Dining with the French, Eating American

While over half of the United States hunkered down indoors, warding off the extreme cold and snow by keeping their expensive heat going as they combat climate change warming, President Barack Hussein and Michelle Obama (both Ds) dined in a tent, hosting France's President François Hollande (Socialist), without a significant other, and 350 others, Tuesday night.

They all dined inside a huge, heated tent on the South Lawn (because no room inside the White House is large enough to seat that many)

Ah, but don't think of the simple canvas tent you may have used while roughing it camping out. Unless of course, your tent was larger than your home, with all elegant resources, heated and with expansive windows gazing at the calming vista for your guests to enjoy.  

And, you'll be relieved to know, judging by the all American-sourced menu, the White House does not sit in a "food desert."

First Course

American Osetra Caviar
Fingerling Potato Velouté, Quail Eggs, Crisped Chive Potatoes
Second Course
"The Winter Garden Salad"
Petite Mixed Radish, Baby Carrots, Merlot Lettuce
Red Wine Vinaigrette

Main Course

Dry-aged Rib Eye Beef
Jasper Hill Farm Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster
Mushrooms, Braised Chard


Hawaiian Chocolate-Malted Ganache
Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines

All hydrated with American wine.

Even the wine, especially the wine, was American: Morlet La Proportion Doree, 2011, Napa Valley; Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009, Columbia Valley, Wash.; and Thibaut-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay, Monticello.

Much of the country contributed to the dinner: the caviar was from Illinois; the quail eggs from Pennsylvania while New York, Idaho and California supplied the multiple potato varieties; the rib eye beef once grazed in Greeley, Colorado; the tangerines grew on Florida trees while the ice cream came from Pennsylvania and the fudge was made of real Vermont maple syrup.

According to the White House blog devoted to the dinner the food is

As local as you can get! We're using honey from the White House beehive in a vinaigrette to dress a Winter Garden Salad with mixed radishes and baby carrots. Each season the color of the honey changes.

In case you're interested in learning how to give a ganache an elegant touch, the White House chefs suggest purchasing a paint sprayer. (Use it solely for baking, not painting, they highly recommend.)

We're using a paint sprayer (previously unused of course) to give a micro-thin layer of chocolate over soft and creamy ganache cake. The bittersweet chocolate comes from Hawaii, and it will be served à la mode with vanilla ice-cream from Pennsylvania.

Not a French freedom fry to be found.

Learn more about how the White House feeds our visiting guests.

Obviously this dinner for adults has more calories than noted nutritionist Michelle Obama permits for growing adolescents getting their daily lunch from a school cafeteria. Indeed, the dinner clocked in at 2500 calories with a generous 150 grams of clogging fat--all more than enough to keep an average adult going for an entire day.

Rep. Rodney Davis, Illinois Republican and a critic of the administration's school-lunch requirements, called the high-calorie State Dinner menu "the height of hypocrisy."

"Even if you're estimating a small cut of steak, this is a menu where you're talking 2,500 calories, which is almost three times as much as what the first lady and the USDA allow our school kids to eat in the school lunch program," Mr. Davis said.

The record number of people now on food stamps, uhm, participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will undoubtedly get the leftovers.

Despite a calorie-stuffed dinner, guests will not have much of an opportunity to practice Michelle Obama's famed Let's Move, not even doing much walking.

At the dinner, guests will first enter the White House and proceed through a receiving line to be greeted inside the oval-shaped Blue Room by Obama and his wife, before exiting and boarding an old-fashioned trolley for a ride to the tent for dinner

The Blue Room is partially decorated with furniture originally purchased from France by President Monroe in 1814.

In the refurnishing of the house after the fire of 1814, President and Mrs. James Monroe ordered mahogany furniture for this room, but the purchasing agents in France substituted a 53-piece suite of gilded furniture made in Paris by Pierre-Antoine Bellangé. Although most of this suite was sold at auction in 1860, eight original pieces have been returned to the room since 1961.

An elegant dinner at the White House, even in a tent, requires elegant clothes, according to the experts at the Huffington Post.

FLOTUS (First Lady of the US) stepped out Tuesday night in a flawless powder blue and black lace gown by Carolina Herrera for the annual State Dinner. As her and POTUS greeted French President Hollande in The White House foyer, we were stunned by the intricacies of her black beaded and blue silk choice.

Some have speculated that the "flawless powder blue and black lace gown" that FLOTUS will probably never wear again cost about $12,000; considering a simple daytime Herrera dress suitable for lunch with the ladies goes for $2000, a mere $12,000 for "her black beaded and blue silk choice" is a bargain. 


