Colonial Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, my husband said, ‘LaSalle Grill is having a Colonial Wine Dinner. Do you want to go?’ I paused in whatever I was writing. Was it possible that I just heard that perfect combination of words come together? 

He showed me the menu.

Oh my gosh, yes. Make the reservations.

LaSalle Grill is our favorite place in the area. The last time we went was our twenty-fifth anniversary, and they treated us like we were the first people on earth to manage to be married that long. 

I was anticipating this dinner all day, almost wishing I had a 17th century dress to wear when I sampled dishes like peanut soup and madeira braised venison. While I am no culinary expert, I would love to share this experience with you, my dear reader.

The first course was cream of peanut soup, which I was quite curious about. I love trying interesting foods, like burgers on donut buns or other crazy combinations that chefs come up with. And it had chicken in it. Chicken and peanuts – what would that be like?

Well, I’ll tell you. It was yummy with a pleasant creamy peanut butter flavor that wasn’t overwhelming. It made me wonder if Abigail Adams made peanut soup for John when he came in chilled from his travels.

Second was butter poached blue crab on johnnycake with bacon jam. Now there’s a dish with lots of delicious components, and it was just as amazing as you’re probably thinking it was. My husband and I joked that we needed bigger servings of this one, but we still had five courses to go.

It was paired with an organically brewed Michigan apple cider that probably tasted a lot like what our ancestors used to drink.

Third was an oyster. I know I’ve said I’m an adventurous eater, but seafood is not my favorite and I had never before tried oysters. But this was an evening for trying new things, and I was intrigued by the ginger pickled watermelon rind which accompanied it.

I am glad I tried oyster . . . but I probably won’t be ordering a plate full of them. On the other hand, the watermelon, which was chopped up sort of like a relish, was quite good! The oyster was appropriately paired with a dry riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York.

I started thinking about how people used to be able to forage for oysters along the shores of Manhattan Island. Was this still possible during the American Revolution? Did hungry soldiers in the Continental Army supplement their poor army fare with fresh oysters? Another thing to look into.

Then came the boar chop with braised greens and crackling bread. All of this was amazing, as was the Williamsburg adagio with which it was paired. Is this the kind of thing Dolley Madison served at her ‘squeezes’ at the White House? I must find out.

I had no idea what kind of meat would even be in squab pie – apparently pigeon – and it was delicious. The flavors of sage and onion with that flaky crust . . . it was like Thanksgiving at grandma’s house. And the cabernet franc with it was our favorite of the evening.

I bet George Washington loved squab pie. The Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant and Fraunces Tavern both sell a chicken pot pie with his recommendation. Trying this dish made me wonder if the chicken pot pie is a modern substitute.  

The madeira braised venison osso bucco was my husband’s favorite, but I may have had my mind too much on the soon-to-come apple brown betty. I’m from Michigan, so I’ve had venison, but this wasn’t like that. I actually double-checked the menu, because it had the milder flavor of beef. The toasted walnut samp was my favorite part of this dish, and I made a note to myself to find out what type of people would have eaten this. Was it an upper-class delicacy or something everyday housewives were setting before their families?

The moment I had been waiting for – the apple brown betty. Wow! This was so good. Maybe caramel sea salt gelato wasn’t served in the 1700s (or maybe it was, I’ll have to look that up), but I know Martha Washington and Dolley Madison served ice cream so close enough. This was the best dessert I’ve had in ages, and I was so excited to try the madeira, knowing what a popular drink it has been through the ages. 

How many of history’s big events have occurred with glasses of madeira passed around? It tasted like sweetened walnuts and was more pleasant than I expected. Raise a glass!

My thanks to LaSalle Grill for putting on this event. As a writer, there is nothing like truly experiencing what it was like to live in another era, and trying these foods has my mind buzzing with ideas!