Dinners were served in the basement. Ambassadors, generals with many stars, senior White House officials and closely read columnists -- all would walk past the yellowing kitchen, which looked as if it hadn't been updated since the Ford administration, and down a narrow flight of stairs into the dimly lighted dining room. Guests were arrayed around the table according to rank, with the most important ones squeezed in the center. Although the Old World meals could be quite elaborate -- venison paté, duck in bitter orange -- they were prepared and served entirely by the host, a stickler for protocol named Albrecht Muth.
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