Last night, President Donald Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Fl. The two men dined on Caesar salad, Dover sole, New York Strip Steak, chocolate cake, and, presumably, hot air. Notably absent from the menu were Big Macs, a dish Trump promised he’d serve Xi while on the campaign trail in 2015.
"I would not be throwing him a dinner,” Trump told Fox News last August of how he would host President Xi if he was elected POTUS. “I would get him a McDonald's hamburger and say we've got to get down to work because you can't continue to devalue [the Chinese currency]." Trump went on, "I would give him a very -- yeah, but I would give him a double, probably a double-size Big Mac.”
The full menu of the actual meal, below, looks like a wedding dinner from the 1990s.
Homemade focaccia croutons, parmigiano-reggiano
Pan-Seared Dover Sole
Herb-roasted new potatoes, haricots verts, and Thumbelina carrots
Dry Aged Prime New York Strip Steak
Whipped potatoes, roasted root vegetables
Vanilla sauce, dark chocolate sorbet
Trio of Sorbet
Lemon, mango, and raspberry
2014 Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
2014 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Trump’s menu lives in stark contrast to the menu President Obama served when he hosted Xi for a formal state dinner last September. That menu presented locally sourced American food alongside classic or adapted Chinese techniques, ingredients, and wines. Included on Obama’s menu was wild mushroom soup with black truffle, paired with Shaoxing wine; butter-poached Maine lobster with spinach, shiitake, and leek rice noodle rolls; and grilled Colorado lamb with garlic fried milk and baby broccoli.
Politically-speaking, the main difference between President Obama’s state dinner with President Xi and the meal Trump hosted at Mar-a-Lago this week is that, historically, only state dinners hosted at the White House honoring foreign heads of state are paid for by the government. As such, Trump’s dinner with President Xi, should, according to protocol, not have involved government funding.
When President Obama hosted Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi last October, it was paid for out of private funds: Renzi is not a head of state (that distinction falls to Italian President Sergio Mattarella), and the meal was held in the White House garden.
According to the NYT, Trump met with his top national security aides just before sitting down to dinner, and in that meeting, he approved a missile strike on Syria in response to the Syrian government’s deadly chemical weapons attack against its own people. This morning, President Xi released a statement warning against “the escalation of tension” in the region.