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First Lady Michelle Obama, Desiree Rogers preview White House dinner tonight. Menu. Pool reports


Pool Report 1
Lynn Sweet
Chicago Sun-Times

Event: White House kitchen preview with chefs and students before the Obama White House First State Dinner Sunday afternoon.

A memo from the East Wing with the menu, settings, flowers, china, glassware and silver flatware is at the end or this report. A transcript will be coming. Interviews with students to come.

If you did not know:
*"The president loves scallops," according to First Lady Michelle Obama.

*The White House Huckleberry Cobbler is "one of the First Family's favorites."

*Mrs. Obama is fond of a White House soup that "tastes creamy without being creamy" and the creamed spinach that has no cream.

The creamed spinach is "delicious," said White House chief Cristeta Comerford.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Obama said, "Sasha still didn't like it." She added that the White House kitchen staff faces a "test" because the staff has to deal with feeding youngsters. ".....And sometimes kids are like, 'it's green,'" Mrs. Obama said.

*Mrs. Obama is contemplating coming up with her own china. "I think so, I think that's, that's part of the job," she said.

Many of the nation's governors are in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting and the Obama White House invited them to a black tie state dinner on Sunday evening. There are 130 guests expected for the dinner and dancing in the State Room on Sunday night.

Music will be performed by the Marine Corps Band and a group White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers said she "really loves," Earth Wind and Fire.

In the afternoon before the dinner, First Lady Michelle Obama, Rogers, White House Chef Cristeta Comerford and White House Pastry Chef William Yosses previewed the menu in the White House kitchen. The chefs stress the American ingredients in the dinner menu.

As part of Mrs. Obama's plan to open up the White House to the community, six students attended the briefing. Each course was displayed on White House china--Woodrow Wilson State Service, 1918. The students were each served a plate with a desert at the end. Mrs. Obama, implying they should be careful with the china, wisecracked of the plates, "there is a limited number of them." (She referred to the plates as Truman and later corrected herself, saying, I don't have my china down yet.")

The students had a chance to asked questions--Mrs. Obama had to coax the group a few times to to ask away.

The students were from the culinary and pastry programs of L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, a Washington suburb. All six were women. The founder and director of the school, Francois Marie-Jacques Dionot said he picked the top ranked students for the event.

Said Rogers, "Maybe one day you guys might wind up being a White House chef."

The scene: If you have seen a big catering kitchen in a hotel--well, this is not the White House kitchen. It is fairly small and compact. The cabinets and counters are stainless steel. A few dozen well used pots and pans and other cooking utensils are hanging from a stainless steel rack. There is a big mixer on the floor. A stove. What looks like a cappuccino machine on one side. A boom box is on a shelf.

The students were in street clothes, many taking pictures as the different courses were brought out.

The staff of about 10 were in their kitchen whites. Their named were sewn on their jackets. The newest assistant chef, Chicago transplant Sam Kass, who was the Obama's personal chef, briefed the group on the winter citrus salad. He put together a sampler plate with watermelon radishes grown close to Washington; oranges and grapefruit.The lettuce was a mix of plants that "grow well in winter," he said.

"This is where the magic happens. No one would expect that all that comes out of these dinners happens in this little bitty space," Mrs. Obama said.

She said one of her goals with this event was to "showcase some of this talent" working in the White House kitchen.

"I can tell you firsthand that this meal is going to be awesome, because I had an opportunity to do some tasting along with Desiree and my mom, we had a wonderful tasting luncheon," Mrs. Obama said.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL TO White House kitchen preview with chefs and students before the Obama White House First State Dinner Sunday afternoon.
Q and A with the students.
Quotes from two students at the end.

After about 11 minutes of describing the governor's dinner and celebrating American cuisine, the culinary students were asked if they had questions. Here are some highlights:

*Typical size of staff?
Seven working staff in the kitchen; two full time pastry chefs
Chef Comerford said for big events, she borrows staff. "Chefs from around here, from the Navy mess "that are reputable, talented and really good."

*After the menus been planned how many days ahead Do you start preparing?
Comerford said, "It takes only two days, but the planning stage is the longest stage, and of course connecting with the growers, the purveyors...for any menu to be successful those are the key relationships....So pretty much this whole menu is built on American relationships."

