Down-home food is a big hit at Mall gathering INAUGURATION 1993

January 18, 1993|By Rob Kasper | Rob Kasper,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- As the Clinton inaugural began yesterday, the victuals in the nation's capital took on an Arkansas flavor.

Down on The Mall, George Eldridge of Doe's Eats Place in Little Rock sold tamales as fast as he could heat them up. Back in Arkansas, he said, the dish was a favorite of his one longtime customers, President-elect Bill Clinton.

"Hard to believe," said Mr. Eldridge, marveling at the crowd and commotion before him, "that a couple of months ago he [Clinton] was in our place eating hot tamales."

Mr. Eldridge was one of some 40 vendors from the around the United States who set up booths in three tents as part of the two-day America's Reunion on the Mall celebration. Dishes were priced from $2 to $5.

One Memphis restaurant, Raji, sold corn cakes topped with something called Arkansas caviar. It turned out to be eggs from sturgeon that had been raised across the state line in Mr. Clinton's home state.

Uptown at a brunch held within hollering distance of the White House, singer Judy Collins, a native of Seattle, spooned down a a cup of black-eyed peas made by Eureka Springs cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon.

Ms. Dragonwagon described the dish -- black-eyed peas topped with salsa and creme fraiche -- as "nouveau Arkie food," and predicted Washington was going to see a lot of it during the next four years.

Also in town for the festivities was Liza Ashley, who cooked chicken enchiladas and bean soup for the Clintons when they were at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock. Later in week, Ms. Ashley, who grew up in rural Arkansas, is to preside over a tea given in her honor at a plush hotel in Arlington, Va.

Two of the more unusual Mall foods were pieces of fruit dipped in white chocolate, which members of a Poolesville, Md., Buddhist temple sold for $4 a package, and $2.50 eggs stuffed with mushrooms and shallots made by Jean-Louis Palladin, the highly regarded chef at the Jean-Louis at Watergate restaurant.

The eggs, Mr. Palladin said, were from an organic farm. And that, he said, made them "politically correct."

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