WASHINGTON -- President Obama and first lady Michelle honored Hu Jintao, president of the People's Republic of China at a State Dinner on Wednesday night with two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The Chinese wanted an evening that was "quintessentially American" and they got it: the entertainment was all jazz, music as American as apple pie, which was one of the desserts.
The Obama White House threw a splashy party for 225 guests, drawn from politics, government, judiciary, business, movies and television, the arts and a few big supporters.
The affair was scaled down from the two other state dinners the Obama's hosted, for leaders of India in 2009 and Mexico in 2010 thrown in pavilions constructed for temporary use on the South Lawn.
The dishy details:
MRS. OBAMA'S GOWN: The red and black print asymmetrical shoulder number was by the late British designer Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide last year.
CHICAGOANS AT THE DINNER: Mayor Daley and wife Maggie; White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and wife Bernadette Keller; Education Secretary Arne Duncan and wife Karen; Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett; Senior Adviser David Axelrod and wife Susan; Motorola's Greg Brown and Anna-Louise Brown; Boeing's W. James McNerney and Haity McNerney; Tom and Margot Pritzker; first lady Chief of Staff Susan Sher and her husband, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil Cohen; Tina Tchen, Office of Public Engagement Director; and from Decatur, Archer Daniels Midland's Patricia Woertz and Kelvin Westbrook.
CELEB SAMPLING: Olympic skater Michelle Kwan; martial arts star Jackie Chan; designer Vera Wang; Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin; cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actors Barbra Steisand and husband James Brolin.
SEATING: Guests were seated in three rooms in the White House: Blue, Red, State, with the presidents eating in the State Dining room from a long head table for 20 beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Television monitors were in each room so the guests could see the toasts and the rest of the State Dining room action.
ENTERTAINMENT: It was called "An Evening of Jazz," with jazz greats Herbie Hancock, Chris Botti, Lang Lang, Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
MENU: Unlike the two other dinners, there was no guest chef. Overseeing the fine dining was White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford, a native of Manilla, Phillippines, and William Yosses, the White House executive pastry chef.
Here's what was served on china from the Clinton, Reagan and Truman administrations:
D'Anjou pear salad with farmstead goat cheese
Fennel, black walnuts and white balsamic
Poached Maine Lobster, orange glaze carrots and black trumpet mushrooms
Wine: Dumol Chardonnay "Russian River" 2008
Dry aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions
Double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach
Wine: Quilceda Creek Cabernet "Columbia Valley" 2005
Old fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream
Wine: Poet's Leap Riesling "botrytis" 2008
PANDA NEWS: Obama revealed some news on the panda front in his toast. The pandas on loan from China at the National Zoo -- Mei Xiang and Tian Tian -- get to stay.
Said Obama, "The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President, today we've shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news --- under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas."