By Walter Nicholls Posted February 23, 2009, 5:13 PM EST
Social Washington got its first look at the entertaining style of the Obama White House last night when the president and first lady welcomed 130 guests to their new home for a black-tie formal dinner in recognition of the weekend’s National Governors Association Winter Meeting.
The agenda for the three-day meeting, held this year at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, covered health-care reform, education, energy, and state economic conditions. On Saturday evening, the group attended a reception at the embassy of the United Arab Emirates. But the highlight of the Washington visit was an invitation to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for a glimpse at how Michelle Obama and White House social secretary Desiree Rodgers are taking to their new responsibilities.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that on Sunday afternoon, the first lady and Rodgers previewed the menu for a group of student chefs from the culinary and pastry programs of L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. The visit was part of Mrs. Obama’s plan to open up the White House to the community. “I can tell you firsthand that this meal is going to be awesome, because I had an opportunity to do some tasting along with Desiree and my mom; we had a wonderful tasting luncheon,” Mrs. Obama told the students. Also: “The president loves scallops.”
And there were scallops. For the first course, White House chef Cristeta Comerford and her staff prepared a crab-stuffed pasta with roasted sunchokes, followed by grass-fed wagyu beef and Nantucket scallops with glazed red carrots, portobello mushrooms, and creamed spinach. Then came a citrus salad with pistachios and a lemon honey vinaigrette, and for dessert, huckleberry cobbler with caramel ice cream. Paired wines hailed from California, Oregon, and Michigan.
Centerpieces included three types of gilded metal stands, six in bronze and two in silver, featuring classical female figures, as well as gilded bronze baskets. House florists composed bouquets of deep red roses, black callas, orchids, tulips, and gardenia foliage.
The principal china was a Woodrow Wilson state service with a cream-colored rim with a gilt band called “stars and stripes” and a gilt presidential coat-of-arms. For glassware, the first lady chose the Kennedy era glass service (a simple pattern known as “President’s House)” and the World’s Fair glass service (1939-1940)—an Art Deco service using an “Embassy” pattern, with flat reeded stems, engraved with an eagle surmounted by stars. The White House acquired the elaborate 18th-century “King Charles” pattern silver flatware in 1974.
After the dinner and remarks from the president, guests adjourned to the east room for dancing and the evening’s entertainment, featuring performances by the Marine Corps band and R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire.