Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=69279
Story Retrieval Date: 5/25/2013 12:01:40 AM CST
WASHINGTON – Food at 2008 campaign events is expected to be similar to a lot of Hill legislation: the same old stuff packaged in attractive, trendy ways to appeal to the masses.
Filet mignon, organic produce, southern-style fried chicken and champagne are all items that could make an appearance on the menus of political events this election season. Smaller portions and environmentally friendly packages seeks to balance out the excess. Don't worry, just go back for seconds to get the same caloric and environmental impact.
“It’s not the food, but what it’s served on. A lot of our events are going to go with recycled plates, recycled napkins, recycled cups,” said Raul Burgos, the president of Haute on the Hill, a catering company which does 50 to 70 events in Washington per day, four days per week. “I think what’s going to be popular in 2008 is green.”
Another trend for this season is healthful foods, said Stan Lawson, the general manager of the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, ensuring guests will need a second helping and restaurants will move more merchandise.
“There’s been a trend towards lighter meals and lighter portions, especially at luncheons,” Lawson said. “When people are doing their own sort of entertaining, a regular sit-down dinner, they’ll have a steak.”
Christina C. Presock, Senior Catering Manager for Washington’s Willard Intercontinental, said what’s old is new again on menus for ’08.
“We are seeing some fondue stations, the deluxe reception with a combination of tray, passed and stationary, hors d’oeuvre with carving stations,” Presock wrote in an e-mail. “We think champagne is making a resurgence and is also showing to be well received by both men and women.”
Burgos said appetizers will continue to be popular on the Hill because of the scrutinizing public eye.
“Because of the ethics rules, it’s a lot of mostly finger foods; 85 percent are,” Burgos said. “There’s only so much money they’re allowed to go out and spend on food."
Lawson said hors d’oeuvre receptions make up about 75 percent of the club’s business because they allow candidates to appear at many functions in a short amount of time while still putting in the obligatory face time. Guests can also arrive at different hours and socialize with many people throughout the dining experience, leaving everyone with the impression of getting the most bang for their buck.
"Mostly it’s about time, the amount of time that’s allocated for the event combines with the amount of time the people attending have to get to one, two, three different events in a two- to three-hour span,” Lawson said.
For the socially conscious, some are taking a walk on mild side with vegetarian offerings. Lawson said at the Republican Club vegetarian entrees are requested 4 to 5 percent of the time at larger events. Burgos, of Haute on the Hill, said organic vegetables and fruits are growing in popularity.
But meat is still king at the Willard, Presock said.
“Lamb is still very popular at a carving station, on a tray as passed hors d’oeuvres or as a main entrée,” Presock said. “Cocktails and lamb chops, jumbo shrimp and spring rolls (are trendy).”
Regional cuisines are also popular because they let candidates show how down to earth they are by offering hometown favorites such as apple pie, special sausages, North Carolina barbecue and New Orleans crawfish. Groups wishing to woo candidates employ the same tactics.
“They try to bring in stuff that is pretty much popular to their state,” Burgos said. “We have Tex-Mex that is popular.”
Presock said the Willard has created stations such as a Tennessee State Fair dessert buffet or a Mississippi sweet station.
“We see requests for sushi stations with the authentic sushi chef preparing the sushi on site for each guest,” Presock said. “We have a lot of fun in creating specialty drinks and naming them after the candidate or political party.”
Lawson said Italian and Pan-Asian are popular regional cuisines, but southern-style fired chicken and biscuits and grits usually make an appearance on menus, no matter how fat the rest of America grows.
“At the end of the day, D.C. is still pretty much a Southern town,” Lawson said.