Tuesday, July 24, 2012

President Obama: Alice Waters Dinner Menu "Traumatized" A Top White House Aide

The Eater in Chief entertains California donors with a tale of a legendary chef and his junkfood-loving personal aide...
UPDATE, July 25: POTUS touts junkfood at another fundraiser
While fundraising in California's Bay Area on Monday evening, President Obama gave a detailed account of the junkfood-only diet of a top personal aide during his remarks at a $35,800/plate dinner at the Piedmont home of real estate developer Wayne Jordan and his wife, attorney Quinn Delaney. Jordan is a top bundler for the campaign, having raised more than $1.5 million, and the President entertained about 60 guests with a story about a previous fundraising dinner thrown by his hosts. (Above: The President at a fundraiser after the dinner, at the Fox Theater)

The dinner was cooked, the President said, by legendary chef Alice Waters, cookbook author and doyenne of the globally famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. The veggie-intensive menu "traumatized" aide Marvin Nicholson because he "doesn’t believe in eating vegetables," the President said. Nicholson does double duty as the President's Trip Director and bodyman, and he's a frequent golf partner, too. (Above: The President and Nicholson at a basketball game in March, where they ate hot dogs)

"It was, I think, just as spectacular a day, it was just as beautiful," said President Obama as he started his story, clad in a dark suit as he spoke to the guests, who were gathered at tables for ten, anchored by centerpieces of yellow roses.

"And I think Alice Waters was cooking," the President said. "And part of the reason I remember that is because I’ve got a staff guy, Marvin Nicholson--Marvin doesn’t believe in eating vegetables. So he’s still traumatized by--"

The room erupted into laughter. "I'm just saying," the President said.

At that point, Nicholson himself popped his head into the room, to see what was amusing the crowd.

"I was mentioning the last time we were here and Alice Waters was cooking," the President said, to more laughter. "Marvin’s general palate runs between hot dogs and hamburgers--"

"Pizza!" Nicholson interjected, helpfully.

"And pizza. That’s true," the President repeated.

"Chicken tenders," Nicholson added.

"Chicken tenders," the President repeated, to even more laughter.

"Anyway, we had a wonderful time then, and so many of you have been friends and supporters ever since," the President said by way of a segue into his standard stump speech. "And so I’m grateful to all of you."

Nicholson would surely have been traumatized by Monday's Presidential dinner menu, which included grilled jumbo prawns with avocados, basil and heirloom tomatoes, dry-aged beef tenderloin, and a chocolate cherry bombe for dessert. Waters did not cook, however.

A longtime school lunch activist, Waters has visited the White House to tour First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden, and she's also cooked at a fundraiser for Mrs. Obama.

Solyndra in the house...
The poolers on duty for the dinner also reported that the President was joined by two guests who had much interaction with Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees, a subject of repeated GOP/Mitt Romney attack ads.

Mingling in the crowd were Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and one of the individuals who sent red flags about President Obama's support for Solyndra, and Matt Rogers, the former Department of Energy official who was in the middle of the Solyndra loan guarantee process. Now a partner at McKinsey & Co. in the Bay area, Rogers "handled a good bit of the stimulus money" that went to Solyndra, according to pool.

Westly was first observed juggling fresh lemons in the backyard, entertaining kids at the party. He was later seated at one of the tables farthest from the President as he made his remarks.

"This is going to be a close race and it's going to be a challenging race," President Obama said as he ended his speech. "But I am as invigorated and as determined as I've ever been to win it, because I believe that there's no challenge that we're facing right now that is not solvable."

The President departed the Jordan/Delaney event at 6:17 PM, heading for Oakland's Fox Theater, where ticket prices were $100 balcony, $250 general admission, $1000 VIP, $7,500 for the photo reception, and $2,500 to get one more person to the photo reception.

On Tuesday morning the President heads for Portland, Oregon for more fundraisers, and in the afternoon he will travel to Seattle, Washington for more of the same.

*Top photo by pool/Reuters; second by Pete Souza/White House