Entertainment by Jennifer Hudson and Kurt Elling, singers with Chicago roots; food combining American and Indian cuisine; china from the Eisenhower, Clinton and Bush eras; U.S. wines, and star guest chef Ethiopian native Marcus Samuelsson: These are some of the ingredients of the first state dinner President Obama and First Lady Michelle will host Tuesday night.
The long-awaited menu and entertainment details for the dinner honoring India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, were finally released by the White House on Tuesday afternoon. Mrs. Obama presided over a preview of the dinner in the State Dining room, where two tables were set with the mint green tablecloths and purple flower arrangements that will grace the tables at the dinner for 320. Seated at the two tables were about two dozen young girls who are part of Mrs. Obama's mentoring project. They received a briefing on the history of state dinners and the protocol involved in state visits.
"We've got a big day going on," Mrs. Obama said. "This is our first official state visit of the Obama administration. It's very exciting for us."
The menu was influenced by Samuelsson, the chef and co-owner of Aquavit Restaurant in New York. He was orphaned at the age of three in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden.
I asked food expert Eddie Gehman Kohan, who runs the Obama Foodorama, for a review. "It is a beautiful comprehensive seasonal menu," she said, with "lovely fresh flavors that are seasonal and local."
Not too daring, mainly safe, the menu is "really is sort of tap dancing on the outer edge of (the) melting pot, but in a really creative way. And these wines are incredible. They are like the best of American wines, really good vintages, without being crazy expensive," she said.
Here's the menu, course by course:
Potato and Eggplant Salad
White House argula with onion seed vinaigrette
Wine: 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Oprendi, Napa Valley, California
Red lentil soup with fresh cheese
Wine: 2008 Riesling Brooks "Ara" Willamette Valley, Oregon
Roasted Potato Dumplings with tomato chutney
Chick peas and okra
Green curry prawns
Carmelized salsify with smoked collard greens and coconut aged basmati
Wine: 2007 Granache, Beckman Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California
Pumpkin Pie tart
Whipped cream and caramel sauce
Wine: Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia
Petits Fours and Coffee
Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelees
Chocolate dipped fruit
After a reception in the East Room of the White House, guests will go to a tent -- a pavilion really -- on the South Lawn, where they will be seated at tables of 10 for dinner. The china comes from White House and State Department collections: Eisenhower Porcelain, 1955 Clinton China, 2000 and Bush China, 2008-2009.
Now, the entertainment. Besides Hudson and Elling, the entertainment includes A.R. Rahman, an Oscar winner for his work on the score for the film "Slumdog Millionaire," and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch.
: The state dinner guest list