From the Canadian flags lining Pennsylvania Avenue to elegant incarnations of poutine and Nanaimo bars in the White House, the most powerful city in the world is ready to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, as they begin their three-day visit to Washington.
Oh, and the sun is out, too.
Unseasonably warm weather means Mr. Trudeau’s self-described sunny ways have come to the capital, if only for a few days.
The visit includes a rare and coveted state dinner at the White House on Thursday, the first for a Canadian leader in 19 years, and only President Barack Obama’s 11th in office.
“There’s so much commonality in here, it’s just like cooking for your brother. It’s really kind of awesome,” White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford said Wednesday.
Guests at the dinner now include Mr. Trudeau’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, who last attended a dinner in 1977 with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Other newly announced guests are Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau’s parents, Jean and Estelle, the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman, and Liberal Party president Anna Gainey.
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama are said to share a “special relationship,” one forged on a commitment to combating climate change and commonalities such as having a young family.
And although Mr. Obama is on his way out of office, the visit is still a symbol that, for now, the relationship matters.
“[The visit] is a testament to the importance in value that the United States and President Obama place on the U.S.-Canada relationship,” Denison Offutt, director for North American affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters gathered at the White House for a state dinner preview on Wednesday.
“This is an opportunity for the two countries to further expand and deepen the already very close relationship that we share.”
Before the state dinner, Thursday’s agenda includes the official welcoming ceremony at the White House and a bilateral meeting between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama in the Oval Office, as well as a State Department lunch. Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau and Michelle Obama, the first lady, will attend an event together in the morning for Let Girls Learn, a worldwide initiative for girls education.
Mr. Trudeau and his family will be staying at Blair House, the President’s official guest house across from the White House.
The visit kicked off on Wednesday with a cocktail party at the Smithsonian’s ornate Renwick Gallery, across from the White House. Organized by left-leaning think tank Canada 2020, the party featured Grammy-award winning Toronto R&B singer the Weeknd. Guests included National Security Adviser Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and U.S. Attorney-General Loretta Lynch.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people here tonight to celebrate this extraordinary friendship between our two countries,” Mr. Trudeau told the party-goers in a speech. “We share so much in terms of values, in terms of perspectives, in terms of priorities, with just enough differences to keep us on our toes on either side of the border.”
Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau, in a white dress and flower-print jacket, told The Globe and Mail she feels “so lucky” to be in Washington.
“I’m looking forward to every moment while we’re here. It’s been a blessing, and we have so [many] great conversations to have and amazing things to share,” she said. “The warm welcome has just been overwhelming.”
Earlier in the day, officials ushered in dozens of reporters to the White House state dining room to showcase a version of green-and-white set up for the first state dinner. “This is not an easy feat to put a visit like this together,” White House social secretary Deesha Dyer said.
The menu for about 200 people, designed by Ms. Comerford, includes herbs from the White House garden and its honey, and features such delicacies as Alaskan halibut casserole, roasted apricot galette with Appalachian cheese and lamb chops drizzled with Yukon Jack Canadian Whisky.
One of the canapés is an American take on duck poutine, Ms. Comerford said, featuring smoked Hudson River Duck shaved on two wafer fries.
“A mini version of a poutine,” she said. (And only 40 calories a pop, one might add.)
For dessert, guests will be digging into a warm maple pecan cake and a Rocky Mountain sugar sculpture, which features a chocolate carved deer and black bear. The sugar plate also includes white chocolate snowballs and a chocolate slice, an “ode to the Nanaimo bar, which is the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia,” explained Susie Morrison, the White House executive pastry chef.
“The white chocolate snowballs are a reminder that winter is behind us, and the arrival of spring is come upon us,” said the chef, who likely hadn’t been to Ottawa lately.
Chief floral designer Hedieh Ghaffarian said the green, yellow and white centrepieces of orchids, hydrangeas, roses and amaranth were chosen by Ms. Obama, because jade is one of Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau’s favourite colours, and yellow symbolizes spring.
“It’s the first colour of spring and it’s the colour of friendship,” Ms. Ghaffarian said.
Thursday’s dinner will also be served on Obama China – including individual tureens never before used.
The entertainment for the night will feature a performance from American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, who will be joined by the Washington Performing Arts’ Children of the Gospel Choir.
The Canadian delegation to the state dinner includes Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo, Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Navdeep Bains, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, will also attend with his wife Leslie Noble, as will Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, and high-ranking officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The White House guest list, which is likely to include American elected officials and celebrities, has yet to be revealed.
While Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau’s outfit at the state dinner is the subject of much speculation, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo said he’s decided what he’ll wear.
“I’m hoping to have a sealskin bowtie,” he said.Report Typo/Error