WASHINGTON (AP) — Butter-poached Maine lobster, beef with shallot marmalade and an American cheese trio will be served when French President Emmanuel Macron takes his seat as guest of honor in a red-white-and-blue theme at the White House on Thursday. dinner, the first for President Joe Biden.
Dessert is chiffon cake with orange, roasted pears and creme fraiche ice cream.
Everything from the menu to the entertainment to the table settings and other glitzy dinner details was designed by the White House — and First Lady Jill Biden — to emphasize the ties between America and its oldest ally, France.
A state dinner is a high diplomatic honor that the United States reserves for its closest allies.
“The design of this dinner was inspired by the shared colors of our flags, red, white and blue, and our shared values of freedom and democracy, equality and camaraderie,” Biden said. “These form the foundation upon which our enduring friendship is built.”
The first lady said she handled dinner the way her mother handled family dinners when she was growing up. Her mother brought out the china, fresh flowers and lit candles “even if we only had fish fingers from the freezer.”
“I learned that setting a table can be an act of love,” she said before journalists were allowed to see the tablecloths for the dinner, which is part of a wider state visit to the United States by Macron and his wife Brigitte. Macron landed in the US on Tuesday night.
Biden said the first White House state dinner since 2019 will be “an expression of welcome and friendship, a way to connect through a language that transcends words.” She took no questions from reporters and left the preview room after her short remarks.
White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo, who has worked for the Bidens for more than a decade, said that “making people feel comfortable and at home” is most important to the couple.
The glitzy, celebratory dinner party will be held in a heated pavilion on the South Lawn with an expected 300 guests. They will be seated at a mix of square and rectangular tables, covered with dark blue silk cloths and adorned with red candles and arrangements of red, white and blue flowers, including roses and irises, the official flower of France.
China from the White House collection will not be used, as it is not allowed outside the executive mansion. You dine on outdoor tableware.
An image of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the US in the 1800s, will set the stage for toasts by the presidents. For the toasts, American sparkling wine is served in silver French champagne barrels.
White House Chef Cristeta Comerford reserved a special shout-out for Maine’s lobster workers.
“They had to ship 200 live lobsters to us yesterday morning,” she said.
Oceana, an international advocacy group focused on ocean conservation, objected to the use of Maine lobster, which was recently declared unsustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Marine Stewardship Council. The sustainability organizations expressed concern about the risks to rare North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear. Entanglement in fishing gear is one of the biggest threats to whales.
Dinner guests, who are usually supporters and friends of both presidents, government officials, businessmen and some celebrities, will have the added bonus of arriving to a White House decked out for the holiday season with Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands. Trolleys drive them to the see-through pavilion on the South Lawn.
The music is provided by Jon Batiste, a Grammy Award-winning New Orleans native who most recently served as bandleader and musical director for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Batiste is joined by his father, Michael Batiste, the US Marine Band and the Army and Air Force Strolling Strings.
The event was produced with help from Fete, a New York City event planning company.
Jill Biden recalled that when she flew to Japan to support Team USA at the Olympics, she cheered with Macron during a three-on-three basketball game. Even though they were for opposing teams, “there was a camaraderie we shared,” she said.
At the state dinner, she said: “We hope the end result will be an evening that balances the beauty of our friendship with serious purpose, and we hope that French citizens everywhere feel the warmth of our welcome.”
On Wednesday night, the Bidens and the Macrons dined at Fiola Mare, an Italian seafood restaurant on Georgetown’s waterfront. They spent about two hours in the restaurant before going their separate ways.
Thursday’s dinner, the first in three years largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will not be a new experience for Macron. In 2018, the French president was invited by then-President Donald Trump for a state visit to the US.
Trump and his wife Melania took Macron and his wife on a helicopter ride over Washington — a city designed by Frenchman Pierre L’Enfant — and the Potomac River to Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, America’s first president. Macron was also recognized at a state dinner.
The first state dinner of a new administration always draws a lot of attention and sets a high bar for how the president and first lady approach entertainment, said Anita McBride, who served for three presidents and was chief of staff to Laura Bush when she was first lady. .
“In terms of the public, the most visible event a White House or a president and first lady could have on the world stage, that’s the White House, this is it,” McBride said.
Darlene Superville, The Associated Press