Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Australia, President Obama Feted With Parliamentary Dinner: The Menu, The Guest List...

The US-Australia relationship is "crackerjack," says President Obama, even if we "disagree" about "the merits of Vegemite"...
In Australia on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Julia Gillard hosted a lavish banquet in honor of President Obama. The "Parliamentary Dinner," held in a vast hall at Parliament House Canberra, was a formal affair, which Australian media billed as a State Dinner. The three-course menu for a guest list of hundreds, including Cabinet Ministers and Australian luminaries, starred regional favorites: Pan-fried Jewfish, lamb, and a pavlova with wattleseed. (Above: The President and Prime minister in the center of the Head Table)

Clad in a sequined black gown, Gillard welcomed the President for a "night of friendship," and admitted that she's been “a little bit nervous” about his visit. She said her significant other, Tim Mathieson, “really got a talking to from the First Lady” while in Hawaii for the APEC summit, where he joined Mrs. Obama for lunch on Sunday.

“She said to him that you often don’t eat because you are so focused on your work that you forget to eat and she wanted to make sure that we feed you well in Australia," Gillard told President Obama.

"So the only answer to that was to make sure that you had a hearty meal and had six to seven hundred witnesses."

During his own remarks after the dinner, President Obama recalled a childhood visit to the country, and used local vernacular as he hailed the relationship between the US and Australia.

"We can say with confidence and with pride that the alliance between the United States and Australia is deeper and stronger than it has ever been. Spot on. Crackerjack. In top nick."

While Americans and Australians "may not always speak the same way or use the same words," President Obama assured the crowd that there are more similarities than differences.

"I think it’s pretty clear...that we understand and see the world in the same way, even if we disagree about the merits of Vegemite."

The President was clad in a dark suit that he'd worn during his day of meetings, and had arrived with Gillard at 7:48 PM to trumpets. They stood together on stage before the dinner began, as a military band played and a chorus sang the American and then the Australian national anthems. Read the full transcript of the President's remarks. (Above: Seated on stage)

Opposition Leader Tony Abbot also spoke, telling Mr. Obama that “as the leader of the United States, sir, you are the world’s president.”

Tablesettings featured red white and blue flora arrangements, and US and Australian flags decorated the hall. As for the "hearty" meal: Mission accomplished.

Parliamentary Dinner in Honor of
President Obama

Macadamia and Thyme Encrusted Lamb Canon

with Avocado Cream Quenelle

Blood Orange Segments and Herb Salad

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 Margaret River (WA)

Pan-fried Jewfish

with Seared Prawn Mousse

Crushed Kipfler Potato and Saffron Cream Reduction

Hollick Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Coonawarra (SA)

Wattleseed and Passionfruit Pavlova Roulade

with Fresh Raspberries

Guest list as provided by Prime Minister Gillard's office:

President Barack Obama

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Mr. Tim Mathieson

Tony Abbott, Opposition Leader

Speaker of the House of Representatives Harry Jenkins

President of the Senate John Hogg

The Honourable Robert French AC, Chief Justice of Australia

Former Prime Minister Howard

General David Hurley

Australian Ambassador to America Kim Beazley

Premier of QLD Anna Bligh

Premier of SA Jay Weatherill

Chief Minister of the ACT Katy Gallagher

Pool also reported as guests: "Ministers and Members of Parliament, plus their partners; a number of Ambassadors and High Commissioners; a number of Department Secretaries; a number of representatives from Australian businesses, unions, business interest groups, academics and NGOs.

*The President's address to the Australian Parliament is here. The next day he visited Darwin, in the Northern Territory.

A dinner report from ABC Australia:

*Photos by pool/AFP; toast photo by Pete Souza/White House

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