Apple pie and White House honey highlight tonight's all-American State Dinner menu
January 19th, 2011
06:15 PM ET
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Top Chef Masters winners Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelsson can keep their knives packed.

Though the two provided assistance at state dinners in the past, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses will be helming the kitchen themselves tonight. They’ll also be bucking the precedent set when the aforementioned chefs served chutney and curry to the Indian Prime Minister and Oaxacan Black Mole and jicama to the President of Mexico.

Tonight’s menu, at the request of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s delegation, will be an all-American feast featuring last summer’s harvest of honey and produce from the White House’s kitchen garden.

In October of 1997 – the last time the White House hosted a state dinner for the Chinese - President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed President Jiang Zemin and his wife, Madame Wang Yeping to a U.S.-centric feast of chilled lobster, pepper-crusted Oregon beef, Yukon Gold whipped potatoes and an “orange blossom surprise.”

This evening’s guest list may be slightly trimmed down – 225 attendees, down from the aforementioned dinner’s 230-plus - but meat and potatoes remain on the menu, albeit very carefully sourced.

Thyme, rosemary and sage (shielded from the elements by hoop houses in the White House garden) accent vegetables from Huron, Ohio-based The Chef’s Garden. The purveyor, per a White House press release, "reflects the best of the country’s agriculture: sustainability, affordability, and healthy, delicious foods," mirroring the agenda set by First Lady Michelle Obama. Fresh fish canapes, not listed on the menu, highlight Northern shrimp from Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts and smoked fillets from rainbow trout raised in Idaho.

The Menu

state dinner menu

D’Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese
Fennel, Black Walnuts, and White Balsamic

Poached Maine Lobster
Orange Glazed Carrots and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Dumol Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008

Lemon Sorbet
Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions
Double Stuffed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach
Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005

Old Fashioned Apple Pie with
Vanilla Ice Cream
Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008

The traditional venue has also been shifted to accommodate the musical stylings of twelve-time Grammy Award winner Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Chris Botti, four-time vocalists Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater, "hottest artist on the classical music planet" (per the New York Times), Lang Lang - all under the aegis of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. They'll be jazzing it up in the East Room after dinner is served in the Blue Room, Red Room, and State Dining Room.

This will be the Obamas' third state dinner - and the third such invitation turned down by House Speaker John Boehner. Perhaps expected guests Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Olympic skating champion Michelle Kwan, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actor Jackie Chan, the legendary Barbra Streisand or her husband, actor James Brolin can arm-wrestle over his dessert.

Delve deeper into the Chinese president's visit to Washington at CNN Politics - who helped a heck of a lot with this report.

soundoff (384 Responses)
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  3. Greg

    Isn't a time to rename apple pie to iPie?

    January 23, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  4. lance corporal

    herbie hancock AND apple pie ?!?! wow I am sooooo there!

    January 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Linda

    This is about food,not about politics!

    January 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  6. Dean

    Olympic skating champion Michelle Kwan, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actor Jackie Chan, the legendary Barbra Streisand and her husband, actor James Brolin..........................I wonder what happened to Larry the cable guy?

    January 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Sam

      He is busy that night...he's having dinner with John Boehner.

      January 22, 2011 at 7:16 am |
  7. hecep

    Ahhhh. Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005. Quixotic, yet bovine.

    January 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  8. conradshull

    Yuk. My knife resting against the next guy's fork? Yuk.

    January 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  9. becca

    Apple pie, yummy!
    Since we're in an economic recession this party seems extravagant.

    January 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  10. DesertRat

    I'm not an Obama fan, but seriously, this kind of diplomatic dinner is standard. Now, perhaps we don't need to invite non-performing entertainers there, but someone else equally useles would've been on the guest list instead. Eh. I'd rather save my criticism of our sitting president in other areas. For a food blog, I'll just say YUM!

    January 21, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  11. Mildred

    I for one, would love to love to have the recipes. Sounds tasty!

    January 21, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  12. Osakwe Ray


    January 21, 2011 at 1:42 am |
  13. Munawar

    "It really makes me feel like junk that my tax dollars go to feeding and entertaining celebs at these events."

    Well written, I agree with this comment This is to be a discussion about important issues, what are the celeberties doing there? Forget all the campaign talk about "I was ppor at one point, so understand all of you." Sounds to me like Obama's forgotten how it "felt" and is favoring rich people as much as past administrations have. It upsets me as well that Y tax dollars are going to fund this dinner. I'm a small business owner, and I work hard for every single penny the business earns. Might I add, this sum gets taxed pretty heavily, as if the government worked as hard as I do to put me where I am today. I don't mind taxes, but at least respect MY money.

    January 20, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Liutgard

      So did you make the same complaint when George and Laura were hosting?

      The dinner cost you a fraction of a penny. And a hell of a lot less than life will cost you if we can't keep the Chinese happy.

