Surprisingly, there were few Korean American celebrities. Actor John Cho (Harold!) was there, looking lonesome without Kumar. (Kal Penn, of course, left his White House job, for the second time, this year.) But Daniel Dae Kim? Sandra Oh? Oh, no. Both were missing. Another thought-we’d-see-her: Though there were two Rhees on the guest list, neither of them had the first name Michelle.
We keep an eye out for guests wearing traditional hanboks: one — in pink and lavender, aside from the gown worn by Korean first lady Kim Yoon-ok.
How many minutes before someone makes the inevitable “South Korea has Seoul” pun? It shan’t be us.
The theme of the dinner was “fall harvest.” Apples, lots of them. And chrysanthemums, which are Korea’s autumn go-to symbol. The guests dined on tables covered in orange, green and gold tablecloths set with the gold-rimmed 2000 Millennium china. The mirrors were framed with a variety of apples; the tables held centerpieces constructed of them; and images of fall leaves were projected onto the ceiling. The seats were covered in gingham, and the candlesticks were wooden. It was a little bit country. All of this came from the brain of Bryan Rafanelli, the Boston-based event planner — he also designed Chelsea Clinton’s wedding last year.
The menu was apple-free (also kimchi free, alas), but very autumnal — much of it harvested from the White House garden: butternut squash bisque, a green salad, Texas wagyu beef and a chocolate cake with pears. Nods to Korea included daikon sheets and rice pearl crispies in the salad, and Korean pears in the dessert.
After dinner, guests crossed the grand foyer into the State Dining Room — which is where the eating usually occurs — for the evening’s entertainment. First, the Ahn Trio, the photogenic Korean American sister act whose classical music has achieved mainstream success and whose faces have achieved spots on People magazine’s “Most Beautiful” list. The headliner was Monae — who is known both for her old-school soul and her propensity to perform as a robot alter ego.
And then guests were sent back into the night, where the rain had settled into puddles.