Last year, a romantic Valentine's Day dinner in Chicago...
President Obama left shortly after noon today to join First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. It's about a twenty-minute helicopter flight from Washington. Mrs. Obama and the girls have been at the remote and highly secure compound since Friday afternoon, and the First Family will return to Washington tomorrow evening, on President's Day.
Like most kids, Malia and Sasha don't have school. Camp David is closed to press, so Valentine plans are top secret. And no, the White House chefs are not with the Obamas. There's a different kitchen staff that cooks at Camp David. (Above: The President boarding Marine 1 today, en route to Camp David)
It's a very different holiday for the Obamas than last year, when the President and First Lady went back to their hometown, Chicago, and had a special Valentine's dinner at Table Fifty-Two, a favorite, Southern-inflected eatery owned and cheff'd by Art Smith. Smith cooked often for the Obamas when they lived in Chicago, and last year his Valentine dinner reflected his aesthetic: The President and First Lady were presented with Parmesan cheese biscuits and deviled eggs, as a chef's welcome. After, Mrs. Obama had the pistachio-crusted chicken breast with coconut-ginger-chili sauce and string vegetables, served with lo mein noodles. The President ordered the "Grouper special," with roasted vegetables on the side. To finish the dinner, Smith's signature Pecan Pies were sent up the the private dining room the President and First Lady were sequestered in. The First Couple left carrying take-out bags. (In photo, above)
The Valentine trip was the last time the Obamas were in their hometown, but Smith has been a guest chef at the White House, and he also tends to just show up for cooking events to hang around. In the last year, he's lost more than fifty pounds, and credits Mrs. Obama's focus on healthy eating and gardening for inspiring him. Clearly, Smith is paying attention when he's cold kickin' it at the White House. He also runs the restaurant Art and Soul in DC, but the Obamas haven't publicly dined there yet. (Above: Smith, in suit, hanging around with the White House chefs at a recent event)
Although the White House chefs aren't cooking for the Obamas today and tomorrow at Camp David, they will be doing some high profile cooking: Executive Chef Cris Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses will be on a special President's Day episode of The Martha Stewart Show, which airs tomorrow. The Top Toques cook with Martha, and dish on Obama foodie preferences. Recipes from the show are here; it's Turkey Spinach Lasagna, and a special Winter Green Salad, with Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Check you local listings. (Above: From l, Yosses, Stewart, and Comerford on the President's Day show.)
>Update: The First Family returned to DC late tonight, to avoid more predicted snow, with another storm scheduled to hit Washington on Monday