WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — There’s something special for the Obamas and something special for the Camerons in the entertainment lineup for Wednesday’s state dinner for the British prime minister and his wife.
The Obamas are big admirers of John Legend, who was scheduled to sing. And David and Samantha Cameron are huge fans of Mumford & Sons, a British folk rock band due to perform.
The full guest list for the dinner won’t come out until guests are on their way. But a few excited guests couldn’t wait to share their news.
Hugh Bonneville, the earl of Grantham from “Downton Abbey” fame, is coming. So is “Homeland” actor Damian Lewis, bringing his wife, actress Helen McCrory. Obama is a big fan of “Homeland,” a psychological thriller that runs on cable TV’s Showtime.
And Obama might want to get some tips on his golf swing from Rory McIlroy, the new world No. 1 golfer. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland tweeted that he’s coming, and posted a photo of himself being fitting for his dinner suit.
The dinner — in a tent on the South lawn — isn’t all about celebrities and sports stars, though. Plenty of corporate and policy and public officials are expected.
White House economist Alan Krueger was toting a tux as he headed in to work on Wednesday, and said he’d be at the dinner with his wife, Lisa.
The White House likes to build up suspense about what’s on the menu, but did reveal that chefs were out on the South Lawn harvesting baby kale and a variety of greens for use in the meal.
Mrs. Obama gave a preview of the dinner during an afternoon meet-up with students from the U.S. and the U.K. in the State Dining Room, complete with an advance tasting of the dessert: steamed lemon pudding, a nod to the traditional English treat.
Then the first lady breezed off, saying, “I have to go look at the tent.” And that’s no ordinary tent: It features a 150-foot-wide glass wall overlooking the White House grounds.
The entire menu was a U.K.-U.S. blend, featuring Bison Wellington, using buffalo tenderloin from North Dakota instead of beef. It also included crisped halibut served on braised baby kale from the White House garden. The salad greens, too, came from the White House backyard.
Mrs. Obama told the schoolgirls that the dinner emerges from a surprisingly tiny kitchen, but said the chefs would have a little extra elbow room Wednesday with the dinner taking place outside.
Executive chef Cristeta Comerford told them that the garden inspired the whole menu. “It just came from the backyard, which is kind of cool,” she said.
It was one more way to find common ground with the Camerons, who have a vegetable patch at their official 10 Downing St. residence.
The meal was all about fostering that oft-spoken-of “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain. And so while the prime minister is not a head of state, making this an “official visit” rather than a “state visit” by the Camerons, the Obamas nonetheless chose to call it a “state dinner,” with all of the attendant ceremony and pomp.
Evidence of the effort to bolster the friendship was everywhere, even in the Obamas’ choice of gifts for the Camerons.
They got a wood and charcoal burning grill engraved with American and British friendship flags, along with his-and-her White House chef jackets embroidered with their names. The gifts harken back to the Obamas’ May 2011 visit to London, when the Obamas and Camerons grilled burgers for American and British members of the military.
Mrs. Obama also gave Mrs. Cameron a vase of White House honey. The Cameron children got bean bag chairs embroidered with their names and the presidential seal.
Before the big dinner, Obama and Cameron took in Tuesday night’s NCAA basketball tournament opener between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State.
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