Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Obamas Celebrate Their Twentieth Wedding Anniversary With Dinner At DC's 'Bourbon Steak'

A very special multi-course tasting menu included seared fois gras, Oscetra caviar, uni, and quail egg; the chef received a token of appreciation from the President...
Update, Oct. 9: The President discusses his date again 
Update, Oct. 7: The President discusses his date 
**UPDATE in red below**
Washington, DC-- Keeping his promise to his wife for a belated celebration, on Saturday President Obama escorted First Lady Michelle Obama to a private twentieth wedding anniversary dinner at the chic, upscale Bourbon Steak restaurant in Georgetown. The First Couple's special day was on Wednesday, the night of the first Presidential Debate, and they made up for the delay with a dinner that began at 7:36 PM.  The multi-course feast offered by the restaurant featured heady stuff--seared fois gras, Oscetra caviar, uni, and quail egg--and the First Couple dined for more than two hours.  The fete followed a day of seclusion for the President at the White House, his first full day at home in a week.  (Above: The Obamas kiss on their anniversary at the Debate)

"A lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that 20 years ago, I became the luckiest man on Earth because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me," the President said as he marked their anniversary at the Debate. He promised his wife that next year, they won't celebrate "in front of 40 million people." 

A softly lit pace filled with dark wood and leather accents, Bourbon Steak, a Michael Mina restaurant, is located in the stylish Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and boasts a wine list with more than 500 bottles.  It is a destination for gourmands and well-heeled hipsters as well as tourists.

The Presidential anniversary menu
 Executive Chef Adam Sobel offered the First Couple some dishes that aren't on the daily menu, where entrees range from $36-$85.  The menu started with an "amuse" of Warm Potato Blintz with Fried Quail Egg, Creme Fraiche, and Oscetra Caviar.  That was followed by the First Course, Chesapeake Rockfish Crudo with Green Apple, Breakfast Radish, and Crispy Onion. 

The Second Course was Seared Diver Scallop with Cauliflower Tempura, Risotto, and Uni Butter. The Third Course was Heirloom Sweet Potato Soup, with Cabbage, Seared Foi Gras, and Blis Maple Syrup.

The Fourth Course was Crispy Chicken Skins with Hot Sauce & Honey, Potato Puree, and Coffee.

Sobel tweeted the Instagram of the menu, above, and wrote on @ChefSobel "A privilege and an honor to cook for the President and First Lady for th @ Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC."  A spokesman for Bourbon Steak declined to reveal the Presidential anniversary menu when contacted, and Sobel deleted the menu tweet shortly after posting it. The restaurant was open for business as the First Couple celebrated.  The President's press pool was kept away from the action, holding across the street at Le Pain Quotidien bakery as the Obamas dined.

The chef left up another tweet about his high-profile guests; the President rewarded Sobel with a box of Presidential M&M's for his spectacular effort.  His tweet included a photo of the candy box, which also includes Mr. Obama's autograph and the Presidential seal.  Sobel wrote "Presidential Peanut M&M from Mr Obama ! Thank you Chief !"

*UPDATE, Oct. 7:  On Sunday morning, Sobel tweeted to ObamaFoodorama about the menu posted above: "the tasting menu was offered but the President and the Mrs. opted to go A la Carte . They did not have a tasting menu" (sic).  Sobel did not offer the details of what the President and Mrs. Obama actually ordered.******

The lovely dinner came on the heels of Mrs. Obama being less than thrilled--even before her husband turned in a lackluster performance--that her landmark anniversary was on the same night as the Debate.

"I told Barack, 'This, you know, attending a presidential debate on my 20th anniversary is probably the worst way for me to spend (it),'" Mrs. Obama commented to CNN.

But the President offered anniversary wishes not only from the Debate podium, but also on Twitter.  And the Obamas had more than their wedding anniversary to celebrate on Saturday:  In the morning, the President's campaign announced a record-breaking haul of $181 million for September.  Friday offered a monthly Jobs Report with the lowest unemployment rate in years.

As for an anniversary gift for the First Lady?

The First Couple discussed it in a special anniversary video released by the Campaign on Wednesday which included never-before-seen footage.

"It's been twenty years, so I don't want to put pressure on you, I know you've got an election going on," Mrs. Obama said.  "But it'd be great if you surprised me with something nice."

"I'll do my best," the President said. The traditional gifts for the Big 20 are platinum, emeralds, and china.

After their feast, the President and Mrs. Obama departed the restaurant at 9:42 PM and after a short sprint by motorcade they arrived home at the White House at 9:49 PM.  They were not seen by pool. 

Chef Sobel, by the way, is not the first to tweet and delete details of a Presidential menu.  That also happened when chef Tyler Florence cooked at a fundraising dinner for the President in September.

President Obama departs on Sunday for a two-day fundraising junket through California, which will include six different events. 

Past White House anniversary celebrations...
Mr. Obama proposed to Michelle Robinson in 1991 over dessert at Chicago eatery Gordon's, and the First Couple's previous White House anniversary celebrations have included visits to upscale Washington, DC-area restaurants that focus on local and artisanal foods.  In 2011, the President and Mrs. Obama celebrated their 19th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia.  Chef/owner Cathal Armstrong has worked with Mrs. Obama on the Let's Move! campaign.  (Above:  The First Couple three months after moving into the White House)

The Obamas' 18th anniversary celebration in 2010 involved no dining outing that is on the record.  During their first year in the White House, the President and Mrs. Obama marked their 17th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, with dinner at Washington, DC's Blue Duck Tavern. The award-winning tavern-style restaurant features American cooking.

Mrs. Obama has told the story of her husband's marriage proposal, and said she spent their time at the dinner lecturing Mr. Obama about "getting serious." Then dessert came, and there was a ring box on the side of the plate.  Mrs. Obama said that she was "shocked and thrilled," and also that she has absolutely no recollection of what exactly the dessert was that night.


The First Couple were married on Oct. 3, 1992, at Trinity United Church of Christ in  Chicago, Illinois.  Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. officiated; the First Lady's brother, Craig Robinson, walked her down the aisle.  The reception was held at the South Shore Cultural Center.  Stevie Wonder's "You and I" was their wedding song. (Above:  The exhausted newlyweds at their reception)

"I think it's fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married," President Obama told People magazine in 2009.  "The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship."

Wonder was at the White House in August of 2011, where he led the celebrity-filled crowd celebrating President Obama's 50th birthday in a jazzy rendition of "Happy Birthday."

The anniversary video released by the campaign:



Info:  Bourbon Steak is in the Four Seasons Hotel at 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest  Washington, DC 20007.  Phone: 202-944-2026.

*Top photo by Getty; Instagram menu photo by Chef Adam Sobel; President and Mrs. Obama embracing by Pete Souza/White House; other photos archival

*Updated with deleted tweet info