The White House came to Danville Monday night, September 21, 2009. In fact, a lot from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue showed up at 267 Hartz Avenue.
“The Peasant and the Pear” restaurant owner and Executive Chef Rodney Worth and political analyst, Mark Curtis, hosted a “White House Dinner.” It was a salute to presidential food and history!
Throughout American history, Inaugural dinners have celebrated a new president. Each tenant of the oval office has chosen a menu that reflects a theme that is to be symbolic of his term in the White House. President Obama’s inaugural theme, “A New Birth of Freedom,” was borrowed from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. The dessert served at Obama’s Inauguration was also borrowed from Lincoln’s Inaugural – Huckleberry-Blackberry Cobbler.
This party was about food and quirky fun! I was greeted by a faux Monica Lewinski, who showed me to the champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Marilyn Monroe softly belted out, These Boots are Made for Walking, while Jackie Kennedy showed me to my table. It was decorated with a clear glass jar full of Jelly Bellies-a nice homage to Ronald Reagan’s favorite snack.
Rodney, in his warm, jovial manner, welcomed us all to his White House Dinner and introduced each dish. Mark Curtis, a news correspondent who now has his own news, public relations,
and political analysis agency, and who has dined at the White House three times, kept us in stitches with amusing historical anecdotes. For example, Andrew Jackson wanted to invite well-wishers into the lobby of the White House and have cheese waiting for them. He had a 1400-pound wheel of cheese brought in. The White House smelled horrible and draperies
and rugs had to be cleaned to get rid of the stench.
There was the time when Boris Yeltsin didn’t care so much for the dinner served by President Clinton’s chef (either that or Vodka just sped up his metabolism). Yeltsin was found at 2:30
a.m., drunk, and hailing a cab-and, oh and the best part-in his underwear on Pennsylvania Avenue. He told the Secret Service that he was craving a pizza.
The first course of the divine meal was a rich, creamy, flavorful potato-leek soup that was out of this world. If I hadn’t been expected to behave so properly, I might have licked the
bowl clean—that’s how good it was. We learned that this was George Bush’s favorite soup and the one he served at his Inauguration. The second course was a frisee salad with Granny Smith apples and brie that was inspired by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy and his wife were lovers of French food and culture and employed a French chef to prepare that cuisine very often.
We had a choice for the main course: California sea bass with saffron risotto and fennel salad, which had been served at one of Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural dinners, or Arkansas chicken
with garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, served by Bill Clinton. Both were heavenly.
During dessert we learned that some prominent local politicians were dining with us. Mayor Newell Arnerich, of Danville called this night “a delightful evening; the perfect way to digest politics is with great food.” Mayor Abram Wilson, of San Ramon, urged anyone “who has a love of great food and a love of great conversation to absolutely attend this wonderful event.” There was talk about repeating this in January.
The evening ended with a book signing by Mark Curtis. His Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain, and Obama in the Making of the President 2008 is brilliant. His insights reflect a profound understanding of American politics and the way it is shaped by the residents of “Main Street, U.S.A.” The book reads like a fascinating road trip. His style is reminiscent of Studs Terkel. This is a must read. For more information, visit www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.White House Dinner guests, from left to right: San Ramon Councilman Dave Hudson; San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson; “Age of Obama” author Mark Curtis; Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, and his wife Janis Arnerich.