The most important detail first: Yes, Mario Batali will wear his signature orange Crocs Tuesday night when he prepares the last state dinner for the Obamas at the White House.
And a sentimental detail: The menu will use the final harvest from Michelle Obama’s White House garden.
Batali has spent the last two months hammering out the menu, an Italian feast for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini. The dinner will be served al fresco on the South Lawn.
The four-course menu highlights Italian dishes that have been “ingrained in American cuisine.”
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Batali said he was more worried about serving the Italians than the Americans.
“You generally don't worry that much about Americans when you're cooking pasta. You're worried about the Italians,” he said while previewing the menu at the White House on Monday.
The first lady chose Batali — a longtime supporter of her Let’s Move campaign for healthy living — for the honor in August.
Emotionally, Batali told Eater website, he has been preparing for this night for “56 years” — his entire life.
“These are some of my favorite people on the whole planet, and they're asking me to cook for the final state dinner of the presidency, and, oh, by the way, it's the Italians who are coming,” Batali told the New York Times. “It doesn't get better.”
The Times reported that, last month, as President Obama met with world leaders during his last United Nations General Assembly, the first lady snuck off to Batali’s Babbo restaurant in Greenwich Village for a menu tasting, which she requests before every state dinner.
He was asked to use mainly American ingredients “because that’s the White House’s message,” he told Eater.
For instance, the green apples for the crostata, or Italian tart, were harvested from local orchards. And American Wagyu beef will be used for the pinwheels of beef, a classic Italian dish.
The meal includes some of Michelle Obama’s favorite foods, such as sweet potatoes, steak and broccoli.
Speaking of favorite foods, the White House surprised Batali with one of his favorite treats when it served him and his kitchen staffers grinders for lunch as they worked on Monday.
“They came out of nowhere, and they had my favorite thing on them, these little pickled cherry hot peppers,” Batali told Eater.
“How did the cooks know I love those? I think it’s the job of the White House to know exactly what you want. Maybe I can convince some of them to come work for me in New York.”
Here’s the dinner menu and wine pairings according to Grub Street.
Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Butter and Sage
Patina Vermentino “Santa Ynez” 2015
Warm Butternut Squash Salad with Frisee and Pecorino di New York
Villa Ragazzi Sangiovese “Napa” 2012
Beef Braciola Pinwheel with Horseradish Gremolata and Broccoli Rabe
Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel “East Bench” 2014
Green Apple Crostata with Thyme Caramel and Buttermilk Gelato
Petit Fours Display:
Sweet Corn Cream and Blackberry Cup
Concord Grape Bittersweet Chocolate Leaf
Orange Fig Slice
Pumpkin Cranberry Tart