After the tasting meal, Mrs. Obama said they wanted to mix and match foods they sampled and she said of the White House chefs, "They made all our kooky ideas make sense."

After a lull in the questions, Mrs. Obama prodded the students.
"Don't be afraid," she said, suggesting they "sort of think of the professional questions that you have, you know how do you.. One of the questions that I have is 'how do you become executive (I think she said chef.)

That prompted one of the shy students to ask, "Are you taking interns?"

Chef Comerford said they are open for part time help. (Apply to White House Usher's office)

*The D.C. restaurant scene. How much do you partner....with people in the area?
Comerford said relations with other chefs in the area are cordial, "we kind of like, chitchat a bit and we visit their places and we ask questions, so, trying to like take you know, like some ideas20from them...share your ideas, that exchange, I mean, you grow as a chef."

*Normal day?
Chef Comerford said, "somebody will open up the kitchen to cook breakfast and take care of the First Family...Sasha and Malia are going to school early in the morning. We have to be up there before they kind of go to the kitchen.....Somebody else will come in and take care of what needs to be taken care of for lunch because Mrs. Obama likes to have her lunch a certain way and we have actually have introduced some dishes you will enjoy for years to come. And then there will be another ... chef to come in to cook between that we have a support staff that we have to feed; we have events that we have to contend with, menu writing, purveying, you know staffing people, it's not just the cooking itself."

*Mrs. Obama, what is your favorite thing that staff makes?
"There's some mean waffles and g rits that are made in the morning that's become a regular staple for some of us; I don't eat waffles every day...the soups and salads that Chris has made for lunchs....some light, healthy salads and, you know being able to make a soup that tastes creamy without being creamy because that is something that we work on, 'how do we keep the calories down but keep the flavors up."'

She went on to praise the creamed spinach on the menu tonight, "that is an amazing spinach, a creamed spinach without cream. There is no way you would eat that and not think that it wasn't filled with cream and cheese."

Comerford said this is how she does it ....Sauteed spinach, olive oil and shallots last minute whipped into a puree...keeps all the nutritional value in it....

"It's delicious," Comerford said.

Said Mrs. Obama, "Sasha still didn9 9t like it."

*Local produce?
Chef Comerford: They partner with local growers, farmer and purveyors. For security reasons, vendors "don't know that it is going directly here." From Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland.

As the event closed, the students, as mentioned in first pool report, were served desert.
Mrs. Obama said the press should take a taste.
Your pooler, in the line of duty, sampled two pieces of dark chocolate with carmel inside. Very tasty.
Mrs. Obama posed for pictures with the students.

Afterwards, Patrici a Alonso, 23, of Silver Springs, Md., a pastry student, said she learned from the visit "the amount of planning that goes into this is tremendous." She was a lab tech a Walter Reed before enrolling in cooking school.

Kaitlin Giuffre, 22, of Bethesda, another pastry student who works in a Bethesda bakery said, "I guess I did not realize how much planning goes into every little detail of the menu."

Below, from the White House...

Participants in Governor's Dinner Preview Event

L'Academie de Cuisine Students:
The students chosen by L'Academie de Cuisine to participate in today's event rank in the top of their class.
Patricia Alonso
Erika Anderson
Kaitlin Giuffre
Carolyn Jenkins
Margaret Long
Meaghan McDonnell

L'Academie de Cuisine Staff:
Francois Marie-Jacques Dionot (Founder and Director)
Catherine M. Rhine (Instructor)

Menu for Governor's Dinner

Chesapeake Crab Agnolottis with Roasted Sunchokes
Wine pairing: Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California)

Wagyu Beef and Nantucket Scallops with Glazed Red Carrots, Portobello Mushroom and Creamed Spinach
Wine pairing: Archery Summit Pinot Noir "Estate" 2004 (Oregon)

Winter Citrus Salad with Pistachios and Lemon Honey Vinaigrette

Huckleberry Cobbler with Caramel Ice Cream
Wine pairing: Black Star Famrs "A Capella" Riesling Ice Wine 2007 (Michigan)

Setting Details for Governor's Dinner


The three types of gilded metal stands, six in bronze and two in silver, feature the classical female figures known as the Three Graces, the Greek goddesses who presided over banquets, dances, and all other pleasurable social events, and brought joy and goodwill to both gods and mortals.

