Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Obama State Dinner Menu In Honor Of Prime Minister David Cameron: Menu, Wines, Decor...

Kitchen Garden "Winter Harvest" dinner features Bison Wellington, Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust, Steamed Meyer Lemon Pudding...
The late winter bounty from First Lady Michelle Obama's Kitchen Garden will anchor President Obama's State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister David Cameron and Mrs. Samantha Cameron this evening. The President and Mr. Cameron spent their time at this morning's Arrival Ceremony focusing on their similarities rather than their differences, and the four-course dinner menu is highly symbolic of the Special Relationship. It is an embroidery on American favorites with nods to British tradition and culinary culture--Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust as the first course, Bison Wellington as the entree, and a Steamed Meyer Lemon Pudding for dessert (above). THE GUEST LIST.

Queen Victoria and a couple of legendary American Presidents are referenced on the menu with the use of a very storied American apple in the dessert. The Newtown Pippin Apples that are used--somewhat hilariously for a President who has spent much time on the subject--are a comment on luxury taxes. It's also a bit hilarious, given that taxation led to America's historic break with England. No tea appears on the menu, however.

The 8:30 PM event for hundreds of guests will be held in a vast white pavilion, complete with glass windows, located on the far end of the South Lawn, in sight of the source of many items on the menu. The decor theme, "America's Backyard," spotlights gardening, the subject of the First Lady's forthcoming book, "American Grown." Guests will be ferried from the White House to the bottom of the South Lawn in a replica of an old-fashioned wood trolley, that will pass dramatically lit trees.

"A perfect pairing of US and UK cultures..."
The President and Mrs. Obama have enshrined American beef as the entree of choice for all but one of their high profile dinners, and Bison Wellington, as the star of the show, is a departure. It's "a classic English dish given an American twist with the use of buffalo tenderloin," the White House said, "a perfect pairing of US and UK cultures." The Bison herd was raised in North Dakota, according to an East Wing aide; that's not stated on the menu. The dinner marks the first time Bison has been served at an Obama State Dinner; this evening's honorarium is the sixth of the Administration, and the third overseen by Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard. (Above: The two couples wave from the Truman Balconey after this morning's Arrival Ceremony)

Mrs. Obama, joined by Executive Chef Cris Comerford, unveiled the delights during an afternoon event in the State Dining room, where she welcomed young women from both Britain and America for a chat about diplomacy and a dessert tasting. It was not quite High Tea, but the girls, seated around tables that were replications of this evening's silver, white and magenta decor, were thrilled. Rental plates rather than Presidential State China are being used this evening, because the guest list is so large. Magenta and winter white polka dot table clothes are used for some of the tables, which will vary in size and shape.

The White House highlights regional food sourcing as a matter of tradition, and ingredients for the menu come from Idaho, Alaska, and New York, in addition to the backyard of the White House and North Dakota.

The First Course, Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust, will be served on a bed of braised baby kale "fresh from the White House garden," with shaved Brussels sprouts and micro cabbage sprouts, also from the Kitchen Garden. "A hint of applewood smoked bacon from a local smokehouse ties the dish together," according to the menu guidance. The Halibut is from Alaska, according to Chef Comerford.

The Salad Course, Spring Garden Lettuces with Shallot Dressing and Shaved Radish, Cucumbers and Avocados, is "light and crisp and includes different types of greens, which are also from the Kitchen Garden."

The dessert, Steamed Meyer Lemon Pudding, is "a nod to the traditional British treat," the White House said.

"The pudding is prepared with Idaho Huckleberry Sauce to unite the British and American flavors. At the bottom of the pudding are Newtown Pippin Apples, which are believed to have been developed in Queens, New York in the early-18th century, and were grown by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington."

That's where Queen Victoria comes in: the Newtown Pippin Apples "serve as a symbol of the American-British partnership—the apple was so favored by Queen Victoria that she had the customs duty on them eliminated," the White House said. That's a pretty amusing apple choice for a President who has spent a lot of effort trying to change America's tax system.

The “America’s Backyard” decor theme relies on green, purple and magenta hues for the flowers, which include roses and hydrangeas. Tall acid-green candles are in glass holders, and there are low candles, too. The decor was designed by the design firm Rafanelli Events, which is perhaps best known for Chelsea Clinton's lavish "wedding of the century." The firm did the decor for the President and Mrs. Obama's State Dinners for Germany and South Korea, too. More on the decor, below.

Unnamed American wines will be served with each course. The White House has declined to identify which wines were served for the last three State Dinners, as well as for the recent Governors' Dinner and the A Nation's Gratitude Dinner, as was noted in the posts about those events.

Mrs. Obama's Press Secretary declined to say why the wines were not identified, as she has done each previous time this writer has queried her on the topic. UPDATE: The names of the wines have now been added.

State Dinner Menu in Honor of
Prime Minister David Cameron
and Mrs. Samantha Cameron

First Course
Crisped Halibut with Potato Crust
Shaved Brussels Sprouts
Applewood Smoked Bacon

Second Course
Spring Garden Lettuces
Shallot Dressing, Shaved Breakfast Radish
Cucumbers and Avocados

Wine: Peter Michael Chardonnay "Ma-Belle Fille" 2009
(Sonoma County, CA)

Main Course
Bison Wellington
Red Wine Reduction
French Beans, Cipollini Onion

Wine: Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
(Walla Walla Valley, WA)

Warm Meyer Lemon Steamed Pudding
with Idaho Huckleberry Sauce and Newtown Pippin Apples

Wine: Iron Horse Russian Cuvee 2007
(Green Valley, Sonoma County, CA)

During the White House reception before the dinner, Thibaut-Janisson Brut NV, Virginia (Central Region, Monticello) was served. Above: Place settings for the President and Prime Minister, who will sit beside each other at the Head Table.

Entertainment and decor...
Singer John Legend, a longtime Obama supporter, and the band Mumford and Sons will perform in the tent after dinner. More guests have been invited to the 9:40 PM reception that follows the dinner.

The dinner tent is complete with glass windows on two sides, a sound and lighting system, and carpeting. The South Lawn fountain will be lit with dramatic colored lights, and there will be lights strung through the historic South lawn trees. The South Lawn fountain will be lit with magenta lights.

The White House statement on the decor:

"Traditionally, America’s backyards are places of gathering and entertaining close friends and family. The special relationship between the United St ates and the United Kingdom makes this “backyard” celebration a quintessentially American event.

Located in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, the State Dinner encouraged a celebration of American gardens. The grounds of the White House are in clear view through the 150 foot-wide glass wall of the dinner tent. In honor of our guests, the beauty of countryside English gardens is also incorporated into the design by Rafanelli Events. Planters and centerpieces used at the dinner are intended to e mulate nature and the flowing “landscape gardens” that are common in England.

The English have also become widely known for their flower borders, with perennials, annuals, and sometimes shrubs combining to form masses of color. The design of the tent embraces this passion for color in the floral arrangements, lighting, amethyst linens and matching carpet. Roses—the national flower of both countries—play a major role in the floral arrangements." Above: The exterior of the tent this morning, during the arrival ceremony. Members of the media were not allowed inside to see the interior."

The White House late on Wednesday afternoon released this video about the dinner preparations:

CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the Camerons' Official Visit.

*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama