Inauguration luncheon celebrates America's culinary traditions

by Elizabeth Rose

But it was a Monday - where were the red beans? Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama sat down for lunch yesterday with 220 of his closest friends for the inauguration luncheon, which was quite possibly the best meal consumed in America that day.

The menu celebrated home-grown American delicacies, from the meats to the wines. The catering company, Desine Cuisine, has catered inaugural luncheons in the past and is a two-star certified green restaurant. The first inaugural luncheon was for President Eisenhower, but Design Cuisine chef Shannon Shaffer has created a meal much nicer than the original buffet-style 60 years ago.

"The theme of the inaugural dish here is just Americana and food in America today, so we wanted to take that and take what all of us know as American cuisine as," says Shaffer in an interview with CBS. Shaffer also adds that First Lady Michelle Obama's fitness campaign to rein in childhood obesity in America was a factor in creating the healthier menu than in years past.

The first course was an homage to the original colonies with steamed lobster covered in a New England clam chowder sauce, served atop sautéed spinach with sweet potato "hay." The seafood was appropriately accompanied by the Tierce 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling from New York.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times

The main course was a nod to the Great Plains with hickory-grilled bison with wild huckleberry reduction, strawberry preserve and red cabbage, red potato horseradish cake, baby golden beets and green beans and, last but not least, butternut squash purée. This course was also accompanied by a New York wine, the Bedell Cellars 2009 Merlot.

And dessert. We all could have guessed it, because what could be more Americana than apple pie? Fancy apple pie, but apple pie nonetheless, served with sour cream ice cream and maple caramel sauce. Those who don't like apple pie (a.k.a. the un-American ones) could choose from honeycomb and aged cheeses, including those from Toma Celena and a Jersey Girl colby from Cooperstown Cheese Company in New York.

And a toast, with the California Korbel Inaugural Cuvée. Here's to another four years of fabulous eating.