Set of Three Baskets: The most historic are the gilded bronze baskets - one taller and a shorter pair - purchased in France in 1817 by the U.S. Government for the refurnishing of the post-fire White House under President James Monroe. They are attributed to Denière et Matelin, Paris.

Set of Three Baskets: A second set of gilded bronze baskets - the taller example on the north wall pier20table and the shorter pair on the tables - are contemporary French pieces, c.1815-1820, with the female figures having wings. They once belonged to Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, who rose to prominence under the patronage of President Theodore Roosevelt. They were a gift to the White in 1973 from a descendent.

Pair of Dessert Stands: The pair of shorter stands in gilded silver were made in London, c.1808-1813, by Paul Storr, the most famous silversmith of Regency England. These stands are from the Biddle vermeil collection received by the White House in 1957.


Flower bouquets of deep reds and burgundies will be set including roses, black callas, orchids, tulips and gardenia foliage.


Woodrow Wilson State Service: In 1918 the White House acquired the first service of state china made in the United States. Lenox, Inc., Trenton, New Jersey, made a set20with a cream-colored rim with a gilt band called "stars and stripes" and a gilt Presidential Coat-of-Arms.

World's Fair Service: At the close of the New York World's Fair of 1939-40, the
tableware used at the United States Pavilion was transferred to the White House for continued use. Decorated with the Great Seal of the United States, the service plates were made by Lenox, Inc., Trenton, New Jersey, while the other types of plates were made by Theodore Haviland of New York.

State Department Service: The "stars and stripes" border used by Lenox on20the 1918
Woodrow Wilson White House service has been repeated on china commissioned from several manufacturers for use in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State. This assembled service is decorated with the Great Seal of the United States, an emblem for which the State Department keeps the official dies.


Kennedy Glass Service: a simple pattern known as "President's House" was fir st purchased for the White House in 1961 from the Morgantown Glass Works of Morgantown, West Virginia. Since that time, additional glass has been provided by the Fostoria Glass Co. and Lenox.

World's Fair Glass Service: At the close of the New York World's Fair of 1939-40, the tableware used at the United States Pavilion was transferred to the White House for continued use. An Art Deco service of glassware had been made by Libbey Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio using its "Embassy" pattern, with flat reeded stems, engraved with an eagle surmounted by stars.

Silver Flatware:

"King Charles" Flatware: In 1974, the White House acquired 130 place settings of the well-known Providence manufacturer, Gorham, Inc., then called its "King Charles" pattern (patented in 1893 as "King George"). This flatware is of a rather elaborate 18th-century pattern, variations of which have been made by several companies under the "King" designation. In 2006, Lenox, Inc., then owner of the Gorham molds, was commissioned to make another 170 place settings for the White House.



Oh my gosh. how lovely. what happens to the legacy of 'journalists' that cover such a!!

this is a interesting article. i like it!

Lynn, I hope you continue to allow us this glimpse inside the White House. Since Mrs. Obama is promoting 'healthy eating,'I think it is important to show good food and how gracious people are, even if they are on different sides of an issue. Try to get the recipe for the creamed spinach. Cynthia

Lynn: Thanks for posting these details and the daily schedules.

Sounds good---Where are the recipes?

I guess the Michelle will be saying "let them eat cake" soon. What in the world are the Obamas thinking? We are in a horrible economic mess and they are having Black Tie dinners and flying around the country and vacationing. They have already spent far too much of tax payer's money to go to Camp David and back to Chicago for two vacations and his term is only a month long.

