President Obama and first lady Michelle hosted their first state dinner Tuesday November 24th 2009. The guests of honor was India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur. Singh is an economist who was sworn in for his second term in May.
The red carpet fashion popped off with the ever classy Michelle strutting a strapless, floor-length, figure-flattering , champagne-colored gown with silver detail and a light shawl by little known Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. Her hair was swept back and she also was adorned with a bunch of churis, traditional sparkly Indian bangle bracelets. The secret service may yank me up yet, but Mrs. Obama is the portrait of sheer resplendency. Mrs. Kaur was sporting a black sari with red and gold trim, refined class on two feet. Those entertainment award’s red carpet dog and pony shows were single handily shut down by these two ladies. You see Hollywood, this is how you set off a formal affair. No baseball caps and slouching jeans, and garish half-naked women. No hooker high shoes, and zonked out interviews.
President Obama was swagger dapper in a black tuxedo and his trademark beaming smile. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding it down Indian style in a dark brown ‘band gala’ suit and his trademark light blue turban. Smooth, real smooth.
Every gala has the who’s who guest list and the 2009 State Dinner was loaded with a caliber or its own. The 338-person guest list was peppered with a mix of Washington, Hollywood A-listers, prominent figures from the Indian community in the U.S., Obama friends, family and campaign donors. Some notables were: Hollywood heavy hitters, David Geffen creator of Asylum Records, and Jeffrey Katzenberg CEO of Dreamworks entertainment. Guests with ties to India included spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra, director M. Night Shyamalan and PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Katie Couric of CBS News, Brian Williams of NBC News, Robin Roberts of ABC News and CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta were among the media representatives invited. Gayle King, (Oprah Winfrey fame), Blair Underwood was also among the elite of the night. From the Obama friend front were, Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt, along with Obama’s half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad; and Marian Robinson, the first lady’s mother.
Notably among non invitees were top Republican lawmakers. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner absent; he was on Thanksgiving break in Ohio. Obama antagonizer, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, also didn’t get an invitation to the dinner. And I don’t think it comes as shocking news to anyone that Sen. John McCain was nowhere to be found. Probably hunting moose deep in Alaska.
Anyway what was on the menu?
Guest Chef Marcus Samuelsson and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, corroborated on culinary creations that included potato and eggplant salad, arugula from the White House garden, red lentil soup and roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin were for dessert; the pears were poached in honey from the White House beehive. This wasn’t for carnivores as Singh is a vegertarian and The White House respectfully embraced that on this year’s State Dinner Menu.. White House Pastry Chef William Yosses and company crafted the sweet treats.
Let’s not play games. The Menu my dear readers, because I love you all.
White House Arugula with Onion Seed Vinaigrette
2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa Valley, CaliforniaRed Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese
2006 Riesling, Brooks “Ara”, Wilamette Valley, OregonRoasted Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney
Chick Peas and Okra
or Green Curry Prawns with caramelized salsify with smoked Collard Greens
and coconut aged basmati
2007 Granache Beckman Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California
Pumpkin pie tart
Whipped Cream and Caramel sauce
Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia
Petits fours and Coffee
Passion fruit and vanilla Gelees
Chocolate dipped fruit
After the loading up on the veggie based fare it was time for the jam session . The music the dance, the up close, the personal. Frankly they missed the boat by not having my girl Melonie Fiona on the bill. Anyway while JLo was falling all over her feet at the MTV awards Kurt Elling, an eight-time Grammy nominee ad American jazz vocalist and composer was getting down at the house that talks. Along with crooner Jennifer Hudson, winner of the third season of American Idol and Washington’s own National Symphony Orchestra, and the United States Marine Band.
A.R. Rahman, an Indian composer, musician and singer who wrote the “Slumdog Millionaire” Score was also front and center.
This will go down as one of the most historical State Dinners of all time. And not because the host and guests of honor were of minority statue, but because this was a dinner of style class, and substance. Because leaders did what leaders do. lead by example and not by expectation. The Factor tips its hat to The Obama Administration for hosting what will go down as the most stellar formal event of the year.