City Tavern Philadelphia and City Tavern Cookbook Review

I loved this place.  Past tense.  This wonderful establishment closed last November due to the pandemic.  Yet, another casualty and I am sorry to see it gone.

City Tavern sits near Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Museum of the American Revolution.  Its location was in the center of the Nation’s first capital and, at one point, the Colony’s most prosperous and influential city.  It was charming, historic, significant, and the food was good.  It’s significance owing to being a meeting place for the founding fathers and the British during Philadelphia’s occupation and as Washington’s pre-inaugural party site.  The Tavern began as a private club for Philadelphia’s elite who financed the construction through the sale of subscriptions.  The Tavern was the place for the arts, political debates, agricultural discussions, and business conversations.  It was the center of business and politics for the young nation.

  • In 1774, Paul Revere, exhausted after a long ride (not the British Are Coming!long ride, however), brought the news here that Boston Harbor had been closed
  • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson often met here to enjoy “a feast of reason and a flow of soul”
  • Newspapers from the world over were once sold here
  • The dining room was a favorite haunt of Benjamin Franklin

I remember having lunch there with my daughter, Amanda, and BFF, Bob.  We sat outside in the shade of the back patio while soaking in all the details of our first and last visit.  I had the tofu parmesan and it was delightful and that’s when I learned about Benjamin Franklin introducing tofu to the Colonies.  Franklin wrote to his friend, John Bartram, about the Chinese cheese called teu fu.  Bartram, a botanist, and Franklin, a master gardener and gourmand, cultivated the dried Chinese Garavances seeds and used them in the universal Chinese cheese recipe that Franklin discovered in England.  Franklin enjoyed discovering new plants and had journeyed from Canada to Florida doing so.  Franklin also introduced Ginkgo Biloba and the last of the three original plants from China resides in the Bertram Gardens in South Philadelphia.

I recently discovered the City Tavern Cookbook:  Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine by Walter Staib.  These recipes are America.  Staib researched the cuisine of the colonies through David McCullough and Susan Stein of Monticello. He found that he needed to adapt some of the recipes to modern taste by keeping up with increased health awareness and codes of today.  Staib was awarded the contract for City Tavern in 1994 after a six-month process which ended with congressional approval. He then went on to research the restoration of City Tavern through the National Parks Services library. The restoration included original colors, furniture, cooking and serving reproductions, and period costumes.  Staib said “City Tavern is indeed more than a restaurant. It is a piece of history; a living culinary museum that offers diners an experience unavailable anywhere else-insight into America’s vast and underappreciated culinary heritage.”  Indeed it does.

City Tavern Cookbook not only offers an extensive history of the tavern and Philadelphia, and it’s restoration, but a myriad of recipes of the Revolutionary period. The cookbook is organized for the modern reader by organizing it by modern standards. Dining was an event and was served in 2 to 4 courses. The course consisted of up to 24 dishes which were arranged in order of importance and served with ale or beer.  Wine was served at the end of the meal with the sweets course.  Appetizers were not offered during the revolutionary war period. Soups and stews were the one pot meal of the day.  This offered an all day cooking method and tenderness for tougher cuts of meat.  Salads, part of the first course, had seasonal vegetables incorporated and served alongside relishes.  More difficult dishes would be left to the more experienced cooks who could gauge cooking times and temperatures by where the pans sat in the fire.  Special pans were invented for more delicate cooking.  Since meat was an expensive commodity, it was served in smaller portions and then the table was laden with side dishes of barley, rice, potatoes, and stuffing to supplement those smaller portions.  The cookbook wrapped up the tour of the Early American table with sweets, beverages, and the pantry.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the tofu recipe in the cookbook, but there were other standouts.  The Pork Madeira is a beautiful loin turned into a crown roast with a bacon and mushroom stuffing (p. 157).  I also tried the Shrimp in Saffron Cream (p. 142), Spicy Corn Relish (p 121), Raspberry Trifle (p. 249), Pumpkin Pie (p. 262), Madeleines (p. 302) and Sally Lunn Bread (p. 318).  I chose these recipes for their relative ease and flavors.  All were very good except for the pumpkin pie which was made with a pumpkin puree and not the canned pumpkin pie mix.  I found the flavor a tad too bland.  I would like to try again with the pumpkin puree and experiment with the spice ratios.

