Good Food + Good Parties at the Inauguration
Alice Waters and Art SmithJust because the inauguration is over, and just because I wasn’t even in DC, that doesn’t mean I can’t still obsess about the parties, and especially the food that was served. I love the sound of the incredibly exclusive dinner to raise money for DC food banks, presided over by two of the country’s top women chefs, La Brea Bakery’s Nancy Silverton and Chez Panisse's Alice Waters. (Silverton was on the Today show this a.m., talking about the torta della nonna—or grandmother's tart—she made there, in honor of Obama’s grandmother.)
In terms of feeding sheer masses of people, though, no one beats Art Smith, who got diners (like the Obamas) addicted to his extra-crispy, super-juicy fried chicken at Table Fifty-Two in Chicago. Perhaps not coincidentally, he recently opened Art and Soul in DC; it’s the closest restaurant to the Capitol building. No doubt he was one of the busiest people in DC, besides the president’s team. “I think we just decimated the entire chicken population in Virginia,” says Smith, who started pre-inauguration day at 3 a.m. (that's the time he got home from hearing Rihanna sing at one of the zillions of balls), making cinnamon rolls for a show his friend Oprah was shooting at his restaurant.
After feeding hundreds of Art and Soul diners at breakfast and lunch, he oversaw a party for JB Pritzker (you can find him on Forbes’s 400 Richest Americans list), where Bill Clinton was a special guest star. Smith then hosted an after-party to highlight the launch of his excellent Chicago children’s cooking charity, Common Threads, in DC. Among the guests, who got to eat Kobe beef corndogs and, yes, fried chicken, were President Clinton, Maria Pinto (designer of many of Michelle Obama’s great dresses, including the purple fist bump one) and Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio. Smith’s highlight: Introducing Alice Waters to Obama’s social secretary, Desiree Rogers, who knew Waters had urged the Obamas to grow organic vegetables in the White House garden. “Alice,” Smith heard Rogers say, “we’re going to get you that garden.”