The Finer Things in Life

 The Finer Things in Life

The Jaguar XKE

Call us parochial, but what were the chances that on last night’s episode of Mad Men (“The Other Woman”) both of our New Jersey hometowns would be mentioned in the same sentence? When Pete and Ken are wining and dining Herb, the Jaguar exec whose price for the Jaguar account is a night with Joan, he mentions Jaguar dealers in Englewood and Paramus. This has nothing to do with food of course, though Herb is a man with an appetite. But we got a kick out of it.

The most appetizing moment in last night’s episode, unless you count Joan’s shakedown of Pete and the rest of the partners, was the lunch Roger orders in from The Palm: whole steamed lobsters. It’s his only contribution to the creative process ongoing in the Sterling Cooper conference room as they struggle to find a winning pitch for Jaguar.

 The Finer Things in Life

The Palm

The Palm opened on Second Avenue in 1926 serving primarily Italian cuisine, although itsoon started serving steak to New York journalists and became known as a steak house. In the 1940s, The Palm added Nova Scotia lobsters to the menu, and along with steak, the two-pound lobster became a signature dish. Today, 837 Second Avenue remains the restaurant’s flagship location, but The Palm is now an international chain with close to thirty locations. Lobster remains a Palm favorite. This isn’t The Palm’s first appearance on Mad Men: in season 4, episode 7 (“The Suitcase”), the younger staff of Sterling Cooper go to The Palm for dinner and drinks before watching a screening of the heavy weight bout between Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay. (Also see our recipe for The Palm’s Wedge Salad in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.)

The other New York eatery to get a shout-out last night was the now defunct La Caravelle. When Peggy meets Don’s nemesis, Ted Chaough, of rival agency Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, looking for a new job, he surprises her by offering a salary higher than the one she asks for. Flustered by the offer, Peggy says, “I need a chocolate milkshake.” Ted promises to celebrate her first day of work with dinner at La Caravelle.

 The Finer Things in Life

The dining room at La Caravelle

La Caravelle was located on in the Shoreham Hotel on 55th Street (in Season 4, Don makes a dinner reservation there when he’s having his dalliance with Faye Miller), and was, along with Lutece and La Pavilion, one of the city’s “elite of New York’s French restaurants,” according to Florence Fabricant, author of The New York Restaurant Cookbook (Rizzoli, 2003). It was a favorite of the Kennedy family and it was the owners of La Caravelle, when asked to recommend a French chef as White House Chef after JFK’s election, who suggested Rene Verdon whose recipe for Beef Wellington is featured in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

When La Caravelle closed in 2004, Fabricant wrote in The New York Times, “the closing is likely to hasten the end of an era when fine dining in Manhattan meant haute cuisine in a formal environment, and when a reservation at restaurants like La Caravelle, Lutèce or La Côte Basque meant dining alongside Kennedys, Rockefellers, members of the fashion world, and anyone interested in having cream sauces and delicately roasted veal on their plates.”

“This elegant Midtown temple to French gastronomy offered a pampering, Paris-in-Manhattan experience to food enthusiasts and the A-list of American society for more than 40 years,” added Fabricant. Although the restaurant is closed, you can still drink La Caravelle champagne ( produced by owners Rita and André Jammet. Use it to toast your purchase of a new Jaguar.

Christmas, Kosher Food and Flying Spaghetti

ratners Christmas, Kosher Food and Flying SpaghettiOne of the many reasons we love Mad Men is that it takes us back to our own suburban New York childhoods in the 1960s. And it was sometime in the middle of that turbulent decade that my father announced we were going into the city to one of its famous kosher delis. As a lover of pastrami, corned beef and rye this wasn’t a hard sell. But presented with the menu, I saw nothing that appealed. We were at Ratner’s on the Lower East Side, where Harry and the erstwhile Paul Kinsey, now a Hare Krishna, meet for two meals on last night’s Mad Men (“Christmas Waltz”). It’s a logical choice for the now-vegetarian Paul because Ratner’s specialized in kosher dairy: there wasn’t a wasn’t a corned beef, brisket or pastrami sandwich to be had.

