Wills and Kate arrived in Los Angeles today. Tomorrow they are lunching at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club with 3598 of their closest (new) friends. Actually, KATE will be lunching while Prince William plays in a charity polo match, which will benefit The American Friends of The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
Giada was chosen to plan the menu for this benefit event and, actually, she was onboard before she even knew that the Royals were coming. It’s particularly exciting that this is the one event on the couple's California itinerary open to the public, although ticketing is closed now. For $4000, you could meet and eat with the royals in a special VIP section. $400 would have bought you general access to the event.
I can only imagine how daunting it must have been for Giada to plan the menu after she found out who the special guests were. Here she is on The Today Show talking about the gig.
This is what she’s serving:
- Pea Pesto Crostini, featuring puréed peas on toast, topped with half a cherry tomato
- California Chopped Salad with a mix of grilled lettuces, grilled corn, grilled shrimp, zucchini and crispy tortillas in a light lemon dressing
- Chicken Milanese, breaded chicken cutlets in a creamy tomato fennel sauce
I have a couple of reservations about some of her choices.
I like the idea of the Pea Pesto. That’s inventive and could be quite tasty, but, why oh why, does it have to be served on crostini? I’ve written before about how I hate the idea of eating bruschetta (OR crostini…same difference) in a public setting.
First of all, the topping can fall off easily, especially if it’s the ubiquitous chopped tomato. This Pea Pesto will stick better, but gravity could still have its way with the little bits on top of the bread. How elegant is that for a Prince or Princess to have to deal with? And even worse, there's still the nasty chomping required to bite a piece of crusty bread in half. If you’re being introduced to a Prince or Princess, do you really want to be seen biting an ungainly chunk of food and worrying that you’ll get some schmutz on your own (or someone else’s) finery?
If Giada wanted to go with the pea theme, why couldn’t she have topped tiny (one bite) tarts with Pea Pesto? Or offered a pea soup (remember mine for Cynthia?) in little shot glasses? And if she was so desperate to make crostini, she could have chopped them up into croutons and put them in the pea soup.
I love the sound of the California Chopped Salad with all the local grilled ingredients. Plus a chopped salad is particularly easy to eat when you’re with folks you want to impress. (It’s one of the few things that I’ve advised my table manners-challenged son he would be safe ordering during a job interview meal. Obviously no soup, no spaghetti, no large pieces of animal protein that require proper handling of a knife and fork and no burp-producing beverages should be ordered.)
Anyway, back to reality, I mean royalty, I’m interested in why Giada thought of serving Chicken Milanese. It’s kind of a throwback dish and doesn’t really say southern California or young, hip royalty. Is it possible she was told they don’t like exotic foods?
There are so many other roads she could have taken. She could have served Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs with preserved meyer-lemon spinach and smokey jus OR Grilled Gulf Prawns with crispy garlic, basil, orange & calabrian chili dressing and heirloom toscanelli white beans OR Wild Sea Scallops with capers, grapes, parsnips and a rosemary brown butter sauce.
Okay, that’s cheating. I’m just reciting from Michael Chiarello’s Bottega menu. To me, his dishes just sound more important. (This is funny. MC serves his Garlic & Calabrian Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab with BRUSCHETTA. But I don’t object to that, because you’re sitting down with a knife and a fork to tackle it, not eating while on the fly.)
But this isn’t a restaurant. It’s a luncheon at a polo match and I’m sure there are plenty of limitations imposed by the space and conditions. I have no doubt that Giada will do fabulously tomorrow. She’ll look gorgeous; she’ll represent our American persona with grace and congeniality; and Kate and Will will love the food (or act as if they do).
But one last question – what’s for dessert?