Idaho `Smokejumper’ Joins the Obamas for a Night Out

Photograph by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have dinner with three winners of "Dinner with Barack and Michelle" fundraising contest on August 20, 2012 at Mintwood Place in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dined at a Washington restaurant tonight with three winners of a contest sponsored by his re-election bid, one of whom is a “highly trained wildfire smokejumper from Idaho,” according to the campaign.

The two other contest winners are educators: David Garcia, an associate music professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Latasha Scurry, an assistant high school principal in Florida. And all of the three guests the winners were allowed to bring with them are either current or retired teachers.

Obama took note. “I’m glad we’ve got at least one firefighter to mix things up,” he said.

Ben Oakleaf, the winner from Idaho, is  “an avid sportsman and a proud conservationist,” according to an e-mail the campaign sent to reporters. Smokejumpers parachute into wildfire areas, with tools, water and food also dropped in from the sky so that they can be self-sufficient for 48 hours.

The winners of the “Dinner with Barack” contest — the fifth his 2012 campaign has conducted — and their guests had  their flights into Washington and their lodging paid for by the president’s campaign. Entry was free online, though contributions to help Obama’s cause weren’t discouraged.

The dinner party convened at Mintwood Place, about a 10-minute drive from the White House in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. The restaurant features a modern decor, including a tin ceiling.

Items on the Mintwood menu include cast-iron Amish chicken for $23, “New York strip steak frites” with bordelaise sauce for $32, and cocktails such as the “Woodrow Wilson,” consisting of Boomsa Genever Gin, Hum liqueur, Elderflower and Cava.

Before-dinner conversation included the first lady talking about the “kids state dinner” — really a lunch — she hosted at the White House earlier today. Attended by more than 50 children who submitted original recipes that stress health eating, it was part of Michelle Obama’s campaign to combat childhood obesity. She described some of the dishes featured at the event, including avocado salad and cabbage on a bun with zucchini fries.

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