Ironic that Matthew Weiner should feature two kosher dairy meals in an episode titled “Christmas Waltz.” But as usual, he got the details right. One of Ratner’s specialties was its kosher baked vegetable cutlet with mushroom gravy and we see two signs on the walls suggesting it to customers.

Ratner’s recipe for baked vegetable cutlets (which we will soon share) comes from The World Famous Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook by Judith Gethers, the owner’s daughter, and her niece, Elizabeth Lefft (Bantam Books, 1975). The baked  Christmas, Kosher Food and Flying Spaghettivegetable cutlet was a patty made of potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, green beans and peas combined with matzo meal and egg and topped with vegetarian mushroom gravy sauce. Oddly, the mushroom gravy includes mushroom broth and powdered mushrooms, but no mushrooms! The cutlets called for canned vegetables, although we prefer them with fresh.

Ratner’s, which closed its doors in 2002 after almost a century, was what food writer Alan Richman called, “the Lower East Side’s high temple of the soothing kosher dairy lunch.” Ratner’s and other kosher dairy restaurants concocted meat substitutes for dishes such as chopped liver and served them along a with blintzes, gefilte fish, herring and chopped eggs and mushrooms, and soups such as borscht. According to The New York Times, when Ratner’s first opened in 1905, half a million Jews lived on the Lower East Side and on any given day it seemed most of them “gathered from dawn until dusk for its vegetarian dairy menu of onion rolls and latkes served in a cheery brightly lighted setting.”

 Christmas, Kosher Food and Flying SpaghettiTwo other food related notes from last night’s Mad Men. The financially desperate Lane and his banker sipped Cutty Sark as Lane finagled an extra $50,000 line of credit for Sterling Cooper. Cutty, a blended scotch whisky produced in Glasgow, debuted in 1923 and was produced by the Berry Brothers, who were wine manufacturers. According to the company, the Berry’s “knew what their customers liked and felt that heavy, dark whiskeys would spoil the palate of their wine-loving clientele.” Indeed they did, for in November 1966, just two weeks before we see Lane sipping Cutty, The New York Times reported that the company was having trouble producing one gallon bottles for the United States market which was “screaming” for them.

Speaking of screaming, another flying food incident last night when Megan, furious with Don for coming home late, drunk, and without a phone call, flings a bowl of spaghetti against the wall of their apartment. Shades of Pete tossing Trudy’s roast chicken over their Manhattan balcony. Now that he lives in Cos Cob we wonder where he throws his food for dramatic effect.

Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel Sprouts

So many calories to eat, so many to lose on last night’s Mad Men (“Dark Shadows”) from Crab Rangoon at Trader Vic’s to Betty’s Weight Watchers meetings where one of the weight loss strategies appears to be heavy smoking.

Poor Betty. Desperately trying to shed some pounds, Betty is seen at the opening weighing cheese cubes to go with her half grapefruit and single piece of plain (burnt) toast. Her Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook sits forlornly on the counter. “I can’t eat fish five nights a week,” explains Henry when Betty finds him frying a rib-eye in the pan just before midnight. In the Thanksgiving scene, she’s still fighting the good fight: her plate, with a spare portion of brussel sprouts (see recipe) looks like it belongs to an anorexic obsessed with portion control. And to think, just a year ago she was making sweet potatoes with marshmallow for the holiday dinner! Betty’s diet is as spare and empty as the rest of her life.

 Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel SproutsBetty tries to find some inspiration and consolation at Weight Watchers, founded  in 1963 by Jean Nidetch of New York City who combined a diet plan and group therapy in a new approach to weight loss. By 1967 there were 297 classes in New York City and her first Weight Watchers Cookbook was released. (Weight Watchers was later sold, ironically, to Heinz whose baked beans ad campaign has been such a tough nut for Sterling Cooper to crack.) Participants were given lists of acceptable and off-limit foods, a regular weigh-in, a lecture and group therapy of a sort, one that encouraged open discussion of their weight problem. According to Betty’s group leader, “you don’t stuff yourself to keep from telling your family your problems.”

