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What's for dinner at the White House

Green is the theme at the first Obama state dinner. Desserts include pumpkin pie and pear tatin. (Brendan Smialowski -- Getty)

The Obamas host their first official state dinner tonight in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Held under a tent on the South Lawn, with sweeping views of the Washington Monument, the dinner will feature a garden-themed decor. Tables will be covered in apple green linens. Deep purple flower arrangements at each table will pay homage to the national bird of India, the peacock.

But who cares about all that, right? What about the food?

New York celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, First Lady Michelle Obama and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford designed a menu "to showcase the best of American cooking," Obama said at a press preview.

"It's going to include the freshest ingredients from area farmers and purveyors," she added. "And because of all of the hard work of some other kids in the community, we've got this wonderful White House kitchen garden out in the South Lawn and we're going to use some of the herbs from that garden in tonight's dinner as well."

Ingredients from the garden include arugula, which will be featured in an appetizer salad, and mint and lemon verbena to garnish the desserts. White House executive pastry chef William Yosses, who with his team created the desserts, also is using honey from the White House beehive.

We're hoping to get some recipes, but in the meantime here's the menu:

Potato and Eggplant Salad
White House Arugula with Onion Seed Vinaigrette

Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese

Roasted Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney, Chickpeas and Okra
Green Curry Prawns with Caramelized Salsify, Smoked Collard Greens and Coconut Aged Basmati Rice

Pumpkin Pie Tart
Pear Tatin
Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce

Petits Fours and Coffee
Cashew Brittle
Pecan Pralines
Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelees
Chocolate-Dipped Fruit

Sounds pretty good. What do you think?

And, by the way, if you care about things other than food, I'll be posting a link to my colleague Robin Givhan's report on other aspects of the dinner preview as soon as it comes in.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  November 24, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, Michelle Obama, White House Garden  
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I love both the tablescape and the menu! My only comment is that it would have been refreshing (and open-minded) to have an entirely vegetarian menu. Surely there is a suitable alternative to the prawns, even if not in the context of this dish. It would have been a great statement about the healthfulness of a wholly vegetarian diet! Then again, not everything needs to be a statement. As one of the other columnists (Robin Givhan?) noted today, from some perspectives, it is "just dinner".

Posted by: klewis1 | November 24, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Regarding a previous posting - there IS a vegetarian alternative to the prawns.

Posted by: luxetveritas | November 24, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

There is an alternative to the prawns.

Roasted Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney, Chickpeas and Okra

Posted by: DavidTR | November 24, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Vegetarians and their menus suck. They should have had a nice, medium rare prime rib. Cuban style roast pork would have been the "or" if the guests didn't like beef.

Posted by: mortified469 | November 24, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

mortified - Did you notice that the guests were INDIAN??? Let's see whom we should offend. Hindus or Muslims? Classic example of Republican diplomacy. If there were to be a meat course (shrimp are a meat, by the way), it should be lamb or possibly chicken.

Incidentally, bravo on the menu. The dumpling dish is an variant of one of my curries.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 24, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, that should have been one of my *favorite* curries. No dumplings, but made with chickpeas, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and spices. Easy, peasy.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 24, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Sorry some posters wanted more red meat on the menu. Comfort yourself by going to a burger joint. I think the Obama's looked very elegant. I loved the colors of the table settings and the colors worn by all who participated. The menu is wonderful. I am proud of President Obama and his family. Can't wait to see how they do the next State Dinner.

Posted by: fabricmaven1 | November 25, 2009 12:50 AM | Report abuse

A very wonderful menu - and unusual to say the least.Lentil soup - surely the first time in Western Diplomatic History it is served at a state dinner. But a very Indian dish and delicious at that.
Let alone the White House having discovered this most marvellous of cosmopolitans, Marcus Samuelson for an exciting kitchen he himself a success story, adopted as a baby in Ethiopia by a Swedish couple brought up in the north of Sweden before entering a career worthy of his talents.
Vive l´Afrique vive l´Europe, vive
les Etats-Unis!

Posted by: chaumont | November 25, 2009 3:14 AM | Report abuse

Great event, great chef(s), great menu. I love the respect shown to the guests of honor by the choice of menu items.
I am amazed that people actually object, and would go as far as to say that the menu "s--ked". Why would someone even post something like that? Their time would be better spent posting about last night's WWF Smackdown or something else that they can understand.

Posted by: scottdavis55 | November 25, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

That looks like a wonderful menu. I think it's choice was to honor the guests and it looks too me like they did a great job accommodating their palates. Kudos.

Posted by: SellMoreMeals | November 25, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

FairlingtonBlade...I want to offend both hindends and mussies because I find them all offensive. BTW, the "prime rib" minister is a sikh and since there are only 25 plus million of them I mean to offend them too. Is there a knife in that turban?

Posted by: mortified469 | November 27, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

You should not be so quick to slam "Republican diplomacy," FairlingtonBlade. Nor should you make assumptions about what the Indian PM does and does not eat.

Singh and Bush had a close relationship and Singh was honored at a very personal "family dinner" at the White House last year where fish was served, because the PM eats fish. He's not a vegetarian.
That explains the prawns on the Obama State Dinner menu. Menus for diplomatic dinners are arranged between the State Department and the representatives of visiting dignitaries. Such important details aren't left to the whims of the White House.

Posted by: parkbench | November 28, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

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