During the presidential inaugural period (which is this weekend, for our foreign readers), Washington, D.C., is a party town. All the hotels are packed, the restaurants reserved, and the ballrooms rented for gala after gala after gala. There’s the big party, the president’s Inaugural Ball itself, but there are only so many tickets to that (and you probably didn’t get one). To handle the overflow, dozens of less-official but still fairly official happenings swirl around the big ball like spattered smoothie goop from a lidless blender, and some of the biggest bashes are thrown by the state societies.
You might think that food at these functions is just a prop for all the schmoozing and drinking that’s going on, but with a hunger for power often comes a normal hunger for eating things — as far back as Lincoln’s first inaugural ball, guests devoured the entire buffet in just a few minutes, destroying some of the nearby decor in their rush to stuff their faces.
The menu at the Inaugural Luncheon, directly following President Obama’s second swearing-in, is pure haute American — lobster with spinach, sweet potato, and “clam chowder sauce,” grilled bison steaks with potato cakes and huckleberry reduction, and Hudson Valley apple pie with ice cream, all accompanied by American wines. But later that night, and all through the weekend, the menus at the state society balls are swinging for the fences with their local cuisines. Check out what some of the biggest parties are serving up:
Hawaii: Until 2009, Hawaii had never joined in the inaugural festivities — a lot of smaller states, especially ones farther away from the East Coast, just don’t bother throwing a do. But when Hawaii’s native son took the oath of office, the state decided it was time to party. The menu is pretty eclectic, pulling from East Asian (bulgogi, sushi), Polynesian (suckling pig, pork belly in cabbage), and Anglo (top round of beef) traditions, as befits a Pacific state with a huge Asian-American population. There’s also lemon-glazed cakes shaped like volcanos, which definitely count as a Hawaii original.
Read more: Bon Appetit