‘Stunning’ menu for PM Modi: First Lady Jill Biden says about State Dinner

First Lady Jill Biden showing the settings in a preview of dinner for Indian Prime Minister Modi June 22, 2023. PHOTO: ANI

In a preview of the formal State Dinner for visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, First Lady Jill Biden while providing a preview, emphasized the credentials of the plant-based expertise of a Chef and White House team readying for the banquet June 22, 2023. She was joined June 21, by her Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo, for briefing reporters on what awaited Modi and the guests attending the event.

Sounding a political note to the proceedings of a formal State Visit, First Lady (FLOTUS) Jill Biden said, “With this official state visit, we are bringing together the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies. After years of strengthening ties, the US India partnership is deep and expansive as we jointly tackle global challenges.”

However, Biden qualified her remarks. “But our relationship isn’t only about the government. We’re celebrating the families and friendships that span the globe, those who feel the bonds of home, in both of our countries.”

“As some of you may know, Prime Minister Modi is a vegetarian,” FLOTUS said. “So we asked Chef Nina Curtis, a plant-based pioneer to work with our White House chefs and create a stunning vegetarian menu.”

FLOTUS said guests will have the option to add fish to the main course as well, if they choose.

“Tomorrow night, guests will walk across the south lawn into a pavilion draped in rich greens with saffron colored flowers at every table, the colors of the Indian flag. And on the transparent sides, those colors and the strength of the heritage they represent- frame the iconic scenery and symbols of our nation, our democracy and our history: the White House and the Washington Monument inside each table arrangement is warm and unique.”

She said President Biden wanted guests to feel as if someone has set that table just for them “because we have,” said FLOTUS.

After dinner entertainment features Grammy Award winner Joshua Bell, Penn Masala, a South Asian acapella group from the University of Pennsylvania.

Penn Masala, FLOTUS said, “are bringing a little piece of my hometown to the White House, along with songs inspired by the sounds of India.”

After the last place are cleared with new connections poached and old ones strengthened, guests will end their evening walking across a moonlit lodge, the White House revealed. There they will be greeted by hundreds of glowing lanterns, guiding them home, illuminating their pathway with all the warmth and love and laughter that we hope they take away from our time together.

FLOTUS made a departure from past such press previews. “Normally the press comes and you look at the beautiful plates of food that the chefs have prepared and get almost close enough to taste it, but you don’t get to try it. So today I’ve asked our chefs to prepare a few small bites of tomorrow’s menu,” she said.

Social Secretary Elizondo said Dr. Jill Biden had been involved every step of the way to make the event feel intimate, “And every element of the dinner and décor has been chosen to make each guest’s experience personal and warm.”

“The inspiration for our design really began with the peacock, India’s national bird. From the invitations to the programs to the pavilion, we wanted to evoke that breathtaking feeling when it extends its tail, unveiling its colorful beauty, majesty, and strength,” Elizondo said, according to the prepared remarks the White House sent out.

Green draping will flow from the ceiling, giving way to tables cloaked in the saturated blues and greens of Indian silks, falling onto a carpet of navy blue. The hues chosen were not only a nod to the guests, but also to host, in this case Dr. Biden, whose favorite colors happen to be blue and green.

Each table will feature an arrangement of blooms in vases large and small and the color of the flowers mirrors the saffron of India’s flag, and the heritage it represents, Elizondo revealed.

The description of the ambiance created shows attention to detail by the White House.

As leaders have done at State Dinners for decades, the President and the Prime Minister will give their toasts from an eagle lectern.

“For this dinner, embossed on the rich forest green backdrop behind them, we’ve replicated that iconic eagle and a peacock in the same style, framing the leaders with their national birds,” Elizondo said.

And the crowning element is — in the peacock’s talons, stalks of millets, a nod to India’s successful campaign to declare 2023 the International Year of Millets, will be featured. And around the millets, there are lotus flowers—important symbols in India.

In fact, throughout the space, those present will see more images of lotuses, their design inspired by the mandala illustrations found in traditional Indian art.

The dinner was to be lit with sparkling candlelight, a favorite of the First Lady.

Several teams in the White House, as well as outside specialists in design and production, have “worked tirelessly to make this Official State Visit memorable,” Elizondo said.

“As Dr. Biden mentioned, she chose her menu as a nod to the Prime Minister. The dishes will mirror the décor, infusing the cuisine with Indian flavors and culture, like millets and saffron,” Elizondo added.

Chef Nina Curtis, an expert in plant-based cuisine, who also addressed the gathering, said, “This is definitely a pinnacle moment in my career. It is truly a pleasure to be able to work with the First Lady and help her to bring her culinary vision to life ……we have curated a menu that really showcases the best in American cuisine and also then seasoned with Indian elements and flavors.”

Chef Curtis added, “We’re also very excited that India is leading efforts to celebrate the international year of the millets. And we’ve incorporated marinated millets into our menu and the Indian cuisine elements throughout the menu.”

The Menu released by the White House:
First Course
Marinated Millet and Grilled Corn Kernel Salad
Compressed Watermelon
Tangy Avocado Sauce

Main Course
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Creamy Saffron-infused Risotto

Upon request
Sumac-roasted Sea Bass
Lemon-Dill Yogurt Sauce
Crisped Millet Cakes
Summer Squashes

Rose and Cardamom-infused Strawberry Shortcake

Stone Tower Chardonnay “Kristi” 2021
PATEL Red Blend 2019
Domain Carneros Brut Rosé



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