Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon arrived at the White House Wednesday night for a subdued state dinner with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
Jill wore a blush-toned dress with silver sequins in a floral pattern beaded over it by designer Reem Acra, while Haydon sported a smoke-colored sparkly ballgown.
The guest list of around 325 lacked star power – with only actor John Leguizamo and powerhouse producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who’s advising Biden’s reelection campaign – representing Hollywood.
A planned performance by the B-52’s had been scrapped due to the poor optics of White House guests getting down to ‘Love Shack’ amid war in the Middle East.
Hunter Biden – who has attended two other White House state dinners – skipped Wednesday night’s affair, but his children Naomi, with husband Peter Neal, Finnegan and Maisy were all there.
‘Everything,’ Maisy answered when asked by DailyMail.com what she was most looking forward to.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden (right) greet Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon (left) at the North Portico at the White House Wednesday for the Australian state dinner
GRANDCHILDREN GALORE: Hunter Biden’s children Finnegan and Maisy Biden (left) and Naomi Biden with husband Peter Neal (right) arrive at Wednesday night’s state dinner with Australia
Actor John Leguizamo and Justine Leguizamo arrive for a State Dinner in honor of Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon. Leguizamo was one of the only representatives from Hollywood at Wednesday night’s affair
Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Australian, stayed tight-lipped about her cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential bid challenging President Joe Biden
Amb. Caroline Kennedy, the current U.S. ambassador to Australia, zoomed by reporters as she arrived for the dinner, without answering questions about her cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential run against Biden.
When Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten arrived at the dinner, Chasten said he was most excited that the ‘babysitter’s on duty,’ as the couple are dads of twins.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo brought her son Tommy Moffit as her guest who eagerly told reporters ‘oh no’ when asked if it was his first state dinner.
‘It is,’ his mother objected, garnering laughs.
Her high school-age son then explained, ‘I get dragged to lots of things.’
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said it was appropriate for the White House to tone down the dinner, telling reporters the Israel-Hamas war was ‘very much on our mind.’
‘My parents fled the Nazis in the 30s. All got out. We lost family in Kristallnacht and Theresienstadt. And absolutely this is very much on our mind tonight and I just want to commend the president and first lady because we would have loved to, under normal circumstances, had the music,’ the Oregon lawmaker said. ‘That was a good call.’
The biggest celebrity at the dinner, actor Leguizamo, said he would be hitting the campaign trail for Biden to help the 80-year-old president win reelection next year.
‘Oh yeah, definitely. It must be done,’ Leguizamo said.
Leguizamo answered in the affirmative when asked if Biden was going to do well with Latino voters, a voting bloc former President Donald Trump has tried to pick off.
‘Yes, I think he is. I think he’s doing the right things, which is getting Latin consultants and talking to Latin experts who will tell him how to address us, and make the effort,’ the actor answered. ‘If you make the effort, we will be there, but you have to make the effort. I think he’s doing all that – him and Kamala Harris as well.’
The Bidens formally welcomed Albanese and his partner to the White House on Wednesday morning.
The two men held a meeting in the Oval Office and a joint press conference. Jill Biden and Haydon visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center.
The state dinner, which has been in the works for months, has been toned back from its original plan.
Australian singer James Keogh (left), who performs under the name Vance Joy, and Selen Us (right) pose as they arrive for a State Dinner
John Kerry (center), the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, poses with daughters Vanessa Kerry (left) and Alexandra Kerry (right)
Jeffrey Katzenberg (left), CEO of DreamWorks Animation, and Sujay Jaswa (right) arrive for a state dinner. Katzenberg is advising Biden’s reelection campaign
Jill Biden scrapped the idea of having the B-52’s perform, citing violence in the world. Instead, the members of the band will attend the event as guests. Performing will be the president’s Marine Band and the Army and Air Force Strolling Strings, offering instrumental music for the evening.
Menu for Wednesday’s Australian State Dinner
Farro & Roasted Beet Salad
Popped Sorghum, Herb Vinaigrette
Butternut Squash Soup
Smoked Paprika, Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Sarsaparilla-braised Short Ribs
Sorghum-glazed Young Carrots
Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root Purée, Carrot Jus
Hazelnut & Chocolate Mousse Cake
Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Windracer Chardonnay ‘Alexander Mountain’ 2019
Sequel Syrah Columbia Valley 2019
Argyle Extended Tirage Brut 2012
‘We are now in a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain, so we made a few adjustments to the entertainment portion of the evening,’ she said at a press preview of the dinner on Tuesday.
