Sunday, February 26, 2006

WOODLEY PARK: Cheese 'n' Prizes With the Swiss

IT WAS A FUN NIGHT last night at the Swiss Embassy's chancery building, full of cheese, white wine and prizes. Washington's Swiss Benevolence Society -- a group my family has been involved with for many, many years -- was holding its yearly fundraiser, which was graciously hosted by Ambassador and Mrs. Blickenstorfer and the Swiss Rifles.

As you might expect from a Swiss event, there was plenty of cheese and chocolate. Molten cheese was served on bread and potatoes via a contraption involving the wheel of cheese being hand-cranked into a special cheese broiler. Once the cheese was sufficiently molten, the server slid the gooey goodness from the wheel of cheese with a knife. Following a lengthy presentation on the history of the Swiss Rifles (they trace their history to the Civil War, a Union regiment made up of Swiss immigrants), there was dessert (chocolate fondue, naturally).

There was a silent auction. I didn't win anything, but my great aunt -- who is stepping down from the Swiss Benevolence Society's board -- somehow beat everyone out to secure a gift basket with Jamaican rum, a Swiss water bottle and some chocolates. She had intended on bidding on a sausage platter. DCist editor Martin Austermuhle, who is Swiss born, won some sort of Swiss Army knife contraption in the auction.

AND JUST LIKE BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE, the fundraiser also served as a goodbye to the much-loved Ambassador and Mrs. Blickenstorfer, who will be moving back to Europe to take a diplomatic post in Berlin. The various Swiss groups in Washington have always been welcomed by the Blickenstorfers, who came to Washington in 2001.

It's too bad they won't get to enjoy the new ambassador's residence, which is taking the place of the old residence on Cathedral Avenue NW, right next to the chancery building.

>> And in unrelated embassy news, there was a small fire on Saturday at the Iraqi Embassy on P Street NW, the AP reports. Iraq's mission in Washington is in the old Boardman House, one of the best examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in the city. Abandoned for years, a source at the State Department told me a few years back that the embassy had a pretty bad rodent infestation in the basement. The fire was contained to a back room.


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