By Nancy Armitage
A New York Times newspaper article (dated April 22, 1883) illustrates quite a excellent Gilded Age formal dinner party. The elaborate business dinner location was at the Union League Club in New York City. It was hosted by Collis P. Huntington, at the time he was the Vice President of Central Pacific Railroad Company. On the dinner menu, dated on April 21, 1883. A fine farewell banquet dinner to General Porfirio Diaz (past & future President of Mexico – he served 7 terms as their country’s President).
We know after seeing numerous Gilded Age dinners, what this elegant dinner might have looked like. Especially after all the Central Pacific Railroad Co. & later Southern Pacific dinners that Mr. Collis P. Huntington hosted. Most likely, Henry E. Huntington (who was Collis’s secretary) probably planned this Gilded Age dinner. Collis Huntington & President Diaz were good friends so this would be an extravaganza of a dinner. The food chosen, a nod of pride of America & a appreciation for our neighbor, the country of Mexico.
I wish I could find this menu, but I can’t. Usually their were 12-16 multi-course dinners with special imported Fancy Wines & French Champagne pairing with each course. Starting with “Amuse bouche” (a wonderful surprise from the chef or the club; or Raw Oysters on the Half Shell. Then 2 Soups that the guests could choose from a Clear Bouillon or a Cream Soup. Then a fish course followed by a Chicken course (like Chicken Croquette or maybe Mexican Chicken Empanada. With the Entrée course following with the Finest cuts of beef & Champagne would be served with the Entrée Course. Then a break in the middle of dinner with a Roman Punch was quite popular. The 2nd hour would be Game Course like Duck or Pheasant with Vegetables having their own course. Followed by a Salad Course (like a Waldorf Salad), then a Cheese Course (usually French cheeses, Water crackers, &Fresh Fruit), Dessert courses was a combination of Fancy shaped ice creams, or Pudding course and a Fancy Cake course. With confections like Chocolate French Bon-bons & French truffles served with French coffee.
There were 22 gentlemen attended this stately dinner: “C. P. Huntington, Gen. Porfirio Diaz, General [& former U. S. President Ulysses S. Grant], Consul-General J. de Navarro, the Hon. M. Romero, Senator Romero Rubio, Ex-Governor Leland Stanford, of California, ex-Senator Roscoe Conkling, Jay Gould [owner of large amt. of stock of Union Pacific Railroad, & owned New York World newspaper], D. O. Mills, J. W. Pierce, Dr. E. Liceago, Jose Rascon, Mr. Hameken, H. B. Piant, Henry Sanford, E. l. Plumb [founder of Mexican Pacific Coal & Iron Mining & Land Co.], Oliver Hoyt, R. Chonsal, A. Gutt, J. E. Gates, & Gen. J. B. Frisbie” .
Spectacular Rose Arrangements with Red, White, & Blue:
A patriotic theme provided:, “The room itself was decorated with floral arches at the door ways, tall palms, & flowering plants. The floral decorations were executed by Mr. Isaac Buchanan. The design for the menus was conceived by Mr. J. H. Whitehouse of Tiffany & Co. & it was combined in a very artistic manner the national colors of red, white, & blue.” [American colors]
Gilded Age Ribbon Menus with Gold Standard attached:
The elaborate menu was made up of blue & white ribbon (2 ft. by 8 in.) with gold fringe, secured with a “gold standard” at the end, laid on the table-cloth. In 1883, a gold standard was a pure gold coin, given as a souvenir to all the Southern Pacific dinner guests.
On these satin ribbons & attached to a tablet of sorts: painted in watercolors, had spray of trailing Arbutis on the right & Mexican Caetus [cactus] on the left. Also the names of guests that attended were printed. “At the top tablet immediately under the bow of red ribbon was a locomotive & crossed under it were the Mexican and United States flags.” With the initials “P. D.” which were General Diaz initials of his name. Also written: “Farewell Dinner to Gen. Porfirio Diaz on his departure from New York. Union League Club 21 April, 1883” Also below the inscription was the monogram of Mr. Huntington [CPH], also in blue, & at the foot of the tablet was a steamship.
French Roses Displayed
“The Dinner was served upon a round table in the centre of which was a mound 3 feet in diameter composed entirely of “Glorie de Paris”, the largest of pink roses. At the base of this mound, arranged in 4 segments of a circle were massed rare ferns starred with daisies. Outside the circle of ferns were arranged 12 diamond-shaped gilt baskets, each filled with the finest specimens of choice [French] roses: such as “Baroness de Rothschild”, “Mabel Morrison”, “Jacqueminot”, “Marechal Niel” & etc. ” 2 large oval & 2 round baskets & 4 large horseshoes, 2 composed of Pansies & Eucharis, & two of dark carnation & eucharis… with a loop of silk ribbon.
Mexican Chicken Empanadas
4 c. All-purpose flour
1 t. salt
3/4 c. Crisco or vegetable shortening
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. – 1 c. cold water
In a bowl add flour, salt, & pinch of sugar. Slowly add in chilled Crisco following by a and melted butter and little water to make a smooth dough. Flour the work board & roll out the dough; press in a 2″ round cookie cutter for disks. Fill each round of dough with 2 t. filling (below) & crimp edges.
drizzle corn oil
1 onions diced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. boneless chicken, cooked and shredded
1 t. tomato paste
pinch onion powder
pinch ground cumin
pinch of salt
ground mixed peppercorns
Pinch of cayenne pepper
drizzle hot water or 1 egg (to bind mixture together)
In a fry pan, drizzle corn oil and sauté chicken then onions & garlic, add spices & a little water. on the dough disk. Add 2 T. filling & fold over the dough into 1/2 moon shapes. Add egg wash to bind dough together an d crimp the edges. Bake at 375@ for 25-27 minutes.
Document: New York Times Newspaper Article “Dined by a Millionaire; Gen. Diaz the guest of C. P. Huntington at the Union League. Dated April 22, 1883