So the last time a French president was honoured with a State Dinner was back in 1996 at the invitation of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Here is what the menu looked like 18 years ago:
Lemon Thyme Lobster with Roasted Eggplant Soup
Rack of Lamb with Winter Fruit and Pecans
Sweet potato puree, root vegetables
Tarragon Huckleberry Sauce
Layered Artichoke, Leek and Herbed Cheese with Green and Endives, Balsamic Dressing
Apple and Cherry Sherbet Pyramid with Apple Brandy Sauce
Peanut Butter Truffles, White Almond Bark Chocolate Fudge
The wines paired with the dinner were all from California:
Beringer Viognier 1994 (CA)
Zaca Mesa Syrah 1993 (CA)
Roderer Estates, l’Hermitage 1990 (CA)
The highlight of that dinner was the towering pyramid concocted by (French) White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, built of balls of apple and cherry sherbet with apple brandy sauce and circled with small pastry swans swimming on a bed of dark red raspberries. We’ll see if current (perfectly French-speaking) pastry chef Bill Yosses can outdo him ;-)
Guest at the 1996 dinner included designer Oscar de la Renta (who also dressed the first lady), Michael Douglas (who had sort of hosted a French president to a State Dinner of his own in The American President), Mr. and Mrs Eisner (Disneyland Resort Paris had just opened a few years earlier), the United States Ambassador to France, Mr and Mrs Shapiro (of the MoMa), the President of the Gugghenheim museum (the French like art…), John Grisham (we like to read too!), pretty much the entire Louisiana delegation in Congress and the mayor of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs I.M. Pei (who has designed the East Wing of the National Gallery here in DC, as well, bien sur, as the Pyramid at the Louvre museum in Paris) the president of the AFL-CIO, and actor Gregory Peck and his (French) wife.
Let’s compare with tomorrow’s State Dinner shall we?
American Osetra Caviar
Fingerling Potato Veloute, Quail Eggs, Crisp Chive Potatoes
“The Winter Garden Salad” ~ Petite Mixed Radish, Baby Carrots, Merlot Lettuce, Red Wine Vinaigrette
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.
Morlet la Proportion Doree 2011 (Napa Valley, CA)
Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009 (Columbia Valley, WA)
Thibaut-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay (Monticello, VA)
I wonder if they picked up that last wine during their visit to Charlottesville today ;-) So far, we don’t know the full guest-list. We know the current US Ambassador to France will not be there… because, there isn’t one right now… We know Bradley Cooper will be dazzling the French ladies with his sexy French accent and that Mary J. Blidge will perform. I guess we’ll have to wait a little to see who shows up at the White House tomorrow. Until then, we can speculate… Hubert Joly CEO of Best Buy perhaps? California boys Emmanuel Saez (professor at Berkeley), Renaud Laplanche (CEO of Lending Club) and Stéphane Le Viet (CEO of Work4Labs)? Xavier Mosquet, formerly of Obama’s task force to save General Motors & Chrysler? New Yorker Yannick-I’m-Happy-To-Pay-a75%-Tax Noah? We’ll see…
Which menu would you rather eat? The one served in 1996 for Monsieur et Madame Chirac or the one that will be served tomorrow for Monsieur Hollande?