      January 24, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  14. Ben

    No, it was not supposed to be a productive dinner in terms of "lets talk business". The guest selection and seating arrangements were done in a day to accomplish the objective of striking emotion into the Chinese. Look at all the Chinese celebrities invited. They they brought in the White Shoes Boys to show Hu that their success is dependent on Hu's business relations with the Shoe Boys. But not really the case, but I think they tried to strike on those emotions. That was all show, but could have a more powerful impact then the "closed door meetings" which probably covered the obvious issues. They also played the confidence game to make it look like the ball wasn't entirely in China's court. Adversaries invited, Locally produced food to make him think all Americans can farming, etc.

    January 20, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  15. rational

    Are people seriously upset about the United States Government spending money on a state dinner? Really! Come on, this is not a third world nation, this is supposedly the only superpower in the world, and what most would like to call the "greatest nation on earth," I think we can handle covering a State Dinner. If your nuts are in such a tangle over the fiscal policy of this country, direct a little more energy towards your representatives, these are the people who have created this mess, and unfortunately they are also tasked with fixing it.

    January 20, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  16. josh

    And this will cost me how much?

    January 20, 2011 at 6:43 am |
    • ReadUpPup

      A fraction of a cent.

      January 20, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  17. Catie

    If you want a black president, which I would love too. There are wonderful people out there. Republican, Herman Cain, Allen West, Lloyd Marcus, or if you are Democrat, Harold Ford Jr, and others. Why Obama? Why? Obama has very very Socialistic and Marxist ideals, its true, I am not being hateful. I am a realist. What I see is every week in the media what new Government rule has been put in place. I dont need that much Government in my life. Government should be a bandage in your life not stiches. You should be able to stand on your own, and sometimes need a little help. Stop relying so much on the Government. We are the kindest most giving people, I know, my missionary friends had to turn people away with donations after Katrina there were so many giving them things. We can take care of each other. That is how God wants it, for us to want to take care of each other, not to be told we have to take care of each other.

    January 20, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • rational

      How exactly is Obama a Marxist? How exactly is he a Socialist? He isn't ranting about the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie, and he hasn't nationalized any industries, he instituted health care reform, and bailed out banks and major corporations, allowing them the opportunity to continue to exist in our capitalist system. He may not be a laissez-faire, free market uber-capitalist, but he is not a marxist nor a socialist. This is what he is, big shocker, a DEMOCRAT! The democratic party has a long history of pushing for governments role in helping the American people and regulating corporations and industries, so they don't abuse their power over the people. We'd all love a nice small government, but when we live in a world controlled by huge corporations, we will end up in a much worse situation.

      January 20, 2011 at 7:00 am |
      • ReadUpPup

        Oddly enough, the ones ranting about Proletarian struggle seem to be in this board. At the flip of the switch these "eat like the peasants do" folks will be railing against social programs and 'wealth distribution'.

        The truly scary thing to me is that if you repeat the same inaccurate info to enough people, as many times as you can, it will become fact in their minds. The only time the facts are put to light is during the debates – and you can bet the birth certificate, Marxism, black panther, Martian b.s. won't be brought up.
        Better to leave an effective lie in place than risk exposing it. It's more useful in the hands of those who want it to be true – regardless of it's factuality.

        January 20, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Jack

      If you want a light central government, go to Somalia. See how life is there.

      January 20, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  18. Catie

    We need to be cordial to China but not pansies. I suspect Obama and Hu have other conversations in private and a lot of his voters would pale if they knew. So many naive people out there, it amazes me. Why do people just listen for facts rather than look up information? Look up Obama and his experience, his educations, his friends, his colleges classes, oh yeah the transparent President hasnt released any of his personal records to anyone. However, his books do tell a big picture. All these fans of his probably bought his book and never read it. tsk tsk tsk. You will reap what you sowed and you will be sorry

    January 20, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • ReadUpPup

      Again with the assertions and speculation. Provide FACTS – not rhetoric.

      January 20, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Liutgard

      So did YOU read it?

      And what are these personal fact you want to know? His birth certificate is on file in Hawaii, the bureau of Vital Statistics *and* the Republican Gorvernor, Linda Lingle, have authenticated it. What else do you want? His grade school report cards? his dental records? the films from his colonoscopy?

      Oh, I know! You want his grades! How 'bout we make a deal. He releases his grades when George W. Bush and Sarah Palin do.

      I suspect that if you get more personal you'll have to ask Michelle. And I wouldn't- I'd bet she has a mean left hook.

      January 24, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  19. JohnAd

    Overheard from Wikileaks. President Obama: "So Hu, how do you like the dinner?" President Hu: "OK. Vely nise". President Obama: "Err.... is it OK if we borrow more money from you guys? We just used up the last loan you gave us to fund this dinner and a new aircraft carrier". President Hu: ??!?!?

    January 20, 2011 at 6:20 am |
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