Meanwhile, back at Sterling Cooper the focus seems to be on new clients in the food industry. Along with Heinz and Cool Whip they are now pitching for Pepsi Sno Ball and Monarch Wine, which is trying to extend beyond its Manischewitz brand of sweet, inexpensive Jewish holiday wine to a more diverse customer base. Or, as Roger so aptly put it, they’re trying to branch out from selling wine for Jews, to selling wine to normal people.

 Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel Sprouts

Trader Vic's

Roger woos the Rosenbergs from Monarch Wines with dinner at Trader Vic’s, one of the popular “tiki” restaurants of the era offering faux Polynesian cuisine amid bamboo, flaming torches and drinks served in grotesque goblets meant to invoke tribal totems and deities. Since Roger’s soon-to-be former wife Jane is Jewish, he persuades her to join them (better to make the Jewish connection), but at a price. Everyone, it seems is profiting from Roger’s desperation to stay relevant at Sterling Cooper: Jane’s price is a new apartment; Ginsberg and Peggy settle for cash to do Roger favors.

Trader Vic’s opened in the Savoy-Plaza hotel on the Southeast corner of Central Park, offering “exotic cuisine in a tropical setting,” as New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne described it in 1958. “It would be difficult to categorize Trader Vic’s Cuisine under single heading,” he wrote. “ It’s a combination of Cantonese, Indonesian and islander cooking, plus a few native American specialties to satisfy less adventurous palates.” Claiborne also mentioned the house specialty Roger suggested to Jane: Crab Rangoon, crabmeat deep fried in a crisp thin shell and served with a hot mustard sauce and a tomato barbeque sauce (see recipe).

Rumaki, an appetizer typically made with water chestnuts, chicken liver, bacon and soy sauce served in Season 1 by Betty at her Around the World dinner, was another dish popularized by the tiki restaurants. If you’re wondering why Chateaubriande was on the menu (Bernard, the Rosenberg’s con, suggests he and Jane split the dish), Claiborne noted that Trader Vic’s often went beyond Polynesian cuisine. “One is inclined to ask why Hungarian Goulash was featured on a recent luncheon menu,” he wrote.

As for the Sno Ball, it was a new, semi-frozen soft drink using products from Pepsi owned  Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel Sproutscompanies in 1967, liquid enough to be sipped through a straw. Don puts his sinfully delicious spin on the successful pitch – using a devil to appeal to kids’ sense of mischievousness. Personally, we preferred Snowballs of the Hostess variety: marshmallow and coconut topping over devils food cake. Which do you prefer: white or pink?





Trader Vic's Crab Rangoon

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 190-195 servings

 Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel Sprouts

Original polynesian hor d'oeuvre crab rangoon recipe -- crabmeat fried in a crisp thin shell -- from Trader Vic’s Pacific Island Cookbook by Vic Bergeron (Doubleday,1968).


  • ½ pound crab meat
  • ½ pound cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon steak sauce , such as A-1
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Won ton squares
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Chop crab meat and blend with cream cheese, steak sauce and garlic powder.
  2. Put ½ teaspoon of in center. Fold square over cornerwise. Moisten edges slightly with beaten egg and twist. Fry in deep fat until delicately browned. Serve hot.
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Weight Watchers Brussel Sprouts

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 1/2 cup; 1 portion

 Weighing In: Crab Rangoon and Brussel Sprouts

Weight Watchers Brussel Sprouts (1/2 cup = 1 portion) from Weight Watchers Cookbook by Jean Nidetch (Hearthside, 1966). In Mad Men, Season 5, "Dark Shadows," Betty has a Weight Watcher Thanksgiving dinner, with her "limited vegtable" portion of brussel sprouts.


