President Obama took his own advice to “go big” for Valentine’s Day: A personal tweet to the first lady early in the day, then a romantic dinner at Vermilion (which specializes in local farm-raised cuisine) in Old Town Alexandria. The Obamas usually disappear into a private room when dining out, but Tuesday they sat at a table upstairs where fellow diners could see them. The president (blazer, white shirt, no tie) sipped a martini; the first lady a glass of wine. The two ordered off the tasting menu paired with wines ($110 each), ordering different options to try all the courses — except for dessert: Both had the chocolate truffle tart.
Why didn’t they go to the VIP dinner for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping? Because dinners with foreign dignitaries are bound by strict protocol and apparently it was Joe Biden’s turn: Biden was Xi’s guest in China last August and the official host for the reciprocal vice-presidential visit in D.C.
The party at the Naval Observatory boasted cabinet secretaries Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Tim Geithner, Tom Vilsack, John Bryson, and Ron Kirk; U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, Justice Stephen Breyer and Valerie Jarrett. Guests ate crab cakes, beef tenderloin and poached pears; violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Sam Haywood provided the evening’s entertainment.