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Michelle outshines Hollywood stars at White House bash

Michelle and Barack Obama welcomed a mix of Hollywood A-listers, captains of industry and prominent Chinese-Americans to the White House for a "quintessentially American" state dinner for the president of China, complete with apple pie and ice cream.

The US first lady was clad in an elegant Alexander McQueen red shoulder-baring gown and the president sported a tuxedo as they welcomed President Hu Jintao on a red carpet on the White House portico, with an honour guard standing at attention behind them.

Celebrity star power arrived in the form of singer Barbra Streisand and her husband, actor James Brolin, and action film star Jackie Chan.

Big business turned out in force, too, including Microsoft's Steven Ballmer and JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon. Other big names included fashion's Vera Wang, Vogue's Anna Wintour, artist Maya Lin, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, and US Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also attended. Ms Wang wore a floor-length, sleeveless design of her own and Ms Wintour opted for a white Chanel skirt suit.


The dinner's all-star jazz line-up included trumpeter Chris Botti, two-time Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz icon Herbie Hancock, rising pianist Lang Lang and four-time Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves.

Mere mortals who find themselves in a last-minute frenzy before guests arrive could take comfort in knowing that it is the same at the White House. Hours before the dinner, chair cushions were stacked in the front foyer and harried staff shuttled flower arrangements to and fro.

The two presidents' toasts featured the usual promises of better relations all around and Mr Obama used the moment to highlight an agreement that would ensure beloved giant pandas from China remained at the Smithsonian National Zoo for another five years.

The Obamas opted against bringing in a high-profile guest chef, instead putting White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford in charge of an all-American menu requested by the Chinese delegation.

On the menu: d'anjou pear salad with farmstead goat cheese, poached Maine lobster, orange glazed carrots and black trumpet mushrooms, dry aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions and double-stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach.

Dessert was old-fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream -- Mr Obama is known to be an avid eater of pastry chef Bill Yosses' pies.

Streisand, who helped raise money for Mr Obama, said she had "a lot of friends here".

Asked for a thought on why she was invited, she quipped: "I worked in a Chinese restaurant."