Thursday, March 08, 2012

President Obama, First Lady Visit DC's Boundary Road Restaurant For "Dinner with Barack and Michelle" Fundraiser

Winners of $1,600 prize package film their promo spots for Campaign during "intimate dinner;" A manager dishes on the Presidential party...
Washington, DC:
President Obama and First Lady Obama dined on Thursday evening with the three winners of the "Dinner with Barack and Michelle" contest, a fundraiser from Obama for America launched in the Fall of 2011. In a new twist for this particular dinner sweepstakes, the third from the campaign, each winner was allowed to bring a guest, so it was a Presidential party of eight at Boundary Road, a newly opened bistro offering a seasonal American menu. It's located on H Street, between 4th and 5th Street NE, in a neighborhood that has become a hotspot for hip redevelopment. The winners were three women from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts; the Campaign is focused on attracting the womens vote. One guest brought her father, two brought spouses. (Above: An Instagram tweeted by @BarackObama shows guests Judy and Mitch Glassman with the President and Mrs. Obama)

The President and Mrs. Obama arrived via motorcade at 5:28 PM, and departed an hour and a half later. During a brief photo op for the media before any food was served, the President and Mrs. Obama sat around a long, blonde wood table and chatted with their guests against a backdrop of exposed brick. His shirtsleeves rolled up, Mr. Obama fiddled with the straw in his glass of iced tea. Mrs. Obama was clad in a black dress, with a graphic white pattern, and wore a string of pearls.

The members of the press corps were rapidly ushered out so the Campaign could begin filming its own promotional videos, which, other than the cash that is dropped into the President's 2012 war chest, is the main point of the dinners. Boundary's owners were first contacted two weeks ago to host the Presidential party, and OFA confirmed on Monday that it was a go project, a manager who did double duty as a waiter told Obama Foodorama. The bistro was closed to the public so Campaign staff could have free reign.

OFA identified the winners as ReGina Newkirk, a nonprofit executive from Nashville, TN, who brought her father, Robert Newkirk Sr., a professor at Tennessee State University as her guest; Cathleen Loringer, a former social worker from Wauwatosa, WI, who brought her husband, John Loringer, a Wauwatosa attorney as her guest; and Judy Glassman, a retired school administrator from Cambridge, MA, who brought her husband Mitch Glassman, a Cambridge artist, as her guest. (In photo above, from l: The Newkirks, the Loringers, and Mitch Glassman visible at right)

E-mail requests from the President and Mrs. Obama, staff, and surrogates such as the President's former personal aide Reggie Love--had asked donors to enter the contest with amounts that ranged from $3 to $25. Mrs. Obama in her dinner e-mail promised "togetherness, warm conversation, and the simple pleasure of one another's company" at the "intimate" dinner, with "no handshaking lines, no pomp and circumstance."

The menu is off the record...
OFA's filming went on throughout the dinner, according to the manager, who asked that her name not be used: "I don't want my name in print or anything." Chef/co-owner Brad Walker cooked for the Presidential party from the ever-changing menu, according to the manager. Entree prices range from $16-$23, with offerings such as Paprika Dusted Flounder and Grilled Hanger Steak. But what the President and Mrs. Obama and their guests actually enjoyed was strictly off the record.

"White House aides asked us not to say what they ate," the manager said. That's the same directive received by the owners of the restaurants where the two previous Dinners with Barack were held.

UPDATE, March 15: The Menu
According to a source at the restaurant, both the President and Mrs. Obama ordered the Grilled Hanger Steak as their entrees, made with chestnut puree, and served over spicy kale, with a "sauce charon," similar to a Bearnaise ($22). The President started with the Quark and Black Pepper Pierogi ($10), which is more like a savory ravioli than a Pierogi, while Mrs. Obama started with the Rapini Salad, chilled rapini with pickled shallots, avocado oil, and Firefly Farms Mountain Top Bleu ($6). Neither ordered dessert.

Also off the record: Who actually paid for the dinner, an aide or the President himself: "I don't want to talk about that," the manager said. The First Couple posed for photos with restaurant staff and greeted the chef before departing. (Above: The Loringers with the Obamas)

"They were great, they were very friendly," the manager said, adding "of course I was nervous. We've been open three weeks."

The eatery re-opened at 8:00 PM to the public for dinner service, and had an influx of customers, the manager said.

OFA will shortly post photos of the dinner on its Flickr page, and America will hear from all the Presidential guests in the weeks ahead as OFA's videos are released. The President's dinner winners are required to undergo background checks, as well as sign documents agreeing to be used in Campaign materials without compensation.

OFA is currently in the midst of running "Dinner with Barack IV," and this time is staggering the selection of winners, to inspire repeat donations. The campaign has already ID'd one winner, in contrast to the previous contests, including Thursday's dinner, when names of winners were kept secret until the dinner occurred.

$1,600 prize package is taxable...
The dinner prize package included air fare and a one-night hotel stay in Washington; the winners of the second Dinner with Barack contest were lodged at the Capital Hilton, blocks from the White House. Thursday's dinner had an assigned retail value of $1,600, taxable to the winners. OFA raised $68 million in the fourth quarter of fundraising in 2011, when the Dinner with Barack and Michelle contest was being run. OFA claims that 98% of supporters in 2011 donated $250 or less, but did not release figures on how many people donated multiple times, theoretically exceeding what is identified as a "small donor" figure.

The President ate dinner with the four winners of the first "Dinner with Barack" contest in October of 2011, at The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, VA. The second dinner contest was fulfilled with a luncheon; the President took his four winners to DC's Scion restaurant on January 6, 2012. For a behind-the-scenes account, read French Fries With The Leader Of The Free World. (Above: OFA's graphic promoting the dinner contest)

More on the menu...
Boundary Road spotlights local purveyors, and current menu on the website features entrees such as Paprika Dusted Flounder over a Spanish fishermen's stew ($22); Grilled Hanger Steak—chestnut purée, spicy kale, sauce charón ($22); and Seared Arctic Char with wilted turnip greens, duck fat potatoes, salsa verde ($23). Appetizers include Foie Gras Torchon PBJ—grilled country bread, homemade peanut butter, peach vanilla jelly ($15); Winter Minestrone with pumpkin seed pesto ($8); Rapini Salad—chilled rapini, pickled shallots, avocado oil, Firefly Farms Mountain Top Bleu ($6). The Hand-Cut Fries with curry mayo ($5) would surely please Mrs. Obama, who has hailed French fries as her favorite food.

The President and Mrs. Obama returned to the White House at 7:09 PM. Mr. Obama heads to Houston on Friday for two fundraisers; Mrs. Obama will be in Boston for two fundraisers.

Information: Boundary Road is located at 414 H Street, Washington, DC. Phone: 202.450.3265.

*Instagram from Obama for America; other photos pool