If you are a history buff, or foodie and appreciate period recipes or American food, this is an excellent cookbook.  The book is well laid out with easy to follow recipes and beautiful pictures that capture the dish.  It was written with care and devotion by someone who understands the beginnings of American food and City Tavern.  The restaurant may be permanently closed, but this cookbook offers a way of enjoying what once was. Also, Staib has a TV show which allows someone who appreciates these recipes and City Tavern another way to delight in his passion.  Walter Staib is a four time Emmy Award winner and the host of A Taste of History which I caught on TV recently.  I was thrilled to see historical cooking on TV especially from City Tavern.  It was surprised to see that there are 11 seasons of episodes on his site www.atasteofhistory.org.  He was cooking Beef Olives over an open fire with a spider pan.  He made it look so effortless that I was ready to buy a spider pan to replicate his efforts.  Here is the recipe:  Beef Olives.  City Tavern Cookbook is lovely and worth the purchase.

 

REFERENCES

https://www.atasteofhistory.org/chef-walter-staib/ 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ben-franklin-may-be-responsible-bringing-tofu-america-180968495/

https://www.ushistory.org/tour/city-tavern.htm

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartram%27s_Garden

Renaissance Faires

I have been attending Renaissance Faires for almost 30 years.  We discovered our first one while living in the suburbs of Chicago.  The Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin still holds the top spot for me.  It is an amazing site with artisans, food and flare.  My favorite entertainer is MooNiE (https://themoonieshow.com/) who performs as a juggler, ropewalker and foolish mortal without saying a word.  He is absolutely hysterical and I smile every time I think of his show.  I look forward to the mushrooms in a garlic wine sauce and the soap shop that gives out chip size samples and then tracks how many people mistake it for food.  The drive is about an hour north of Chicago and well worth a long weekend in that area.  There is Six Flags Gurnee, Gurnee Mills outlets, Pickard China outlet and museum, and the Milwaukee Brewfest.

Since moving to Pennsylvania, I have been attending the PA Renfaire at the Mt. Hope Winery in Mannheim.  It does not have the grandeur that Bristol has but it is good in its own right.  The Faire runs from August to the end of October which I particularly enjoy since it offers the opportunity to visit when the heat has died down.The faire has 100 permanent merchants along with guest merchants, workshops and demonstrations.  The merchant are varied and there are some lovely things to look at and purchase .  Plus, don’t forget to pick up a souvenir stein , if that is your thing!  The shop that is a must visit for me is Fleur Di Lis Teas and I am also mesmerized by the blacksmith demonstrations, the Mud Crew mud show (you can find them on facebook) and the live chess game.  The food we had was ok.  Jimmy tried a turkey leg for the first time and was not enamoured by.  I understand.  We had some basic food and the next time I go I would like to try some of the foods that are not along the main thoroughfare. For more information, including ticket prices and purchase, hop onto www.penfaire.com/faire.html.

PA Renfaire Map

There were some changes that I noticed after not having gone for a few years.  The greyhound adoption site is gone and there are birds of prey there.  Also, the faire has become dog friendly and have invited well-behaved pups to partake of the merriment.  We loved seeing the costumes.  There was a black lab puppy with black bat wings, a french bulldog in a pink tutu and a fluff pup in a black scaled harness vest with a purple dragon spine along the back.  The other change is that the faire added hard liqueur and a pub crawl to the menu.  Mt. Hope Winery has added tequila, gin, rum, whiskey, bourbon, ciders, schnapps, seltzers and eggnog to their list.  With that, there are 12 pour house available for a pub crawl or to try the offerings.  I had the most delicious cider at the Hart Inn Bar.  It wasn’t sweet since tart apples were added to the mix to balance out the flavors.  The apples and production was local.  Amanda and Jimmy tried the whiskey at Just Whiskey.  Jimmy tried the whiskey Mule and they tried a sipping  whiskey.

