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D.C. Culinary Question


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Guest ncm2169

I used to visit DC on business about 5 times a year, but that ended nearly 20 years ago. I recently saw a story about how Jackie Kennedy "lived" at the Jockey Club when she was First Lady, so I googled for the Jockey Club.

 

Did I dream it, but wasn't the Jockey Club at the Ritz-Carlton, and didn't they have the absolute best sauteed crab cakes in town? And also a wonderful bar with a real fireplace? The google search mentions the place being in a Westin.

 

Can someone bring me up to date? x(

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You are correct. Jackie did dine at the Jockey Club and so did Nancy Reagan. Here's a bit of inside baseball hotel industry background.

 

The hotel in question is currently known as the Westin Embassy Row located at 21st and Massachusetts Avenue in Dupont Circle. This hotel was also the boy hood home of Al Gore, Jr. Originally known as The Fairfax Hotel, it was owned by Al Gore, Jr.'s uncle and his father was said to be a silent partner when he was senator. Gore Jr. spent time living in this hotel and attending St. Alban's Prep School. It was more like a residential hotel in those days.

 

It is also rumored that Jackie had liaisons with one or two of her secret service agents while JFK was banging various women in the White House. Perhaps that’s why the JC was her favorite restaurant it provided cover for these trysts. This story was told to me by two history professors and a former speech writer for LBJ so I'm prepared to give it some credence.

 

The hotel was purchased by an Arab sheik and eventually converted to a Ritz-Carlton hotel. It operated as a Ritz-Carlton through the 1980s when the Jockey Club was Nancy Reagan's favorite restaurant. However, the sheik and Ritz-Carlton had major disputes over minimum standards and management fees. In the mid 1990's Ritz-Carlton pulled the flag from this and four other hotels owned by the sheik because of his refusal to upgrade the property to their standards.

 

The hotel bounced around a bit in ownership and was a Luxury Collection and was known as the Westin Fairfax for a bit which confused guests. Hence the name was changed to Westin Embassy Row. Still the hotel has been in need of serious upgrade over the years and finally that was begun a couple of years back. On a site inspection two years ago plaster fell from the ceiling of a room I was looking at with a sales manager. I did not book the hotel for the conference needless to say.

 

Another tid bit, the hotel is across the street from the Embassy of Indonesia. This grand edifice was the former home of Marian Walsh McLean, an owner of the Hope Diamond. She used to walk her dog, great dane I think, with the diamond hanging from the dog's collar.

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Guest ncm2169

Thanks, AVG! :7 That's the kind of inside baseball I appreciate. }(

 

But what about the crab cakes? I can almost taste them from the first time I had them. :9

 

And, does the bar/lounge still have the fireplace? Do they still allow smoking cigars?

 

Many of my visits were in late November/early December. The ambience of the bar was utterly awesome, sitting in front of the fireplace on a chilly Fall evening, sipping a post-dinner Remy and smoking a good (illegal) Cuban. GAWD, I want to purchase plane tickets tomorrow. }( }(

 

P.S. The tale about dog with the diamond is priceless.

 

P.S.S. < a former speech writer for LBJ. Was it Norman Sherman, perchance? Did you ever know him? (Actually as I recall Norman was Hubert's Press Secretary, but I think he moonlighted as an LBJ writer). My favorite Sherman story is that Sherman was basically presiding over a campaign staff meeting in which we were both involved, and all of a sudden he lifted one leg and farted very loudly. He smiled and said, "I learned one thing from LBJ."

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The Hotel is in the process of switching identities again, now "The Fairfax at Embassy Row", and is now part of the Starwood Luxury Collection instead of a Westin. It may be this past weekend that the official switch occurred. Anyway, I stayed there two weeks ago and the restaurant proper was closed as they were making it over, but the adjacent bar was open and indeed had a fireplace. Nobody was smoking, much less cigars, but it was also empty, empty, empty, so don't really know what the policy might be. The food I had was forgettable, but of course if they are bringing in a new chef that can all change. Whether they would still have the famous crab cake recipe? If you are not from the DC/Maryland area, there are numerous places that will blow you away as far as crab cakes. I just don't order them outside the Chesapeake Bay area as I have been dissappointed so many times, even when someone highly recommends them-say in CA, or even NY.

 

If you are just looking for a good crab cake try the Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt. Everything fresh ingredients and sourced fairly locally-sources noted on menu. Also apple pie to die for. Johnny's Half Shell, although haven't eaten there since it moved over by Union Station, did a mean crab cake and a super oyster stew when they were in DuPont Circle.

 

As far as the hotel-

The bathroom was redone recently, quite nice, but nothing outstanding. The rooms themselves tend to be on the small side. The heat/cooling was not up to snuff; and the staff had a long road to climb to get the level I would expect for a Luxury hotel.

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Guest ncm2169

Ted, thanks so much for your commentary.

 

Yes, of course, I know that delicious crab cakes can be found in many locales - but many of them deep fry instead of sauteeing. I have the same preference with fresh-water fish here in the Midwest, and also shellfish - the batter overwhelms the natural flavors. Just my preference. :o

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