April 20th, 2018 marked the 150th anniversary of the first time women were allowed to dine independently–and yes, the original ladies’ luncheon really happened at Delmonico’s, America’s oldest restaurant! Back in 1868, journalist Jane Cunningham Croly got a bunch of colleagues from her new all-female social group Sorosis and headed down to Delmonico’s to protest being banned from a luncheon in honor of author Charles Dickens the year before. This was considered a truly revolutionary act at the time as women were supposed to be escorted by men to restaurants and bars. It is now considered an early and important achievement in what was to become the women’s rights movement. James Beard Award-winning Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune has custom-designed a ladies’ lunch menu for Delmonico’s that is available only this Monday through Friday (4/23-4/27). I was lucky enough to preview it last Friday with 90 other influencers including restaurant reviewers and publicists.
I was impressed that Delmonico’s pulled out all the stops for the ladies luncheon guests, including having a young lady dressed as a vintage newspaper boy holding a newspaper with a headline about the luncheon out on the front steps. There was a lovely cocktail hour downstairs before sitting down and between our main course and dessert, there was a raffle for dinner at Delmonico’s and a year long membership to the New York Historical Society. One of the consultants to this magical event was Valerie Paley, the chief historian of women’s history at the New York Historical Society.
Much of the 150th anniversary ladies luncheon food is based on what they really ate back circa 1868 but given a modern flair. You can see the list of dishes that I tried at Friday’s event on the menu pictured above but there are several more added for guests coming into Delmonico’s this week for the 150th anniversary ladies luncheon special. On Friday night (4/27) there will actually be a “ladies dinner” served as well! You can see this list of everything being served below and on the official Delmonico’s website.
BEEF BOUILLON 15
JELLIED CONSOMMÉ FORTIFIED WITH MADEIRA SERVED HOT AND COLD
TROUT ROE AND SHAVED RADISH 18
PUMPERNICKEL CROUTON WITH BROWN BUTTER
COLORADO LAMB LOIN CHOP 49
ASPARAGUS, PEAS, SAUCE COLBERT
SOFT SHELL CRAB 38
ASPARAGUS, SAUCE AMÉRICAINE
BRÛLÉED RICE PUDDING 13
STRAWBERRY MERINGUE, MACERATED STRAWBERRIES
(Let me add right now that if you are a vegetarian and want to come in for the 150th Anniversary Ladies Luncheon menu this week, there are wonderful substitutions and the staff is happy to accommodate. There is actually one ladies dinner being thrown in the mix, too–that is this coming Friday night.)
The Malakoff over cornichons-parsley salad rocked my world, as they say. Who knew that parsley could taste this good? So many beautiful cold pearl onions mixed with home pickled cornichons and mustard seed just created a “green” taste sensation unlike any other. The Malakoff on top was oozy and fried to a perfect golden brown.
The star of the show on Friday afternoon was the Colorado Lamb Loin Chop served with asparagus, peas and Colbert butter. The meat was tender and served on the rare side. The veggies were truly farm to table; they tasted as if they had just been picked an hour ago. The buttery sauce was like a nectar of the gods.
The Cold Poached Mackerel served as the second course was “much talked about”–the ladies were raving about the freshness of the fish and the tasty sliced pickled celery hearts that topped each piece. It was so colorful and almost looked like a bunch of flowers lying on a tree trunk.
And in case you’re curious what a vegetarian substitution looks like for one of the 150th Ladies Luncheon menu choices, have a look at this! I was lucky enough to be able to try to stunning chilled celery flower–it was beautifully pickled with a lovely kick of both dried and fresh red pepper added. I just might print out the above photo, frame it and put it over my love seat, LOL!
The luncheon ended on a sweet note, as Chef Hamilton served a very feminine looking dessert: Bruleed Rice Pudding with strawberry meringue and macerated strawberries. The affable and highly accolades chef knocked one out of the ballpark here–not only did she create the only rice pudding that I have ever adored in my life but she also created macerated strawberries and meringue that were in a league of their own.
I recommend trying the 150th Anniversary Ladies’ Luncheon for yourself. I feel that the quality is insane and that the prices are reasonable for an eatery as legendary as Delmonico’s. There is no other atmosphere like it at any other Manhattan eatery, either. It is truly “old world” in the best possible way! Before you ask–yes, men are allowed to order from the 150th Anniversary Ladies’ Luncheon menu! For more info, go to www.delmonicosnewyork.com.