November 24, 2009
Posted: 05:25 PM ET
Note: Paula Deen, former White House chefs and Sally Quinn of the Washington Post join Larry tonight to dish about all the dinner details.
The menu? No meat. Instead, a selection that includes roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Preceded by potato and eggplant salad and white house arugula with onion seed vinaigrette. Dessert features pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin.
Wines are from California, Oregon and Virginia. The entertainers? There's Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for her turn in the film Dreamgirls. Also A.R. Rahman, who won two music Oscars this year for his work on Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire.
Expect a special version of that film's bouncy theme song, Jai Ho! Kurt Elling, a Grammy-winning jazz singer and composer, will perform, as will the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch. About 400 guests will be in a big tent pitched on the South Side of the White House for the formal state dinner honoring India. The tent allows for nearly three times the crowd that could squeeze into the state dining room.
The guest list includes at least one Indian-American Republican: Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Also Hollywood types such as Steven Spielberg and super agent Ari Emanuel. And CBS anchor Katie Couric and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
First lady Michelle Obama has brought in a celebrity chef, award-winning Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, a Scandinavian restaurant in New York City. "These state visits and dinners are a really important part of our nation's diplomacy," Michelle Obama said today. "Throughout history, they've given U.S. presidents - and the American people - the opportunity to make important milestones in foreign relations."
State dinners are a long-standing White House tradition. Since the time of George Washington himself, presidents have conduced business over meals with lawmakers and the occasional foreign diplomat. Tonight's state dinner closes a circle of sorts. The first formal state dinner that we know today was held Dec. 12, 1874, when President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife hosted King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands - also known as Hawaii, the future state that in 1961 became the birthplace of one Barack Obama.
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