On their last night in Europe, Barack and Michelle went out on a date -- dinner at a little bistro in the 7th arrondissement called La Fontaine de Mars. Founded in 1908, the restaurant has been owned and run by three couples, most recently by Christiane and Jacques Boudon. As a devoted Parisian, albeit of the 5th arrondissement, I was thrilled that the First Couple had chosen a modest bistro with red and white checked tablecloths, rather than one of the grand, fancy, impossibly expensive three star restaurants, any one of which would have been delighted to put on a culinary extravanganza suitable for a king of the ancien regime.
What might they have had to eat? A look at la carte suggests perhaps les escargots and a terrine de gibier maison et chutney de figues, as entrees, followed by magret de canard and a boudin basque de Christian Parra aux pommes fruits. Washed down with a 2005 pinot noir, to which one might add a bottle of eau gazeuze -- San Pelligrino, perhaps -- and two cafes, and the bill, service compris, would come to 110 Euros. A tad over $150, all in. This is roughly what Susie and I spend for a dinner in Paris, and certainly no more than a comfortably fixed upper middle class couple would spend in New York, Washington, or Chicago. With grandma watching the kids, a quite reasonable tab.
Now, I confess to being partial to the Obamas. I am, after all, writing this post while wearing an Obama T-shirt. But all of this seems to me at one and the same time a more sophisticated and a simpler night out than would have been managed by any other First Couple in the last hundred years, with the possible exception of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter.
Little things like this mean something to me, even though I have no illusions that there is any significance for affairs of state.