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Contributors July/August 2009

Ireland-based food writer Tom Doorley ate his way through Dublin for Gael Force! But after all the meals he had, he says lunch at La Maison and dinner at The Winding Stair outshined the rest. So how has the local dining scene matured lately? “I would like to think that Dublin restaurateurs have learned that honesty sells and that gimmicky food is very, very last year,” says Doorley, who has homes in County Cork, and Dublin. He is restaurant critic at The Irish Times and a contributor to The Field, BBC Olive Magazine and The Daily Mail.

After interviewing the summer lineup of chart-topping kid rock musicians headed to Jammin’ Java, writer Katie Knorovsky couldn’t stop humming too-catchy tyke tunes about “suitcases full of laughter” and outfielders daydreaming about snowcones. Meanwhile, catching a sneak peek of the revamped roof terrace at the new W Hotel—with its legendary view intact—left her speechless. Knorovsky is a contributing editor at and also writes for Washingtonian, National Geographic Traveler and Washington Post Express.

Playing a round of mini-golf in the name of journalism wasn’t too tough a challenge for Janelle Nanos, whose article, Heat Wave, highlights five splashy new hot spots opening this summer. Nanos is more travel writer than golfer, though. “I struggled with the The Mixing Bowl, but found out from the course designer that it still needed some tweaking. So I consider my putt-putt reputation secure,” she says. Nanos has written for The New York Times, New York, Marie Claire and Slate, and is an editor at National Geographic Traveler.

Alchimie Forever turns a mod pod in Georgetown into its artful outpost | By Janelle Nanos | Portrait by SOTA Dzine |

Jockeying for a place in front of the mirror as the oldest of four girls would give any woman a certain amount of skin care expertise. But as the daughter of a Swiss dermatologist and internist, Ada Polla truly has a leg up on the rest of us. Beauty was defined broadly in the Polla household, and her parents, the founders of the anti-aging herbal crème and treatment line Alchimie Forever, trafficked as much in fine art as they did in fine lines. The Forever Laser Institute, the company’s Geneva medispa, is attached to a contemporary art gallery featuring the work of artists who, in exchange for the gratis treatments they’re given, pay homage to the beauty line in original works of art. “Some people have a much more developed sense of aesthetics than others,” the 31-year-old says, having grown up with many of these artists joining her family around the dinner table. “And I know that for me, it’s probably developed to an extreme.” This summer, Polla brings that aesthetic to Georgetown with the opening of Alchimie Forever’s flagship showroom, the company’s first storefront in the U.S. The family’s DC envoy launched the line in the States after earning a B.A. in art history from Harvard and collecting her MBA at Georgetown. “My first thought was to work in a contemporary art gallery,” says Polla. “Or to become head of Sotheby’s, but then their CEO was indicted on charges of setting prices with Christie’s and that kind of turned me

off.” Off auction houses, perhaps, but on to better things. The beauty world’s gain is hardly the art world’s loss, as the Wisconsin Avenue space will soon embody the same gallery aesthetic as the Swiss medispa. It will be the “visual interpretation of the product line,” Polla explains. The company’s clinically designed serums and antioxidantenriched scrubs and cleansers will be on display, along with a treatment area where these items will be demonstrated on clients to highlight “the corporeal aspect of our products,” she says. But the pièce de résistance is the art itself—mixedmedia works, a wall mural and other pieces culled from the Swiss collection. Eventually, they will be replaced by the artist-ambassadors she hopes to cultivate in DC. These creative ambassadors are key to distinguishing Alchimie, says Polla, who acknowledges that as an “indie brand” they don’t have the budget to dangle endorsements before Hollywood starlets. But it’s a savvy strategy, one that equates their philosophy of product with art theory, and relies less on lab-coat praise than on word-of-mouth. “There are very few beauty brands that try to mix with contemporary art,” says Polla. “For us, it’s very personal. If we want to talk to the world of art, then we need to find art ambassadors. We can’t use an aesthetician for that.” Alchimie Forever, Waterfront Center, 1010 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Ste. 201,


THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER From top: The über-chic Alchimie Forever president and CEO Ada Polla brings the company’s art collection to DC. “I would much rather spend money on an art piece than a new pair of shoes,” she says. Pieces such as Beast in Me by Mat Collishaw and Le jour qui n’arrive jamais by Andrea Mastrovito will join her at the company’s new Georgetown showroom.

