Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where to Dine at the White House

The first formal Dinner for Michelle Obama in the State Dining Room for the National Governor's Association February 2009
A formal Dinner in 2007 for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall planned by Mrs. Laura Bush in the State Dining Room.
Food at the White House is among the best in the world when prepared by the Executive Chef and staff. A bevy of butlers, in formal attire, serve the dishes. Where to eat depends upon the occasion, the number of guests and/or the first family's preferences. Nancy Reagan had TV trays set up in the West Hall or the Solarium for dinners together with the president. Choices for dining in the White House include indoor and outdoor venues and are only limited by a president's or first lady's imagination. There have been garden parties on the roofs of the colonnades - which used to be tree lined, and in the Rose Garden as well as the fabulous Jacqueline Kennedy Garden next to the East Wing. (Mrs. Betty Ford used the Red Room of the White House for a formal dinner rather than as a reception salon photo courtesy Gerald Ford Library)

Michelle serves salad from her Kitchen Garden for the outdoor dining her invited guests from Bancroft Elementary in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden off the East Colonnade.
Dining arrangement inside the executive mansion have always varied depending on the occupant. Thomas Jefferson dining room was what is now the beautiful silk wall papered Green Room where he actually had a green drop cloth on the floor to catch food crumbs. Jackie Kennedy's very young children needed high chairs. It drove her nuts that the family had to pack up like on a vacation to go down two or three levels to the state floor through the State Dining Room to get settled in the formal Old Family Dining Room to eat a regular meal. A bedroom that mirrored hers, now the presidential master suite, right across the wide hall from hers was turned into a private dining room, The President's Dining Room, complete with antique wall paper. The fact that the wall paper is papered over currently with gold damask puts some historians into catatonic shock. Pat Nixon covered it up too, Rosalyn Carter took it down, Barbara Bush covered it up and there it remains lost to look at while swallowing the morning oatmeal, even with its fearsome battle scenes. (Nancy Reagan & Michelle Obama in the Private Family Dining Room on the 2nd floor, The President's Dining Room of the residence. Note the bland gold damask wall paper. Photo courtesy Samantha Appleton)

Laura Bush used the Ronald Reagan China Service for the 40th anniversary of the NEA in the State Dining Room. Photo courtesy of the White House

The sunny Family Dining Room off the State Dining Room on the State Floor was the scene for a working luncheon with the Prime Minister of Israel, May 2009. President & Prime Minister served first according to protocol. Photo by P. Souza, courtesy the White House

The Congressional Picnic took place on the resilient South Lawn as a luau for Ohana in June
For the height of formality, state dinners and other functions meant to showcase the White House while eating a world class gourmet meal take place in the State Dining Room. It seats, at most, 140 for a sit down state dinner. Just past the State Dining Room, the Family Dining Room this past spring hosted its first Seder attended by the First Family. On the first floor, the Family Dining Room is usually where holidays are celebrated with favorite dishes served at the White House for invited personal guests if the family is in residence on the holiday.

On the third floor (above ground) in the family quarters is the Solarium which has a small kitchenette. Facing the Washington Monument, the light and bright Solarium is where Chelsea celebrated a birthday with friends from school and Ronald Reagan recovered from an assassination attempt. It is also very homey with no signs of the antiques found through the rest of the presidential home. There is also a private dining room for the president off of the oval office. Just downstairs from the Oval in the West Wing complex is the White House Mess where certain invited guests can purchase a hamburger or a steak or see the WH staff eating on the run. The Mess also has a private dining facility for meetings. (On the left is the president's private dining room off the Oval Office where he has private teas or lunch meetings.)

In the West Wing complex, White House Navy Mess paneled in dark wood throughout is where President Obama met with reporters in the private facility. Staff and guests pay for the food ordered off the menu. The ceiling tiles just ruin the look doesn't it? Photo courtesy the White House

Can you name all the dining places to eat in the White House?


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