Friday, July 31, 2009

The First Lady Hosts A Majestic Birthday Dinner

Add The Majestic restaurant in the Old Towne section of Alexandria, Virginia, to the list of Obama eateries on the Grand Chowbama Tour. Last night, First Lady Michelle Obama took her mother, Marion Robinson, to The Majestic for dinner, along with First Daughters Malia and Sasha, and some friends in tow. Mrs. Robinson is the first grandmother to live in the White House with a President's family in decades, and she dubs it wonderful. The dinner party was supposedly for Mrs. Robinson, but that's not really confirmed. What is confirmed: The Majestic, which is owned by Executive Chef Cathal Armstrong and his wife Meshelle Armstorng, highlights local foods, and has a very strong farm-to-table aesthetic to create what they call "Rustic American" cuisine (the menu is here). Cathal Armstrong also has ties to the Administration. (Above: The First Lady and Mrs. Robinson in a portrait for a cover story in Essence magazine)

Last night, the Twittersphere lit up with reports of the visit, after Secret Service vehicles started to show up, and sharpshooters took up positions on local rooftops--but there was no major media present to take photos. Today, Tim Carman, who writes the Young and Hungry blog at Washington City Paper, posted an e mail about the birthday dinner --after he got a late-night missive Meshelle Armstrong, detailing the visit. Armstrong doesn't mention what was served, or for whom the party was thrown, but she describes a lot of other things:

Tonight, Mrs. Obama, her mother, beautiful daughters and friends had dinner at The Majestic. They were celebrating a birthday. Chef Shannon Overmiller prepared and cooked their dinner while Cathal expedited the food for the evening. Cars were triple parked on King Street, the glass windows at the facade of the historic building was pressed with faces and all clamoring to gain entry.

To her exceptional credit, Maria Chicas, GM...did everything in her power to protect their privacy while they dined to allow them to feel comfortable and secure while at The Majestic. So much so, that I only learned they were there via a text message sent to me from a regular guest as they dined next to the first lady!!

We and our partners of The Majestic: Senator [Mark] Warner and his wife Lisa Collis along with the Murray Bonitt and the Beyer family of Virginia hosted a fund raiser for our president at The Majestic when he was running for office one month after we first took the place. He attended the fundraiser without his wife. We are proud and so very honored that she found her way!

Cathal Armstrong, a transplanted Dubliner, was just in Ireland, giving children's cooking lessons at the American Embassy (in photo), and he also made an appearance at Bloom 2009, the largest horticultural festival in Europe. What was so interesting at Bloom this year? Why, the replica of Mrs. Obama's White House Kitchen Garden, of course, which was a huge crowd pleaser.

Chef Armstrong cooks at Restaurant Eve, another eatery he owns with Meshelle, and also works frequently on children's hunger issues. He's on the leadership council of Share Our Strength, a non-profit dedicated to ending child hunger. And Share Our Strength is involved with school garden projects; they were recently co-sponsors of an event at the SEEDS school in DC, at which Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack pitched in to help plant a school garden. Mrs. Obama visited the same school in April, to sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Yes, it's all connected....

Above: The Replica White House Kitchen Garden at Bloom 2009

*Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Robinson in a joint interview in Essence is here.

Information: The Majestic is at 911 King Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. Phone: 703-837-9117.

Photos: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Robinson photo by Timothy White/Essence. Armstrong pix from US Embassy in Ireland. Majestic photo via Young & Hungry.