By Betsy Rothstein - 01/15/09 06:12 PM EST
Obama-infused cuisine and libations have officially become an obsession in the nation’s capital.
And perhaps it has gotten out of hand.
“I can imagine that the local residential population is certainly over it at this point, over the whole Inauguration hoopla,” Andrew Stover, the sommelier at Oya, wrote in an e-mail. “I can tell you I AM OVER it. It’s so frustrating from an operational standpoint. We are renting a refrigerated truck this weekend just to store extra food and beverages because we cannot store it all in our restaurants.”
But he sees the Obama food and drink craze not as an obsession but as the restaurant community coming together around a single theme. “It’s no different than the Cherry Blossom Festival, when a lot of us do cherry-inspired libations and food,” he wrote.
By far the oddest Obama-inspired comestible on the menu this Inaugural season is the ObamaTail that will be offered along the parade route at the Canadian Embassy. Up to 1,000 embassy guests will be served Obama BeaverTail, also known as ObamaTail.
Translation: ObamaTail is a “hot pastry treat” from Ottawa that is not as disgusting as it sounds. In short, there is, thankfully, nothing beaver about it.
Popular with Canadians, it is made with whole-wheat dough stretched into the shape of the tail of one of Canada’s national symbols — the beaver. A BeaverTail is served hot with “delectable” toppings such as cinnamon and sugar, chocolate hazelnut, maple butter or apple cinnamon.
For Tuesday’s festivities, the ObamaTail will be topped with cinnamon and sugar, along with a hazelnut chocolate “O” for Obama and a couple splashes of maple syrup.
The company that created the Beavertail is owned by Pam and George Hooker.
Perhaps something simpler is in order. If so, there’s Obama salad at Georgetown’s Sweetgreen, the organic café known for serving sustainable fair.
The owners wanted to capitalize on the excitement surrounding Obama. So they Googled him and for two hours researched the soon-to-be-president’s favorite ingredients. The Obama Salad includes fried baby spinach with grilled chicken, broccoli, carrots, toasted almonds, basil and red wine vinaigrette.
“This salad isn’t his favorite salad,” explained Nick Jammet, 23, one of four Georgetown graduates who opened the restaurant a year and a half ago because they wanted to expand food options in Georgetown. “We’re not trying to claim that.”
To make matters even more Obamaesque, from the 17th to the 21st, Sweetgreen is offering an Inauguration special: Order the Obama salad or one of the restaurant’s six signature salads and get Obama’s favorite tea, the Bethesda-based Honest Tea, for free.
“We are very excited about Obama and the younger generation he represents,” said Jammet.
But even this restaurateur can see that proprietors may be going overboard for Obama.
“Yeah, I think people are trying to ride the train a little, trying to jump on the bandwagon,” he says. “I think it’s easy to overdo it.”
But Jammet can’t contain his enthusiasm for the free tea promotion. “We like it because it’s low in sugar and organic,” he said. “He [Obama] has gone on record on the campaign that it’s one of five things he has to have on hand.”
Another facet to Sweetgreen is its recycled menu, made with real live wildflower seeds. The seeds, embedded in the paper, can be planted. In addition, there are the reusable salad containers with a separate salad dressing compartment — if not Obama-inspired, then Obama-supported. “Press the button,” Jammet said, “and the dressing automatically pours onto the salad.”
If Obama salad is too tame, there is the Obama Roll over at Asia Nine.
“Headed not for the White House, but a white tablecloth, the Obama Roll is a lean and green offering of mixed green veggies— asparagus, cucumber, avocado, radish sprout and basil leaves dusted with black and white sesame seeds,” a promotional description reads.
In the middle of the roll is lobster salad, which raises the quality of the sushi, explained. “We use black and white sesame seeds because he is both black and white,” Asia Nine owner Natalie Tantivejakul said.
Vice President-elect Biden can’t be ignored. The Biden Roll features “a nod toward the region in a crunchy-finished combo of local crabmeat, cucumber and wasabi cream sauce for a little heat.”
President Bush is also commemorated with a Lame Duck Roll — “a soon-to-be-gone mix of roasted duck, cucumber, scallion, crunchy soy nuggets and Hoisin sauce.”
Tantivejakul explained the restaurant created rolls for all the candidates during the campaign, including, at one point, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).
“We’re in a political town and we wanted to have some fun with it,” she said.
Oh yes, she assures, the Obama Roll has been a big hit.
“People like the basil,” she says.
But no, the spice has no relevance whatsoever to Obama.
Maybe there is hope after all.