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Jan 21, 2009 08:31 AM

Anyone dined @ an Embassy?

I know there's a Jordanian one coming up.

Given how erudite and cosmopolitan the DC Chowhounds are, have you had any experiences?

And you've been to a state dinner, do tell.

thanks in advance

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  1. Went to the French Embassy once for some occasion. It was a dinner with several courses, but for a pretty large group of people, so while it was decent, it wasn't great.

    Another time, on the insistence of the person who was at the time, my MIL, we went to the residence of the Romanian ambassador. Fortunately, I've forgotten most of that evening.

    1. I worked at the French Embassy for many years. There is no regular dinner service, only catering for special events. For midweek lunch there are two options:

      First is the cafeteria which serves lunch (cash only) which is surely better than most casual French restaurants in the US. Also it is subsidized, so the prices are good. It is not open to the public. However, I would not say that it is impossible to get in. For example, there is a library in the Embassy where one can go to do research. After your research, you might ask one of the research assistants if you could eat lunch in the cafeteria, or better yet you can invite them to lunch. As they don't get paid much, they might like that. Anyway, you would have to make a reservation to do research in the library.

      In addition to the cafeteria, there is a formal dining room that is open for lunch. I would say the food and service here are exactly as they would be in France. Prices are very reasonable. The food is better than most any formal French restaurant you are likely to find in the US, though the menu is limited to maybe three options for each course, and those options reflect the fact that it is lunch, not dinner. Getting into the formal dining room is a lot trickier than the cafeteria, as they do not accept payment on the spot but bill the Embassy employee for the lunch afterward. So yuo have to be invited. But if you are ever invited, it is a very special experience.


      1. Yes, quite a few times. Because of my husband's and my jobs, we were invited to Embassy dinners, cocktails parties, and receptions many times, both in Washington and overseas at US Embassies and foreign missions.
        Notice I said "because of jobs."
        These are business functions masquerading as social events.
        Mostly, you don't get invited because you're great buddies with an Ambassador. You're there for a reason.
        There were some times when I was invited to a lunch with an Ambassador's wife who was a friend and those were like having lunch with any friend, but most times they were because I was on some committee or other. Not something personal.

        Some of the events are wonderful, the company is great, and the food is terrific. Other times they are tedious and you don't get overtime for putting on evening clothes, getting a babysitter, and having to put up with a long boring evening of mediocre food when you'd rather be home reading a good book. It comes with your job.

        Some Ambassadors have beautiful residences, terrific staff and even bring chefs with them from their home countries. Those are fabulous.
        Other countries can't afford that, use local cooks or caterers, and the food is not very interesting or even very good at all.
        I remember my husband asking me after one dinner if I had any idea "what kind of animal" the main course "used to be before they cooked it." I couldn't tell either. Total mystery meat.

        Years ago, we were invited to the entertainment and dancing after a State Dinner. They would often include about 30 additional people to the lists in those days and we were really honored. Much to my shock, I was seated between Henry Kissinger and Supreme Court Justice Blackman (who was introduced to me by his wife as "my husband Harry".)
        I was still in my 20s and had no idea what to say to these men! They were thoroughly charming and entertained me!
        Again, we were invited because of my husband's job. At the time, he was a member of the White House Press Corp so he knew most of the people at the State Dinner.

        The most interesting one that I've ever been invited to was the State Dinner for the 45th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 1994.
        It was a magnificent Chinese banquet for several thousand people, including representative from every Province in China in their traditional native costumes. The food was wonderful. Couldn't understand a word of any of the speeches from the dignitaries, many of whom had been with Mao on The Long March.
        Since I don't speak Chinese, I was seated with Spanish-speaking Chinese diplomats since I also speak Spanish (how did they know that?) and they peppered me with a million questions about the US and the trade delegation I was leading throughout the evening. I'm not sure that I was as polite to them as I should have been because there was so much to see and take in at such a fascinating event. My head was on a swivel all night between courses.

        It's been wonderful being a part of "official" Washington. You always have to remember that they invite "your job," not you, and then you're OK. But you get to see history and watch things unfold.
        We've been here since the end of the Nixon Administration. A lot of water has flowed under a lot of bridges. Things still surprise me and then nothing surprises me.
        Just when I think I've seen it all? Something new comes along.

        1. The Italian food in the Argentinian Embassy in La Paz is great. The food at Chinese state dinners is laways reallly good.

          1. Embassy Suites Hotel, perhaps... ;)

            I've attended receptions at consulates, though not embassies. They're generally catered affairs with a lot of wine and pretty run-of-the-mill food. They're probably saving the good stuff for important people like the above posters!

            2 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              Try to be understanding! For many countries from the developing world or now with the world-wide recession, trying to entertain in the US, Europe, or Japan is a tremendous burden. The prices are shocking and usually way outside their normal budgets. Even that wine and "run-of-the-mill food" costs them a pretty penny and a big part of their entertaining budget.
              They rarely offer fancy formal dinners with spouses either. Mostly business lunches to keep costs down. This is no glamorous life for them with thin wallets.

              1. re: MakingSense

                oh goodness, i'm certainly not complaining and i understand about the small budgets. (friends of mine work as volunteer ambassadors or UN delegates for very small, non-wealthy states.) and in any case, no one really goes to these for the food, but rather for the drinks -- which don't have to be high end to make people happy. :)