Flavour of India at Obama's first State Dinner

Flavour of India at Obama's first State Dinner


US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for photographers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur in White House on Tuesday. AFP

Even before the state guest Singh and more than 300 other invitees were served some of the Indian delicacies at the huge tent pitched at the South Lawns of the White House, Obama set the tone by greeting in Hindi 'Aaapka Swagat Hai' (You are welcome).

Some of the dishes were prepared by the White House chef from the kitchen garden of the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

To begin with, the guests were served 'Potato and Eggplant Salad, White House Arugula With Onion Seed Vinaigrette',  followed by 'Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese.'

Then the guests were treated to 'Roasted Potato Dumplings With Tomato Chutney Chick Peas and Okra', 'Green Curry Prawns Caramelized Salsify with Smoked Collard Greens' and 'Coconut Aged Basmati'.

'Pumpkin Pie Tart Pear Tatin Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce' was on their desert; and finally they were served 'Petits Fours and Coffee Cashew Brittle Pecan Pralines Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelees Chocolate-Dipped Fruit.'

According to the White House, Michelle Obama worked with Guest Chef Marcus Samuelsson and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and her team to create a menu that also reflected the best of American cuisine, continuing with the White House's commitment to serving fresh, sustainable and regional food, and honouring the culinary excellence and flavours that are present in Indian cuisine.

White House Executive Pastry Chef William Yosses and his team created the desserts, including pears poached in honey from the White House beehives.
Desserts were garnished with mint and lemon verbena grown in the White House kitchen garden.

A sample display of a table setting is seen prior to the State Dinner for India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday. AP PhotoThe guests were seated at round tables for ten, covered in apple green linens. Deep purple flower arrangements at each table reminded of India's national bird -- Peacock.
The centrepiece bouquets were composed of flowers evocative of a classic American garden: hydrangea, garden roses, and sweet peas in a rich palette of deep plum, purple and fuchsia.

Arrangements of magnolia branches surround the walls of the tent as magnolias are native to both India and the US. The magnolia, ivy, and nandina foliage used for the occasion are locally grown and sustainably harvested.
After the dinner, the bouquets will be recycled and re-used throughout the White House.

The decor reflected the Obamas' dedication to green and sustainable elements and featured a garden theme.

Through the tent, guests had views of the South Lawn Fountain, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Monument.

The tables were set with china from the White House's historic collection, including 'Service Plates – Eisenhower' which were acquired in 1955.

President Dwight Eisenhower was the first American President to visit India after its independence.

Similarly there were 'Service Plates - Clinton State China Service' and 'Dinner Plates - George W Bush State China Service'.

Singh had the distinction of being invited to State Dinners twice -- the first one during the previous Bush regime.

The first State Dinner for a foreign head of State was held by President Ulysses S. Grant on December 12, 1874 for King David Kalakaua of Hawaii.

Since then, many traditions have been added to State and Official Visits – yet the common theme of forging friendships, exchanging knowledge and building bridges remain unchanged, a White House fact sheet said.

Previous State Dinners at the White House in honour of India include those hosted by President George W Bush in 2005; Bill Clinton in 2000, Ronald Reagan in 1985 and 1982; Lyndon B Johnson in 1966; and John Kennedy in 1963.

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