Renaissance Faires are a permanent fixture on the US landscape.  There is a list of festivals on wikipedia, renfaire.com and therenlist.com to look into.  I found faires in other parts of the world.  I am not sure I would want to attend one outside of the US since there are so many other things I would prefer to see but I wonder how the ones in the UK and Italy fair (pun intended).  The Travel Channel lists some of the top faires in the US as did Travel Awaits and most of the faires on the two lists overlap.  I am not sure what the criteria was for choosing these faires but there are mentions of attendance, the number of merchants and size.  Here are The Travel Channels top faires in the US.

Carolina Renaissance Festival in Huntersville, NC (October through November)

Texas Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission, TX

Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD

New York Renaissance Festival in Tuxedo Park, NY

Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, TX (near Dallas)

Bristol Renaissance Festival in Kenosha, WI

Northern California Renaissance Festival in Hollister, CA

Ohio Renaissance Festival in Harveysburg, OH (Augst to October)

Arizona Renaissance Festival in in Apache Junction, AZ (February to March)

Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MC

King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA (August to October)

Georgia Renaissance Festival in Fairburn, GA

If you are looking for something fun and different.  This is it.  The fun goes from family friendly to adult.  Luckily, the map that is provided usually distinguishes the adult fun so you can keep the kiddies away from the naughty and bawdy.  Enjoy!

REFERENCES

www.mounthope.estate

www. parenfaire.com/faire.html

renfaire.com/Sites 

therenlist.com/all-fairs

https://www.travelchannel.com/interests/arts-and-culture/photos/best-renaissance-festivals-in-the-us

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Renaissance_and_Medieval_fairs 

 

The Flavors of Ireland

The Irish landscape is rich and lush, wild and wonderful.  The green pastures and climate mack for excellent lamb, sheep and beef.  I like to experience the local foods and had done some research before we left.  There were very few surprises as far as white I was to expect.  Barmbrack was the one food that I was not familiar with.  It is s a quick bread with added sultanas and raisins.  Here are the top 10 dishes in Ireland:

  1.  Soda Bread
  2. Shellfish
  3. Irish Stew
  4. Colcannon and Champ
  5. Boxty
  6. Boiled Bacon and Cabbage
  7. Smoked Salmon
  8. Black and White Pudding
  9. Coddle
  10. Barmbrack

 

References

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-10-foods-try-ireland

Irish Gastronomic Tour

I must admit that I ate seafood until I grew gills.  They are fading now but my memories of Ireland are not.  It is a lush with sheep and cow pastures as far as the eye can see.  There were roadside stands with carrots the size and length of my forearm along with an abundance of potatoes and onions.  The island produces an abundance of seafood that made our mouths water.  We laughed about knowing it was fresh because when we asked how big the fish and chips were the waiter said it varied depending upon the day.  It was all based on the catch of the day, which for us was hake, haddock and cod.

I hope you enjoy reading about our tour as much as we enjoy being there.

Fitzpatrick Pub (Jenkinstown):  This was our first experience eating in Ireland and it was definitely not a disappointment. I learned that soda is called a fizzy.  I developed a taste for cider fizzies which I hope I can get in the US. We were served soda bread and butter.  The bread was a different flavor than I ever had and I learned that there are many variations of soda bread.  We started off with a cauldron full of muscles with a cream sauce and then split the fish and chips. The piece of cod was at least a foot long and I am so glad we split it.  This place was charming, homey, cluttered and cozy.

Bushmills Tavern and Inn (Bushmills):  This was one of my favorite restaurants of the whole trip. We sat outside just before the rain and were able to move to a table with an umbrella when it started to drizzle. Camille tried a 16 year old Bushmills whiskey which is made in a distillery right around the corner from the restaurant.  Smooth and elegant.  We started with smoked salmon.  I had a seafood pie which contained mussels, haddock, and salmon in a white sauce topped with mashed potatoes and baked.  Camille had the cream poached skink topped with a poached egg and side of potatoes and kale.  This meal with in one of the prettiest settings and delicious.

