Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013: President Obama Romances First Lady With Dinner At DC's 'minibar'

Chef/owner José Andrés is a favorite of the First Couple, and a frequent White House guest chef...
President Obama on Thursday morning told a crowd in Decatur, Georgia that he had big plans for a Valentine's Day date night with First Lady Michelle Obama.  He kept his word, escorting his wife to a two-hour romantic dinner at the chic minibar restaurant in Penn Quarter, arriving by motorcade at 6:59 PM.  It's difficult to get a reservation at the hip hotspot--which accommodates just twelve patrons per seating--but acclaimed chef/owner José Andrés, the 2011 James Beard Outstanding Chef, is a longtime supporter of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and has frequently cooked as a guest chef at the White House.  

Two of Andrés' other eateries are among the Mrs. Obama's favorite restaurants in DC, so the President acquitted himself nicely in the pleasing-his-wife category.  With a little pressure: The First Lady, Mr. Obama told the Georgia crowd, "made me promise to get back in time for our date tonight.  That's important."  

The President repeated: "That's important."  The Husband in Chief returned to DC in plenty of time for their romantic interlude, which lasted until 9:08 PM.  Andrés' elaborate "avant-garde" minibar menu has dishes that "combine art and science as well as tradition and technique," says the website, which proclaims the eatery "one of the nation's most exciting dining experiences."  The $225-per-person tasting menu changes frequently, and has starred dishes like Chichuly, Garden and Glass Salad, Tiger Nut Horchata, Beef Tendon Stuffed Churros, and Olive Oil Soup with frozen Mandarin Oranges.

The President pulled out all the Valentine stops for his wife, with whom he celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary last October as he battled for re-election.

"I've already got a gift, got the flowers," President Obama said in Georgia.  "I was telling folks the flowers are a little easier, though, because I've got this Rose Garden.  Lot of people keeping flowers around."  He got appreciative laughter and applause.

The President's press pool had no sighting of the First Couple as they arrived and departed minibar, and were held at a nearby restaurant while the First Couple enjoyed their avante garde delights.  Crowds filled the closed-off streets around minibar by the time the President and Mrs. Obama had finished dining, and mingled among the black SUVs from the motorcade and police vehicles.

After a short ride back to the White House, the President and Mrs. Obama were home at 9:13 PM.  The dinner was a long way from the Obamas' first date long ago in Chicago, when they visited the Chicago Art Museum and had a lunch at the outdoor cafe, watched a Spike Lee movie, and had their very first kiss after enjoying ice cream.

Last year, President Obama took his wife out for a Valentine's dinner at Vermilion Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia.  Prior to this evening, the steak and lobster feast was the First Couple's only dinner outside the White House that has actually occurred on Valentine's Day since they moved into 1600 Penn.  In October of 2012, the President and Mrs. Obama had a slightly belated dinner for their 20th wedding anniversary at Georgetown's Bourbon Steak restaurant.

The Obamas love Andrés...
Andrés owns an empire of restaurants, and is a TV personality and bestselling cookbook author.  He has cooked at separate White House events for both the President and Mrs. Obama, and in the Kids' Kitchen at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.  Most recently, in June of 2012 Andrés was one of the judges for Mrs. Obama's national kids' recipe contest, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.  Before that, in May of 2012, he cooked a lovely farm-to-table luncheon the First Lady hosted at the White House for spouses of G8 leaders meeting with President Obama at Camp David.  (Above, Andrés with Mrs. Obama and Sam Kass in her White House Kitchen Garden)

The four-course menu, anchored by Maryland Rockfish and Virginia wine, was "celebrating Americas history, wines, farmers!," Andrés wrote on his @ChefJoseAndres Twitter account.

A native of Spain who has been in DC for more than two decades, Andrés also stars in a White House cooking video for Let's Move!, with Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass.  

Since 2009, the First Lady has made repeat visits to Andrés other DC restaurants, Zaytinya, a Greek/Lebanese/Mediterranean joint, and Oyamel, a Mexican small-plates eatery.  And though he's a big Twitter user, Andrés is unlikely to tweet about the First Couple's Valentine's Dinner.  He's one of the few chefs who remains extremely discreet about private Obama events.

Earlier on Thursday: Presidential Valentine's advice...
President Obama's visit to Georgia on Thursday morning promoted education initiatives announced in his State of the Union Address.  He visited a pre-k classroom at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center at 12:10 PM, and then delivered remarks at the Decatur Community Recreation Center at 1:20 PM.  

Ahead of his Valentine's Dinner, the President returned to the White House at 4:25 PM, and minutes later, at 4:50 PM, he held a digital "Fireside Hangout" from the Roosevelt Room on Google+ as another SOTU follow-up. The President doled out some Valentine's advice when asked by one female participant, a mother named Mrs. Davis, to "issue an Executive Order" mandating that her husband Mark Davis spoil her for the holiday, because, she said, he believes "Valentine's Day is just a made-up holiday."

"Mr. President, would you pleases, on behalf of all American women, right now, issue an Executive Order, via Google Hangout, for my husband, Mark Davis, to spoil me this Valentine's Day?she asked as she appeared onscreen with her husband and kids.

The President played along.

"Can I just say, Mark, I think here's the general rule," President Obama said.  "If Mama's happy, everybody's happy."

"So do right, man.  You will pay a higher price later, than doing the right thing during Valentine's Day." 

The reluctant Mark Davis agreed.  "All right, I will." 


On Friday, the President will travel first to Chicago for another SOTU follow-up, and then to West Palm Beach, Florida, for a President's Day weekend vacation that will last through Monday.  He has no public events scheduled.

Info:  minibar is at 855 E St. NW, Washington, DC, 20008.  Phone:  202-393-0812.

*Updated from the earlier posts at 7:32 PM and 1:32 PM

*Top photo by Obama for America; it is the most re-tweeted photo in Twitter history after it was posted on @BarackObama on Election Night with the message "Four More Years." Kitchen Garden photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama