On August 13, 1969, the White House held the largest state dinner ever at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. the 1440 guests included movie stars, politicians, scientists, and diplomats. The guests of honor were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, who had just returned from the Apollo 11 mission a couple of weeks before. President Nixon presented the three astronauts with the Medal of Freedom during the dinner, and the whole thing was televised. Outside, war protesters chanted.
The hotel kitchen staff, led by chef Walter Roth, cooked so much food that the sprinklers went off, but they still produced an exceptional meal personally approved by Nixon. He had demanded that a fancy new dessert be created especially for the occasion, and his only requirement was that it contain ice cream. The secret menu for the banquet was leaked ahead of time, but no one knew what the dessert called Clair de Lune would be. The dessert, created by pastry chef Ernest Mueller, was brought to guests as the band played “Fly Me to the Moon.” It looked like a miniature white moon with craters, with an American flag planted on it, swimming in a “sea of darkness” sauce.
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Clair de Lune contained almond pastry, raisin-brandy filling, meringue scorched with a blowtorch, and a sauce made of mountain-picked Oregon blackberries. Oh yeah, there was vanilla ice cream inside, too. It sounds yummy, but making it is such an elaborate process that you will read the recipe and decide to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches instead. It was the perfect dessert to cap off a performance of luxury dining for a crew of tired astronauts, Hollywood elite, and a president who desperately wanted to take credit for the moon mission. Read about that state dinner and see its memorable dessert at Atlas Obscura.