aging mineral make-up.

Penny Kriel, Spa Director (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Penny Kriel, Spa Director

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is located at 1330 Maryland Avenue, S.W. Tel: 202.787.6101


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Fortessa: setting the world’s best tables

November 5, 2011

Perle Mesta and Pamela Harriman, the legendary hostesses famous for high society parties, would have approved of Fortessa, the popular supplier of superior dinnerware. But too bad for them, Fortessa wasn’t around then.

It is now.

And, Fortessa is making heads turn at the table.  Often, guests in-the-know will go to a multi-star hotel or restaurant – and that includes in Georgetown – and peek under the plates to see if the Fortessa logo is there.  Chance are, it’s there. Fortessa products can also be found at the finest retailers include Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Sur La Table, and Williams-Sonoma.

The two entrepreneurs behind the hospitality providers are brothers:  Scott Hamberger – a Georgetown University grad – and Eric Hamberger (Duquesne University).  Both had their eyes on careers in business.

“The only question was what kind of business,” Scott said in an interview with The Georgetown Dish.  Way back when, they initially launched a career in international trade – with a credit card advance.  They toiled out of a tiny office in McLean, Va., stacked with boxes.

Eric and Scott Hamberger circa 1993 (Photo by: Fortessa) Eric and Scott Hamberger circa 1993

Their first product was Indian jewelry “because my mother is from New Mexico,” Scott explained.  It was the 80’s, and they held wholesale parties. “The Sundance catalogue stole our thunder, but we knew we had identified the right trend.”

From there, it was an easy leap to porcelain.

“We quickly identified inefficiencies in the market and found an excellent product from the German manufacturer, Eschenbach.”  One challenge they faced was that consumers were accustomed to name brands, not necessarily good brands.  Eschenbach didn’t catch on with consumers, but the brothers found a different response in commercial food service, where quality was paramount.

They had a sophisticated marketing approach.  “We focused on the top 30% high-end market, where food service operators are selling an experience.”

The company, founded in 1993, was first called the Great American Trading Company, Inc., with a mere two employees.  Its focus from the very start was on quality dinnerware for culinary professionals and for the home.

In 1997, the company expanded its line to flatware, glassware and tabletop accessories, becoming a “total table” operation, and pioneered the concept of specialty dinnerware for the commercial foodservice market with a “Cuisine Collection” of square, rectangular and oval shapes.

The Fortessa brand was born.

Why was the newborn company named “Fortessa?”

(Photo by: Mark Poss)

“The Italian word for fortress is fortezza,” said Scott.  “We Anglicized it with the ‘ss.’ We wanted a name that conveys solidity and strength with a flair for style.”

By the late 90’s, Fortessa was well established, and they started developing more of their products with factories all over the world.

Today, Fortessa is a leading designer, developer and marketer of quality tableware for the high-end commercial foodservice market globally, as well as for the luxury consumer market. Fortessais headquartered in Sterling, Virginia, site of its only outlet retail store.

Currently with more than 170 employees and associates worldwide, Fortessa’s products appear in more than 20 countries.

One of their signature tableware lines, the “Accentz Collection,” is “a canvas for the professional chefs to present their artwork.” said Scott.

“Our customers sell memories. Our products are part of that experience.  And that experience isn’t reserved for formal occasions. You can also eat cereal at breakfast off them.”

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