Heard on the Hill: Whipping Up an Appetite

Posted April 29, 2009 at 6:39pm

Pizza? Yawn. Chinese? Been there, done that.

But how about a homemade, from-scratch authentic Mexican feast cooked by a restaurateur-turned-Member? Now you’re talking.

[IMGCAP(1)]The House Majority Whip’s office spiced up its usual offerings Wednesday night when Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) personally prepared dinner for her colleagues in honor of her Hispanic heritage.

The Whip’s office provides dinner a few nights a month to keep Members fed (and close at hand) when the chamber has late votes scheduled.

Napolitano, who once owned and ran an Italian restaurant, volunteered to serve as guest chef, providing a tasty incentive for her fellow Democrats not to stray far. Napolitano occasionally provides dinner for the meetings of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and her cuisine is legendary among her staffers.

“Rep. Napolitano makes some of the best home cooking in Washington, and whenever I get chance to have some of her spicy guacamole, it is the highlight of my day,— spokesman Christopher Honey tells us. Napolitano even shared the recipe for her famous dip with HOH (see related box).

Taking a turn catering the Whip dinner meant Napolitano and a few helpers commandeered the kitchen facilities in the Whip office, loading the place up with groceries (20 pounds of potatoes!) to produce a menu that included quesadillas, refried beans, tamales, corn, carne con papas (meat and potatoes) and cupcakes.

Dinnertime votes never tasted so good.

Off to a Running Start. Move over, Congressional running elite — the new guy is nipping at your heels.

Veteran Congressional runners Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) finished first in their chambers in Wednesday’s ACLI Capital Challenge 3-mile race, posting times of 18:49 and 19:47, respectively.

Laudable victories, sure, but not unexpected — Gordon has finished first among Members for many years, after all, and Thune is a perennial top contender.

Perhaps more impressive was a freshman Congressional runner who looks to make a big impact in the coming years.

Showing off his guns in a skimpy, flesh-baring muscle T-shirt with “Marco Island, Florida— emblazoned on the back, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), posted a 20:02 time, the third-fastest Member and 51st out of the 525 total runners. And Schock’s team — aptly named “Schock and Abs,— in honor of the infamous shirtless photo of the Congressman that surfaced on TMZ.com — finished third among Members and 10th overall.

“Schock and Abs is fired up to have finished second amongst House teams,— spokesman Dave Natonski said. “And after crunching the race results, we’re pretty sure Flash Gordon [Gordon’s team] is going down next year.—

Finally, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) proved she can still crack a joke, despite that whole wiretapping scandal. Harman’s team (which finished 62nd overall) scored the award for best team name: “Tapped Out.— “Clearly, our sense of humor is intact,— Harman said in a press release touting the victory.

[IMGCAP(2)]Friends in High Places. Catching up with an old friend is always fun — especially when that friend has the best connections in town.

HOH hears Rep. Doris Matsui was the only Member of Congress who attended a special reception held on Tuesday night at the White House to honor the Cabinet. The California Democrat scored the exclusive invite from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Matsui’s Congressional BFF during Solis’ days in the House.

For Matsui (who worked at the White House under former President Bill Clinton), the trip as a plus-one to the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue seemed like a homecoming.

“It was interesting arriving last night at the White House,— Matsui said on Wednesday. “They had me park on West Executive [Avenue], and I entered through the West Wing. I felt like I was going to work.—

Close Encounters of the Rohrabacher Kind. Might Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the staunch opponent of illegal immigration, actually be an alien himself? One of the California Republican’s colleagues suspects so.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) raised the out-of-this-world possibility when he called Rohrabacher a “near-earth object— during a hearing at the House Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday morning. The insult came during a discussion of technology to prevent meteors from outer space striking the planet.

HOH might never have heard the quip had the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), not shared it with the audience. And in a nod to the science-inspired wisecrack, Gordon also sought unanimous consent to declare all the Members of the Science and Technology Committee “geeks.—

Rohrabacher objected, however, preferring to be called a surfer rather than a geek.

And the Pacifier Goes to … Count Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand among the likes of Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Salma Hayek, singer M.I.A. and that talking baby from the ETrade commercials.

Parenting magazine this week named the New York Democrat one of the recipients of its “Golden Pacifier Awards,— which honor high-profile peeps who “take a stand for families.— Gillibrand received the “Moms in the House— award honoring her public service work while noting she’s also raising a young family. (She’s mom to 5-year-old Theodore and 1-year-old Henry.)

Gillibrand shares the “Moms in the House— honor with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). “All politics aside, we present them this happy, slobbery pacifier: They seem to have found the magic formula for doing it all,— the magazine notes.

Gillibrand is “honored— by the award, she told HOH. “Working moms across the country are doing their very best to support their families and advance in their careers, and all of them deserve recognition,— Gillibrand said. “I feel very blessed.—

Overheard on the Hill. “Aren’t there any Republicans from New York?—

— Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the House floor, commenting on the big crowd of Democrats surrounding Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) before he took the oath of office Wednesday.

“Heard on the Hill — which is Roll Call’s motto but also mine today. We’re going to be running and we’re going to try to beat everyone on the field.—

— Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), boasting during a Wednesday morning CNBC interview about “Herd on the Hill,— the running team made up of her and her staffers competing in the Capital Challenge later that morning.

Niels Lesniewski of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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