Tuesday, October 09, 2012

President Obama Tells A Favorite Story At Pricey Alice Waters/Tyler Florence Dinner Fundraiser

Before President speaks at $20,000/plate dinner, guests have their cell phones confiscated; the menu and details...
San Francisco, CA: On the second day of a fundraising sprint through the Golden State, President Obama took a page from his own playbook on Monday night, regaling about 100 guests at a $20,000/plate dinner fundraiser with the same story he'd used at a dinner on Sunday night in Los Angeles.  Pricey dinners deserve an extra-special story: The President each time gave intimate details about his 20th wedding anniversary date with First Lady Michelle Obama.  But in San Francisco, as his silk-pocketed supporters dined on a menu from chef/hosts Alice Waters and Tyler Florence, the story was more elaborate. (Above: The President waves to supporters at the event venue)

The guests enjoyed a big selection of artisan dishes, including Eggplant Tagine with Couscous, Duck Confit with Herb and Frisee Salad, and Corncakes with Mint and Chives.  One guest, however, made sure to inform pool--unsolicited--that the food from the celebrity chefs "wasn't that great." 

The 7:00 PM dinner was held in a room at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, where the President attended a larger fundraiser for a crowd of 6,000 later in the evening.  The Obama campaign has apparently taken to heart the lesson from Mitt Romney being secretly filmed at a fundraiser: The dinner guests' cell phones were confiscated before the President arrived, according to the diner who complained about the food.

As he opened his remarks, the President, clad in a dark suit and white shirt, stood at a podium in front of a tan curtain, and noted that his Oct. 3 anniversary fell on the night of the first Presidential Debate, and so "it wasn’t the most romantic."  But he made up for it last Saturday by taking his wife to a "wonderful" anniversary dinner at Georgetown's Bourbon Steak restaurant.

The guests sat a long wooden tables, on wooden, backless benches, facing the podium as the President spoke, with baskets of red apples at their feet.  Two long wooden tables in the middle of the room featured food stations, with three tall candles spaced out evenly amid more baskets of red apples and herbs, and copper bins of bread. 

The President said that at his landmark dinner, he and Mrs. Obama were in "a little private room" because "sometimes people lean over and are kind of listening in to what we’re saying, and I wanted to make sure that I was giving my wife undivided attention."

"It was a wonderful dinner, and we had a great time," he said.  "And the waiter, a young man, couldn’t have been sweeter---very unobtrusive, didn’t say much, just was doing a great job."

All the same, the unidentified waiter felt the need to share a personal story with the President, as the Eater in Chief handed over his credit card to pay the bill.

"Yes, I do still have a credit card.  I mean, I--sometimes it takes me a while to find it," President Obama said, to laughter.  The President repeated the waiter's words:  "He said 'Mr. President, I hope you don’t mind, I hope I’m not being obtrusive, but I just want you to know that you saved my mom’s life.'"

The waiter's mother had a stroke and she didn't qualify for Medicare, but thanks to health care reform, all was well in the end, with Mom's medication paid for, the President said, adding that the waiter ended by gushing "and so I just want you to know that that meant a lot to me, and I hope you didn’t mind me saying that."

The President's story was more elaborate than the version he told on Sunday night in LA, during a $25,000/plate dinner for 150, courtesy of chef Wolfgang Puck.

"I told Michelle that probably once a day I get something like that--maybe not always as dramatic," President Obama continued. 

"But every time I have a conversation like that, it reminds me that what we do is not sport...Ultimately, it’s about that young man and his mom, and the belief that in this great country of ours, we’re going to make sure that every single person is treated with dignity and with respect."

Pivoting to the fact that there are just 29 days until Election Day, the President added "I very much intend to win this election."

"We’re only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive for the next 29 days," he said.

President Obama was introduced to his dinner guests by Pam Hamamoto, a classmate from his days at Punahou School in Honolulu.   Reading from note cards, Hamamoto said they met in the fall of 1971, when they both transferred to Punahou--she came from a few miles away and the young Obama came from Indonesia.  They were in classes and played basketball together, she said.

"I must confess, that it didn't cross my mind at the time that this young boy with bare feet and chubby cheeks would grow up to be president of the United States," she said.

The President, who stood with his arms crossed as he was introduced, nodded at the mention of being barefoot and chubby. But, Hamamoto said, looking back she's not surprised that "Barry" is now President.

"On an island filled with immigrants, respect and compassion for hardworking people was just a way of life," Hamamoto said, and described a favorite teacher, "Mrs. Hefty," who taught them to read and write "but more importantly she developed our self-confidence." The President also nodded at the mention of Mrs. Hefty.

As he closed his own remarks before taking questions, the President urged his dinner guests to drag their friends and relatives to the polls.

"There are cousins and uncles and friends in battleground states all across the country," President Obama said. "You need to mobilize every resource that you’ve got to make sure that we bring this home."

The dinner helped the President raise at least $4.2 million on Monday.  Shortly after arriving in San Francisco on Monday afternoon, the President attended a closed-press event at the Intercontinental Hotel with 25 donors who paid $40,000 each.  After the Waters/Florence dinner, he spoke at a concert at the Civic Auditorium for 6,000 guests who'd paid $200/ticket.  Grammy-award winning singer John Legend, a longtime supporter, was the headliner.

On Monday morning, President Obama was in Keene, California, to officially dedicate the César E. Chávez National Monument.  On Sunday in Los Angeles, his first day in the Golden State, the President raised close to $7 million during three fundraisers, joined by celebrities including George Clooney, Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, and Jon Bon Jovi, as well as by President Bill Clinton and mega-watt donors.

The Dinner Menu

Prosciutto & Herbed Almonds

Warm Chanterelles on Grilled Toasts

Fish Tartare A La Japonaise

Fall Tomato Salad With Homemade Mozzarella

Boudin blanc

Corncakes With Mint And Chivea

Duck Confit With Herb And Frisee Salad

Fresh Cheese With Baked Fig

Eggplant Tagine With Couscous

Wines offered included Scaggs Vineyard Rose, Green & Red Vineyard Zinfandel, Scribe Winery and Chardonnay.  There was also a "Camino Pisco Sour with Apple Juice."


Waters, doyenne of Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant, has hosted fundraisers for the Obama effort since 2008.  She last visited the White House in April of this year to tour Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, and cooked for a $25,000/plate fundraiser attended by Mrs. Obama in June of 2011 in Oakland, CA.  It was one of Mrs. Obama's first outings on the campaign trail in this election cycle. Tyler Florence, a Food Network TV show host, and owner of San Francisco's Wayfare Tavern, cooked a $20,000/plate fundraising dinner for the President's supporters last month in Tampa, Florida. (Above:  The dinner invitation)

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*Pool photo