Tuesday, March 29, 2011

President Obama Bites Into The Big Apple

President visits UN, the Natural History Museum, attends two DNC events, including dinner at Red Rooster...
This evening, following a very busy afternoon in New York City, President Obama made his first trip since taking office to Harlem, in the hip upper reaches of the metropolis. His much-anticipated visit to acclaimed chef and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster restaurant, at 125th St and Lenox Avenue, was a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. (Above: The President speaks at an afternoon event at the Museum of Natural History)

The exclusive affair was held in the bottom floor of Samuelsson's dark-wood, two-story restaurant, with six flower-topped tables arranged under low lighting, each containing an empty chair. This was presumably for President Obama or aides to sit and schmooze, according to pool. At $30,800 per person, the event for about fifty guests raised close to $1.5 million for Dem coffers.

"I want you each of you to know that I'm very very grateful for your friendship," the President told his supporters during his brief remarks.

The Red Rooster menu is American comfort-food with signature twists from Samuelsson's childhood in Sweden and long experience with Scandinavian cooking. The fundraiser guests started with lobster salad with asparagus, peas and hot biscuit, paired with Hermann J. Wiemer Riesling "Semi-Dry" 2008 (Finger Lakes, New York). The entree was braised short ribs with honey-glazed chokes, spring onions and red wine reduction, paired with Brown Estate "Chaos Theory" 2009 (Napa Valley, California). Cornbread with honey butter was laid out on the tables.

Dessert was chocolate cake with rhubarb compote and buttermilk sherbert, and sweet potato doughnuts with cinnamon and brown sugar. The wine pairing was Ridge Geyersville "Essence" 2007 (Sonoma County, California).

Samulesson blogged about the President's visit before he arrived at the restaurant, posting the menu on his newly launched guy-centric food website, FoodRepublic.com, and a link and comments on his own personal website.

Samuelsson tweeted the photo, above, of the President in action.

"Thanks for comming uptown mr president," Samuelsson wrote (sic).

Rep. Charles Rangle
, a Harlem native who has been beset with ethics problems in the last few years, was at the Rooster. The President was accompanied by White House staff, including senior advisors Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe, and Press Secretary Jay Carney.

DNC Chair Tim Kaine, an early Obama supporter, and former Governor of Virginia, introduced the President.

"I've often said, even better than being a part of a historical" campaign is "the opportunity to play a small part in a transformative presidency," Kaine said, as he

The President repaid the tribute during his remarks, as he acknowledged rumors that Kaine will run for the US Senate.

"There has been some speculation about our DNC chair plunging back into the hurly-burly of electoral politics," President Obama said. "I don't know if those rumors are true, but what I do know is that I cannot imagine someone who has been a better partner to me, a better friend...Should he choose to do so, he would be an outstanding senator for the Commonwealth of Virginia."

"This is also a challenging time," President Obama continued. "I could not do what I do -- which is get up every morning and make the best possible decisions that I can on behalf of the American people -- if I didn’t know that I had a lot of people out there rooting for me and a lot of friends supporting me."

The full transcript of the President's remarks is here.

Samuelsson was the first-ever guest chef for an Obama State Dinner, creating the veggie-intensive menu for the diplomatic extravaganza in honor of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The Rooster's chef is Andrea Bergquist, who accompanied Samuelsson to the White House to help cook the State Dinner. Samuelsson cooked for First Lady Michelle Obama when she visited New York last year, at his restaurant Acquavit, and he's also involved with the Let's Move! campaign.

After his visit to the Rooster, President Obama went to The Studio Museum for another reception; it's a few blocks away, and the President arrived at 8:40 pm. About 200-250 supporters awaited, to the tunes of recorded Jazz.

Kaine and Rangel were there, too, as was New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins.

The reception was not a fundraiser, but rather a "thank you" event. Kaine explained in his opening remarks that the people in the room represented a group who had supported Obama “from the very earliest days.”

Some were “fundraisers, activists, door knockers,” Kaine said.

The President, in his own remarks, echoed his pronouncements at the Red Rooster, speaking about his and Kaine's past history, and Kaine's future plans.

“Tim was the first person…the first elected official outside of the State of Illinois to endorse my candidacy for president,” Mr. Obama noted.

“He made that announcement in Richmond, the former seat of the Confederacy. This was in Sept. 2007 when most people could not pronounce my name," President Obama said. "And there was no political upside to endorsing me at that point."

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo was missing in action; his wife, celeb chef Sandra Lee, in an unrelated turn of events, yesterday declared that her new health food kick has nothing to do with Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign.

The President's day trip to New York began shortly after 4:30 PM, when he arrived for the Dedication and Grand Opening of the Ronald H. Brown United States Mission to the United Nations Building, across the street from the the United Nations Building. Former President Bill Clinton was also at the event. Before the Rooster dinner, President Obama stopped in at the American Museum of Natural History, for a visit with students participating in the New York City Science and Engineering Fair. He was headed back to the White House shortly before 10:00 PM.

*Top photo by Reuters; second by Marcus Samuelsson