Food Fight!

During a recent interview about The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, a reporter asked us what our favorite Mad Men food scenes were. We’ve done dozens of interviews about the book and we’re always asked what our favorite recipes are, but no one had asked us this question before. It was hard to choose!

Perhaps the most famous food scene from Mad Men is Betty’s Around the World Dinner (Season 2, Episode 8, “A Night to Remember”) when Betty Draper prepares an international meal for eight and begins dinner by introducing each course and its country of origin: gazpacho from Spain, egg noodles from Germany, Heineken Beer from Holland and so on. But our minds flashed to other scenes where food really makes an impact.

 Food Fight!

A Brandy Alexander can be a confection

There’s Peggy Olson’s disastrous first (and only) date with Carl Winter, the Brooklyn born and raised truck driver, where Peggy, feigning big-city sophistication, orders a Brandy Alexander and finds it’s not as sweet as the ones she gets in Manhattan (Season 1, Episode 11, “Indian Summer”). There’s the night Ken Cosgrove comes to dinner at Sal and Kitty Romano’s for Sal’s spaghetti and meatballs with Marinara. When Sal offers Ken a taste and watches him sip from the sauce spoon we get a strong whiff not just of Sal’s Italian cooking, but of his sexual longing for Ken (Season 2, Episode 7, “The Gold Violin”). And who can forget Roger and Don’s alcohol fueled oyster lunch, the one Roger later loses in front of representatives of the Nixon campaign, a potential Sterling Cooper client (Season 1, Episode 7, “Red in the Face”)? Or the time Pete Campbell tosses Trudy’s roast chicken clear off the balcony of their New York apartment (Season 2, Episode 12, “The Mountain King”)?

The food scenes in Mad Men are often telling, in subtle ways, about the tenor of the times. When Don and Bobbi Barrett dine at Sardi’s, Don simply orders steak tartar and hearts of

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Sardi's Steak Tartar

palm salad for both of them; Bobbi doesn’t even have a choice (Season 2, Episode 5, “The New Girl”). Bobbi is a tough woman, but it’s Don’s way of asserting male prerogative and she admires his take-charge masculinity. The frequent appearance of tropical fruit cocktails (Mai Tais, Royal Hawaiians, Blue Hawaiis), rumaki and even Benihana Steak House reflects America’s new-found passion for Polynesian cuisine following Hawaii’s entrance to the Union in 1959. And when Betty overrules Don’s BLT room service order on Valentine’s Day 1962 while she and Don watch Jackie Kennedy’s televised White House Tour from their bed at The Savoy Plaza, she’s reflecting the Kennedy’s style: she orders a crabmeat and avocado salad not unlike one the Kennedys served at a state dinner the year before honoring the president of Pakistan (Season 2, Episode 1, “For Those Who Think Young”).

By the way, you can find recipes for all these dishes and drinks in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

If you have a favorite food scene from Mad Men we’d like to hear about it! You can comment below or visit us on Facebook and post a message there. Mad Men bloggers, the Lipp Sisters, over at Basket of Kisses posed this question recently and received some interesting responses.

With Season 5 fast approaching we’re looking forward to many new culinary discoveries from the kitchen, bars and restaurants of Mad Men.

Utz Are Better Than Nuts

It’s one the truly memorable advertising lines developed by Sterling Cooper for Utz Are Better Than Nuts Utz brand potato chips. In Season 2, Episode 3 (“The Benefactor”) an acerbic comedian, Jimmy Barrett, is filming an Utz commercial when the company’s owner Hunt Schilling and his heavy-set wife Edith arrive on the set. The irrepressible Jimmy, who has no governor between his brain and his mouth, launches into a rant about Edith’s weight, even comparing her to the ill-fated blimp Hindenburg. It takes a fancy dinner at Lutece and an insincere apology from Jimmy to keep Utz from leaving Sterling Cooper.

No one named Schilling ever ran Utz; the company was founded in 1921 by Bill and Sally Utz who began making potato chips called Utz’s Hanover Home Brand,  Utz Are Better Than NutsHanover being the Pennsylvania town where the company makes its home. The company is still in family hands, run by the founders’ grandson and his wife, and Utz remains a popular potato chip brand 90 years later. The company also makes a variety of snack foods primarily for markets on the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Long before Mad Men Utz potato chips were a staple in our home, just as they are in the Draper’s. Our kids will tell you they’re the best chips around.

And Utz is a sturdy chip perfect for dragging through a creamy California Dip (you can find the simple original recipe for

 Utz Are Better Than Nuts

This chip and dip is nearly identical to the one the Campbell’s received as a wedding present. The tomato top is removable.

California Dip in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook). Hopefully, you saved your mother’s chip and dip and it doesn’t resemble the monstrosity Pete and Trudy Campbell received as a wedding present (Season 1, Episode 7, “Red in the Face”).

An Utz Party Pack is one of the prizes we’re giving away in our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes. To enter go to our Facebook page and click on “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes. You could win the Utz Party Pack or dinner at one of several fine restaurants featured in Mad Men.

