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Friday, February 27, 2009

The Obama Diet: The First Foodie Family

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 12:07 PM

click to enlarge The Obama Family - VIA: OBAMA-BIDEN TRANSITION PROJECT
Alice Waters, who has been trying for years to get Presidents from Clinton to Obama to get on board with her vision of fresh, local, seasonal, organic food for all (read her letters to Clinton and Obama here), should be happy: it seems like her efforts are finally bearing fruit. (Pun intended.)

It turns out that, although Clinton did not sow an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn, as Alice requested, ex-White House chef (for Clinton and Bush) Walter Scheib wrote in a letter to the New York Times that, indeed, not only was there "a small garden on the roof of the White House where produce was grown," but also "nearly all the product used [in the White House kitchen] was obtained from local growers and suppliers," including the frequently-used "wagyu and grass-fed beef," one of Waters' main concerns.

And Mchelle Obama, who declined Waters' offer (along with Gourmet

editor Ruth Reichl and New York restaurateur Danny Meyer) to choose a

new White House chef, in order to stick with Cristeta Comerford, a

Filipino who is both the first woman and the first member of a minority

to hold that position, continues to up the ante on the food front. 

Before the Obama's first official White House dinner, Michelle Obama invited

the top six students from L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg,

Maryland, into what is surprisingly described as the "tiny White House

kitchen" (we'd imagined one as least as impressive as that of, oh, a

mid-sized upscale chain hotel), to see what preparations for such an

event entails. (Curiously, all six top students were women, although

the school accepts all comers.) A few reporters also obsessively covered

the event, down to the fact that the heretofore uncommon event of

mixing two kinds of China (the Woodrow Wilson and a set from the 1939

World's Fair) was to occur. (We'd make a clever mixed-race joke here,

but we're not up to it.)

The dinner included a

starter of Chesapeake Bay crab agnolotti with roasted sunchokes paired

with a 2007 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc from California ; an entree of,

yes, wagyu beef and scallops with glazed local red carrots, portobello

mushrooms, and creamed spinach, made, the First Lady marveled, without

cream (sauteed spinach, olive oil, and shallots whipped into a puree is

her secret, Comerford said), paired with a 2007 Archery Summit Pinot

Noir "Estate" from Orgeon; a citrus salad with local watermelon

radishes of many color and "ice greens" harvestable in the snow,

pistachios, and a lemon honey vinaigrette, served modishly after the

main course; and a dessert of huckleberry cobbler with caramel ice

cream, paired with Black Star "A Capella" Riesling Ice Wine from

Michigan. (We especially admire the judicious geographic allocation of

United States wine effected by the White House sommelier.)


White House kitchen revelations from Michelle Obama: family favorites

include waffles and grits, although they don't eat them every day; the

kitchen turns out healthy salads and a creamy broccoli soup that,

again, is not made with cream. Obama included a pitch for cooking with

local and sustainable foods.

But the media is

not just agog about the Obama's White House eating habits. On his first

state visit to Canada last week, the press were not only delighted to

reveal that the President consumed a BeaverTail (not an appendage

detached from a rodent, but a "large, flat fried pastry that is one of

Ottowa's winter traditions," per The Globe and Mail), specially topped

for him with a chocolate and maple syrup "O", but that, unexpectedly

and unscheduled, he made a stop at Le Moulin de Provence, a

French-style bakery-bistro, and picked up three red-iced

maple-leaf-shaped shortbread cookies, with "Canada" piped in white

icing, as souvenirs for his girls. When Obama offered to pay for the

treats ($2.34 each, including tax), the bakers told him they were a

gift. (Luckily, the $260 threshold for reporting gifts was not

triggered. And still Obama had something to take home to the family --

he also bought and apparently paid for a keychain at the Oxxo Silk

Market, though not the snow globe he was also looking for -- because

The Globe and Mail further reported "There were none of the customary

gifts exchanged between the President and the Prime Minister because,

as one of Mr. Harper's aides put it: 'When you go to visit a close

friend, you don't need to bring a present.' " Ha! Tell that to my


But Prime Minister Stephen Harper did

serve Obama a slap-up lunch of what was referred to as "fine Canadian

cuisine": Pacific Coast tuna with a chili and citrus vinaigrette, and

maple and miso cured Nunavut arctic char, served with lightly pickled

vegetables and an organic beet relish; applewood-smoked Plains bison,

served with winter root vegetables and local mushrooms, cauliflower and

rosemary puree, and a juniper and Niagara red wine jus; and Saugeen

yogurt pot de creme with a lemon and lavender syrup, wild blueberry and

partridgeberry compote, and a  Acadian buckwheat honey and sumac tuile. 

We could easily see either the White House state dinner or the Canadian lunch on the downstairs menu at Chez Panisse.

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Meredith Brody


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