With a VIP gala opening, Georgetown's Social Safeway is back on the market

After a yearlong renovation, Georgetown's popular Safeway supermarket hosts a VIP grand reopening event with several of Washington's elite on the guestlist.
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Washington, meet the Socialtini.

The new signature martini debuted before Georgetown glitterati Wednesday night at an exclusive VIP gala awash in stiletto heels and Dom Perignon. A Belvedere vodka fountain and brie were flown in from Paris. A white-jacketed sommelier dashed among 10 wine bars pouring Louis Roederer Cristal and Robert Mondavi Reserve to show off the host's 2,500-bottle, climate-controlled cellar.

The assistant White House chef, Sam Kass, ladled out cool cucumber avocado soup and white bean toast with fresh herbs. Vice president Al Gore's social secretary, Philip Dufour, now an event planner, stood at the door greeting people as they arrived in limo after limo. The 650 guests -- a who's who of U.S. senators and representatives, lobbyists, television commentators and publishing executives -- mingled in sequined ball gowns, black cocktail dresses and linen suits.

In the produce section.

The Social Safeway is back! After a year of remodeling, during which the city's elite had to buy their artisan breads and imported olives at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Giant and Dean & DeLuca, one of the District's most famous supermarkets is roomier, greener, foodier.

The company saw fit to throw a red-carpet celebration worthy of a state dinner, with a publicity budget that apparently rivals that of "Avatar." Glossy silver tri-fold invitations went out to 2,000 Important People. After all, this is the District's first 24-hour full-service grocery.

"We'd like to think we can have this become a bit of a tourist destination," says Craig M. Muckle, a Safeway public affairs manager, with a straight face. A must stop for visitors from, say, Fort Wayne, Ind.? "They've got to come see it," he beams.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was an early arrival with his wife, Abby. "Wow!" the congressman said. "I like the food business. If I travel anywhere in the world, I usually take a walk through the grocery store."

The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy sipped a Socialtini as he recalled the travails of the past year: grocery shopping without his neighborhood Safeway. He went to Whole Foods looking for Frosted Flakes until one of his Christ Church Georgetown parishioners told him the box with the tiger was not sold there. "I'm so glad the Safeway is back," he said.

CBS News's Rita Braver and Bill Plante came, as did D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Ed Gillespie, former chief of staff for president George W. Bush.

The chatter was unmistakably Washington -- the midterms, high-speed rail, charity work -- as members of the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra played Sinatra songs over by the rotisserie chicken.

Yes, we're talking about a supermarket, where you buy Bounty and bananas. But the new Social Safeway is so much more.

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