President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama honored French President François Hollande Tuesday at a state dinner that featured an American-centric menu and a star-studded guest list.
In his toast, President Obama joke about French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville and his observations on American culture, including food and wine.
“About American dining, de Tocqueville wrote, ‘The absence of wine at our meals at first struck us as very disagreeable; and we still can’t understand the multitude of things that [Americans] succeed in introducing into their stomachs,’” Obama said to a round of laughter. “So some things do not change.”
Obama continuted: “When François came here years ago as a student to study our fast food, I suspect he said the same thing.”
R&B singer Mary J. Blige performed her first song after the dinner, according to pool reports. The menu included a range of American cuisine – steak, salad, potatoes, chocolate cake and ice cream. The White House also revealed the wine list, which includes a Morlet “La Proportion Doree” 2011 from Napa Valley, Calif., a Chester-Kidder 2009 red blend from Columbia Valley, Wash., and a Thibaut-Jannison “Blanc de Chardonnay” from Monticello, Va.
As with any event held at the White House, all eyes will be on Michelle Obama. The first lady stepped out to greet President Hollande in a black and liberty blue Carolina Herrera gown.
Tuesday night’s greeting was slightly different from previous state dinners, as President Hollande arrived without a partner by his side after a widely publicized scandal. The French president and his longtime partner Valérie Trierweiler broke up last month after reports of his alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet surfaced.
But the most notable detail of the state dinner may be the high-profile guest list, which includes diplomats, politicians, members of the media, and Hollywood stars and producers. Among those invited include film producer J.J. Abrams, actress Mindy Kaling, LGBT activist Edith Windsor, actor Bradley Cooper, comedian Stephen Colbert who will sit at the head table with the Obamas and Hollande, former NBA player Jason Collins, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.