Caviar, cotton candy await French leader at White House

US President Barack Obama (centre) and French President Francois Hollande (left) tour the Virginia residence of Thomas Jefferson with Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson foundation, at Monticello in Charlottesville, on Feb
US President Barack Obama (centre) and French President Francois Hollande (left) tour the Virginia residence of Thomas Jefferson with Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson foundation, at Monticello in Charlottesville, on Feb 10, 2014. Jefferson was one of the United States' earliest envoys to France. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande will tuck into Illinois caviar, Colorado rib eye beef and all-American cotton candy at a lavish White House state dinner on Tuesday - but he'd better rug up for chilly weather.

Forecasters are calling for sub-freezing temperatures when President Barack Obama entertains his French counterpart under a marquee on the South Lawn of the White House, with around 350 guests expected to attend.

The menu, disclosed on Monday by White House officials, opens with American osetra caviar "farmed from the estuaries of Illinois" paired with Pennsylvania quail eggs and a dozen varieties of American potatoes.

After a "Winter Garden Salad" inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's personal vegetable plot, Mr Hollande will sample dry-aged rib eye beef "sourced from a family-owned farm in Greeley, Colorado".

Dessert will feature a chocolate malted cake "presented in a geometric form" created with bittersweet chocolate from Mr Obama's native Hawaii, topped with vanilla ice cream from Pennsylvania.

To wash it all down, White House chefs have selected wines from California and Washington state, along with a white Chardonnay from Monticello, Virginia, the home of francophile founding father Thomas Jefferson, which Mr Hollande toured with Mr Obama on Monday.

After dinner, guests will be able to sample Vermont maple-syrup fudge, lavender shortbread cookies and "cotton candy dusted with orange zest". Entertainment will be provided by nine-time Grammy winner Mary J. Blige.

Mr Hollande's state visit has been designed to underscore historic ties and a burgeoning security relationship between the United States and France, its ally since the War of Independence.

But it triggered a flurry of protocol confusion in Washington after he broke up with longtime partner and de facto French first lady Valerie Trierweiler following revelations of an affair with actress Julie Gayet.

The Washington Post's widely-read Capital Weather Gang blog is calling for temperatures Tuesday around minus five to minus one Celsius under partly sunny skies, ahead of a possible snowstorm Wednesday.

Mr Hollande, whose approval rating is the lowest of any modern French leader, is under intense pressure to give a boost to his country's ailing economy and find ways to create jobs.

To that end, he will head from Washington to California on Wednesday to meet with tech leaders in Silicon Valley.

The visit is Mr Hollande's second to the United States since taking office, after a meeting in the Oval Office with Mr Obama during a G8 and Nato summit in April 2012, shortly after his election.

It is also the seventh state or official visit hosted by the Mr Obama administration since it took office in January 2009.

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