Between 325 and 350 guests attended the black-tie event, according to the White House. It took place in an elaborate tent on the South Lawn of the White House.
The dinner combined the best of both nations, both its food and its seasons.
Event designer Bryan Rafanelli brought together the seasons of Fall, which is currently taking place in the U.S., and Spring, which is happening in Australia, in his decor and settings.
The decor is spring-like with a heavy emphasis on flowers while the menu consists of seasonal fall food: farro and roasted beet salad, butternut squash soup, sarsaparilla-braised short ribs, and, for dessert, hazelnut and chocolate mousse cake with crème fraîche ice cream.
Ice cream is President Biden’s favorite dessert and is often served at state dinners.
‘It makes him happy,’ said White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo.
Katie Button, the co-founder of Asheville, North Carolina’s Cúrate, is the guest chef who designed the menu.
‘We’ve wanted to welcome the guests from Australia with the warmth and bounty of fall in the United States,’ Button said.
Color dominates. Soft lavender makes up one table cloth while colorful sequins dominate another. Massive flower bouquets of pink, yellow, blue, and red flowers set in the center of the tables. Apples, grapes, berries and pears are part of the decorations.
The florals represent both countries: Roses and Delphinium for the United States and Eucalyptus for Australia.
The backdrop to the dinner will be a canvas of American Monarch Butterflies and Australian Cairns Birdwing Butterflies.
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave from the South Portico with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Ms. Jodie Haydon
With the Washington Monument in the background, President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stand onstage during the playing of the the Australian and American national anthems
U.S. President Joe Biden (right) and Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese (left) hold a press conference the Rose Garden at the White House
Color is the theme of the decor, with large bouquets of flowers dominating the table setting
Australia is a key U.S. ally in the Pacific and the visit focused on China’s influence in that area. Biden, speaking in the Oval Office, said the two leaders will also discuss how they ‘stand with Israel in the wake of Hamas’s appalling terrorist attack’.
Albanese and Haydon joined the Bidens at the White House on Tuesday evening for a private dinner. The two couples exchanged gifts, signed a guest book and had dinner together in the residence.
The Bidens gave Albanese an antique writing desk, designed in 1886 by an American furniture company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The side panel included an inscription set in gold to commemorate the Official Visit.
President Biden gave Albanese a custom signature turntable from a family-owned American audio manufacturer. Albanese is a huge fan of vinyl records.
Jill Biden gave Haydon a green enamel and diamond petite necklace designed and hand-crafted by an American jeweler.
Albanese gave Biden ‘Fire Flower 8,’ a painting by Australian artist Katherine Boland. Haydon gave Jill Biden a silver leaf brooch by jewellery designer Shimara Carlow, and a silk scarf designed by Katarra Butler Napaltjarri.
Albanese will visit China, Australia’s largest trade partner and biggest buyer of its iron ore, on Nov. 4. He will be the first Australian prime minister to visit China in seven years and he will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping
His meeting with Xi comes ahead of a potential Biden-Xi meeting.
‘The president has said that many, many times and Australia and their relationship with China is incredibly important to manage it. The first question, there’s no question in my mind that the challenges and the opportunities in relations with the [People’s Republic of China] will be on the agenda tomorrow. No question about that,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
The president could sit down with Xi on the sidelines of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.
‘There has been no such meeting set up, but it is a possibility,’ Biden told reporters earlier this month.
Biden has focused heavily on the Indo-Pacific region in his presidency.
A menu and napkin at a dinner setting
The dinner will take place in a tent on the South Lawn
Color dominates the decor on the tables while the menu will reflect seasonal foods
Wednesday marks the Bidens’ fourth state dinner since becoming president and two others – for South Korea and India – also focused on the Indo-Pacific. The first state dinner was for France.
President Biden welcomed Albanese to the White House after he promised a state visit in return for having to scrap a stop in Australia earlier this year to focus on debt limit talks in Washington.
The president was scheduled to go to Syndney after a G7 meeting in Japan in May but changed plans in order to continue talks to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt.