White House state dinner details: Military display, French-American fare

French-American fusion is on the menu Tuesday as the White House prepares for the Trump administration’s first state visit.

French President Emanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, arrive in Washington Monday evening for a three-day visit, which will include a Monday evening helicopter tour of Washington’s monuments and dinner at Mt. Vernon with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

On Tuesday, the first couple will host a more formal traditional military arrival ceremony, where the Macrons will be greeted by nearly 500 members of the United States Armed Forces for a traditional “review of the troops.” Attendees, per the office of the first lady, will include Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress and students from a French immersion school in Maryland.

But la pièce de resistance is Tuesday night’s state dinner.

The formal dinner will take place in the State Dining room of the White House, which can hold between 100 and 150 seated guests.


The first lady pulled from her background in design and was deeply involved in planning for the dinner for months. A video posted by the first lady’s Twitter account Monday shows the first lady overseeing preparations for the dinner alongside social secretary Rickie Niceta, chief usher Timothy Harleth, executive chef Cristeta Comerford, and other staff.

“Mrs. Trump selected every item and every detail for the dinner, from the entree to the chair cushions,” Niceta told CNN.

She chose a cream and gold color scheme for the dinner, including Clinton and George W. Bush presidential china settings. The video shows delicately overflowing white floral centerpieces of sweet peas and white lilac on cream tablecloths.

The White House Cross Hall is also in full bloom, featuring over 1,200 branches of cherry blossoms, per the office of the first lady.

Entertainment will be provided by Washington National Opera from the Kennedy Center.

Tuesday evening’s menu is a careful study in American cuisine with “nuances of French influence.” Comerford drew inspiration from “the wondrous first harvest of spring,” for the first course, which features greens from the White House kitchen garden, first planted by Michelle Obama and a tradition carried on by Melania Trump.

Guests will dine on a goat cheese gateau, tomato jam, and buttermilk biscuit crumbles before moving on to a Cajun-inspired main course of spring lamb and Carolina gold rice jambalaya. For dessert, a nectarine tart “infused with White House honey and accented by crème fraîche ice cream.”

Wine selection was also chosen with the French-American friendship in mind. The Domaine Serene Chardonnay “Evenstad Reserve” 2015 was grown from French plants from Dijon “that thrive in the volcanic Oregon soil.” The Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir “Laurène” 2014 “uses the motto ‘French soul–Oregon soil.'”

Gift exchange

While the two leaders have a wide range of pressing world issues to discuss, including the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea, Russia, Syria and climate change, there is also a fine attention to diplomatic details in preparing for the visit, including the gifts that they will exchange.

The Macrons are bringing a European Sessile Oak sapling to plant on the White House South Lawn. The tree comes from Belleau Wood in Aisne, France, site of a landmark World War I battle in June 1918, where nearly 10,000 US Marines and Army soldiers were killed or wounded.

The Trumps will present the Macrons with a framed section of upholstery from one of the chairs in the White House Blue Room. Featuring a golden eagle surrounded by laurels, the chair was part of the furniture suite inspired by Pierre-Antoine Bellange, who designed royal palaces in France and created the 53 carved and gilded pieces for the Blue Room, which he was commissioned to create by President James Monroe. Monroe had previously served as a diplomat in France and had taken a shine to French decor.

The Macrons will also receive from the Trumps a special photo album upon their departure, with pictures of their visit, as well as a Tiffany & Co. silver bowl, engraved with the presidential seal and the signatures of both Trumps.

Details on the dinner guest list and the first lady’s gown will be released on Tuesday.