Wed 25 Nov 2009
The account in The New York Times this morning of Barach and Michelle Obama’s first state dinner makes it sound glorious. Hey, we voted for the guy! Where was our invitation? My intent here, however, is to praise the wine choices for the meatless menu — in honor of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India — prepared by guest chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit. I don’t know who manages the White House wine cellar and oversees the wine served there, whether for the First Family or their guests, but in this case he or she did a great job.
Here is the menu with the wines:
>Potato and Eggplant Salad, White House Arugula with Onion Seed Vinaigrette. The wine: Modus Operandi Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Napa Valley.
>Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese. The wine: Brooks “Ara” Riesling 2006, Willamette Valley.
>Roasted Potato Dumplings with Tomato Chutney, Chick Peas and Okra or Green Curry Prawns, Caramelized Salsify with Smoked Collard Greens and Coconut Aged Basmati. The wine: Beckmen Vineyards Grenache 2007, Santa Ynez.
>Pumpkin Pie Tart, Pear Tatin, Whipper Cream and Caramel Sauce. The wine: Thibaut Janisson Brut, Sparkling Chardonnay, Monticello.
Notice that the dinner is a weaving of culinary threads from Indian, African and the American South. Samuelsson took a bold step in including Indian ingredients and techniques; generally, it is considered undiplomatic and competitive to serve Indian cuisine to Indian statesman outside of their country.
Notice, too, the eclectic nature of the wines served at the dinner. Two are from different growing regions of California, one is from Oregon, and one is from Virginia, not far from the White House. The wineries are all small and family-owned; there’s nothing corporate or global here, just a reliance on artisan standards of production and quality. And perhaps the choice of a riesling for the lentil soup — how interesting is that? — will spur sales of that versatile but neglected variety. Certainly the wineries will benefit from the publicity.