There were 130 of them doing what the TV series suggested, "Dining in France" -- literally and hungrily last night at the French Embassy.
Only reluctantly did some of them turn their attention to Libya and the Monday night bombing raid by U.S. warplanes.
"My personal feeling is that the United States had to let Qaddafi know that he can't get away with this," said Pierre Salinger, ABC's man in Paris, who was WETA's man in Washington for the evening. "I'm not sure this is the right thing to do, a straight attack like this, but they had to figure out something to do."
As host of the upcoming 13-week series about France's most famous restaurants, vineyards, cha teaux, farms and forests, which begins on April 26, Salinger came to town yesterday to help promote it.
Awaiting Salinger and his traveling companions, three prominent chefs from France, was a five-course meal featuring beet consomme' with caviar, Black Sea bass and red snapper with artichoke butter and herbs, rabbit with truffles, French cheeses and green apple parfait.
Three French-born American chefs, Daniel Boulud of New York's Plaza-Athene'e, the French Embassy's Francis Layrle, and Jean-Louis Palladin at Jean-Louis of Watergate prepared the meal.
* Washington's French culinary community turned out in force, including Dominique D'Ermo of Dominique's restaurant, more outspoken, perhaps, than most about France's refusal to allow American planes to use French air space on their Libyan mission.
"I think the French have forgotten about Normandy and about how many American pilots died to save them from the other madman, Adolf Hitler," said D'Ermo, now a naturalized American citizen.
Salinger said he doubted that the French are angry about U.S. bombs hitting their embassy in Tripoli.
"I talked to the prime minister's right-hand man by phone and he said, 'You know we have to uphold our national independence, and I'm glad we didn't let them fly.' But according to Salinger, "He also said, 'Go ahead and do it, we're for it.' "
Among the diners were Ethel Kennedy; the Kennedy Center's Roger Stevens; Mark Henrion, president of Barton & Guestier French wines; Sam Bronfman II, president of Seagram Vintners; and the embassy's recently arrived minister counselor Siefer Gaillardin, substituting as the evening host. Ambassador Emmanuel de Margerie had been called away earlier because of a death in his wife's family.
Producer Sandy Fisher of CEL Communications Inc. said of the production, "We didn't want to do a cooking series, we wanted to do a dining series," said Fisher, who once was a Washington lawyer. "It's really about love, because dining in France is a sensuous experience."
Last night, at least, it was a culinary one as well.