 

Old Castle Bar and Grill (Donegal):  Old Castle is a traditional type of restaurant right by Donegal castle. The castle is beautiful and lit up and we had a nice view of it. It’s mostly a seafood restaurant.  The food was average and the setting ok.  I had a seafood antipasto platter.  The mussels were a bit overdone and the crab salad was heavy on condiment and light on crab.  The smoked salmon was good.  Donegal is not really somewhere that I would want to visit again.  It’s dingy with very little to do.  The one site that was interesting was the potato famine graves.

An Púcán (Galway). This is a pub in the city of Galway. I wanted to go there and go to the historic area but ended up here.  Tis was a great little pub and we were able to have a meal while watching hurling. The place was full of locals and the food was terrific. We started off with potatoes with bacon and cheese appetizer.  This was an interesting, different and delicious addition to the potatoes on a smear of mayonnaise. Since I really enjoy mayonnaise with my french fries, this made the dish better.  I had a lamb stew which was more of a soup.  I don’t eat beef or lamb, but couldn’t resist trying a traditional lamb stew.  It was perfect and made me realize why I gave up lamb years ago.  This was soft and tender and not the big tough mutton I’ve experienced before.  We sat in a pub and watched hurling. during championship game and we followed with our smartphones in hand.

Vaughan’s Anchor Inn (Liscannor):  this restaurant is down the street from the cliffs of mower visitor center. After I picked up Camille from her hike, we had it down that way. I saw a sign for Vons and a Pete my interest. We had some of the best clams I have ever had. I also had the fish and chips because the batter this restaurant is down the street from the Cliffs of more visitors Center. After I picked up Camille from her hike, we headed down to Liscannor. I saw a sign for Vaughn’s and a peaked my interest. We had some of the best clams I have ever had. I also had the fish and chips because the batter was made with a 19 years old starter. (The pictures are from Vaughans website)

 

 

 

vaughan_s_sample_dinner_menu

vaughan_s_sample_lunch_menu

The Cedar Tree (Dublin):  This was one of the best meals I had in Ireland. I had gone to a restaurant around the corner and sat for 20 minutes with no service. I got up and walked around the corner and ducked in after I saw that it was Lebanese food.  The menu was pretty extensive and they were a few things on there that I wasn’t quite sure about.  The owners daughter was so helpful and nice as she walked me through some of the unfamiliar dishes and cooking methods. I started off with shakshuka because I’ve always wanted to try it  (Youtube has a how to make videos).  I choose on a chili chicken with a garlic sauce and a side of rice. Camille had a simple kebab over rice and used my chili sauce.  I had the opportunity to chat with Anya and she told me that they are opening a wine and meze bar in the basement.  They had pre-pandemic plans but were derailed unto now.  I truly wish them the best of luck!

https://www.facebook.com/cedartreedublin/

  

Pichet (Dublin):  this is a charming fresh restaurant right in the heart of the temple bar district. This place is no disappointment and if you want great food, this is it. The menu is simple and can be taken two ways. There’s an à la cart menu and a prefix menu with 3this is a charming fresh restaurant right in the heart of the temple bar district. This place is no disappointment and if you want great food, this is it. The menu is simple and can be taken two ways. There’s an à la cart menu and a prefix menu with 3, 4 or 5 choices.

 

Pichet-Ala-Carte-2021

Dunluce Castle Ireland

Dunluce Castle in Bushmills is one the most beautiful ruins I have seen, to date.  The site overlooks the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. We drove to Dunluce after lunch at the Bushmills Tavern and a morning at the Giants Causeway.

Dunluce is a World Heritage site which makes it easy to find and well documented. There is parking on site and a fee to enter. The hours are from 10AM to 5PM daily. There are facilities are to the right and the gift shop and tickets to your left. To navigate the area there are plaques, a guide available at the ticket booth and app that uses cgi to show how the castle looked in the 16th and 17th centuries. I also found that it was the site for Pyke Castle of House Greyjoy on Pyke Island in Game of Thrones.

