Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Obamas' State Dinner Menu In Honor Of President Lee Myung-bak, The Republic of Korea

A Fall Harvest celebration featuring bounty from the White House Kitchen Garden, Texas Wagyu Beef, and mystery wines...
President Obama and First Lady Obama will honor the Republic of Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and First Lady Kim Yoon-ok with a Fall Harvest State Dinner this evening. The four-course menu was "conceived by" Mrs. Obama and Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, according to the White House. It "highlights the best of local produce combined with Korean flavors and traditions." The star of the show is Texas Wagyu Beef rib-eye steak with an Orange-Ginger Fondue as the entree, accompanied by Sauteed Kale and Roasted Kabocha Squash. Dessert is "Chocolate Malt Devils Food Layers," because chocolate is "a universal taste," according to Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. The guest list of more than 2oo is here.

"The inspiration for the Republic of Korea State Dinner is American Hospitality. At State Dinners, we extend our hand in friendship and convey a generosity of spirit designed to welcome guests," noted the White House. The East Room, where the 8:35 PM dinner will take place, is a riot of autumn colors, featuring floral arrangements anchored by hundreds of apples in a nod to the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign. Shadows of fall leaves and apples are projected on the walls and ceilings, too. The graphic logo for Mrs. Obama's signature initiative features an apple. (Above: The Presidential couples during the arrival for dinner under the North Portico)

The dishes spotlight American regional foods and local sourcing, in particular the Fall Harvest bounty from Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, plucked with student helpers on Oct. 5. "Vegetables from that harvest are highlighted in this evening’s dinner and perennial herbs from the garden are used throughout the meal," the White House noted.

"The main dish features Wagyu beef from a Texas ranch, fresh kale from a DC-area source and squash from the White House Kitchen Garden," the White House said in menu guidance issued to reporters. On the White House website, it's noted that "fresh turnip greens from a DC-area source" accompany the entree. Turnip greens aren't listed anywhere on the menu, however.

Texas Wagyu Beef is highly marbled and very tender, and the herds are descended from Asian cattle breeds. Comerford rubbed the rib-eye cuts with garlic and locally sourced scallions, in more homage to Korea. The beef is "lathered with butter," Comerford said in a video (below) released about the State Dinner preparations.

The scallions are "a wondrous Korean ingredient," Comerford said.

The first course, Butternut Squash Bisque, also includes squash grown in the Kitchen Garden, and the second course, Early Fall Harvest Salad, uses red and green lettuces grown there. The soup "represents the best in local, seasonal fare: the dish is light yet robust and features the scents of fall," said the White House.

In homage to the guests of honor, there are flourishes from the Korean culinary tradition--Daikon sheets and "Masago Rice Pearl Crispies" and a Rice Wine Vinaigrette for the salad--and Yosses' delirious chocolate finish uses "a blend of" Korean and American pears.

Dinner will be served on the gold-rimmed, cream-colored Clinton State China created for the 200th anniversary of the White House. It is the only State China that features depictions of historic Washington buildings in the center of the plate, rather than the Presidential seal.

"An American wine will be paired with each course," the White House said, but did not release the names of the wines.

State Dinner Menu
in Honor of
President Lee Myung-bak

First Course
Butternut Squash Bisque,
Honey Poached Cranberries, Virginia Cured Ham
Pumpkin Seed Praline, Crème Fraiche

Second Course
Early Fall Harvest Salad on Daikon Sheets
Masago Rice Pearl Crispies
Rice Wine Vinaigrette

Main Course
Texas Wagyu Beef, Orange-Ginger Fondue
Sauteed Kale, Roasted Kabocha Squash

Chocolate Malt Devils Food Layers
With Pear and Almond Brittle

Above: The Head Table, where the two Presidential couples will be seated.

No shout-out for American wine producers...Again
While the White House is spotlighting local/regional foods and Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden by announcing sourcing for ingredients, for the third high-profile dinner in a row, the names of the wines that will be poured are being kept top secret. Why?

When queried by Obama Foodorama about why it now seems to be a policy for the White House to not reveal the names of the wines that are poured at important dinners, Mrs. Obama's Press Secretary, Hannah August
, had no explanation for why this might be the case. The names of the wines poured for State Dinner #4, in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Return State Dinner in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, were also not revealed to press. The vineyard owners who had their wines selected for that dinner, held in London, later sent copies of the dinner menu to Obama Foodorama, so the wines appear with the menu in this archive.

Tonight's wines for the State Dinner are definitely American, August said. Using only American wines at the White House has been a tradition since the Johnson era.

Decor duties outsourced...
All the details on the decor are here. Round tables for ten surround the rectangular Head Table for twenty where the Presidential Couple will be seated in the center, facing outward towards the East Room. Each table takes a single color for its dominant theme. Tonight's State Dinner is the fifth of the Administration, and the third this year. It is the second managed by Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard. Decor duties were outsourced to Rafanelli Events, as was the case for the first State Dinner Bernard oversaw, in honor of German Chancellor Merkel. The firm does "exclusive, high profile" events around the US, including former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton's "wedding of the decade." (Above: A long view of the East Room, before the dinner)

This afternoon, the White House released a video of Chef Comerford discussing the menu, and giving a tour of the kitchen during the prep for the State Dinner:

The post-dinner reception...
During a 10:00 PM post-dinner reception in the State Dining Room, classical musicians (and sisters) The Ahn Trio, and vocalist Janelle Monáe will perform separately. Monáe, based in Kansas City, Kansas, has been nominated for Grammy awards multiple times. All four performers will dine at the Sate Dinner before entertaining in the State Dining Room.

Updated & related:
A post about the Presidential Dinner Toasts is here. A report on the guest arrivals, with video, is here. The brief, soggy arrival ceremony under the North Portico is here. Details on Mrs. Obama's gown are here. The Presidents' joint news conference is here. The morning Arrival Ceremony is here. This afternoon, Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Kim made a special visit to a Virginia high school. On the eve of the State Visit, on Wednesday, President Obama took President Lee out for a traditional Korean dinner at Woo Lae Oak restaurant in suburban Virginia.

Related: The menu for the State Dinner in honor of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in June of 2011 IS HERE. The menu for the State Dinner in honor of China's President Hu Jintao in January of 2011 IS HERE. The menu for the State Dinner in honor of Mexico's President Felipe Calderón in May of 2010 IS HERE. The menu for the State Dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in November of 2009 IS HERE. The menu for the President and First Lady's Return State Dinner in Honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Winfield House in London in May of 2011 IS HERE. (Above: A closeup of one of the centerpieces, featuring apples)

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; long shot by Alex Berliner for Obama Foodorama

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