The Washington Post

Tom Sietsema breaks down the Africa summit dinner menu

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Heads of state should feel right at home dining on the four-course menu created for tonight’s VIP dinner on the South Lawn at the White House. Every dish is laced with at least one ingredient — coffee, cinnamon and saffron, among others — that can be traced to some of the 50 participating African countries. Half of the diplomatic menu also takes into account today’s warm and muggy forecast.

Chilled spiced tomato soup leads the meal, which White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford described to CNN as “like a state dinner times fifty.” The refreshing-sounding first course, finished with coriander oil and micro cilantro, will be accompanied by socca crisps, based on chickpea flatbread.

The second course, chopped “farmstand” vegetable salad, underscores First Lady Michelle Obama’s commitment to mindful eating. The composition, using ingredients from the White House garden, comes with “soured” cream dressing and crispy onions, rich frills no doubt balanced by a pumpkinseed vinaigrette.

Beef is a meat much of the world is happy to gather around. Grilled dry-aged beef flavored with chermoula (a spicy marinade used throughout Northern Africa) and crispy plantains serve as tonight’s main course. Rounding out the centerpiece, which hails from Texas: braised summer greens, sweet potatoes and coconut milk.

To close, cappuccino fudge cake will be served. Sure to seal the deal: papaya scented with Madagascar vanilla and trendy salted caramel sauce.

Black Coyote Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” 2013 will wash back the first half of the meal, at least for non-Islamic guests. Vision Cellars Pinot Noir “Las Alturas” 2010 is liquid match for the meat. With dessert, the White House is pouring the local and fashionable Thibaut-Janisson Brut “Monticello” from Thibaut-Janisson Winery in Charlottesville, Va.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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