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Michelle Obama's surprise birthday bash at Restaurant Nora

It may have been a surprise to her, but Saturday night's birthday dinner celebration for first lady Michelle Obama at the high-end Restaurant Nora in Washington was in the works for two weeks.

Chief Benjamin Lambert tells The Washington Post he had plenty of time to prepare for the first couple's first visit to the posh organic eatery in Dupont Circle. And he claims he wasn't nervous, not for a minute, even as two Secret Service agents stood guard in the kitchen while he prepared their meal: a special lamb dish for her, and pan-seared Maine lobster and saffron risotto for him.

They drank Spottswood sauvignon blanc. And after nearly four hours of partying in an upstairs private room at Nora, the president took photos with the wait staff and waded through the kitchen, shaking hands with the cooks and waiters and thanking them for their efforts to fete his wife, who turns 46 on Sunday.

The party guests included the first lady's mother, Marian Robinson, Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, Susan Sher, the first lady's chief of staff, and the Obamas' good friends from Chicago, Eric and Cheryl Whitaker.

Also on the scene, as always, was the president's all-purpose body man, the towering Reggie Love.

It wasn't hard for unsuspecting patrons -- including this reporter -- to figure out who, too, was dining at Nora on Saturday. All at the restaurant were mildly interrogated, wanded and frisked upon entering by Secret Service agents. A bevy of black SUVs, a police car and agents with ear pieces hovered outside. And by the time the Obamas left, just after 10 pm, a crowd of bystanders gathered on the corner and sang "Happy Birthday" to Mrs. Obama.

Just about the only person around who didn't seem fazed was Chef Lambert, who previously worked at New York's famed Le Cirque. "I've cooked for every president since Gerald Ford," he said. All of them, save for Bill Clinton and now Obama, were former presidents by the time they feasted on Lambert's delicacies.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  January 17, 2010; 1:30 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Michelle Obama  
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Comments

I was there with the crowd that serenaded Michelle. As someone who has lived in DC for the past 6 years, it was so uplifting to see the excitement people felt to see the 1st Lady and the President. Four years ago, people in DC (on the street) would not have acted this way. It shows that no matter what difficulties American politics may face, Washingtonians love our President and his family.

Posted by: DupontCir1977 | January 17, 2010 4:07 AM | Report abuse

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