Washington, Nov.25 (ANI): At their first state dinner on Tuesday night, US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, made sure to infuse the glittering gala with their distinctive touch.
According to the New York Times, they hired a new florist, Laura Dowling, to deck up the tented outdoor dining room in the South Lawns of the White House with locally grown, sustainable harvested magnolia branches and ivy.
They selected a guest chef, Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit in New York, an American citizen who was born in Ethiopia, reared in Sweden and cooks up melting pots of flavors and cuisines.
They invited local students to witness the arrival Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, and presented a mélange of musical entertainment, including the National Symphony Orchestra; Jennifer Hudson, the singer and actress; Kurt Elling, the jazz musician from Chicago; and A. R. Rahman, the Indian composer who wrote the score to the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."
The menu was vegetarian and included a mix of Indian and American favorites, including some African-American standards.
Collard greens and curried prawns, chickpeas and okra, nan and cornbread were served to the 320 guests, including some well-known Republicans and prominent Indian-Americans - who started off with arugula from the White House garden and finished up with pumpkin pie tart.
The paper quoted Vishakha N. Desai, a dinner guest and the Indian-born president of the Asia Society, as saying that the Obamas' wanted to set a different tone, celebrating not just his African-American heritage, but also the cultural diversity of America.
President Obama, according to the NYT, greeted his guests in Hindi and hailed the contributions of Mohandas K. Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, saying that such "giants" are "the reason why both of us can stand here tonight."
Mr. Singh responded, "Your journey to the White House has captured the imaginations of millions and millions of Indians."
The evening was a potent mix of politics, diplomacy and glamour, with the administration's favored donors mingling with lawmakers from Congress, cabinet secretaries, Indian dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities decked out in tuxedos and designer dresses.
Historically, President Ulysses S. Grant hosted the first White House dinner in 1874 for King David Kalakaua of Hawaii.
President George W. Bush held only six state dinners, while President Bill Clinton hosted more than 20, the NYT reports.
Michelle Obama made a splash by showcasing deep, rich colours - apple green for the tablecloths and varying shades of plum, purple and fuchsia in the hydrangea, roses and sweet peas in the center pieces.
There was White House honey and sage from the garden and a menu that gave vegetables and beans - including eggplants and lentils - top billing.
Dozens of schoolchildren were invited to participate in the day's events and savoured the chance to see the White House up close. (ANI)