Behind the scenes: A peek at the decor, the menu at Biden state dinner for French President Macron

President Biden hosts his first state dinner on Thursday, for President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. Gov. J.B. Pritzker will be attending. The Sun-Times has the delicious details.

SHARE Behind the scenes: A peek at the decor, the menu at Biden state dinner for French President Macron
First Lady Jill Biden Host State Visit Media Preview

A place setting for the upcoming state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on Dec. 1.

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden host their first state dinner on Thursday, welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House — more precisely, a candlelit pavilion on the South Lawn with entertainment by Jon Batiste and decorations highlighting the shared red, white and blue colors of our flags.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker will be attending the dinner, his office said Wednesday night.

The first lady previewed the dinner on Wednesday with Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo and veterans of the White House kitchen — White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison taking us behind the scenes.

A place setting is seen during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Macron, at the White House on Thursday night.

A place setting is seen during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Macron, at the White House on Thursday night.

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The chefs said they have been working on the menu for six months; the 200 Maine live lobsters were flown in and delivered to the White House on Tuesday.

Between 300 and 400 guests are expected, with the list of the invitees to be released on Thursday. Planning for this state dinner has been in the works since the summer, kicking into high gear in the last eight weeks.

The china is rented, since the White House curators don’t like to take the historical dishware out of the house.

Almost every detail — from the flowers selected to the menu — is heavy in symbolism, with the White House aware of the value of dinner diplomacy and treating guests well, especially a close ally.

Guests at the state dinner for French President Macron on Thursday night at the White House will be seated at lavishly decorated tables, as shown in this media preview on Wednesday at the White House.

Guests at the state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday night at the White House will be seated at lavishly appointed tables, as shown in this media preview on Wednesday at the White House.

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And starting with the flowers, all “chosen with care,” Elizondo said, here are the details:

Flowers: Arrangements will include France’s national flower, the iris, and American Beauty Roses, which Elizondo noted were bred in France and brought to the U.S. more than a century ago. There will also be piano roses, to “honor” Macron’s “love of the piano.”

On the tables: Elizondo said table settings will include French-forged champagne vessels, to be filled with American sparkling wine. “Each [vessel] is rolled from one piece of silver, ensuring the sparkling wine inside is always at its best temperature — its flavor and aroma showcased by the vessel’s unique shape.”

Motif: “Serving as a backdrop for the president’s toast, and featured in the menu programs, is perhaps the most famous expression of our [countries’] enduring friendship: the Statue of Liberty — a gift from France to the people of the United States. Her torch, a beacon of light to the world, is reflected in towering candelabras on the tables and the chandeliers that will adorn the pavilion. And on the walls are images of oaken fleur-de-lis, and stained-glass roses and irises.” 

White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford shows off the main course dishes — butter-poached Maine lobster, and the coulotte of beef, during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Macron.

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford shows off the main course dishes — butter-poached Maine lobster and the coulotte of beef — during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron.

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The Menu

Here’s a rundown of each item featured in the state dinner:

Butter Poached Maine Lobster

American Osetra Caviar

Delicata Squash Raviolo

Tarragon Sauce

Coulotte of Beef, Shallot Marmalade

Triple-Cooked Butter Potatoes

Sunchoke and Creamed Watercress

Red Wine Reduction

American Artisanal Cheese Course features three cheeses:
— Rogue River Blue 2019/2020 World Cheese Awards World Champion Gold Made by — Rogue Creamery with milk sourced from Grants Pass, Oregon
— Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog, California

Deer Creek Cheddar Cheese from a small family run creamery in Sheboygan, Wisconsin 

Orange Chiffon Cake

Roasted Pears with Citrus Sauce

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

The wine

Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay “Napa Valley” 2018

Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon “Knights Valley” 2019

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé N/V

A place setting menu is seen during a media preview for Thursday’s state dinner for French President Macron.

A place setting menu is seen during a media preview for Thursday’s state dinner for French President Macron.

Getty Images

The above menu items will be served this way:

First course: Bright poached Maine lobster dolloped with American Osetra Caviar from California white fish sturgeon.

Comerford said the lobsters will be garnished “with some celery crisp that’s actually one of our first lady’s favorites. I made sure that I put some extra in there.”

The menu, Comerford said, is intended to “honor ... our lobstermen from Maine who really have to like work pretty hard because they had to ship 200 live lobsters to us [Tuesday] morning to get it to this point.”

Calotte of Beef with shallot marmalade, triple-cooked butter potatoes, sunchoke and creamed watercress, and red wine Reduction is presented during a media preview in the State Dining Room of the White House.

Coulotte of Beef with shallot marmalade, triple-cooked butter potatoes, Brussels sprouts, sunchoke, creamed watercress, and red wine reduction is presented during a media preview in the State Dining Room of the White House.

AFP via Getty Images

Main dish: Coulotte of Beef. 

Comerford called it the “butter of steak, because basically it is the butter that is on the top of a ribeye. And it’s really nice, and it has a lot of marbling. It came from different farms in Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania and also Virginia.”

The dish will be served with with shallot marmalade, micro carrots and Brussels sprouts coming from “a hot house in Ohio; they specialize in wonderful vegetables that chefs would really love to use on their dishes.”

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison shows off a cheese plate during a media preview for Thursday’s state dinner.

A course of American Artisanal Cheeses is presented during a media preview ahead of the state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron, in the State Dining Room of the White House.

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Cheese Course: Rogue River blue cheese, wrapped in grape leaf packaging, served with macerated grapes and grenadine walnuts.

Honey will come from the hive at the White House garden founded by former first lady Michelle Obama. The squash in the ravioli is also from the garden. 

Other cheeses: from from Deer Creek, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Humboldt Fog, a raw goat cheese from Humboldt County, California, in northern California.

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison shows off a dessert plate featuring orange chiffon cake with roasted pears, citrus sauce and crème fraiche ice cream, during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron.

White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison shows off a dessert plate featuring orange chiffon cake with roasted pears, citrus sauce and crème fraiche ice cream, during a media preview for the upcoming state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron.

Getty Images

Deserts: Orange chiffon cake with roasted pears, citrus sauce, and crème fraiche ice cream, made with, Morrison said, “very tender meringue cake with citrus flavoring.” 

There will also be a trio of oranges, “plus mandarin curd inside, as well as at the base of the cake.”

The cake is made with tangerine mousse and will be complemented with an assortment of blood oranges and tangerine orange slices and roasted pears at the base roasted with raspberry sauce, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. 

Regarding the cake: The top will feature spirals of sugar in red, white and blue. The side of the cake has the flags of the U.S. and France painted on white chocolate. 

Morrison said they made 1,200 of them, 400 in each color. 

White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford (left) and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison speak about the upcoming State Dinner for French President Macron, at the White House media preview on Nov. 30, 2022.

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford (left) and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison speak about the upcoming state dinner for French President Macron, at the White House media preview on Nov. 30, 2022.

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images


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