Almost 165 years later, another group of thirty diners got the chance to experience and taste dishes from this glorious meal. On March 13, 2016, the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley (HFSDV) hosted an amazing 13-course rendition of James Parkinson’s 1851 Thousand Dollar Dinner. The Chadds Ford Historical Society graciously provided their wonderful space for the occasion. It was incredible to be part of this event and see all the foods I researched and wrote about for three years "come to life."
HFSDV members made most of the food for this remarkable meal, basing the dishes on nineteenth century recipes gleaned from a number of period cookbooks, including The Complete Confectioner by Eleanor Parkinson (James’ mother). Every single dish was outstanding - as delicious as it was visually stunning. Jill Newirth Horn, Editor and Photographer for the Philadelphia Women's Culinary Guild PWCG Newsletter, kindly chronicled the event by taking several masterful photographs of the amazing dishes, as you can see throughout this post.
I helped kick off the meal by telling the story of the original dinner, and then gave some background behind the history of each featured dish before each course. Vicki Miller of Vinocity Events did the same with the wine pairings, which she had chosen to match Parkinson’s original choices as closely as possible. Then the chef who prepared the dish explained how they made it, putting it in context with modern tastes, techniques and challenges. It all flowed beautifully and the guests really seemed to enjoying learning and tasting at the same time.
As was typical of a 19th century dinner party, the first course was oysters. Oysters on Shell with Kirschwasser Glacee to be exact – prepared by Executive Chef Adam Diltz of Johnny Brenda’s restaurant in Philadelphia. This dish was beautifully presented –a single raw oyster on shell perched atop a bed of coarse salt. The brininess of the oysters paired wonderfully with the luscious Chateau Cantegril Sauternes 2010 skillfully chosen by Vicki. An unusual pairing, but just as was featured at Parkinson’s original dinner, and everyone loved it.
The second course was Kensington Turtle Soup made by Dan Macey with farmed terrapin from Maryland. This thick, rich, and slightly spicy soup was hearty, stew-like and delicious, and Dan’s commentary on making the soup was informative and entertaining. What a treat to try this historic, beloved dish – a true Philadelphia favorite.
The next course was fresh salmon in lobster sauce made by Dee Ann Smith. This was one of my favorites – succulent and so tender – like butter! And the sauce was as equally rich, matching perfectly with the wine, a Mosel Riesling Feinherb Weingut Freiherr von Heddesdorff 2013.
Next up was Vol-au-Vent a la Financiere. Few dishes present as pretty a picture as vol-au-vent - a round puff pastry with a savory filling topped with a petite pastry lid. Dan’s version was very similar to Parkinson’s - a mix of sautéed mushrooms and chicken, simmered in a rich brown sauce flavored with sherry. It was a striking, delectable dish, another I had wanted to try!
Then we had Spring Chicken on Toast – tender young chicken set on buttered toast garnished with rich creamy gravy, prepared by Cheryl Trozzi. It was flavorful and beautifully presented. Vicki chose a sparkling Riesling as the wine pairing – the delicious and festive Dr. Heidemann-Bergweiler Riesling Brut Sekt, a perfect partner.
After the vegetables, we sipped a delightful Hungarian Tokaji wine. This served as our Coup de Milieu (the meal’s mid-way pause), which was traditionally a refreshing sorbet or slushy punch. Parkinson had created Sorbets au vin de Tokia, a rejuvenating sorbet made from a rare Tokaji, specifically for The Thousand Dollar Dinner. The Chateau Megyer Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos 2010 selected by Vicki was a perfect choice that whetted our appetites for the remaining courses.
Now fully satiated, it was easy to imagine how the original Thousand Dollar Dinner guests must have felt! As our final homage to the meal, we ended with Café Noir - a simple cup of strong, black coffee – a perfect finish to an incredible day.
To remember the amazing experience, guests were treated to a stunning handout assembled by Dan Macey. This listed the exact menu from this event, as well as the original menu, some background about James Parkinson and the recipes the members used to recreate these delicious dishes. An incredible resource I will refer to often, and I can image the others will too. I feel like all of us shared a unique and special experience. I truly appreciate the hard work and care everyone contributed to make this event happen, and the interest everyone exhibited regarding the topic. It really is a dream to finally see (and taste!) some of the dishes I spent so much time researching and writing about. Hugs and best wishes to all involved!