Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak Diavolo

Today, we’re recapping a few of the culinary highlights of recent episodes of Mad Men; there’s been a lot to chew on.

Dinner 300x225 Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak DiavoloIn Episode 3, “The Collaborators,” neighbors Arnold and Sylvia Rosen join Don (Meghan is sick) for dinner at a fictional upscale Italian restaurant, Endino’s, and order eggplant rollatini (breaded eggplant rolled with cheeses and baked), steak diavolo (“brother devil”) with a peppery tomato sauce, and branzino, a prized European sea bass.

heinz nfl 1967 225x300 Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak Diavolo
Later in Episode 3, Heinz’s Tim Jablonski comes calling at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, in search of an advertising boost for ketchup. Introduced in 1876, Heinz Ketchup is the nation’s best seller. Although Heinz started by making horseradish, and later pickles and vinegar, ketchup is the company’s best selling condiment. By 1968, sales of ketchup had picked up due to aggressive advertising, and that was the year Heinz introduced the first individual foil ketchup packets.   See Ad Age’s excellent backgrounder on Heinz ketchup advertising in the 1960s.

In Episode 4, “To Have and to Hold,” JoanLancers1 Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak Diavolo’s mom, Gail, has been working on a pork roast for dinner for Joan and her old friend Kate, and serves it up with Lancers Rosé, a sweet Portuguese wine that became a fad when rosé wines hit the United States in the 60s. Our friends at Grapefriend, who follow wine appearances in Mad Men, tell us Lancers was the only rosé option aside from Mateus in the 60s. In the same episode, Joan tells her sister and mother she’s made reservations at Le Cirque the famous Manhattan restaurant, but Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has admitted this was a mistake: this season is set in 1968, but Le Cirque didn’t open until 1974.

Mabells23 Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak DiavoloTwo iconic establishments, Ma Bells and Electric Circus, did exist in 1968 and also make appearances in “To Have and to Hold.” Joan and Kate head to Ma Bells, a concept restaurant whose name plays on the nickname of The Bell Telephone Company, commonly referred to in the 20th century as “Ma Bell.” Ma Bells was the creation of Restaurant Associates, which was also behind Forum of the Twelve Caesars featured in season 4, episode 7 (“The Suitcase”). Located on Shubert Alley between, between 44th and 45th Streets, there was a telephone on every table for table to table phone calls. According to Ma Bells ads from the period, the restaurant was the most “harmonious, telephoniest spot in town,” offering “food, phones, and a long distance bar.” Kate ordered their “Caruso sized hamburger” while Joan seemed to need a drink from the 80 foot bar.

After eating at Ma Bells, Joan and Kate visit Electric Circus on St. Mark’s Place (see St. Mark’s  Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak DiavoloPlace in Episode 1 ) between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, a psychedelic disco that had just opened in 1967. According to The New York Times, Electric Circus, “turned on its patrons with high decibel music and flashing lights.” It wasn’t long-lived: it closed in 1971. The Bowery Boys, who excel at providing historical context for each Mad Men episode, offer a history of the club.

Also in episode 4, Meghan greets Don by promising to stuff him with coq au vin, the classic French dish of braised chicken in red wine, just before breaking the news about her upcoming romantic soap opera scene. Meghan is comfortable with French cuisine  (last season she whipped up Boeuf Bourguignon and Dover Sole and this season, fondue). Julia Child popularized coq au vin in the United States in the 1960s; it was one of her signature dishes, which she prepared on her television show, “The French Chef,” in 1967.

In Episode 5, “The Flood,” Don, Meghan and the staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, along with Peggy and her colleagues at Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, attend The Ad Club of New York’s 4th Annual Andy Awards, held at the midtown New York Hilton on Avenue of the Americas (it’s still there). The event was held on April 5, 1968, the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Paul Newman was the guest that night, as depicted in Mad Men.

Milkduds Mad Men Recap: The Coca Cola of Condiments, the Telephoniest Spot in Town and Steak DiavoloAnd, last but not least, episode 5 finds Don and Bobby sharing Milk Duds, the chocolate wrapped caramel candies, while watching Planet of the Apes. Although the Beatrice Company purchased Milk Duds from Holloway in 1960, the packaging still contained the name Holloway until the 1970s.


Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: From the Fire Pit to the Bowery Pot to the Fondue Pot

bh Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: From the Fire Pit to the Bowery Pot to the Fondue Pot

Meghan enjoys a Blue Hawaii on the beach in Waikiki

“The Doorway,” the premiere episode of Mad Men Season 6, opens in Hawaii, where Meghan is reaching for a Blue Hawaii (see our recipe), while sunbathing on the beach. She and Don are vacationing at Honolulu’s Royal Hawaiian, “The Pink Palace of the Pacific,” guests of Bob Grange of Sheraton Hotels, and his wife Patsy. The Royal Hawaiian opened in 1927 and sits on Waikiki beachfront. Sheraton purchased the hotel in 1959 and expanded it in the 1960s, when Hawaii tourism was booming. In 1968, just after the Draper’s December 1967 trip, Hawaii had its first million visitor year.

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1960s postcard from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

The Granges introduce Don and Meghan to Hawaii’s “unique local flavor” with a luau. “The feast of the islands is the perfect expression of Hawaiian hospitality,” wrote Erma Meeks Boyen in The Hawaii Cookbook published in 1968. But food alone doesn’t make the luau: “It is the genial atmosphere of the music, flowers and colorful clothing and the lovely hula dancers that add to the romance of this time honored Hawaiian feast,” wrote Boyen.

Poipudding Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: From the Fire Pit to the Bowery Pot to the Fondue Pot

Poi pudding, a Hawaiian staple served at the Royal Hawaiian luau

“Everything you see in on your plate is what you find at a Royal Hawaiian Feast,” Don and Meghan’s luau host assures them. “The purple poi is pudding. It’s strange but satisfying,” he jokes.  “We say that it’s ono which means easy but you might just say ‘oh no!’”

Native Hawaiian poi, a pasty staple made from cooked taro root pounded to a smooth paste and mixed with water, or milk, is thought to be an acquired taste. (Bob cautions Don it tastes like “wallpaper paste.”) Hawaiians cook the starchy root in the imu or underground oven for hours. The Hawaii Cookbook suggests offering non-natives the Tahitian recipe of mixing poi with mashed banana.

The Hawaiian macaroni salad the Drapers sample is a staple of the Hawaii-style plate lunch, which accompanies meat and rice. The mayonnaise dressing is thinned with milk and flavored with sugar and vinegar. The pasta is very soft to help it absorb the sauce, and vegetables such as carrots and celery are added for crunch.

The traditional luau pig, or Kalua pig, is filled with hot rocks and covered with banana leaves, then lowered into the imu where it’s steamed with bananas and sweet potatoes surrounding it. No wonder this “sensory” experience stayed with Don when he created his ad campaign, “Hawaii. The Jumping Off Point.”

Meanwhile, back in New York, Betty is helping squatters in the Lower East Side’s St. Mark’s Place make a pot of goulash with pork butt, onion, lentils and paprika, a communal dish in keeping with the spirit of St. Mark’s Place. The street, named for progressive St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, was host to a community of anti-establishment young people and students in the 1960s.

One of our favorite recipes (coming soon) is Szekely Goulash, made with pork, from the classic 1960s Hungarian Family Cookbook by Jolie Gabor, mother of Eva and Zsa Zsa. Goulash, the best-known Hungarian meat dish, is a stew of meat, noodles and vegetables seasoned with spices. It dates to the Hungarian Magyar tribes’ migration around 600 AD, when herdsman, gathered around an open fire and for their meal, combined meat and vegetables over campfires. “There is no  Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: From the Fire Pit to the Bowery Pot to the Fondue Potstandard method nor precise ingredients for making goulash,” wrote Gabor. “With the Hungarian fondness for creation and originality, much has been added to make this hearty meal, the most inspired of which was Hungarian paprika. It is judicious blending of Hungarian paprika to the goulash that makes it such a superb dish.”

Also seen on Mad Men last night: Betty and Sally’s friend Sandy enjoy a late night snack of Ritz Crackers with peanut butter.

The buttery crackers (the slogan during the late 60s was “no matter how hard you try, you just can’t disguise that beautiful buttery Ritz taste.”) were named, according to the manufacturer, Nabisco, to conjure wealth and affluence when they were introduced during the Great Depression. Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: From the Fire Pit to the Bowery Pot to the Fondue Pot

And, of course, there was the fondue. Meghan hosts a fondue party that includes Dr. Arnold Rosen and his wife Sylvia, serving cheese fondue (see our post and recipe), followed by chocolate fondue for dessert, with her new fondue pot from Bloomingdale’s kitchen store.

