Tonight’s “Quintessentially American” State Dinner: the Menu, the Decor, and the Music

By Eliza

Jan 19, 2011 5:05pm

225 guests will be treated to a “Quintessentially American” evening at tonight’s state dinner in the White House, the third of the Obama administration, honoring China’s President Hu Jintao.


The theme highlights America – which the White House says this was specifically requested by the Chinese delegation–seen in the menu, décor, and entertainment of the evening reflecting what the First Lady’s office “some of the nation’s most recognizable offerings.”


Dinner in the Red Room, The Blue Room and the State Dining Room is classic American – Maine lobster, rib eye, potatoes, and apple pie with vanilla ice cream.


The music will showcase American talent – dubbed “An Evening of Jazz” featuring Chris Botti, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Herbie Hancock, Lang Lang, and Dianne Reeves.


The décor too will highlight American touches.


Red, blue and brown linens on the tables feature prints of pheasants on patterned backgrounds in jewel tones, chosen because they are reminiscent of the work of American artist John James Audubon.  The design of the room takes cues from Audubon’s work, the First Lady’s office says, reflecting the beauty of the natural world. The floral arrangements donning the tables and the room in larger arrangements incorporate feathers, flowers and berries.  Small candles sit on each table in glass vases.  Guests will sit on transparent-back chairs around the round tables, seating about 12 at each table.


The First Lady’s office also weaved in some elements of Chinese culture to the décor. The Pheasant was also chosen as an element of the decoration because it is the native bird of China. The First Lady’s office says the symbol of China – yellow, the national color, will be present in the cocktail area.


It should be noted that China hosts their state dinners in the Great Hall of the People – and tonight’s state dinner at the White House, in three small rooms for the dinner, and then expanding to the larger East Room for the musical performances could be, by comparison, interpreted as lackluster.


“We wanted to do it all in house to celebrate the building,” Katie McCormick-Lelyveld, press secretary to the First Lady said.  Toasts will take place in State Dining Room and will appear on screens in each room for the diners not so lucky to get a seat in the main dining room.



Throughout the menu, influences from  the First Lady’s emphasis on eating healthy and locally is seen. Last summer’s harvest of honey and produce from the White House garden will be used in tonight’s meal. Additionally the First Lady’s office says “the best of America is on display” by using products from The Chef’s Garden – a purveyor of vegetables, herbs and micro greens in Huron, Ohio. 


No guest chefs were brought in to cook, as has been the case for past state dinners – rather White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses prepared the meal, along with the White House kitchen team.


The Clinton china charger will be used for all guests and the Reagan dinner serve will be used in the State Dining Room (where the president will eat) and the Red Room. The Truman dinner service will be used in the Blue Room.


The Complete Dinner Menu


D’Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese

Fennel, Black Walnuts, and White Balsamic


Poached Main Lobster

Orange Glaze 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 Fie with Vanilla Ice Cream

Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008


- Ann Compton and Sunlen Miller

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