Sure, we may have it off as a national holiday, but what exactly does one do to “celebrate” Presidents Day? We remember our forefathers. We honor the birthdays of both Lincoln and Washington.
But, do we really have a way to celebrate? Molly Yun, assistant to Chef Walter Staib, says “Yes, you do.”
Chef Staib is the host of “A Taste of History,” which has been recognized with two Emmy Awards for episodes taped in Thomas Jefferson’s own kitchen at Monticello.
“He is the only chef to have cooked there since Jefferson’s death in 1826,” Yun said.
In his third season of the show, the chef took his historically accurate cooking style all the way to Mount Vernon to make some of George Washington’s favorite dishes in his former kitchen.
For those in Greater Philadelphia, the good news is you won’t have to drive so far to taste the foods of our forefathers.
“In honor of the holiday and Washington’s birthday, Staib highlights special menu items at City Tavern in Philadelphia over the week of Presidents Day,” Yun said. “Each dish and beverage has a special tie to the 18th century presidents, making the restaurant a perfect stop over the holiday weekend.”
Yun said that the restaurant is a real dining experience, enabling guests to take as step back into time.
“Anyone intrigued with Washington, Jefferson, Ben Franklin and their contemporaries should visit City Tavern for an authentic 18th century dining experience,” she said. “[City Tavern is] where the Revolutionary era comes alive.”
Some menu items for the special week will include a West Indies Pepperpot Soup.
“General Washington served this recipe to his troops before crossing the Delaware,” Yun said.
A “John Adams’ favorite” of New England Clam Chowder is also served.
The menu will include some work from first lady Martha Washington, too. Chicken Breast Mount Vernon features a breaded chicken breast topped with crabmeat, asparagus and sauce béarnaise.
“Our nation’s premiere first lady was a sophisticated and innovative chef,” Yun said. “She was the first to pair fowl with the meats of the sea. This may be a common practice today, but was nearly scandalous in her time.”
Beef bourguinon will also be on the menu, in honor of Jefferson’s love of French cuisine, as he had served as America’s Ambassador to France.
Unique beers will also accompany the meals, including a General Washington Tavern Porter, brewed, according to Yun, “from a genuine recipe on file in the Rare Manuscripts Room of the New York Public Library” said to be a “rich, dark brew loaded with flavor.”
The Thomas Jefferson 1774 Tavern Ale will also be available, which Jefferson is said to have made two times each year. The City Tavern’s is made following his original recipe unfiltered, medium body, with a light color and “great taste.”
And, no birthday party would be complete without cake. While you are celebrating the presidents, try Washington’s favorite, as made by his wife.
“Martha Washington describes her recipe for ‘An Excellent Cake,’” Yun said. “It has many decadent ingredients popular in the 18th century, including Spanish oranges, which George Washington special ordered, rose water, currants and mace. The cake is unlike today’s recipes in that it has yeast in it and must rise and be kneaded, more similar to a bread recipe. It also has much less sweet than typical American cake because sugar was one of the most expensive ingredients in the 18th century, and it was used sparingly.”
City Tavern will serve the cake soaked in black tea and spiced rum, topped with an orange buttercream icing.
“Staib has made the cake in individual portions for guests to enjoy,” Yun said.
City Tavern, located at 138 S. Second St., Philadelphia, is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. daily and dinner from 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sundays. To make a reservation, please call 215-413-1443.
Honor our presidents in style, and dine as they would have dined on such a special day.