Hold that old menu in your hand and close your eyes. Can you picture yourself having a great dinner in the Pocanos or Miami or San Francisco? Menus from restaurants, many of which are no longer in existence, are nostalgic ties to the past, bringing back memories of vacations, romantic musings, celebrations and birthdays. A private collection of old menus serves up recollections of memorable meals in interesting places.
A menu from Christmas 1967 from The Inn at Buck Hill Falls in Pennsylvania offers Block Island swordfish saute amandine and crown roast of yearling lamb mascotte. This might bring back memories of the Inn with its stairways twined with fresh mountain laurel leaves, the cookie tree by the entrance to the dining rooms, the arrival of Santa in the East Room or the trumpeted arrival of the official yule log.
Summer menus at the Inn offered jellied madrilene and chilled vichyssoise to accompany braised veal sweetbreads with Virginia ham or golden fried silver smelts with tartar sauce. One can almost smell the crumbtop apple pies baking at the Buck Hill Tennis Club.
The Nut Tree in Vacaville, CA in 1970 served tiny individual loaves of bread and cold gazpacho with their western dinners. The menu of the Nut Tree brings back memories of the steam train and toy shop, pumpkin festival, child size bamboo huts and giant cookies iced with your name. The Coffee Tree, its sister restaurant across Interstate 80, served vanilla ice cream with a dust of coffee beans freshly ground over the top.
At the Caribe Cafe at Treasure Island in Las Vegas in 1996 one could have Gran Fadda’s full moon frittata made with Portuguese sausage or for a snack, the Cookie Jar, a selection of freshly baked cookies for kids of all ages and served with a glass of milk. The Black Spot Grille with its pirate theme offered a variety of Italian food including shrimp fra diavlo spaghetti, tortellini carbonara, or angel hair pomodoro with goat cheese.
No. 9 Fishermen’s Grotto in San Francisco gave out a miniature recipe book which included their wonderful recipe for chioppino sauce. A menu from 1974 offered grilled sand dabs, french fried potatoes with a crab and shrimp salad and Louis dressing or you could order Fishermen’s style crab cioppino, each entree for $4.50.
Old Brittany, a restaurant at the Cannery in San Francisco in 1972, listed 45 different crepes, half of which were buckwheat, years before the popularity and necessity of a gluten free diet. Fillings ranged from blue cheese with vanilla apples, lobster in wine sauce, white asparagus tips with swiss cheese, to French goose liver pate.
Dessert crepes included sweet puree of French chestnuts, or almond paste and whipped cream, or nesselrode bula (an ice cream made with imported chestnuts, assorted fruits, Jamaican rum and brandy.).What was also so memorable about Old Brittany was that the waitresses wore tall elaborate white lace hats and intricately stitched dresses and aprons.
An October 1939 menu from Hotel Governor Clinton in New York City showcased the New York World’s Fair on the cover. The Coral Room menu offered an oyster, clam or crab cocktail, smoked salmon, clam juice cocktail, potage sante, and entrees such as roast larded fricandeau of milk fed veal or paprika of minced chicken en casserole, all included at the price of $1.65.
To wash it all down, there was kaffee hag, buttermilk, postum, or acidophilus besides the usual coffee, tea or certified milk. It would have been dificult to choose between the pies for dessert: fresh green apple, Santa Clara prune, or Boston cream. Or you could order crepes Suzette or floating island with bananas. And as the menu says, the smart choice after dinner would be a pony of Forbidden Fruit for $.30.
The oldest menu in this private collection is from a banquet given for the Nebraska State Medical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska on May 14, 1891. The menu included the following: ‘sardines, a l’hulle surfine, boiled capon with aspic jelly, cold roast turkey, pickeled buffalo tongue, glaised sugar cured ham, chicken salad, en mayonaise, and shrimp salad, a l’allemande’. For dessert there were macaroons, lady fingers, angel food, half moon galce, star kisses, fruit cake and fancy ornamented cake, all accompanied by coffee.
Collecting menus can also give you ideas for when you want to cook something different for dinner. How about a southwestern pizza tonight made with grilled, marinated chicken breast, black beans, mild ortega chillies, onion, mozzarella, cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce served with salsa and sour cream. And for dessert, floating island – unless you can get your hands on some of that nesselrode bula.
Please subscribe for more news from the neighborhood of Scranton and surrounding communities.