The Inaugural Luncheon: What is Obama eating?

US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) prepares to eat as he visits the Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans

About to get serious at Dooky Chase, New Orleans. (Ted Jackson / The Times-Picayune Archive)

The word “brace” is something you don’t often see on a menu. It was stumping me as a culinary term, until I remembered that it was simply an arcane synonym for the word “pair.” I recalled this definition from my high school days, back when I was cramming for the SAT, but I hadn’t really thought about this usage in years. Then, I stumbled across this word last week, while reading the Joint Congressional Committee’s Inaugural Luncheon menu. This “quadrennial event” (I’ve got your SAT right here) dates back to Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is traditionally sandwiched between the President’s Inaugural Address and the Inaugural Parade.

This year, the three-course menu features a “brace” of pheasant and duck, served alongside a sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes. The dish is paired with a 2005 Anderson Valley Goldeneye Pinot Noir, which is a $55 bottle of juice. I do enjoy the Goldeneye, but its price point has always pushed me to purchase the Pinot Noir from Goldeneye’s second label, Migration, which is only $32 for the current 2006 vintage. I’ve always felt that the price of Goldeneye was always a little bit steep, especially when a great Russian River wine such as a Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir retails at $48.

For those who weren’t already aware, Goldeneye is actually the sister label of Duckhorn, producer of the 2007 Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which is being paired with the luncheon’s first course, seafood stew. If the online recipe is accurate, the seafood stew will feature lobster, scallops, shrimp and cod, and will be served en croute (covered by a delicious blanket of tasty puff pastry). Although I’m never really floored by Duckhorn’s reds these days, their Sauvignon Blanc has always rated high with me, although at $27 per bottle, one could also do better (I’ll take a delicious 2007 Venge Bianco Spettro at that price).

The luncheon’s third course is what’s really interesting: the dessert is an apple-cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream glacé. The wine pairing is Korbel Natural “Special Inaugural Cuvée” NV, which I have never tasted. I’m going to be honest — aside from the times when I didn’t know any better, I’ve never sipped Korbel outside of a mimosa. But at $15 per bottle, I’m intrigued. I assume that this “California Champagne” (as Korbel insists on calling their sparkling wines) has a touch of residual sugar to complement the sweetness of the dessert. Still, with Korbel selling at every 7-Eleven this side of Washington DC, I was hoping for a label that produced less than a million cases annually.

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The photo above is from Reuters, and features President Obama at Dooky Chase in New Orleans, February 2008 (I love seeing a bottle of hot sauce on a white tablecloth). For Tuesday’s Inaugural Luncheon menu, with recipes, please click here.

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