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MAIN Arrow to Society Society Arrow to Politics Elections Arrow to Election News Inauguration Day 2009 Arrow to Inauguraton Inauguration Luncheons

A Feast Fit for a... President

The 2009 Inaugural Luncheon Menu & Recipes
| Flowers | Music | Gifts

Painting as backdrop for 2009 Luncheon for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama

The backdrop to the 2009 Inaugural Luncheon is "View
of the Yosemite Valley" by American painter Thomas
Hill - reflecting the majestic landscape of the
American West and the dawn of a new era.


The preparations for the Inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 are in place. Millions of dollars have been raised for the affairs and ceremonies. The details of the luncheon are always closely guarded and this historic occasion was no exception, but on January 10th the details were revealed.

Approximately 200 guests including President Obama, Vice President Biden, members of their families, the Supreme Court, Cabinet designees, and members of Congressional leadership will attend the event in Statuary Hall.

The luncheon was designed to reflect the theme of the 2009 Inaugural ceremonies, "A New Birth of Freedom," which celebrates the bicentennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln. The backdrop for the luncheon will be a painting, chosen for occasion, and borrowed from the New York Historical Society. The painting, "View of the Yosemite Valley," by Thomas Hill, reflects the majestic landscape of the American West and the dawn of a new era. The subject of the painting, Yosemite Valley, represents an important but often overlooked event from Lincoln's presidency -- his signing of the 1864 Yosemite Grant, which set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as a public reserve.

The 2009 Inaugural Luncheon Menu

First Course (with recipes)

* Seafood Stew
* Duckhorn Vineyards, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

The first course will be served on replicas of the china from the Lincoln Presidency, which was selected by Mary Todd Lincoln at the beginning of her husband's term in office. The china features the American bald eagle standing above the U.S. Coat of Arms, surrounded by a wide border of "solferino," a purple-red hue popular among the fashionable hosts of the day.

Second Course (with recipes)

* A Brace of American Birds (Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing and Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney), served with Molasses Sweet Potatoes and Winter Vegetables
* Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

Third Course

* Apple Cinnamon Sponge Cake and Sweet Cream Glacé
* Korbel Natural “Special Inaugural Cuvée,” California Champagne

The menu

The menu, created by Design Cuisine, a catering company based in Arlington, Virginia, draws on historic ties to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Growing up in the frontier regions of Kentucky and Indiana, the sixteenth President favored simple foods including root vegetables and wild game. As his tastes matured, he became fond of stewed and scalloped oysters. For dessert or a snack, nothing pleased him more than a fresh apple or an apple cake.

The Wines

The wines to be served during the luncheon were produced by some of the finest winemakers in California, the home state of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Each wine was selected to complement the flavors of the luncheon ingredients.

The Flowers

The floral arrangements, designed by JLB Floral of Alexandria, Virginia, will feature hydrangeas in shades of purple and blue, Hot Mojolica spray roses, bright Red Charlotte roses and light blue Delphinium in a footed brass compote. After the luncheon, the floral arrangements will be given to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Music

The Smithsonian Chamber Players, who are artists in residence at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, will provide music for the Inaugural Luncheon. The ensemble, directed by cellist Kenneth Slowik, is
renowned for its performances of period music on the musical instruments in the Smithsonian's collection.

The Gifts

During the Inaugural Luncheon it is traditional for the President and Vice President to be presented with gifts by the Congress on behalf of the American people. The President and Vice President will each be presented with a framed official photograph taken of their swearing-in ceremony by a Senate photographer, as well as flags flown over the U.S. Capitol during the inaugural ceremonies.

The President and Vice President will also receive one-of-a-kind engraved crystal bowls, created by the Lenox Company of Bristol, Pennsylvania. President Obama will receive a bowl depicting the White House on a crystal base inscribed with “Barack H. Obama, The Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009.” Vice President Biden will receive a bowl depicting the United States Capitol, on a crystal base inscribed with “Joseph R. Biden Jr. , The Vice Presidential Inauguration, January 20, 2009.” The bowls were designed by Timothy Carder and hand-cut by master glass-cutter Peter O'Rourke.

Each guest at the Inaugural Luncheon will receive a crystal vase etched with a depiction of the U.S. Capitol, designed by Paula Skene, an artist in Emeryville, California, and handcrafted by Evergreen Crystal of Montrose, Colorado.

