Green curry prawns – an “impossible” pairing from the White House state dinner

obama singh Right now, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Dr. Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India, is being feted at a state dinner! The Obamas brought in chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit in New York to cook a meatless, Indian-inspired meal for the 320 honored guests. (Get full details at nytimes.com) In a toast, the President hailed the American relationship with India a ”great and growing partnership.”

But cutting to the chase for us wine geeks, are the wines fulfilling a great partnership with the food? One course in particular caught my eye: guests wanting the green curry shrimp with smoked collard greens will be offered the Beckmen, Garnache [sic] from the Santa Ynez. While I haven’t tried the wine, one of Beckmen’s other grenache wines rolls in at 15.6% alcohol, not exactly my recipe for good times with green curry. I might just hold on to that Riesling from the previous course if I were seated next to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Jhumpa Lhiri, Bobby Jindal or Steven Spielberg tonight.

What would you pair if you were the USA sommelier with this course? (Only American wines are served at the White House.) Full menu selections come after the jump.

Potato and Eggplant Salad
White House Arugula
With Onion Seed Vinaigrette
2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Modus Operandi, Napa Valley, California

Red Lentil Soup with Fresh Cheese
2006 Riesling, Brooks “Ara”, Wilamette Valley, Oregon

Roasted Potato Dumplings
With Tomato Chutney
Chick Peas and Okra
or
Green Curry Prawns
Caramelized Salsify
With Smoked Collard Greens
and
Coconut Aged Basmati
2007 Granache, Beckmen Vineyards, Santa Ynez, California

Pumpkin Pie Tart
Pear Tatin
Whipped Cream and Caramel Sauce
Sparkling Chardonnay, Thibaut Janisson Brut, Monticello, Virginia

Petits Fours and Coffee
Cashew Brittle
Pecan Pralines
Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelees
Chocolate-Dipped Fruit

Full formal menu (pdf); image a reduced size crop from whitehouse.gov

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41 Responses to “Green curry prawns – an “impossible” pairing from the White House state dinner”


  1. Move that sparkler up one course, or pour a Roederer NV.


  2. I will pair with Alsace Gewurztraminer, that is fine for many Asian dishes e.g. Thai Tom Yam Kong, sweet and sour fish and Chinese Dim Sum


  3. two misspelled words? “Wilamette” and “Granache”….this is ridiculous


  4. is green curry even indian curry? i don’t think it’s spicy at all … i may be mistaken ..


  5. When I scanned through the menu before reading your comments, I was thinking the same thing about the Grenache. It’s not the most balanced wine. I probably tasted the ’06s, not the ’07s, but the general impression with Beckman was of high octane semi-sweet tasting wine without good acid balance. Maybe the wine is fully dry, but extreme ripeness is the sense it gives.


  6. Hi Tyler,

    I don’t think a green curry with prawns is unmatcheable, but I’d use a sweetish wine. At home, I drink Torres San Valentin Blanco, 11% abv and some residual and it’s lovely with prawns, even in a mild green curry sauce.
    I’ve no idea what US wine would go, however…


  7. If it’s going to be All-American, I’m going for the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker.

    If I have carte blanche, I think I’d like the Cousino-Macul Sauvignon Gris, which has a nice ginger note as well as a bit of richness to go up against those smoked collard greens. Actually, the more I think about those smoked greens, the more I think Grenache might not be such a bad choice after all.


  8. I’d go with an Alban Roussanne to pair with this dish. The floral notes should integrate nicely with the curry without being heavy or flabby.


  9. Tyler –
    Not having tasted the dish, we can’t really know whether the pairing worked (though I’ve never had luck matching red wine with shellfish). The grenache might have matched well with the caramelized salsify, smoked collards and even the coconut basmati. But it does seem to be aimed at the roasted potato dumpling vegetarian entree. (The prime minister is vegetarian.)

