Saturday, January 16, 2010

President Obama Surprises First Lady Michelle Obama With Birthday Dinner At Restaurant Nora

The menu and the guest list for Mrs. Obama's first birthday in the White House...
For First Lady Michelle Obama's first birthday in the White House, President Obama took her out for an early, surprise dinner party on Saturday night to Restaurant Nora, a DC eatery that is famous for its commitment to healthy, sustainable, and organic food. Mrs. Obama turns 46 today, and the pool report notes that she was, indeed, surprised when she arrived at Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in America. The party lasted almost four hours, with arrivals beginning at 6:38 PM (yes, on the dot). (Above: The President and Mrs. Obama outside the restaurant).

Guests included family friends and close advisers--and some who do double duty as both. Mrs. Obama's Chief of Staff, Susan Sher; Jocelyn Frye, Director of Policy and Projects in the First Lady's office; and Valerie Jarrett, who advises both the President and Mrs. Obama--all turned up for the celebration. Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone were on hand, as were Chicago pals Eric and Cheryl Whitaker and Marty Nesbitt. Cindy Moelis, also a Chicago friend, and head of the White House Fellows program attended; as did Anita Blanchard. Mrs. Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, was the first to arrive, but there was no sign of daughters Malia and Sasha.

The menu...
Dinner was served at about quarter past eight. White House aides would not confirm what was on the birthday menu, but Chef Benjamin Lambert said that he'd been prepping for the dinner for two weeks.

Mrs. Obama dined on a salad of mixed greens (specially prepared, and not on the menu), and ordered specially prepared rack of lamb with preserved lemon and mint salad, accompanied by chick pea puree, with green beans and sun-dried tomatoes. She had white wine to begin--a glass of 2008 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc--and red wine for the entree. Her birthday dessert was a bittersweet molten chocolate cake with cappuccino ice cream. The President dined on pan-seared Maine lobster and saffron risotto.

Lambert said two Secret Service agents monitored him as he cooked in the kitchen, but this didn't make him nervous, because he's "cooked for every president since Gerald Ford." All were already out of office, except for Bill Clinton, and now, President Obama.

About fifty onlookers and a group of reporters were gathered outside Nora, which is located just west of DuPont Circle. The first guests started to leave at 9:40, led by Mrs. Robinson. When the President and First Lady exited at 10:10, the crowd, gathered on the corner of Florida and R Streets, burst into applause, then sang "Happy Birthday" as the President and First Lady walked to their car. The First Couple waved at the crowd, and then the crowd cheered again as the motorcade left.

Last night was Mrs. Obama's second early birthday party: She also had a small celebration with East Wing staff on Friday. Last year, Mrs. Obama's birthday was right before the Inauguration, and she spent her birthday aboard the Georgia 300 as it traveled between Philadelphia and DC on the Whistle Stop Tour. On board the train, daughters Malia and Sasha surprised Mrs. Obama with two birthday cakes from Baltimore bakery Donna's (the recipe for the cake is here). After Mrs. Obama moved into the White House, the pastry chefs also surprised her with a fruit-topped birthday cake on Jan. 22, 2009, when she was holding her first staff meet-and-greet in the East Room. (Above: Assistant pastry chef Susie Morrison, center, and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses present Mrs. Obama with a special birthday cake)

Restaurant Nora first opened in 1979, and owner/chef Nora Pouillon has been a leader in the organic and sustainable movement, as well as a visitor at the White House. In 1999, it became the first certified organic restaurant in America, and uses ingredients sourced only from certified organic farmers and producers, and does not use food raised or produced with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or GMOs. Menu items run about $12-$15 for appetizers and salads, the chef's tasting menu costs about $66, and appetizers are $12-15, and entrees run about $35.

Nora's is at 2132 Florida Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. Phone: 202-462-5142.

*Pool photos by AP