Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Holiday Project: Books for Young Readers

Years ago our late partner, Ellen Lepper, began a holiday tradition that we are proud to continue: collecting children's books and donating them to a Washington organization that would put them to good use. We ask everyone who attends our holiday party to bring one or more children's books, new or used. They seem happy to cooperate. At times some of our friends and colleagues even ship books to us by mail, if they can't attend the party.

This year we were pleased to donate the books we collected (see photo) to Reading Partners, a wonderful organization that provides reading assistance to 160 schools in low-income communities in eight states and the District of Columbia. Volunteers go to local schools and meet once a week with young students who need help with reading - reading to them, mentoring, encouraging.

We're proud to be connected with Reading Partners, and to continue a program that meant so much to Ellen.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Our holiday tradition of the 'Mystery Lunch'

This is the time of year that many of our close friends start asking, “Where was it? Where was it?” They’re talking about our Mystery Lunch.

Our holiday week is always particularly festive. On a Thursday evening before Christmas we have a Holiday Party at the office, attracting over 100 clients, family and friends. The food, wine and lively conversation flow for hours.  

Then, the next day, the Mystery Lunch.

Beginning about noon on that Friday, one of Washington’s top restaurants rolls out a tasting menu for our entire team, offering its best dishes – with wine to match – in a half-dozen or more courses, plus appetizers and a sampling of desserts.  In between the courses we have year-end announcements, anniversary presentations, and best of all, skits, songs and videos from our most creative staffers, including a production from our first-year “newbies.”  By the time we start heading out, we often see other customers filing in for dinner.

But best of all: the identity of the restaurant is a total secret until the absolute last minute. Even as we board cabs from the office, only the drivers know the address.

Needless to say, everyone begins showing curiosity before Thanksgiving – questioning, lobbying, even setting up a betting line. And the staff well understands the criteria that Mimi Limbach and I use in selecting the venue: it should be relatively new, or at least unknown to most of the team; the food and service must be top-rated; the chef and management must be happy to work with us to tailor a special, unforgettable meal; and it needs a private room that will allow a little rowdiness. Still, so far, the location has always been a big surprise.

This year? A first-rate Asian restaurant on 14th Street, Zentan. Everything about it was perfect, from the creative dishes (escolar sushi, Pekin chicken, sparkling sake, and the world’s best crispy Brussels sprouts) to the service and the “fun” quotient. You can see what a hit it was by the expressions in this photo of our team, taken at the lunch.

Over the years we’ve enjoyed some of the best restaurants in town – like Komi (generally considered No. 1 in DC), Mio, 1789, Bibiana, Ris, Oyamel and Zaytinya. And veteran Washington foodies will recognize the legendary names from the past, such as Dominiques, Galileo, Red Sage, Kinkead’s and CafĂ© Atlantico.

So that’s our Mystery Lunch, one of our favorite traditions. It’s become a special milestone for wrapping up one year and beginning to ring in a new one.

And Happy ’15 to you.