I was enthralled by how much of the castle is left after years of abandonment, scavenging materials for the building other structures in the village, time and, the elements. At one point part of the manor feel into the waters below after some of the cliff disintegrated. There are spots that are caged off to serve as a warning as to the dangerous position of the castle. Dunluce sit high on cliff looking over the Antrim Coast. The view is breathtaking. There is a sweeping panoramic vista of the coast line that rivals the Cliff of Moher. It is wild and untamed with ruins fading into the landscape. The pictures speak for themselves.

This is a must see if you near Bushmills and the Giants Causeway.

 

History (wikipedia brief)

In the 13th century, Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built the first castle at Dunluce.

It is first documented in the hands of the McQuillan family in 1513. The earliest features of the castle are two large drum towers about 9 metres (30 ft) in diameter on the eastern side, both relics of a stronghold built here by the McQuillans after they became lords of the Route.

The McQuillans were the Lords of Route from the late 13th century until they were displaced by the MacDonnell after losing two major battles against them during the mid- and late-16th century.The castle in the last decade of the 19th century

Later Dunluce Castle became the home of the chief of the Clan MacDonnell of Antrim and the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg from Scotland. Chief John Mor MacDonald was the second son of Good John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald in Scotland. John Mor MacDonald l was born through John of Islay’s second marriage to Princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II of Scotland. In 1584, on the death of James MacDonald the 6th chief of the Clan MacDonald of Antrim and Dunnyveg, the Antrim Glens were seized by Sorley Boy MacDonnell, one of his younger brothers. Sorley Boy took the castle, keeping it for himself and improving it in the Scottish style. Sorley Boy swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth I and his son Randal was made 1st Earl of Antrim by King James I.

Four years later, the Girona, a galleass from the Spanish Armada, was wrecked in a storm on the rocks nearby. The cannons from the ship were installed in the gatehouses and the rest of the cargo sold, the funds being used to restore the castle. MacDonnell’s granddaughter Rose was born in the castle in 1613.

A local legend states that at one point, part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea, after which the wife of the owner refused to live in the castle any longer. According to a legend, when the kitchen fell into the sea, only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse. However, the kitchen is still intact and next to the manor house. You can still see the oven, fireplace and entry ways into it. It wasn’t until some time in the 18th century that the north wall of the residence building collapsed into the sea. The east, west and south walls still stand.

Dunluce Castle served as the seat of the Earl of Antrim until the impoverishment of the MacDonnells in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne. Since that time, the castle has deteriorated and parts were scavenged to serve as materials for nearby buildings.

References

Bacon Around the World and Atlantic View B&B at the Cliffs of Moher

While in Ireland, I enjoyed wonderful meals.  I am conscious that some drinks and foods have different names and cooking methods and cuts.  I ask questions.  At our first meal, Fitzpatrick’s, I asked how should I order a Coke type drinks knowing that soda might be mistaken for a drink additive and pop might get me a blank stare.  Instead of a pop (cola, soda, soda pop) I learned to ask for a fizzy.  Potato pancakes are a boxty and so forth.  Another difference is bacon.

Bacon from different parts of the world are made from different cuts which changes the look and taste of it.  These different types are either made from pork belly or the back of the pig.  American, Korean, Chinese, Russian and British bacon are made from pork belly and Canadian and Irish are made from the back of the pig or the loin.   All are cured or processed to achieve a certain flavor.  Canadian and Irish bacon or back bacon has a similar to taste to ham.  Irish bacon is cured like Canadian bacon but more oval in shape and cut with some fat around the edges to add flavor.  Irish and Canadian bacon are the same thickness which is thicker than US bacon.  Rashers are the British counterpart.  It’s leaner, meatier and less fatty than American bacon.  Italian bacon is made from the pig’s cheek and is dried to concentrate the flavor.  Chinese bacon is cured pork belly which is preserved and marinated differently depending upon the region.  Korean bacon is fatty pork belly and Russian bacon is all fat with little meat that is dried and salted for a year.

We didn’t have breakfast often.  Camille and I preferred to hit the road with coffee and a breakfast bar.  Breakfast was a luxury when we stayed at the Atlantic View B&B in Doolin near the Cliffs of Moher.  I ordered bacon not thinking about the potential difference.  It was lovely.  It was a ham flavored slice of cured goodness which I like a little better than Canadian bacon because of the pit of fat around it.  I must admit I did not try the black pudding, which is blood sausage.  I tried a variation of this years ago while living in Cleveland.  It is a polish sausage called Kiska made from pig’s blood.  I bought it at the Cleveland West Side Market and didn’t particularly like the taste of it so I shied away from the Irish version.

