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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:36 PM

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A fabulous feast for fortunate few at Gates home

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

What does the world's richest man serve to the president of the world's most populous nation?

When Chinese President Hu Jintao and his wife, Madame Liu Yonqing, dine at the Medina home of Bill and Melinda Gates tonight, they'll have a choice of three entrees, topped off with a rhubarb brown butter almond cake.

About 100 people — local business, political and community leaders and the Chinese delegation accompanying Hu — will be served a three-course dinner that is officially hosted by Gov. Christine Gregoire. The menu, featuring Northwest food and wine, includes fillet of beef with Walla Walla onions, asparagus and Alaskan halibut with spot prawns.

Dinner menu


First course

Smoked guinea fowl salad with hazelnuts, spring radishes and Granny Smith apples

Entree

Three choices:

• Fillet of beef with Walla Walla onions, local asparagus, celeriac purée and chervil glacé

• Alaskan halibut and spot prawns with spring vegetables, fingerling potatoes and a smoked-tomato-infused olive oil

• A vegetarian option

Wines

2002 Leonetti Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon or 2003 Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay, Canoe Ridge Estate

Dessert

Rhubarb brown butter almond cake

Source: Lou Gellos, corporate communications at Microsoft

The food will be prepared by the house chef at the Gates residence, whose identity is one of the many things not being disclosed about the dinner.

Background music will be piped into the speakers in the dining room, but it will be recorded, not played live elsewhere on the estate, according to Gregoire's office.

The dinner is being paid for with private funds, not taxpayer money. Corporate sponsors who have seats at both the Gates dinner and the next-day luncheon in Everett have ponied up $20,000 each to help defray the visit's costs.

Getting the menu and that much information required a week's worth of telephone calls and e-mails to the various offices that have a hand in the event — the Governor's Office, Microsoft and the Trade Development Alliance.

Verifying the guest list was even harder. Officially, the names won't be released until tonight's dinner party has started.

Guest lists for state dinners such as this event are fluid until the last minute, said Lars Erickson, a spokesman in the Governor's Office. He should know: Erickson served with President Clinton.

"Things change rapidly with any scheduled event," he said.

This much is certain:

First husband Mike Gregoire is expected to attend, according to Holly Armstrong, a spokeswoman in the Governor's Office.

The original guest list included U.S. senators — both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell received invitations, which apparently specified dress as business formal. Trade and economic-development officials were invited.

But neither Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, a Bellevue Republican, nor state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz received invitations.

Former Gov. Gary Locke helped orchestrate Hu's visit, so he and his wife, Mona, are expected to attend. UW President Mark Emmert and his wife, DeLaine, plan to be there.

Among the business people will be Callison Architecture CEO William Karst and the Shanghai office's general manager, Yan Yang. Callison has more than a dozen projects and clients in China.

Other events

Hu will have a demanding day.

He is scheduled to hold a brief, private gathering today with select members of the Chinese community, coordinated by the Consulate General of China in San Francisco.

President Hu's schedule


Today

11 a.m. arrival at Paine Field, greeted by Gov. Christine Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, former Gov. Gary Locke and Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Alan Mulally.

Meeting with Gregoire at Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

Afternoon tour of Microsoft campus with Bill Gates.

Meeting with Chinese community leaders.

Dinner hosted by Gregoire at Medina mansion of Bill and Melinda Gates, with 100 business, government and community leaders.

Wednesday

Morning tour of Boeing's Everett plant with Mulally. At 10:30 a.m., President Hu addresses Boeing employees.

Luncheon speech, billed as "a major policy address," at the Future of Flight museum in Everett.

12:45 p.m. departure from Paine Field.

Source: Washington State Planning & Welcoming Committee

Among those slated to attend is Gregory Tsang, who was instrumental in organizing the 1979 visit by then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to Seattle. Tsang said he intends to voice his support for tobacco control in China and hopes to pass a letter on the subject to the Chinese leader. He also hopes to address the poor pay of Beijing taxi drivers.

Also attending will be Wei Fang, a Seattle businessman originally from Guangdong province, who said he has been planning the welcome for the past three months.

"China's opening is very good for Washington state and China," Fang said. "When Deng Xiaoping came here 20 years ago, almost no one welcomed him. Twenty years later if we can get the Chinese community to welcome him, that will be a big change."

The meeting may be aimed at encouraging local Chinese Americans to invest in mainland China, participants said.

Some send regrets

Dinner at the Gates mansion with the president of China isn't the sort of invitation you get every day. Still, not everyone who was invited will attend.

Murray sent her regrets. So did Ron Sims, King County executive.

Sims has a standing commitment each Tuesday. Although he will participate in other events relating to Hu's visit, he turned down the dinner invitation because not all spouses were invited.

"Ron reserves Tuesday nights for his wife, Cayan," said his spokeswoman, Carolyn Duncan. "That's their time together."

Note:

In case you're not familiar with some of the things on the menu, celeriac is a member of the celery family grown for its root; chervil is an herb.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Lisa Chiu and Kristi Heim contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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