In the highly scripted world of presidential itineraries, security, and staff, it's hard to pull off a surprise. But that's exactly what President Barack Obama did on Saturday when he threw First Lady Michelle Obama an early 46th birthday party at Restaurant Nora in Northwest Washington.

The First Couple arrived at the internationally renowned organic eatery around 6:40 p.m., where Mrs. Obama was genuinely surprised to see about a dozen of their closest friends, including Eric and Cheryl Whitaker and Marty Nesbitt, who all flew in from Chicago for the occasion.

Joining them were Marian Robinson, the First Lady's mother; Special Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett; Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife Sharon Malone; the First Lady's chief of staff, Susan Sher; presidential inauguration poet Elizabeth Alexander; Cindy Moelis, head of the White House Fellows program; Jocelyn Frye, director of policy and projects in the First Lady's office; and Anita Blanchard.

Chef Benjamin Lambert prepared a special lamb dish for the birthday girl, as well as seared Maine lobster and saffron risotto, complemented by organic wine, a 2008 Spottswoode Suauvignon Blanc. Lambert told The Washington Post that he'd been planning for the presidential meal for two weeks.

It was a late night for the Obamas, who didn't leave the restaurant until after 10:30 p.m. On their way out, a crowd of about 50 onlookers spontaneously broke into a round of "Happy Birthday" for the first lady. 

Photo: Obamafoodorama