Counter Culture

Blue Ridge

Heat Wave

Summer nights sizzle with a slew of hip new stars and bars | By Janelle Nanos | Photography by John Healey | That buzz you’re hearing? It ain’t cicadas. A collection of new nightlife hubs are waking up the District’s typically sleepy summer. From farm-raised chops to beer and puttputt, here’s what to await and where to snag a table.

Public Bar NEIGHBORHOOD: Tucked among the clutch of hip clubs in South Dupont and designed by Grupo7, Public Bar reeks of chic in the sporty style of a top dog’s clubhouse. NOOK: Like the old diner jukeboxes, the 10-person booths that line the lower floor come with their own televisions, ensuring your game is always on. Screens are even inside the bathroom mirrors, so you won’t miss a minute. WHAT TO KNOW: Bottle service will be available without the high overhead, while the roof deck is the biggest on the block. 1214 18th St., NW, 202.233.2200.

H Street Country Club NEIGHBORHOOD: After populating edgy H Street with its hottest spots, all that was left for owner Joe Englert was to create a clubhouse of his very own. The 6,800- square-foot bar with bites is replete with a nine-hole mini-golf course and an Ann Cashion-designed menu. NOOK: Grab the cocoonshaped president’s table for a premier view overlooking the little links. WHAT TO KNOW: Lee Wheeler, a local sculptor who has “spent the last 20 years making things drunk-proof,” for bars in DC, is behind

both the décor and the DC-centric course itself. While much has been made of “Marion Barry’s Awakening,” watch out for the sixth hole on the Beltway-inspired “Mixing Bowl.” It’s a doozy. 1335 H St., NE, 202.399.4722.


he swam away from Georgetown’s Hook a year ago, chef Barton Seaver sought a more “accessible” kitchen for his sustainable menu choices. Blue Ridge’s bar scene is Glover Park’s new gem and the restaurant serves MidAtlantic fare sourced by local purveyors without gimmicks, says owner Eli Hengst. The menu (grilled trout, grass-fed rib eye, applepear-cardamom pie) would be recognizable to Thomas Jefferson’s entourage, and celebrates “simple American traditions.” SURPRISE: The restaurant merges two 110-year old row homes, and has an Amish-chic vibe, with quilts, glowing hanging lights and a classy long bar. Get some air at the farm tables around the backyard patio’s pond. WHAT TO KNOW: Hengst lives in the area and wanted to create a reliable neighborhood place “where you can have a drink and a meal for under $20.” To make sure the locals feel at home, only half the tables will be available for reservation. 2340 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202.333.4004.

Columbia Firehouse NEIGHBORHOOD: Owner

Michael Babin believes his newest venture will fill the glaring chophouse and cocktail void in Old Town. “There are more steakhouses per capita in DC than perhaps anywhere else,” he says. “But there are none

here.” The 19th-century building’s handsome upstairs dining room will serve locallysourced cuts, while the downstairs, with its vaulted glass ceiling, will offer “bar steaks,” smaller plates and a wine list cultivated by Kris Mullins. NOOK: A third-floor room with its own bar is hidden behind a wrought-iron spiral staircase and is a perfect small event space. WHAT TO KNOW: With 8,000 square feet, Babin says the Firehouse is the venue he’s been longing for. Expect the team from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Rustico, EatBar, Tallula, Vermilion) to come together for wine, dinners and tastings. 109 S. Saint Asaph St., Old Town Alexandria.

Room 11 NEIGHBORHOOD: “The beauty of 11th Street is that it’s an alternative to all the craziness on 14th Street—the Target and the Ruby Tuesday,” says owner Nick Pimentel, who hopes to draw neighbors with a easy to eat “one-utensil” menu and choosy wine list for the bar. “We’re trying to turn it into a little Main Street,” he says. NOOK: Snag one of the bar stools along the bay window to peoplewatch. The drink rails are big enough to hold plates. WHAT TO KNOW: Save room for dessert. Pimentel’s wife, Lizzy Evelyn (co-owner of the Paisley Fig bakery), will be serving up cakes, tortes and other treats—and they’ll be available for takeout. 3234 11th St., NW, 202.332.2324.

July August DC Magazine  
July August DC Magazine  

A selection of articles I wrote for the July/August issue of DC Magazine.