President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to New Orleans multiple times (separately and together) in 2010, including a joint visit during the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford also visited New Orleans in September, as part of the ongoing White House campaign to promote the safety of Gulf seafood, following the devastating BP oil spill. While in town, Comerford filmed a segment for 12 For The Road, a holiday campaign against drunk driving that is now running on New Orlean's WWLTV, as well as on the station's website. Onscreen, Comerford also cooks--and eats--her very first alligator, a favorite dish in the Gulf region. (Above: Comerford toasts sobriety with WWLTV reporter Bill Capo)
The station hails Comerford as "a culinary ambassador" with a very stressful job, who "took the time to encourage people not to drink and drive, by sharing a special recipe." Comerford joins eleven other celebs who have contributed sober drinks; hers is Sparkling Merry Berry, a mocktail that's essentially fruit soda. Teenage drinking is a particular problem, Comerford told reporter Bill Capo, but that's not all there is to worry about.
"You have to make sure when you're out there, you have to watch out not just for your own self, but for the passengers you have in your car," Comerford said. "You have to watch out for the people around you because lives are very precious."
Making the sober cocktail is very easy, Comerford said.
"It's something fresh and somethings that's very simple, it doesn't take that long, it uses stuff you should have at at home all the time--a lot of fresh fruit," Comerford said. In keeping with Mrs. Obama's focus on locally grown food, she suggested using locally grown fruit, "if you can."
White House Sparkling Merry Berry
1 Cup Seasonal Fruit
Sprig fresh Mint
Spring Water or Sparkling Water
"You can even use watermelon," Comerford said.
The method is simple: Drop the whole fruit and mint into a tall glass, muddle it together with a spoon, add ice on top, and a splash of lime. Pour sparkling water on top, then pour it all into a cocktail shaker, and shake together. Pour the mixture back into two glasses, without straining out the fruit. Garnish with mint, and serve. Makes two servings. (Above: A shot of Comerford muddling the fruit)
"Instead of the sugary soda you get at home, why not make fresh soda?" Comerford said. "It's good. You don't need extra sugar in there."
Comerford's first alligator...
Comerford was joined by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg during her trip to New Orleans, as well as a group of chefs from across the US. They toured a bayou by boat, visited a crab processing plant, and cooked with high-profile New Orleans chefs. Comerford's onscreen lesson in alligator cuisine is courtesy of NOLA chef Greg Reggio of Zea Rotisserie Grill, who showed her how to properly cook the favorite meat, which he said tasted like pork. (Comerford samples the alligator, above)
Comerford's reaction to her virgin outing with the mighty beast:
"His mouth was shut with a tape so you know, you feel safe about it, but I didn't realize how heavy and meaty an alligator is," Comerford said. "You have to hold it a certain way so it doesn't flap around you."
Comerford: First Families are "regular people"
The segment also features clips of Comerford's fifteen-year White House career. She served President Bill Clinton and President George Bush before becoming Top Toque five years ago, and remaining in her position when the Obamas moved in.
"These are all different families, they have different routines, they have different personalities, but at the end of the day, they're just regular people like us," Comerford said about cooking for three very distinct First Families. "Whatever you see in your refrigerator or pantry, they have the same thing."
The White House support for Gulf seafood continued this holiday season. During the eighteen different 2010 White House holiday receptions, Comerford included more than 2,000 pounds of Gulf shrimp and crab in the delights offered to guests.
*Video and screenshots from WWLTV, New Orleans