The Obamas' first State Dinner is now over and reports state that it was nothing less than a smashing success. Everything, including the apple green linens, the deep purple flower arrangements, the cuisine, and the people who prepared it were all impeccable.
Photograph by Nicholas Kamm Tonight I had a chance to participate in a conversation with Wolfgang Puck, Paula Deen, and Roland Meisner, on "Larry King Live" to discuss the event. You can find the transcript here.
A few months ago the Obamas extended a very special engraved invitation via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur. The Prime Minister and his wife are to be the guests of honor for the Obamas' first official State Dinner. It is now literally hours until the Prime Minister, his wife, and 400 guests descend upon the South Lawn of the White House. Preparations are in full swing.
Most of the details of Tuesday night's dinner center around the astute dictates of First Lady Michelle Obama. Her style sets the tone for everything - including florists, butlers, maids, and a guest chef for this significant event. Marcus Samuelsson, who is the chef of Aquavit in New York City, is orchestrating the banquet feast. Putting together a State dinner of this magnitude is no small task. White House executive chef Christeta Comerford will be there with chef Samuelsson creating a fabulous signature dinner for this extradorniary event. Most likely the dinner will encompass at least one culinary salute to the Prime Minister's homeland and creative (but uncomplicated) plates of the freshest seasonal food.
Interest surrounding the November 24 State Dinner is at its peak. I've had a chance to comment on the dinner with the Chicago Tribune, Politico, ABC, C-SPAN, and Hearst Television. You can catch the C-SPAN piece on Tuesday evening between 9:15 and 9:30 EST. The Hearst Television piece can be found here. The ABC online article entitled, Obamas First State Dinner--Bigger than the biggest wedding, can be found here.
Photograph by David Hogan My trip to the "Emerald City" was driven by an event, but, I didn't really have to find an excuse to be in Seattle. I love being surrounded by the lush green hills and the clean blue skyline, not to mention, the vast array of dining choices that stretch out over the city. Seattle is a seductive food fest.Oysters were on the top of my go-to Seattle menu. Shuckers (located in the Fairmont Hotel) was my first mollusk stop of choice. The restaurant is known for its vast selection, including Stellar Bay, Evening Cove, Kumamoto, Emerald Bay, Olympia, Wescott Bay Flats and Hama Hama.
Photograph by Monyca White No visit to Seattle is complete without taking a journey through Pikes Place, a.k.a. the Soul of Seattle. I walked past the famous salmon tossing fish mongers and spied a great selection of apples, pears, dungeness crab, and various artisan cheese products.
Photograph by Ricardo Carreon
When I reached the Market Grill I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed their freshly caught grilled salmon toasted baguette sandwich. Uli's famous Sausage, Inc. also caught my attention. The master butcher and owner is a certified meister from Westphalia Germany (known as sausage country). I tasted their chorizo and lamb sausage chili. This was a tasty way to warm up from Seattle's cool ocean breeze.
Cherry Bomb Pepper-Sweet Fennel Pizza Photo by Heath Ashli After spending time at the market, I went in to ETTA's for a glass of wine where I was pleasantly surprised to run into Tom Douglas. He is one of Seattle's best known chefs and owns five different restaurants, including Serious Pie and LOLA. Tom had taught a cooking class at the Greenbrier when I worked there. It was great to catch up with him and all his various projects. During the trip I made it a point to stop at Lola's where I had the delectable curried goat tagine. I also had one of the best pizzas I've ever tasted at Tom's pizzeria, Serious Pie. Anything that has a name like Cherry Bomb Peppers and Sweet Fennel Sausage is well worth the trip to Seattle alone. Serious Pie Coaster Photograph by Rebecca Burgess
It feels ironic to have traveled all the way from D.C to Trinidad to participate in an American Culinary Heritage promotion. Trinidad Hilton's Executive Chef Carlos Gomez and General Manager Ali Khan invited me to take part in a five week event highlighting five major U.S. regions: the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest. We kicked off the event with a press conference, and, a chef and culinary student symposium called the Circle of Culinary Knowledge. This was a lively round table discussion that included White House culinary curiosities, current food trends, and hospitality career themes.
I learned a great deal from the Trinidad chefs that I met. One chef in particular is someone who I think of as the face of Trini cuisine - Debra Sardinha-Metivier; she is the first woman executive chef in the Caribbean Hilton Chain. And, while this benchmark is impressive, it is her family ties that make her so interesting. Like her grandmother and parents (who are self-taught cooks) her cooking emanates from the love of culture and food. Debra's parents own a very successful restaurant in Scarborough, Tobago, called the Blue Crab. Both Debra and her family members describe themselves as "vibration cooks". Debra explains, "This means a good touch with the balancing of smell and taste." After tasting a meal that Debra put together, I completely understand what she means although it is a bit of an oversimplification; her food springs from her heart.