    Cheers,
    Dave


  10. Tyler –
    Not having tasted the dish, we can’t really know whether the pairing worked (though I’ve never had luck matching red wine with shellfish). The grenache might have matched well with the caramelized salsify, smoked collards and even the coconut basmati. We also don’t know how spicy the dish was. But the wine does seem to be aimed at the roasted potato dumpling vegetarian entree. (The prime minister is vegetarian.)

    Cheers,
    Dave


  11. I must say I think the White House missed an opportunity here. Given how eclectic the food was to be and the occasions, it would have been a colorful touch to serve an Indian wine too (maybe a Chenin Blanc).

    For those who aren’t familiar with Indian wines, they’re getting better every year and in fact last week (shameless plug here so apologies) a few wines received Gold medals on par with international wines at the Sommelier India Wine Competition http://www.sommelierindia.com


  12. Two typos? Disastrous pairing? Lackluster linuep? The Obamas might consider relocating wine steward Dan Shanks to a sub-basement dining facility somewhere…consider applications open and this is your tryout.


  13. Nothing lackluster about the Brooks Riesling or the Thibaut-Janisson sparkler. Shanks has always done a good job finding interesting wines from around the United States, often by smaller, artisanal producers.


  14. I’d swap wines already on the list, moving the Grenache to the red lentil soup so that the Brooks Riesling can be paired with the main course. That Brooks Riesling is a great wine with real character (sourced from biodynamic vinyards, I understand). It is a perfect match for the green curry prawns.


  15. Who is the new White House Head Steward/Sommelier now, in the post-Daniel era?


  16. AMERICAN wines, boys and girls, please! Red Newt, Dr. Franck… at least a half dozen New York State Finger Lakes Rieslings would have gone beautifully with that dish.


  17. Uggg! Two typos! That gets me more than the atrocious pairing. Like Mike Veseth above, I would’ve gone for the switch, too. Grenache with the lentils and the riesling with the prawns. If it had to be a red, I would have gone with one with much lower alcohol…perhaps a domestic gamay…who is this white house joker anyway?


  18. The curry would have to be checked for heat, but regardless, I would try a medium- or full-bodied Oregon Pinot Gris. And I’d prefer a red wine with the soup, maybe a low-ish alchohol zin? Maybe exchange the soup and main course wines though the only only US grenache I’ve ever liked was a Chalone.

    BTW – I think you have more match trouble with the okra.


  19. Who hires a Swedish chef to cook Indian food, anyway?


  20. Pardon me, but a brut with the desserts course? Not for me. Give me demi-sec, at least. Don’t know what’s out there (American), but surely something could be found. I’m afraid that it seems to me (an American) like the unfortunately typical American tendency to go for contrast as a poor substitute for the (generally unknown, here) more fundamental goal of harmonious integration. Partly as a result that we just don’t cook with wine, here, and so have so little sense of intuitive matching. Often the object seems to be things that will “stand up next to each other,” instead of synergy… A brut with sweets just sounds icky. And I’ll take coffee with the sweets, anyways. Whatever happened to finishing the red with a cheese, before the sweets course?


  21. The menu itself didn’t look too inspiring to me to even give a thought to the wine pairings.


  22. Note: contrast is important, wanted to make that clear. This is one reason I’d want coffee with my dessert…

    I’d wish more people would read, for starters:

    The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth
    Richard Olney’s entire canon (including memoirs)
    Adventures on the Wine Route
    La Bonne Cuisine de Mme. E. Saint-Ange

    …not to emulate, but to learn from…


  23. The forced pairings – red with the main course and (presumably dry) sparking with dessert – even though they don’t work are typical clueless but popular mainstream amateur pairings.

    Most weddings are catered exactly the same way.

    To be fair, the sommelier could have easily been given such constraints by his client(s); especially since he’s not mentioned in the credits on the menu.


  24. I admit I missed the brut sparkler with the desserts. Gruet Demi-Sec from New Mexico would have been a fine accompaniment.


