Top Chef Masters winners Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelsson can keep their knives packed.
Though the two provided assistance at state dinners in the past, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses will be helming the kitchen themselves tonight. They’ll also be bucking the precedent set when the aforementioned chefs served chutney and curry to the Indian Prime Minister and Oaxacan Black Mole and jicama to the President of Mexico.
Tonight’s menu, at the request of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s delegation, will be an all-American feast featuring last summer’s harvest of honey and produce from the White House’s kitchen garden.
In October of 1997 – the last time the White House hosted a state dinner for the Chinese – President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed President Jiang Zemin and his wife, Madame Wang Yeping to a U.S.-centric feast of chilled lobster, pepper-crusted Oregon beef, Yukon Gold whipped potatoes and an “orange blossom surprise.”
This evening’s guest list may be slightly trimmed down – 225 attendees, down from the aforementioned dinner’s 230-plus – but meat and potatoes remain on the menu, albeit very carefully sourced.
Thyme, rosemary and sage (shielded from the elements by hoop houses in the White House garden) accent vegetables from Huron, Ohio-based The Chef’s Garden. The purveyor, per a White House press release, “reflects the best of the country’s agriculture: sustainability, affordability, and healthy, delicious foods,” mirroring the agenda set by First Lady Michelle Obama. Fresh fish canapes, not listed on the menu, highlight Northern shrimp from Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts and smoked fillets from rainbow trout raised in Idaho.
D’Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese
Fennel, Black Walnuts, and White Balsamic
Poached Maine Lobster
Orange Glazed Carrots and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Dumol Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008
Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions
Double Stuffed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach
Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005
Old Fashioned Apple Pie with
Vanilla Ice Cream
Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008
The traditional venue has also been shifted to accommodate the musical stylings of twelve-time Grammy Award winner Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Chris Botti, four-time vocalists Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater, “hottest artist on the classical music planet” (per the New York Times), Lang Lang – all under the aegis of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. They’ll be jazzing it up in the East Room after dinner is served in the Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room.
This will be the Obamas’ third state dinner – and the third such invitation turned down by House Speaker John Boehner. Perhaps expected guests Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Olympic skating champion Michelle Kwan, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actor Jackie Chan, the legendary Barbra Streisand or her husband, actor James Brolin can arm-wrestle over his dessert.