Add this to the short list of second-term perks: better restaurants.
President Obama managed to squeeze in two top-shelf establishments in one evening in Paris on Thursday, the sort of gourmand double-header most people could only dream of.
Among the dreamers might have been first-term Obama, a man who has made clear his love for a good meal in a great city, but who was generally cautious to avoid public indulgences, signs of elitism or other appearances that he'd lost touch with the lives or tastes of an average American.
Obama these days seems a little less sensitive about such appearances. In April, the president tucked a dinner with friends and a night at the theater into a fundraising trip in Manhattan. The dining destination was the Rome-by-way-of-New York trattoria Maialino.
To be sure, the president's tastes aren't all foie gras. He regularly goes out for burgers and sandwiches, often for lunch with Vice President Joe Biden. On a stop in Chicago last month, the president popped into an old haunt, Valois Restaurant, for a basic egg breakfast.
The president’s dining almost always makes news no matter what the price point -- sometimes for what he doesn’t eat. On a recent trip to Asia, Obama raised a stir in Tokyo when it was reported he ate only half the 20-piece dinner at the sushi temple Sukiyabashi Jiro. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took Obama there for sushi prepared by chef Jiro Ono, considered a master of the art.
Like that dinner, Obama’s first date on Thursday night was a working meal. French President Francois Hollande took him out to Le Chiberta to talk about banks, economic sanctions, Syria and other serious business. The restaurant was created by French chef Guy Savoy in 2004. It is directed by Savoy's associate Jean-Paul Montellier, and by Stephane Laruelle in the kitchen. Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and national security advisor Susan Rice sat with their French counterparts at a small round table. The White House did not disclose what they ate.
Hollande raised eyebrows for booking another engagement later in the evening – another dinner, this one with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Obama, it turns out, also had other plans. He met a college friend for dinner at Restaurant Helen, which describes its philosophy as "Le culte du poisson," translated literally as "the worship of fish."
Obama was joined by Rice, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, college friend Laurent Delanney and "other friends," the White House said. The president was just there for the company, the White House noted as it announced the outing, declaring he would not be eating twice.