  • 1/2 cup brussel sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt


  1. Soak brussel sprouts in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Place in saucepan with small amount of water with caraway seed, thyme, and salt to taste.
  3. Cook until tender but still green, approximately 15-20 minutes.
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Lucky Man: Beef Bourguignon

Just when Pete’s existential crisis couldn’t get any deeper, propelled in part by the first pictures of Earth from space making the planet look insignificant in the vastness of space,

 Lucky Man: Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Don’s life is looking pretty sweet. Last week Megan, who is un peu more comfortable in the kitchen than Betty, was serving up Dover Sole and in this week’s episode (“Lady Lazarus”) Don comes home to beef bourguignon. Boeuf bourguignon, classic French beef stew in red wine with braised onions and mushrooms, were the first words uttered by Julia Child on the very first episode (titled, of course, “Beef Bourguignon”) of what would become the legendary TV show, The French Chef, in 1963. (See recipe below.) “Carefully done and perfectly flavored,” Julia once said, “it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” It’s a natural for Megan who hails from French stock herself. Just taste it!

Cool Whip was the other gastronomic event on Mad Men last night. Bird’s Eye introducedKGrHqRn0E63WBWpP0BPEusot6UQ60 57 223x300 Lucky Man: Beef Bourguignon the “frozen non-dairy whipped topping” in 1967 (along with gelatin salad mixes and 5-minute vegetables); it was part of an onslaught of processed food substitutes, an era when the culinary theory seemed to be “there’s nothing in nature that man can’t improve upon.” And, so, natural whipped cream yielded to the convenience of faux whipped cream from a container. We saw Don, Peggy and Ken at the General Foods test kitchen in Rochester, NY (where they were tasting and pitching an ad campaign) because Cool Whip was in fact being tested in 1966 (the current Mad Men year) in preparation for its market debut the following year.

So what exactly is Cool Whip? The original contained water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (including coconut and palm oils), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, skim milk, light cream, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavor, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate, and beta carotene (as a coloring). Wow — almost sounds like a Twinkie! Cool Whip, quickly became Bird’s Eye’s best-selling product and by the early 1970s, when television advertising made the topping hugely popular, recipes abounded for desserts made with frozen whipped topping.

Good thing, too, because, as The New York Times reported on August 29, 1967, according to Andrall Pearson, a director of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., product diversification was going to be the key to success for makers of grocery products such as Bird’s Eye. “Industry has reached a point of equilibrium where it tougher to come up with better new products and sustain them,” said Pearson. “It would be hard to imagine a more demanding – and just plain tough—competitive environment than in the grocery business over the next ten years.”

DannysHideawy Lucky Man: Beef Bourguignon

Danny's Hideaway

Coincidentally, that article, part of the day’s advertising column, mentioned a restaurant where Don ate dinner last night. Danny’s Hideaway was the largest of the many steak houses (eleven rooms seating 300 customers) on East 45th Street between Lexington Avenue and First once known as Steak Row. Others included Joe and Rose’s, and, because these eateries catered to employees of mid-town’s publishing and advertising firms, places with names such as The Pressbox, The Editorial and Pen and Pencil. Today, they’d be named The Blogosphere, The iPad and Blackberry.

For those who aspire to cook like Megan, here’s Julia Child’s recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon.

BOEUF BOURGUIGNON (Boeuf à la Bourguignonne) Beef Stew in Red Wine with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms

Prep Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours

6 servings

BB Lucky Man: Beef Bourguignon

Julia Child's classic recipe for boeuf bourguignon, French beef stew in red wine with braised onions and mushrooms from Mad Men, Season 5.

“Carefully done and perfectly flavored,” Child once said, “it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” From Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961)


  • Serve with boiled potatoes, rice or noodles.
  • 6-ounce chunk of bacon
  • 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole, 3 inches deep
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
  • Slotted spoon
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups of a full-bodied young red wine, or a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock.
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered, sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs


  1. Remove rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 cups of water. Drain and dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. Sauté bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.
  4. Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.
  5. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.
  6. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in the middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325°F.
  7. Stir in the wine and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
  8. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.
  9. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
  10. Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If it is too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. *Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.
  11. For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice and decorated with parsley.
  12. For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
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