I am just so thrilled to see the politicians spending MORE of taxpayer money on a fancy dancy dinner. Many American are struggling to get food. The American food banks cannot keep up. These are part of the same politicians that continue to raise taxes in spite of the economy being so bad. The rest of the politicians are the ones that got the American people where they are at now. NO RETIREMENT EQUITY, NO HOUSING EQUITY, LOSS OF MILLIONS OF JOBS. I really hope they enjoy another taxpayor dinner while the rest of the country is slowly starving to death. No wonder their only interest is paying back lobbyist etc. to get reelected. They all steal from the American people and get rich. Non of them give a damn about the American citizen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why are people complaining about President Obama having a state dinner for our U.S. Governors.
No one was complaining when Bush spent TONS of money flying all over the world and serving $500 bottles of wine. And Bush was on vacation 40% of the days that he was in office.
State dinners are part of government and always will be.
If your not going to complain when a republican is in office then you shouldn't complain when a democrat is in office.

African Americans have waited a lifetime to experience having a Black man in the White House. Why should the standards for certain activities change? It is true that we are facing horrible economic times and that we should all make sacrifices. However, I don't remember conversations about what kinds of State Dinners other presidents should have. There is a certain protocol that has been handed down for generations with regard to how certain guests to the White House should be handled. Why should the Obamas be made to feel guilty because they are following that same protocol. I , for one, do not want the standards changed just yet. I think the Obamas are intelligent enough to make those kinds of decisions. They seem to be damned if they do and damned if they don't by some. I want to see them enjoy all of the benefits of the office along with all of the problems they will have to endure.
Maybe I slept through it but I don't ever remember trips to Camp David being questioned. Again, I think President and Mrs. Obama should make those decisions.

Thanks for these human interest stories, Lynn. I am so impressed by the Obamas, and especially their community outreach, and their outreach to the mayors the other day, and now this dinner for the governors.

American already feels like we like each other a lot better.

Let's keep it up. Together, we can accomplish anything. Yes, we can.

oh stop it
this event is held no matter who is in office
or what the economic times are
your just pissed because he won

what did Bush do while Rome burned?
i think you know the answer to that
since he's the one who burned it

The President as all presidents in the past have hosted this dinner. It's nothing new, and the presidents have all receive a salary. Annual hosted events all come under a budget. All of these gatherings are part of what has always gone on in the past. Why do some of you make it sound like it's something new. President Bush and his whole entire family went numerous times often in fact to Camp David. All of a sudden now you people seem to care what's going on in the white house now that an African American family is living there. Wall Street stole you blind gave themselves more in bonuses than the President could spent in 10 years in office for State dinners. Whose complaining about that or, screaming about that. Politicians didn't get Americans where they are now. Wall Street, and free spending Americans who thought there wouldn't be an end to their abusive spending. Charging things they couldn't afford, buying homes they couldn't afford. Greed got us where we are, so stop blaming a State dinner or Washington for where we are now. Get the facts before you start laying blame!

What exactly is meant by "street" clothes? I can't believe they were invited to dine at the White House with First Lady Obama and wore jeans and sneakers. Surely not.

Lynn I read your column to be well informed politically,and socially. You certainly didn't disappoint when you shared the decor and menu of the Governor's state dinner. I.m interested
in the president and Mrs Obama.They are a breathe of fresh air that is much needed in the white house....It has been a long time since we could feel proud of the couple in the white house. This time...I believe we have chosen a shinning example of the American family...morally,spirtually, and polically.

Like Michelle. She keep it real

May we have that creamless spinach recipe, please?

Wow, you people are so completely off base. Why oh why is everything about race? Who mentioned race? I am a Democrat! We are in the worst economic crisis we have been in in my life time. This is NOT a normal situation!!! Lead by example, if you expect everyone to make sacrifces to get thru this, then you better do so yourself. Stay in DC, work hard, stop spending OUR TAX MONEY so freely. I am pissed at Wall Street too! There is plenty of blame to go around. I yelled and screamed everytime Bush went on yet another vacation. Just please, drop the race thing, it is so old. Are telling me that everytime a citizen wants to criticise this President they will be called a racist?

yo prez, did you not get your own memo saying that the economy is in dire straits, we're in a crisis, and we all need to pitch in?

you just signed a massive spending bill and are about to dish out more spending for housing foreclosures, so what's with the wasteful spending on an extravagent formal dinner to entertain governors?

oh, i forgot, you're the all knowing one. you're motto: 'do as i say, not as i do'.