The other guests also dressed elegantly. And who were they? Here is a partial list--a mix of the political, entertainment and business worlds all of whom contributed mightily to Obama's campaigns.

"Hangover" star Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling from "The Office," Stephen Colbert, "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Star Trek" producer J.J. Abrams, openly gay NBA player Jason Collins, top House Republicans Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan - the guest list for President Obama's state dinner in honor of French President Hollande late Tuesday brought together Hollywood, politicians, champions of causes dear to the White House, French officials and executives. And big-time campaign donors.

There were prominent CEOs -- Best Buy's Hubert Joly (born and raised in France!), and Philippe Dauman of Viacom (his parents immigrated from France!), for example.

The super-exclusive event also drew a phalanx of super-wealthy donors whose cash powered Obama's presidential runs and who might soon be asked to bankroll his presidential library.

Just run the names on the guest list through the website run by the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks money and elections. The result is a platoon of bundlers -- big donors who collected from other big donors to help out the president's campaign.

This isn't an exhaustive list (readers might get bored). But the "at least $500,000" category of guest included:

Terrence Bean of Portland, Ore.

Andrea and Tom Bernstein, of New York City

Peter Beshar of Rye, New York

ShefaliDuggal of San Francisco

Mark Gallogly of New York City

Samuel Heins and Stacey Mills of Wayzata, Minn.

Irwin and Joan Jacobs of La Jolla, Calif.

Nicola Miner and Robert Mailer Anderson of San Francisco

AzitaRaji of Tiburon, Calif.

In a slightly lower bracket, James Chanos of New York City raised between $200,000 and $500,000. So did Bain Capital's Jonathan Lavine of Weston, Mass. And CappyMcGarr of Dallas, Texas, did too. Same for Laura Ross of New York City.

Practicing diversity and pluralism, Republicans such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Wisconsin representative and 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan also were invited.

But the dinner, like all state dinners, wasn't all play and no work according to the White House.

It all sounds very fancy -- and it is -- but state dinners aren't just about pomp and pageantry, according to the White House. Real work gets done.

"Behind the festive exterior of the social scene, the important business of government goes on -- information is gathered -- opinions exchanged -- powerful connections made and appearances upheld. For these reasons White House invitations are the most important and the most sought after in the nation's social whirl," the White House website says.

Obama and Hollande are in the midst of a diplomatic bromance as they face international challenges that include the Syrian civil war, Iran's nuclear ambitions and economic malaise in Europe.

Indeed, the two heads of state cordially toasted each other and the other's country.

Now, Americans took lessons from France as well. One young American lawyer went to Paris and was deeply moved to see white and black students studying together. And that young American was Charles Sumner, who - inspired by what he saw in France - became one of our greatest abolitionists, helped to end slavery, and is one of the reasons that all of us can be here this evening as full citizens, free and equal.


But most of all, we love our French friends because we've stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years. Tonight I again want to pay tribute to President Hollande for the principled leadership and personal friendship and courage that he has shown on the world stage. Thank you, François.


And so I propose a toast: To our friend and partner President Hollande, to all of our friends from France who are here today - vive la France, God bless America, and long live the alliance between our great nations. À votre santé! Cheers. (A toast is offered.)

Hollande returned the compliment, in English and French.

Mr. President, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome that you have extended to me and my delegation. France and the United States of America are bound by ties of history -- great history of French citizens such as Lafayette, who fought alongside the heroes of independence to allow your dream of freedom to prevail. The glorious history of the Americans who came to fight on French soil during the First World War, and then in June 1944 to liberate the European continent from Nazi oppression.

This afternoon, it was a great moment and a great honor to award your Unknown Soldier with the insignia of the French Legion of Honor and to award medal to six glorious veterans of the Second World War. I promise we shall never forget them. (Applause.)


Mr. President, the relations between our two countries have reached an exceptional level of closeness and confidence, and there is one simple reason for that: We share the same vision of the world and we show mutual respect. The United States of America and France are two great nations. What is expected of them is to keep a promise, a promise of freedom and the promise of progress, and also to keep a dream alive -- that same dream made by Jefferson, Washington, Lafayette and the French revolutionaries -- a dream to change the world. By uniting our forces, by uniting our talents, we will be able to keep the flame of hope alive.

I raise my glass to the President of the United States of America and to Michelle Obama. Long live the United States! Long live France! (Applause.)

A good -- and productive -- time was had by all.

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