  25. Brut sparkling does fine with a lot of desserts. You weren’t there. You don’t know. I just finished Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of Champagnes, and although I opened a Graham’s 1997 Port with the pies (and yes, you may slam me for infanticide with that one, as it was – and I stress WAS – still young), I went back and tried the pumpkin, apple and cranberry/walnut pies with the (dry) sparkling wines, and —- sorry folks, but they worked just fine. They even kicked up a notch with the spice in the pies.


  26. Yes Dave, I can see your point: that American exceptionalism applies to wine and food pairings during state dinners.

    But I’m less convinced by your eleventh hour Champagne, Port and pie tasting where everything magically “works” and the pies actually improve the Champagne. Sounds like the booze talking. . .


  27. Mike Veseth, Brooks “Ara” is a 50% blend Biodynamic vineyards, and Beckmen Vineyards is 100% biodynamic, Demeter-certified.


  28. There are some really crisp Viogners from Virginia that would do fine with curry. Plenty of Riesling from Finger Lakes, NY, too. Or just go with some Kung Fu Girl Riesling from the Magnificent Wine Co.


  29. [...] the White House state dinner. And perhaps to the surprise of wine lovers, it wasn’t about the two typos and at least one disastrous food-wine pairing on the menu! Instead, it was about the “party crashers,” Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who waltzed [...]


  30. Balance the salt and acidity and you can serve a Cabernet with this “impossible” pairing. And I guarantee the additions will make the food taste better on it’s own. Wine and food pairing, especially at this ridiculous level of conjecture and imagination, is completely metaphorical. Doubt it? Come have lunch with me. Seriously. I will make green curry prawns and serve any wine you think ‘can’t possibly go with it.’


  31. presumptuous statement from someone who admittedly hasn’t even tried the wine… the ‘o7 beckmen estate grenache is 15.2% alc. smells of sweet cherry, finishes dry with a playful combo of dried cranberry and subtle spice. i happen to find it delicious. if the curry isn’t too overwhelming it would work well and really well with the smoked collard greens, like a light chateauneuf.


  32. Burn me as a heretic if you please, but I find the best pairing for a spicy curry dish like this is a mead (a honey-wine). Rabbit’s Foot meadery makes an excellent sweet mead. The B. Nektar meadery also produces some award winners. If you’ve not tried mead with curry, you’ve missed a treat.


  33. [...] the White House state dinner. And perhaps to the surprise of wine lovers, it wasn’t about the two typos and at least one disastrous food-wine pairing on the menu! Instead, it was about the “party crashers,” Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who waltzed [...]


  34. [...] his part, Daniel Shanks, the White House wine steward, tried once again to derail international relations with the wine pairings. When will they start color coding the [...]


  35. [...] cellar? The White House wine cellar is pretty small, less than 500 bottles, which has led to an (abysmally executed) ad hoc approach to formal dinners. But almost 40,000 bottles? That seems a little high, [...]


  36. Hi

    I didn’t know they had Green curry prawns on their menu, at the white house. I like that dish.

    From Jane W


  37. [...] The Obamas’ first state dinner was in honor of Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh and his wife. As you may recall, the White House wine steward tried to start an international conflagration by pairing a high-alcohol Grenache with green curry prawns. [...]


  38. Why shouldn’t they have some curry prawns, it’s wonderful, I like the dish, too! But the chutneys sound actually, great as well.

    Alex


  39. [...] “Green curry prawns – an “impossible” pairing from the White House state dinner” “State dinner numero dos: Brut-al wine pairings” Permalink | Comments (6) [...]


  40. [...] the state dinner when the White House served green curry shrimp with a 15.6% alcohol grenache for the Indian premier? (and the typos!) Or a “Carlos Santana” brut sparkling wine with [...]


  41. [...] Appetizers: crostini Eric says there were a range of options at the bar and he opted for the Thibaut-Janisson Brut NV (limited availability; about $29). USA, Virginia, Central Region, Monticello. This seems to be a staple at the White House since it was on the menu (back when the wines were on the menu) for Prime Minister Singh. [...]


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