I noticed the racial attack on a comment upthread. Because that person came here, gave an opinion you didn't agree with then it must be because that person is racist. Have I got that right? I don't want to put words in your mouths, just trying to figure out how that comment went from personal opinion ,to, she's racist. Millions of people voted for Obama, and millions voted for someone else. In my case I voted Hillary, and when she lost I voted McCain. Not because I"m racist, but because I didn't, and still don't trust Obama. When you attack someone as being racist wouldn't you be better off debating that first? Getting to know someone first? Why does it always have to be shoot first, ask questions later? I would be totally ashamed of myself if I called any of you racist without knowing for a fact you were. To the millions of people who didn't vote Obama, we're not racist, but better informed. And this is just my opinion!!! I"ll leave now, you can get back to your Obama lovefest, but try to remember you have family members, I bet, who didn't vote Obama. Are they racist? Playing the race card to often diminishes it, makes it null and void. We've been called racist to many times over the months, and quite honestly I"m over it. But maybe your next poster might be upset, and hurt.

barky and mEchelle should be ashamed, wasting this money and partying while we are in economic crisis!

Yes, Bush did indeed fritter away money. And indeed I did complain about it then as I am now. It looks as if Obama is setting out to challenge the record of Pres. Bush who spent far too much time vacationing (President Obama has already gone away TWICE in his first month in office). Let's remember too, that the status quo shouldn't stand when the country is in such dire financial straits. It would have sent such a wonderful message to those suffering in these troubled times, had he put his money where his mouth was. As he admonishes us to scale back (have some skin in the game, I believe he said), I would like to see my leader do the same. It has nothing to do with race, so please stop with the silly race baiting. I and many like me have had enough of that.

I did complain about Bush the entire 8 years he was in office. I complained about him getting us into a senseless war, and I complained about him getting us into debt. That does not negate the fact that while the President tells all of us we have to sacrifice, he has been spending money (our money) like it is water and flaunting it. It is not just this state dinner. It started with the tasteless spending at the inauguration and hasn't stopped. "let them eat cake" does come to mind. And I am sick and tired of the race card being played, every time a little criticism is directed at the President. It is getting old, very old.

It's so typical and hypocritical of those screaming 'foul' over the Obama's dinner. I'll be so glad when the republican party completely disappears from politics. Just a matter of time the way they keep opening their mouths every chance they get and being so negative. They're just plain green with envy. Pure and simple.

OK, first, I am a life long Democrat. I did some research last night and Bush's first State Dinner was held on Sept. 5th 2001. NINE MONTHS after taking office in a good economic climate, not weeks after taking office in horrible economic times. Bush only held SIX State Dinners in his EIGHT years as POTUS. Facts, people. Just the facts.

Can't wait to see how much Mrs. Obama spends on "her" china- wonder if she'll get the same amount of criticism that Mrs. Bush received when she picked out "hers" ?

Oh knock it off! Some people just look for stuff to whine and complain about. The Obama's are fabulous - at long last we have a President and first family that are not only intelligent forth right and honest, but they are REAL and interesting! Quit your whining and moaning, really, it’s annoying. As for the inaugural what would you have preferred? Obama standing on a wooden box wrapped in a patched coat speaking with a megaphone, bowing, scraping and shuffling? Don't forget yourselves, he is the President of the United States and with that comes "all that" whether you like it or not. You need only have watched his address to congress to see that not only the Dems but the Repubs lined up pushing and shoving just to shake his hand. He is making things happen for this country and still being a father and husband. He can vacation any where he wants any time he wants for as long as he wants if he’s taking care of business and he is. What did Bush do except lie, lie, lie as he get us into deep debt, 2 wars and accuse the world of “mis-under-estimating” him? Good grief! The moment Obama was elected he raised the bar for the office of President back where it should be and pulled America out of the crapper as far as the rest of the world is concerned – he is restoring our standing and respect in the world – I say party on my brother, let the White house rock!



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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 22, 2009 5:26 PM.

First Lady Michelle Obama's East Wing taking off. Healthy living added to agenda. Debut White House gala tonight was the previous entry in this blog.

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