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Heard on the Hill: After Kitchen Fire, Equinox Rises From the Ashes

Loyalty might be a rare trait in Washington, but not even a fire can kill the love that political VIPs have for one downtown restaurant.

Equinox, which was closed for six months after a December blaze destroyed its kitchen, has been a top dining destination for Obama administration officials and other prominent D.C. denizens since it reopened earlier this summer.

Senior White House advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan are among those who have stopped by Equinox, HOH hears.

A spy tells us that Axelrod is a fan of chef Todd Gray’s Idaho river golden trout, while Jarrett prefers dining on chicken paillard with summer panzanella and blue crab spring rolls.

No word on whether Kagan has a favorite dish, although we do hear the restaurant was her pick recently for a quiet night out after enduring three straight days of grilling from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wyden’s Wife Is a Danson Groupie

Who says groupies are only for tweens like Justin Bieber? When Ted Danson testified before a Senate committee last week, he had at least one fan who seemed to recall the actor’s glory days as studly bartender Sam Malone on “Cheers” with particular fondness.

A spy tells HOH that Nancy Wyden, the wife of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), was perched on the staff bench at the hearing, where she enthusiastically snapped pictures of the hunk (who has aged quite nicely, HOH notes). Our source likened her to an “awestruck 1980s teen. If she’d had a ‘Cheers’ shirt and had been humming ‘Where Everybody Know Your Name,’ it would’ve been more subtle.”

Airports: The Great Equalizer

Members can bypass security checkpoints in Congressional buildings and get chauffeured around by staff, but not even they can avoid those dreaded airplane delays.

Rep. Ike Skelton was stuck in the Midwest Airlines terminal at Kansas City International Airport for several hours Sunday night, according to an HOH spy who was stuck alongside him. But despite the travel woes, our spy says, the Missouri Democrat kept a cool head the entire time — Skelton mostly just sat around and occasionally appeared to doze off in his seat in the waiting area.

The Washington-bound flight originally was scheduled to depart about 7 p.m. local time, but Skelton and his fellow air travelers were grounded until around 11 p.m. as the airliner dealt with mechanical difficulties. The stranded travelers did get a $200 travel voucher for their troubles, our spy reports.

Congressional Props for the U.S. World Cup Team

The U.S. men’s soccer team didn’t end up winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup. All right, they didn’t even really come close.

But hey, the squad did OK by making it to the second round of the tourney, right? That’s gotta be worth something.

Several Members of Congress are moving to honor Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and their teammates with a Congressional resolution congratulating the team for its “inspiring performance” during the international soccer competition.

Rep. Louie Gohmert introduced the measure, telling HOH that he wanted to give “these guys some recognition for getting us as far as we’ve ever been” in the tourney. The Texas Republican represents two of the team’s players — Dempsey and rising star Jose Francisco Torres — and says the sport’s popularity is growing rapidly in his East Texas district.

Gohmert tells HOH that he watched the World Cup as often as he could, catching snippets of it when he wasn’t attending to Congressional duties. And although he didn’t start out as a soccer fan, the sport is growing on him, he says.

For Bonior, No Job Too Small

Former Rep. David Bonior isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get to work: The Michigan Democrat’s talents extend all the way from legislating to dishwashing.

The former Democratic whip can often be seen hanging around Zest Bistro on Barracks Row, which is owned by his stepson, Stephen Briggs, and Briggs’ wife, Amanda. Bonior goes for the roast salmon and sometimes stays for the cleanup: He has been known to grab a sponge and tackle a stack of dirty dishes.

“I was a cook in the Air Force for two and a half years and had lots of practice with pots and pans,” Bonior jokes to HOH.

While Bonior only occasionally makes it into the kitchen these days, he spent a lot of time pitching in during the blizzards that hit D.C. earlier this year so some of the restaurant’s staff wouldn’t have to travel in the dangerous conditions.

In fact, Bonior says there isn’t much difference between working in Congress and working in the kitchen.

“It’s similar because you’re always stirring the pot,” he says.

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