This was a pretty B&B with a view of the Cliffs.  The owners were delightful and attentive people who know how to make guests comfortable. The rooms are spacious and we were lucky enough to have a view of the Cliffs.  We had our own bathroom and there was a comfortable sitting area outside of our room.  One drawback which they let you know about is that the wifi is not the best .  This is a small price to pay for cleanliness, attention, good price and a spectacular view.  The offer laundry services area 10-15 minute walk from the ferry docks and and a 10-15 minute walk to “town”.  Breakfast is good and I recommend the scrambled eggs.  Her boiled and poached eggs were a little firm for my taste.  There was a “buffet” with cereal, juice, coffee and milk.  All in all it was good and the coffee hot and plentiful.I would put this B&B on my short list for visiting this area.

The View from The Atlantic View B&B

 

REFERENCES:

https://justcook.butcherbox.com/all-the-different-types-of-bacon-from-canadian-bacon-to-coconut-bacon/

Irish Bacon

The Cliffs of Moher

Dublin is beautiful.  Lush, green and pastoral.  I truly enjoyed driving around the coast and wish I had more time to explore the South and the interior.  The history is amazing, the people are kind and the scenery incredible.  One of my favorite places was the Cliffs Of Moher.  It was spectacular.

Unfortunately, with my bad knee, which turns out to be a torn meniscus (surgery pending), I was a little restricted.  Camille took the 6 mile hike from the Atlantic View B&B to the visitor center.  I took the ferry to Inis Oirr to explore the tiny island of 200 residents and took another ferry ride along the coast.  We both had very different experiences and enjoyed them both.

Inis Oirr is the smallest of the Aran Islands.  There are 200 year round inhabitants on this tiny island.  Before I took the trip I checked out the Inishirr website: http://discoverinisoirr.com/whats-on/activities/.  Plassey shipwreck, Cnoc Raithní, church and castle ruins, a seaweed spa, lighthouse and beach are a few of the things that you can see there.  Cnoc Raithní is a burial site which was dated to 1500 BC.  Take cash!!  There are no working atm on the island and if you want to take a horse cab around the island, which I did since I couldn’t walk far, you need the money from the mainland.  There are some places to eat and a local grocery shop.  Check out the Aran Island knits.  It is a World Heritage sight.  The sweaters are beautiful and not outrageously prices.  Allen is the owner of a a blue pullover (it matches his eyes).

I really enjoyed the ferry ride since it was quiet except for a 10-15 minute history of the cliffs.  I prefer a “tour” where there is not a lot of dialogue.  I find guides that give too much information difficult.  I like highlights with time to appreciate the site, event, or artifact.  This tour gave me that.   I focused on the landscapes and taking some pictures and looking for a puffin.  I swear I saw one but I think it’s just a figment of my imagination.  My sighting went up in a puff of smoke…

The Cliff of Moher defined Ireland for me,  The area and its history were nothing short of amazing.  I loved the pastures and the small town of Doolin. It was peaceful and we woke to the sounds of cows lowing in the fields across the street.  The drive between Doolin and Liscannor was scary.  It is a one lane road that has two way traffic.  Luckily, you can see quite a ways ahead so that you can avoid a head on collision.

There are 2 restaurants in Doolin and we stopped in at Anthony’s and were told that they were not serving because they were short staffed. The person at the front desk suggested several restaurants down the road.  We pulled up to a pizza place with a great back patio and live music.  We spent the evening at a pub listening to traditional Celtic music.  I loved the Doolin banjos (Ha!).  We ended up having dinner with a lovely couple from Hershey, PA.  They joined us at a picnic table to wait for their dinner table and we began chatting.  Imagine finding Philadelphians in Doolin.  They service was a bit slow since there were unstaffed and extremely busy.  The pizza was excellent and the cider/beer cold.  A good time was had by all!