Jeff Johnson, the national sales manager for Ducktrap River of Maine, thought it might have been his trout that President Obama was serving Tuesday night to French President François Hollande. But he didn’t want to be making false claims, so he spent several hours Tuesday trying to verify his suspicions.
Once he learned via U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office that the trout in question – rainbow, smoked on Maine hardwood – was from Belfast, he knew it was his.
“There is not another smoker in Belfast,” Johnson said.
The mystery of who had smoked the Maine trout described in the Obama Foodorama blog post wasn’t unexpected.
“I can kind of understand why they wouldn’t say the brand name,” Johnson said. But it did mean an afternoon of fielding media calls and some back-and-forth discussion with his D.C.-area distributor and Maine congressional offices.
The Maine delicacy was to be part of the first state dinner at the White House in nearly two years. Or rather, a pre-dinner snack, passed during the cocktail hour.
The White House posted pictures of various dinner ingredients on its Instagram account, including sugar roses and fleurs-de-lis, the official flowers of the United States and France, and jars of honey from first lady Michelle Obama’s garden (to be used in a salad dressing), but no fish.
Speaking Tuesday, Obama cracked jokes about Hollande’s consumption of American fast food during a trip in 1974, when he was in business school and studying McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Obama promised the French leader an opportunity to sample “a different kind of American cuisine” at the state dinner.
Also on the menu was a salad of petite mixed radishes, baby carrots and Merlot lettuce in a red wine vinaigrette, including vegetables that were pickled after being picked from the White House garden last year in what was described as a “voluptuous” harvest.
A first course played with the two nationalities, marrying American caviar (from Illinois), potatoes and quail eggs with a traditional French “velvety” sauce, a velouté. The main course was a dry-aged ribeye of beef from Colorado, topped with blue cheese from Vermont.
Vermont got a second nod from the White House in the form of fudge made from its maple syrup.
The menu, however, did not include Maine lobster.
“I’m glad the president and first lady are showcasing small farmers for this meal, and I’m especially proud that Maine-smoked trout will be the first thing the French President tastes tonight,” Pingree said in a prepared statement.
Ducktrap’s trout is smoked with a blend of local hardwood and fruit woods, including maple, oak, apple and cherry. The smoked-seafood company has been in business for 35 years. The smoked trout retails for $8.99 to $9.99 per 8 oz. package.
This wasn’t Ducktrap’s first rodeo at the White House: Johnson said the Obamas have served Kendall Brook, the top-of-the-line smoked salmon from Ducktrap, at holiday parties for the past couple of years.
Is it still a thrill to know your product is being passed to a pair of presidents?
“You bet it is,” Johnson said.
Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at: [email protected]