Soup and malva pudding? For the Obamas?

2013-07-07 14:00

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When President Jacob Zuma and his wife Thobeka hosted Barack and Michelle Obama last weekend, the menu was more suburban slap-up than state banquet.

The starter? Soup and rolls. Or in fancy menu language: “Garden vegetable soup with cocktail rolls”.

For the main course, dignitaries could choose between the “duo of beef fillet medallions, chicken breast stuffed with spinach, peppadew and feta, accompanied by traditional maize batons and a vegetable parcel, finished with a rich beef jus”. For vegetarians there was the “baked aubergine tower served with basil and tomato compote.”

Forget elaborate puddings. The guests had one option: malva pudding and custard with sliced fruit.

While presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj did not respond to questions about Obama’s presidential gala menu, Graham Donet, general manager of the SA Chefs Association, was hesitant to criticise another chef’s menu.

“However, we would like to express our concern that the National Culinary Team (managed by the South African Chefs Association) was not consulted to put together a menu for the President of the United States,” he said.

“We would love to help to come up with a more imaginative and varied menu, should the world’s most powerful president decide to visit South Africa again.”

The wine list – which featured Zandvliet Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2002, Knorhoek Chenin Blanc 2010, and Graham Beck Méthode Cap Classique Brut (pictured) – was also not up to scratch.

“While Zandvliet is a good wine it is seen as a second flight wine and not the best red to have showcased our country’s capabilities,” he said. “Knorhoek Chenin Blanc is highly rated and Chenin Blanc is a South African cultivar in which this country has made a good name and it has won many international awards.”

The Obamas’ love of Graham Beck’s sparkling wine is well documented. They famously popped a bottle of the bubbly when he became the 44th president of the US in 2009.

On Sunday, the Obama procession arrived in Cape Town where they stayed at the Table Bay Hotel at the V&A Waterfront.

One of the wings of the hotel had been cleared for the American first family, who occupied the Table Mountain Suite on the fifth floor. The luxurious set of rooms’ “opulent” features include a large walk-in double shower, a telescope, and a baby grand piano. It costs R23 167 a night.

“Yoh! We were kept busy on the evening of his visit,” said a security guard who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Guests entering the hotel on the night were checked with metal detectors and were frisked; there were sniffer dogs too.”

On Sunday afternoon the hotel was closed off to the public, with red and white tape and police vans blocking access roads. Secret service agents in dark suits and sunglasses milled around while helicopters circled overhead. Police boats patrolled the sea in front of the building, with scuba divers in wet suits combing the harbour.

A source said Obama brought his own chef.

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