State dinner menu with Hu Jintao: “quintessentially American”

white house state dinner
Obviously, a lot of issues are on the metaphorical table as President Obama entertains China’s president Hu Jintao. But what’s in the glass? They can’t serve Lafite, after all, since the White House only pours domestic wins and this menu is set to be “quintessentially American.”

Given previous bombs served up by the White House usher, I chuckled when I saw the headline at the nytimes.com: “White House looks to avoid gaffes during Chinese visit.” But that’s just what they’ve done with a conservative menu and wine pairings.

Chardonnay and lobster? Check. If you’re gonna have a big chardonnay, might as well be with lobster. I’ve never tried the DuMOL Russian River Chard (about $50; find this wine), but several tasting notes on CellarTracker describe it as big and oaky.

Rib eye and young cabernet? Quintessentially American, indeed. The Quilceda Creek Cabernet 2005 from Washington State’s Columbia Valley is collectible and coveted. It’s not the current release and is pricey at about $250 a bottle. CellarTracker users really like this wine; Jay Miller, reviewer for The Wine Advocate, scored it 100 points. Stephen Tanzer described it as, “wonderfully bright for such a ripe wine, and explosively long on the aftertaste” and scored it in the 94-97 range. It’s probably years away from being ready so I hope they can find a few decanters around the White House.

And, finally, the menu pairs a botrytized Washington state riesling with the apple pie and ice cream. I’m not a fan of sweet on sweet. But maybe it’s enough to get Hu Jintao to grab the mic, and start singing.

The complete dinner menu

D’Anjou Pear Salad with Farmstead Goat Cheese
Fennel, Black Walnuts, and White Balsamic

Poached Main Lobster
Orange Glaze Carrots and Black Trumpet Mushrooms
Dumol Chardonnay “Russian River” 2008

Lemon Sorbet

Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions
Double Stuffed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach
Quilceda Creek Cabernet “Columbia Valley” 2005 (about $250; find this wine)

Old Fashioned Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
Poet’s Leap Riesling “Botrytis” 2008 (find this wine)

Related: “Green curry prawns – an “impossible” pairing from the White House state dinner
State dinner numero dos: Brut-al wine pairings

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16 Responses to “State dinner menu with Hu Jintao: “quintessentially American””


  1. Considering that the Chinese own us now, the least we can do is pour a coveted cult wine for their President.

    However, I have to wonder why the White House doesn’t serve food that Mr. Hu would be more comfortable with. Would it kill them to slice up the steak and serve it in strips the way they would in China? And goat cheese? I would never serve that for a Chinese guest unless I knew for sure they liked it, which is unlikely.


  2. The commie thug should have been served Yellow Tail or maybe a nice “aged” white Zin from Sutter Home !


  3. Blake, I would point you to this article:
    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/18/demystifying-china-and-u-s-debt/

    Worth a read, although the first line says it all: “Despite what talk radio and late night comedians may say, China does not own the U.S. Treasury Department. Numbers show that 75% of Uncle Sam’s growing debt is in the hands of U.S. interests.”

    That said, China’s 7% interest in the US debt probably deserve something a little more interesting than what was poured. Given their current obsession with Bordeaux, how about a nice older Meritage over a young big Cab?


  4. Pretty tame menu overall, I’d say — though as a Washington State resident I’m proud our soggy little corner of the country accounted for 2/3 of the wines.

    But I also agree with Bob: the ruler of “The People’s Republic” deserves something more like two-buck chuck. Because anything more high-brow, y’know, would be so *bourgeois*. Ironic that we fete a communist ruler with all the bounty of American capitalism.

    And where’s Michelle with all that butter and cream? Off in a corner, munching raw veggies?


  5. Sounds like a great menu to me.

    Blake, if Obama were in Beijing, do you think they’d serve him a burger? No. They’d serve a Chinese meal. And what makes you think they did not investigate what the Chinese President would or would not enjoy?


  6. A “quintessentially American” meal was requested by the Chinese delegation.


  7. Perhaps the White House somm reads Dr. Vino – the pairings were pretty much spot on!

    A marching band menu calls for 76 trombone wines!

    Conservative, a bit stereotypical but also very reassuring in the way a meal can be. I can only imagine it being a success.


  8. In his own house Mr. Hu probably drinks only Grand-cru Bordeaux, especially Chateau Lafite, which has been all the rage in the new Chinese economy.
    Also to make him feel at home, they should have offered Mr. Hu the option of mixing the Cab with either Sprite or green tea.


  9. Tyler, a small correction and some information. The White House person in charge of the selection of wines is the Executive Residence Usher. This position is fulfilled by Daniel Shanks. Daniel is a well versed and experienced wine professional. His background includes a start in the Napa Valley working in the early days of Domaine Chandon at their restaurant before joining the WH at the behest of the Clintons. Daniel is fortunate enough to have a little more time for dinners in this administration, thus allowing him to serve wines that may need some more room to open. Under the previous president dinners were limited to only 55 minutes. Apparently we’re up to 70 minutes with the Obamas. I guess the current first couple has a greater repartee to share than the former White House occupants…


  10. I would love to sample this menu AND the wines, sounds absolutely delicious to me! I’m shocked to read about the super-tight time limit for state dinners. too bad and almost a waste to chump down all this food in so little time!


  11. If you were visiting France would you want to eat American Pot Roast or “quintessential” French food. The man lives in China why in tarnation would he want Americans to recreate food from his homeland? He better eat that goat cheese and tell all those people back home to try some good ole American goat cheese to.


  12. Hi Philippe,

    Yes, Shanks selects the wines and he told Bloomberg in 2008 that he looks for wines with “presence” because of the brief nature of the meal. I’m glad they are up to 70 minutes now for 3 courses.

    And if you check out the last two menus (links above), it’s good that there were no typos or omissions this time–third state dinner is a charm, apparently.


  13. One thing that’s “quintessentially American” about the wine selections is that most of us Americans will never see them, let alone have the opportunity to taste them. They’re all small-production wineries and I know that if I try to order any for customers of my wine shop I’ll hear, “Sorry, those aren’t available in Ohio”. The story of my life is reading about stuff in national wine publicationss that I can only dream of procuring. Sorry to whine, but I wish more of us Americans could taste these quintessentially American wines.


  14. I would be delighted to have lobster with DuMol Chardonnay. I have enjoyed the wine on several occasions and find it to be delicious. There is an alarming amount of CA Chard bashing going on by individuals that would love to appear more sophisticated by tearing down the very thing that others cherish. Taste the wine. It is indeed delicious. It is not as elegant as Corton, as austere as Chablis, as complex as Meursault, but it has glorious fruit with beautiful oak in a harmonious plane. I was not dismayed by the selections but rather proud.


  15. Btw, for those channeling indignation, see Stephen Colbert on the subject: “this should have been a sweat pants pot luck, with box wine and a sleeve of Oreos.”

    http://huff.to/f7bbfP


  16. Lobster Rolls…

    Check out this great recipe I found!…


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