March Madness: Throwing a Mad Men Party?

It’s just 45 days until the new season premier of Mad Men, but who’s counting?MadMenFinal 193x300 March Madness: Throwing a Mad Men Party? (Jeepers, it’s leap year or it would be 44!) From Boston to New Orleans to San Francisco Mad Men-themed parties are in the works. We’ve already been to a few, but as March Mad Men Madness intensifies we’ll be sipping Mai Tais at many more. That’s what happens when you write a book called The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

If you’re planning a Mad Men party, or to attend one, we want to hear about it! How can you share what’s happening in your neck of the woods, whether it’s Ossining, New York City or Palm Springs?  First, tell us about your party! We’ve created a “Party Like A Mad Man” listing for events coast to coast: a virtual, rolling, transcontinental Mad Men party where fans share their experience. Tell us wherePartylikeaMadMan 300x1891 March Madness: Throwing a Mad Men Party? the party is taking place, what’s being served, what are people wearing, and what other 1960s accents that are planned from the music to the decor (if your party is private, you can still share the details, but not the location!) Contact us by email, Facebook, Twitter, or comment on this post!

Second, go to our “Party Like a Mad Man” Facebook album and add your favorite party photos. (And check out the  Mad Men party photos already posted!)

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Lynn and Tom Maxwell (aka Roger and Mona Sterling)

If you need some ideas for your Mad Men party we can highly recommend The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, of course. icon smile March Madness: Throwing a Mad Men Party? In addition to more 70 authentic Mad Men era recipes, there’s a bevy of party planning tips, too. (You can also find these tips here.) But just to get you started we’ve put together two sample menus depending on whether you’re planning something casual, or have an important guest, like Conrad Hilton, to impress.

Planning a Mad Men Dinner Party


For those who prefer a bracing Mad Men cocktail we recommend Don and Roger’s favorites: the Old Fashioned cocktail and the Martini.    For drinkers with a sweet tooth we suggest the Royal Hawaiian or Mai Tai. If you’re having a large crowd, a self-serve punch, such as Canadian Clubhouse Punch or the Stork Club Cocktail punch, can make your life easier. And, always, as Betty Crocker suggests, have a non-alcoholic alternative.

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Canadian Clubhouse Punch

CASUAL APPETIZERS: Deviled Eggs, Avocado Dunk, Marinated Olives, Cocktail Nibblers (Chex Mix), California Dip

ELEGANT APPETIZERS: Oysters Rockefeller Canapés (Shrimp Curry Butter, Chutney Spread, or Mushroom), Shrimp Cocktail

Dinner: Potato Salad and Pineapple-Glazed Ham or Spaghetti and Meatballs and Caesar Salad
Dessert: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake or Apple Apricot Pie

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Jackie Kennedy’s Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa

Salad: Avocado Crabmeat Mimosa or Hearts of Palm Salad
Dinner: Chicken Kiev, or Sole Amandine with Potatoes au Gratin, or Gambas au Beurre d’Escargot
Dessert: Barbetta’s Pears in Wine alla Piemontese

We look forward to seeing your photos and hearing about your party. Party on, Roger!

The Russian Tea Room

hearth13 300x181 The Russian Tea RoomThe Russian Tea Room on West 57th Street is never mentioned or depicted in Mad Men, but it’s just the kind of place a Madison Avenue ad executive would have frequented in the 1960s. And it found its way into The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook because it’s famous for one of Roger Sterling’s favorite dishes, Chicken Kiev. When Roger fixes the recently divorced Don up with young Bethany Van Nuys, he has his secretary book a table for Don and Bethany at the now defunct Jimmy’s LaGrange, another popular hangout for the Madison Avenue crowd. “They have Chicken Kiev,” says Roger to Don. “The butter squirts everywhere.”

Picture 163 300x206 The Russian Tea RoomThe muddled history of Chicken Kiev is covered in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, but if you want to try The Russian Tea Room’s version, on the menu since the 1940s, go to our Facebook page and enter our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes, because one of the first prizes is a generous gift certificate courtesy of The Russian Tea Room.

ball room07 300x181 The Russian Tea RoomFounded in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, The Russian Tea Room has hosted its share of the rich and famous. Maybe you’ll be seated in one of the intimate booths once occupied by Woody Allen, Madonna, Rudolf Nureyev, or another of the famous guests who fancy fine Russian cuisine. Located next to Carnegie Hall, many a performing artist has repaired to the Tea Room after a bravura performance.

If you took your lunch with Don and Roger in, say, 1963 at The Russian Tea Room, in addition to the Chicken Kiev you might have tried the Boeuf a la Stroganoff, Pelmeni (stuffed dumplings made with unleavened dough) or Red Borscht with pickled beets. By the way, the authors of The Russian Tea Room Cookbook concur with Roger: the way to identify a perfectly prepared Chicken Kiev is “a spurt of butter at the first touch of knife and fork.”