Friday, March 15, 2013

President Obama Dreams Of Incognito Foodie Excursions In Israel; He'll Be Eating Kosher Fare

President will stay at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, which will be "under siege" thanks to food security concerns and Passover preparations...
President Obama will be feted with a State Dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres of Israel when he makes his first visit since taking office next week.  There will also be a fairly fancy working dinner at the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Still,  the Eater in Chief said in an interview with Israeli TV that he is fantasizing about roaming the streets disguised with a fake mustache, and mingling with regular folks at a bar or cafe.  But during his stay at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the President will be dining exclusively on Kosher food.  (Above, the Embassy of Israel tweeted this photo compilation of the President's incognito fantasy) 

"Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and, you know, wear a fake mustache. I could wander through Tel Aviv and go to a bar and have a conversation," President Obama told Israel's Channel 2.

"I'd love to sit at a cafe and just hang out. The last time I was there, as a Senator, I still had the option of wandering through the Old City in Jerusalem. That option, I think, becomes  a lot trickier when you're actually president."

The President has shared the same fantasy before, though in a stateside context.  He told his interviewer that she's "tapped into something that chafes at me."

"It's the toughest thing about being president--you can't just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine guns with you," he said.

While the President may get the chance to indulge his fantasy, the King David Hotel will have already kashered its food service operation for Passover by the time the President arrives on Wednesday, March 20, Haaretz reportsPresident Obama and his entourage will occupy all 233 rooms through Friday March 22, and the hotel "has been forced to limit its menu due to the proximity of Obama’s visit to the upcoming holiday of Pesach."  

Passover begins after sundown on March 25, and the hotel will already have transitioned, thanks to a tight time frame.

So there will be no leavened bread available during the President's visit, and the hotel will remove items from its menu including the President's beloved cheeseburgers, which mixes meat and dairy, and violates Kosher standards.  Time restraints would have made it impossible for the hotel to transition quickly enough for the holiday after the President’s visit, Dror Danino, King David Hotel manager told Haaretz, so it had to be done before his arrival.

"We’re used to hosting heads of state and also American presidents, but this situation is very special for us because it’s so close to Pesach," said Danino. "For us it will be double preparations."

That's because the hotel is also being burdened with dire presidential food security concerns.  The hotel will basically be "under siege" while servicing President Obama and his entourage, Danino said.

All food and beverages required for the President's three-day stay must be delivered and stored prior to his arrival. Haaretz reported that the King David hotel has been forced to rent "massive refrigerated containers that will store food and beverages deliveries they will be unable to accept while the president is in residence."

While the hotel's room service will be open 24 hours to accommodate the President and his jetlagged entourage, Executive Chef Michel Nabet said he will not be coming up with Pesach-acceptable alternatives for dishes to try to satisfy the Western tastes of the White House contingent.

"Today, there are replacements--we can do a decent roll that will taste a lot like brioche," said Nabet. 

"But I prevent my staff from working with a pasta that is not so good.  So we won’t eat pasta and Obama won’t either, it’s not so bad. We’ll eat more fresh vegetables--we have no shortage of ingredients."

First Lady Michelle Obama would be pleased. Nabet declined to reveal the menu, but did say he is not enamored with specifically catering to President Obama.

"I’m not trying to find out what he likes and recreate it here," Nabet said.  "We have very good food here and we’ll serve it well, in the best way possible. Whatever he’s used to eating there [in the US], well, it just can’t be translated into a menu here."

The White House kitchen gets kashered annually for President Obama's Hanukkah reception, when Rabbis from around the US visit the White House to celebrate.  But the President's annual closed-press Passover dinners with family and friends don't follow the same restrictions.

The President is expected to host his Passover dinner again this year, though the White House has not yet announced it.

Related:  The White House briefing on the President's trip

*Top photo by Embassy of Israel; second by Obama for America