Vintage Hollywood Menu at New York's Algonquin Hotel
Calling all fans of vintage Hollywood, classic Broadway and early 20th century literature: New York's Algonquin Hotel is in the midst of a special vintage menu that's actually well worth the price.
The Algonquin Hotel is best known for its place in 1920s literature -- it's where the "vicious circle", which included Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley used to meet to trade barbs and match wits. It's a terrific, if pricey, place for drinks in midtown when you want a literary vibe. The hotel has teamed up with publisher HarperCollins, which has just released a vintage cookbook called Specialties de la Maison, which gathered together recipes from celebs ranging from Tallulah Bankhead, Noel Coward, Christian Dior, Eleanor Roosevelt and others. The cookbook was a fundraiser for the now defunct group American Friends of France, an organization started by Anne Morgan (daughter of J.P.), a francophile who was horrified by the toll of war on France after World War I, and who used her extensive social connections to gather the recipes. The book jacket was designed by Clement Hurd, who illustrated the children's classic Goodnight Moon.
Now, the words "vintage" and "menu" in combination sounds like something I'd rather read than eat. And the cookbook does contain some doozies of the time, rich caloric bombs like Helen Keller's Lobster a la Newburg, plenty of dishes that involve gelatin (alarmingly, a seafood mold called "Neptune Nonsense" is the contribution of Salvador Dali), and dishes that may or may not be tasty to a modern palate: Mrs. Laurance Rockefeller's tomato muffins. But wisely, the hotel's Round Table Restaurant has selected dishes for its $29, three-course prix fixe, that do translate well to a modern audience. When I dined there last Monday, I found the lentil soup by Norma Shearer, and Mrs. Vincent Astor's Eros Steak flavorful and not too heavy, and the whimsy of Helen Hayes pancakes for dessert a delight. It's a pity that more people were not taking advantage of it -- yes, it was Monday, but the dining room was nearly empty.
The Algonquin Hotel hosted my meal. If my opinion was for sale, which it isn't, it would take a lot more than that to buy it. Views expressed are as always 100% my own.