The phrase “to break bread” is usually metaphorical, conveying a convivial meal shared among friends. But at the Tuesday-night cocktail party at the French ambassador’s swanky residence, loaves were literally being ripped apart as a swarm of attendees dived into a pile of baguettes with the kind of gusto more typically exhibited by a pack of wolves than a designer-heeled guest list.
The alluring display of carbs from local purveyor Lyon Bakery, piled atop a table beneath a glittering chandelier, was apparently like taboo catnip to the partygoers, a mix of the city’s foodies, media and political types, who had gathered at the ambassador’s home to toast the second edition of Washington’s Michelin Guide. At first, it wasn’t clear: Were they just an artfully arranged decorative display, or was this actually on the menu?
Former congresswoman Jane Harman was one of the first to dive in. “I’m doing it,” the elegant California Dem announced as she tore into what looked like a chunk of ciabatta. Others followed, and the scene soon resembled a no-utensils-needed medieval dining hall — albeit one where the diners felt just a tad guilty about consuming so much starch (“It’s the table of sin,” moaned one indulger). Later, Ambassador Gerard Araud encouraged guests to take a loaf home with them, and soon, distinguished suits were being dusted with flour as people departed with loaves tucked under their Brooks Brothers-clad arms.
Expect to see SoulCycle classes just a little more crowded for the next few days.
But if the bread spread was the party highlight, far fancier food was its purported raison d’etre: The chefs from the restaurants who made the coveted list had stepped out of their usual spots behind the city’s best stoves to bask in a champagne toast and trade their usual sauce-splattered whites for sleek suits.
(A quick recap: The Inn at Little Washington, Minibar, and Pineapple and Pearls kept their two stars, and Komi and Métier joined the one-star ranks, which include Blue Duck Tavern, the Dabney, Fiola, Kinship, Masseria, Plume, Rose’s Luxury, Sushi Taro and Tail Up Goat.)
There was little drama over the list to rehash as the flutes of bubbly were passed around — no one lost a star, and no one was launched into the rarefied air of a three-star designation.
Patrick O’Connell, the Inn’s proprietor who has made no secret of his star-lust, was taking the long view. “What can I say? I’m patient,” said the uber-innkeeper who is preparing to celebrate his establishment’s 40th anniversary. “I can wait another 39 years.”
Only a soupςon of discord: When Michelin’s Michael Ellis called for Komi’s Johnny Monis to join the chefs earning stars, he was nowhere to be found. “Maybe he’s still mad from last year,” Ellis sorta-joked.
Those raising glasses to stability included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his wife, Hilary Geary Ross; Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.); Fox News anchor Bret Baier; ABC’s Jonathan Karl; decorator-to-the-stars Darryl Carter; and the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons.
And forget stars (le gasp!): The biggest applause of the night wasn’t for any of the chefs in attendance but rather for José Andrés, the restaurateur who has been volunteer cheffing in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, and marshaling donations and support on his popular social media feeds. Andrés, who runs Minibar, wasn’t able to join the swanky crowd, but Ellis announced an achievement possibly more impressive than any star: “He’s serving his millionth meal in Puerto Rico.”
(Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Johnny Monis attended; he did not.)