Tree-planting and bell-ringing are hungry work, so US president Joe Biden should have a healthy appetite when he sits down to dinner tonight at Dublin Castle. The occasion is being hosted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, in the State Apartments.
The evening, which was originally scheduled for 7pm, will begin with a reception in the Portrait Gallery, followed by a banquet dinner in St Patrick’s hall, with musical entertainment at both parts of the evening.
Biden is known to have a fondness for ice-cream, and his wife’s chicken Parmesan is a favourite home cooked meal, but at tonight’s event in Dublin Castle, Irish seafood and lamb are on the menu. The seafood starter will include Lambay Island crab cake, and the main course is roast Irish lamb, with pear and maple tart for dessert.
The dinner is being catered by With Taste, the company that also staged the State banquet for Queen Elizabeth in 2011. On that occasion, Ross Lewis of Chapter One restaurant was the guest head chef and created the four-course menu for 180 people. With Taste’s culinary director, Garrett Duff, who has been with the company for 19 years and was on the team that cooked for Queen Elizabeth, is in charge of tonight’s dinner.
Lewis’s menu in May 2011 featured Burren smoked wild Irish salmon, rib of Slaney Valley beef with wild garlic and pickled garlic sauce, and Carrageen moss set West Cork cream with Meath strawberries.
Duff will likely have been doing his homework on Biden’s gastronomic preferences. At the State dinner for French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, at the White House last December, the menu included butter poached Maine lobster to start, with a main course of beef with shallot marmalade. American cheeses were followed by orange chiffon cake with creme fraiche ice-cream.
So, with shellfish, meat and dairy produce all having the presidential sign of approval, Duff will have been able to fully explore the Irish larder. Lamb is a perfect choice for this time of year (and perhaps some seasonal asparagus will make its way onto the plate too).
But pear and maple tart is an unusual choice for dessert, pear being an autumn fruit and maple not having an obvious connection with the Irish culinary landscape. Hopefully there will be an artful quenelle of ice cream alongside, and the Irish influence might come through there.
The guest list for tonight’s official dinner is extensive, but With Taste, which was founded by Fran Murrin in 1985, has the track record to rise to the occasion. The company, which is based in west Dublin, looks after the catering at big events including the Dublin Horse Show and Bloom in the Park.
Last year it served dinner to 950 guests at The Aviation 10 Global Leaders Awards and in 1993 it catered for 5,500 guests seated for dinner in the Simmonscourt arena at RDS for the International Golden Oldies Rugby Festival.