Fine artisan sweets from New Hampshire's L.A. Burdick Chocolate are being featured on President Obama and First Lady Obama's dessert tables at the 24 White House holiday dinners and receptions this season, including the company's signature white and dark chocolate mice and dark chocolate penguins. President Obama is a fan: Waaaay back in November of 2007, when he was a Senator wooing the battleground state for his first White House run, Mr. Obama sampled the wares when he held a 'working women's roundtable' at Burdick's flagship in Walpole. Considered one of America's finest chocolatiers, the company is sending 1,000 pieces of their mice, penguins, and other chocolates to the White House each week in December, according to general manager Cathy Watson. (Above, Sen. Obama at Burdick's in 2007, getting ready to munch a chocolate mouse)
"Chocolate helps with everything," Sen. Obama declared at his roundtable in the company's packing room, and dubbed the mice "outstanding."
White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses has been ordering the Burdick mice and other chocolates for his lush Presidential dessert buffets since 2009, Watson said. And while Fran's Chocolates in Seattle got a big boost in business after it was revealed in 2008 that Mr. Obama has a weakness for their dark chocolate smoked sea salt caramels, Burdick has had no similar spike, thanks to doing zero press about their most famous customer. They do no press about other famous fans, either, Watson said. (Above: Burdick mice, top, and penguins, bottom on a White House dessert buffet in the East Room)
"We have tons and tons of people that we do that are really well known, and we don't make a big deal about it," Watson said. "Everybody's treated the same."
Sometimes the company isn't even aware a famous customer has served their treats. When Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg doled out Burdick mice as the dessert at his wedding last summer, the company had no clue until one of their regular customers pointed it out in People magazine's nuptial report, Watson said. Coincidentally, Zuckerburg and President Obama have rubbed elbows, at a Silicon Valley dinner and at a Facebook Town Hall, both in 2011.
The Burdick mice come in white, dark and milk chocolate, and have almonds for ears. The dark mice are filled with a whipped orange ganache, the milk are filled with mocha, and the white have cinnamon with a touch of Port. Their silk ribbon tails are a seasonal red or green. The tuxedo-clad penguins are filled with a dark chocolate and lemon ganache. A limited edition of tiny snowmen with a clementine-infused ganache were sent for this week's White House parties, Watson said. Guests are as likely to pocket the mice and penguins as they are the coveted holiday cookies the White House offers in the shape of First Dog Bo. (Above, penguins and mice with other non-Burdick chocolates on a tray in the State Dining Room)
The other Burdick chocolates at the White House include ginger and jaffa bon bons; baton framboise, with a hint of raspberry; hazelnut pave; cashew sesame; Earl Grey, and Porto, which has Caribbean spices. The handmade chocolates use no chemical preservatives, and have a two-week shelf life, Watson said. The mice and penguins retail for $3.50 each, wrapped in cellophane as favors, and the other chocolates are between $16-$60 as boxed assortments of various sizes.
Founded in 1987 by Larry Burdick, the company has retail locations in Walpole; Cambridge and Boston, Mass.; and in Manhattan, and also does online sales, with a brisk business in weddings and other events. It is "a great model of a small business that treats its employees well," Sen. Obama said while devouring the signature mice in 2007. He spent plenty of time in New Hampshire during both his election campaigns, and won the state both times times, with a larger margin over his GOP challenger the first time than the second--close to 10 percentage points in 2008, and about 4 percentage points in 2012. (Above, Sen. Obama eats his mouse in 2007)
After Mr. Obama's 2007 visit, Burdick created a special box of treats that included the white mice and chocolates with the letter "O" for the President-elect's inaugural celebration. There are no such plans for a special collection for next month's inaugural, Watson said. Second inaugurals are typically lower key than a President's first, and that attitude has extended all the way up to New Hampshire. (Above, the inaugural collection)
Spotlighting local and regional foods for the holiday buffets...
The President and Mrs. Obama are entertaining about 14,000 guests for the receptions and dinners this season, who include "volunteers, members of Congress, White House staff, Secret Service personnel, White House reporters and Americans from across the country," according to the East Wing. As is tradition, local and regional foods are spotlighted on the menus, which are also featuring recipes from Mrs. Obama's book American Grown. The dinner buffets feature crab and smoked salmon from Maine; oysters from Fisher’s Island in New York; Gulf Coast shrimp; artisan cheeses from Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont and California; beer from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and California wines. (Above, the Burdick chocolates at left on a dessert buffet table in the East Room)
One of the President's larger parties was the Hanukkah reception last Thursday night, where 600 guests filled the White House halls, the biggest guest list for the four menorah lightings the President and Mrs. Obama have hosted.
*Top photo by Sue Bingman/The Walpolean; White House photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; mouse-eating photo by Christoper Fitzgerald, CandidatePhotos.com; inauguration colelction courtesy of Burdick Chocolates.