Thursday, December 13, 2012

On The Obamas' White House Holiday Menus: Spotlighting American Cheese, Wine And Beer

The President and Mrs. Obama offer bounty from California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California...
In keeping with the longstanding tradition of spotlighting agricultural bounty from across America, White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford is showcasing cheeses from Vermont, West Virginia, Virginia and California for President Obama and First Lady Obama's 24 holiday dinners and receptions, where about 14,000 guests are expected.  The cheeses are available on the self-serve dinner buffet tables in the East Room and State Dining Room, as well as at strategic locations where guests congregate.  American wine and beer are also being offered to guests, as is tradition.  Above, a cheese platter beneath the 1977 portrait of First Lady Betty Ford on the ground floor is accompanied by crackers and a tree of holiday cookies.

The cheeses are presented in a tableau on the end of the dinner buffet tables, and there are six: Saint-André, Chevre, Tomme, Brie, Grayson, and White Cheddar.  These are accompanied by dried and fresh seasonal fruits, nuts, and a selection of crackers.  The large wheel of Saint-André is surrounded by Medjool dates.  Dried apricots and raisins, fresh cherries, strawberries and green and red grapes are placed in between the rows of cheese.  Glass canisters of spiced walnuts, Mercona almonds, and basil and cherry tomatoes are placed beside the cheese.  The crackers are whole grain, rye, and sesame.  (Above, the cheese presentation on the East Room buffet; cheeses are in order listed above)

For those who like bread with their cheese, dinner rolls and biscuits are also offered on the buffets, as are Sweet Potato Quick Bread muffins.

The Saint-André is a triple crème cow's milk cheese in a powdery white, bloomy skin of mold.  Tomme is a cow's milk cheese with notes of hazelnut and citrus.  The Chevre is goat cheese, and the Brie is a soft cow's milk cheese.  The white cheddar is a traditional semi-hard cheese, but free of the dye that Americans typically associate with cheddar.  (Above, the Saint-André, with Medjool Dates)

A White House spokesman declined to specifically identify the cheese makers, but the Grayson cheese is from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, Virginia.  The family farm is located in the mountains of southwest Virginia, and the cheese is named for the county where the farm is situated at an elevation of 2,800 feet.  The Grayson is a semi-soft washed-rind cultured raw milk cheese, "reminiscent of the Italian Taleggio or French Livarot, but with our rich Jersey milk and a longer aging time," according to Meadow Creek's website. "A soft, finely textured cheese, very rich and beefy with a pungent aroma and a nutty, sweet overtone."

The White House sometimes declines to specify specific agriculture producers in the interest of Presidential security. 

As is also a White House tradition, during the holiday parties American wines and beers are being poured by the bartenders at the full service bar in the East Room.  Among these are Cardiff Cellars 2010 Chardonnay (Central Coast, California), which retails for about $6.99 per bottle, and Courtney Benham 2010 Vin d’Eliza Red (Central Coast, CA), which retails for about $16 per bottle.  Beers include Samuel Adams Boston Lager, produced in Boston, Massachusetts, and Yuengling Light Lager.  Yuengling is America's oldest brewery, located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  (Above, bartenders at the bar in the East Room)
And no, President Obama's much-coveted homebrewed White House beer is not being served to guests, except perhaps at his private dinner parties Coca Cola, diet and regular, sparkling water, as well as hard liquor is also being served.

Read about the full dinner menu here; the post includes recipes.  Cheese is also included in some of the dinner dishes, in salads of winter greens and in a cauliflower macaroni and cheese that is being offered.  Chef Comerford is for the first time using recipes for the holiday menus that were included in Mrs. Obama's book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, published in May.  (Above, the cheese presentation on the buffet table in the State Dining Room) 

Read about the dessert buffet here; the post includes links to all released recipes from the White House kitchen.  Check the sidebar for more recipes. 

Above, a guest samples nuts from the cheese presentation on the buffet table in the East Room.
Click here for links to all posts about the 2012 holidays.

Download:  The Official White House Holiday Tour Booklet {PDF}

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama