Here's what's on the menu for the state dinner
Updated: 2015-09-25 05:10
Plenty of things will be different at Friday's White House state dinner for China, ranging from the setting to the decor to the post-dinner entertainment. But in trying to figure out what to change, the White House decided to keep one thing the same: Maine lobster is back on the menu.
The lobster will be poached in butter and served with traditional rice noodle rolls embedded with spinach, shiitake mushrooms and leeks when President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcome President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, to dinner in the East Room with a few hundred guests.
When then-President Hu Jintao was the guest in 2011, the lobster was also poached and served with glazed carrots and black trumpet mushrooms.
"Maine lobster is in season," White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford said Thursday, as she and other White House staff showed off the table setting, menu items, decor and entertainment for the news media.
Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Ne-Yo will perform after dinner.
Chinese-American chef Anita Lo will work with Comerford and her staff to prepare the menu, which the White House said is inspired by autumn and highlights "American cuisine with nuances of Chinese flavors."
That translates into wild mushroom soup paired with Shaoxing rice wine, lobster, and grilled cannon of Colorado lamb served with cubes of tempura-fried panna cotta. Dessert will be poppy seed bread and butter pudding with Meyer lemon curd and lychee sorbet. Each table will also share a communal dessert plate that pays tribute to gardens and consists of a handmade chocolate pavilion and bridge, sugar roses and miniature pastries.
Desiree Rogers, a former social secretary for Obama who planned more than 300 events, including a state dinner for the Indian prime minister, said the goal is to "make it just as, if not more enjoyable, than the last time for the group."
The White House works closely with the State Department for guidance on cultural dos and don'ts to personalize the experience for the guest, she said.
"The goal is to really have them be over the moon with the evening," Rogers said.
Rogers said some points to consider when planning a dinner for a returning country are: If the previous meal was held indoors or outdoors, could the location be reversed? If it was held indoors, could it be moved to a different room? How can the entertainment be done differently?
In recent years, the chefs have been inspired by Mrs Obama's White House vegetable garden. Squash and pumpkin from the garden will be served Friday.