Friday, July 8, 2011

Giada Cooks For A (Future) King

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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

Giada dropped the Chicken Milanese (, although she unfortunately made it sound like the caterers at the polo match couldn't make it rather than admitting it was a bad idea to try and serve a breaded chicken cutlet to 400 people (as a caterer herself, she should have known that, don't you think?) She has replaced it with a lasagne that doesn't sound bad, but seems a little too warming-tray-ordinary for this occasion.

I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn't mean to slam all those people who will be working hard while she gets the credit for making this meal, but I'm feeling a little cranky today and I'm not sure I can!

Sue said...

Thank you for telling me that. I absolutely should have known about the change in menu. (I guess I missed Giada's call.)

I also completely thought the first choice was a bad idea. And, you're right, that article does make it sound like she sold out the caterers a bit. I'm surprised she even went there.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

My first thought was PEA pesto? Sounds gross no matter what you put it on.

I'd make a lousy princess.

Sue said...

You are sooo funny. Just think of the pesto as puréed peas with a bit of garlic and basil.

You'd make a great princess in a land of free-thinking, creative and cerebral people. You might feel a touch constrained in the opposite type of place.

Lys said...

I was a bit shocked that Giada did make that comment about the caterers - I'm also hoping that the quote was taken out of context...

Sue said...

You're such a good person. I hadn't even thought of that. But, actually, it seems pretty clear what she meant. That's not bad, though. She obviously wanted the most important meal of her life to go well and she was smart to go with an easier-for-a-large-group entree.