Florida State University College of Human Sciences professor Elizabeth Goldsmith, an expert on life in the White House, says that no matter what foods are served, "...there will be speeches, a gift presentation, toasts, and a large painting keyed to the luncheon theme will be displayed for all to see, a custom President Ronald Reagan began in 1985.”

Given a nation in the throes of a painful, protracted recession, the 2009 inaugural luncheon may be comparatively austere, or at least, different from those in recent inaugural years. Inaugurations are serious business, but beyond the serious Affairs of State there is another important aspect to the goings on. It is one tremendous party for the politicians and everyone involved with the long months of campaigning.

This celebration is every bit as elaborate as the official swearing.The mood in the streets will be celebration to the max. Washington is preparing for as many as five million people to attend the party marking the end of the Bush era and the swearing in of Obama as the country's 44th President.

The previous record attendance, 1.2 million belongs to Lyndon Johnson who followed the Nixon yearsto take office in 1965. John F Kennedy's inauguration drew about 1 million brave onlookers who stood in the Washington snow. Obama's inaugural speech is expected to be as inspirational as Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" address in 1963.

After being sworn in on Jan. 20, as the first African-American President of the United States, President Barack H. Obama will head inside the Capitol to join family members, guests and Congressional leaders for the inaugural luncheon, in keeping with a tradition introduced by Harry S. Truman and embraced by every subsequent president except Jimmy Carter.

George W. Bush began his first term in 2001 by saying fareware to the departing former President, Bill Clinton. After attending to a few of his new presidential duties in the President's room off the U.S. Senate chamber, he joined a relatively cosy group of 230 guests for a gourmet feast in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. The luncheon menu featured lobster pie, grenadine of beef supreme; chartreuse of vegetables in a puff pastry ring; puree of small celery and parsnip roots; biscuits; toffee pudding with ice cream; and demitasse café and tea along with trays of chocolate-dipped ginger, candied fruit rinds, fresh strawberries, macaroons and truffles. Lunch was served on the Senate's best china and the U.S. Army Brass quintet provided the music.

The guests were treated to a first course of scalloped crab and lobster followed by a second course of roasted Missouri quail with huckleberry glaze, chestnuts and brined root vegetables. For dessert? Steamed lemon pudding or apple wild cherry compote.

"The luncheons are important not only because they are the president's first meal as commander-and-chief, but also because they are genuinely happy events where politics are put aside and the nation comes first," Goldsmith said.

"What has happened over the years is that the luncheons have become more and more elaborate," she said. "For instance, President Bill Clinton's 1997 luncheon included champagne toasts as well as an impressive menu."

"Before Truman there were lots of different ways that the luncheons took place. Sometimes they were held in hotels. On the other hand, President William McKinley grabbed a corned beef sandwich and a cup of coffee in one of the Senate's committee rooms."

Goldsmith was given an insider account of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 luncheon by Henrietta Nesbitt, the executive mansion's housekeeper. The President and 1,200 guests gathered in the White House for a buffet lunch of tomato soup, salad, beef, ham, and tongue, cake, ice cream and coffee. "Roosevelt requested chicken a la king for his final inaugural lunch, but Nesbitt explained that they couldn't keep it hot for 2,000 guests and instead offered up chicken salad and rolls, unfrosted pound cake and coffee," Goldsmith added.

President Truman decided to move his luncheon to the Capitol, and, in his customarily understated manner, downsized the number of guests.

"As might be expected, President and Mrs. Kennedy held an elegant affair," noted Goldsmith. The 1961 inaugural luncheon menu in the Capitol's historic Supreme Court Chamber included delicacies such as cream of tomato soup with crushed popcorn and New England boiled stuffed lobster, and concluded with patisserie bateau blanche [a boat shaped white mousse pastry], mints and coffee.

In 1965, President Johnson's inaugural menu offered pink grapefruit supreme, relish tray, Texas heart of filet mignon, tomato surprise, string beans in butter, avocado and romaine salad, rolls and butter, and "The President's Delight" as featured dessert.

If you think planning a dinner party is nerve wracking imagine the details that need to be taken care of for this occasion! The honor of both planning and hosting the luncheon for each inauguration falls to the Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

"One thing that never changes is the mood, which is always celebratory," said Goldsmith.

This article is based on a Florida State University press release provided by Newswise and the official press release from the Members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies - Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman; Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee Bob Bennett; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; and House Minority
Leader John Boehner.

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