Mad Men Premiere Recipe: Dipping into Season 6 with Classic Cheese Fondue

 Mad Men Premiere Recipe: Dipping into Season 6 with Classic Cheese Fondue

Classic Cheese Fondue Recipe (image and recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (Meredith, 1970)

We’ve been expecting to see some fondue on Mad Men —  it is the late1960’s after all — and are happy to know that we’ll be doing some dunking to kick off the season.

Meghan Calvet Draper takes on fondue in tonight’s Season 7 premiere. Her recipe secret: rubbing the pot with a clove of garlic and doubling the amount of Kirschwasser.

“Out of a fervent desire to utilize hardened cheese, the Swiss concocted a mouth-watering cheese-wine mixture,” wrote the editors of Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (Meredith, 1970). Dunking small pieces of bread, vegetables and meat into hot cheese wine sauce quickly became one of the hottest food fads of the late 1960s

“Now is the time of the fondue,” wrote Jean Hewitt her 1969 New York Times article, “For Dips or Dinners, Fondue Is Popular.”

“Supper or dinner may well turn out to be a communal dunking-pot affair,” added Hewitt. “These days, brides-to-be are counting up the number of duplicate fondue pots and forks they receive as they used to tick off silver compotes.”

Enthusiasm for fondue cooking generated a slew of cookbooks, including The Gold Medal Fondue Cookbook, also published in 1970. According to author Marie Roberson Hamm, fondue in the “Age of Aquarius” was “a culinary game for young partiers, one that can level all company to a state of euphoria. Who can resist the fun of dunking their merry way through a fondue meal? It pleases men as much if not perhaps little bit more than women.”

Will it please both the men and women of Mad Men tonight?

For our recipe, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (Meredith, 1970), we heeded Meghan’s suggestion of rubbing the pot with garlic.  If you’d like to use Kirschwasser, a cherry brandy commonly used in Swiss fondue recipes, substitute 1 tablespoon of sauterne with  tablespoon with Kirschwasser.

(For a  premiere cocktail recipe, see our Blue Hawaii).

We look forward to sharing  food and drink highlights of the new season of Mad Men along with culinary history and recipes!

Classic Cheese Fondue

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 10 servings (as appetizer)

 Mad Men Premiere Recipe: Dipping into Season 6 with Classic Cheese Fondue

Classic Cheese Fondue recipe, as seen on Mad Men Season 6 premiere, dapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (Meredith, 1970),


  • 12 ounces natural Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 1 cup white wine, such as sauterne (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • Dash of ground black pepper
  • Dippers: French or Italian bread, hard rolls, boiled potatoes, cooked chicken shrimp or ham, cherry tomatoes, cooked artichokes, carrot slices, cooked mushroom, celery or green pepper pieces. (see note)


  1. Combine cheese with cornstarch in a bowl. Rub inside of heated saucepan with garlic and discard garlic. Pour in sauterne and lemon juice. Warm till air bubbles rise and cover surface. Do not cover or allow to boil. Stir vigorously and constantly from now on.
  2. Add half of the cheese, keeping heat to medium, but not boiling the mixture. When melted add the remaining half of the cheese. After cheese is blended and bubbling, add nutmeg and pepper, stirring continuously.
  3. Quickly transfer to fondue pot; keep warm over fondue burner. If fondue becomes too thick, add a little warmed sauterne. Spear bread cube with fondue fork piercing crust last. Dip bread into fondue and swirl to coat. It’s important to swirl keep fondue in motion. Also keep the cheese bubbly over the fondue burner. It shouldn’t be too hot or it will become stringy, nor should it be too cool or it will become tough.


Sauterne is a dry to semi-sweet white wine. If you’d like to use Kirschwasser, a cherry brandy commonly used in Swiss fondue recipes, substitute 1 tablespoon of sauterne with 1 tablespoon with Kirschwasser.

All dippers should be bite-sized and each bread cube should have a crust. To estimate how many dippers are needed, consider appetites and accompanying dishes. Generally 1 large loaf of bread serves 6-8. Any cooked meats and vegetables dippers are served warm.

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Aloha Mad Men: Toast Season 6 with a Blue Hawaii

We’re counting down the days to thhawaii Aloha Mad Men: Toast Season 6 with a Blue Hawaiie Season 6 Mad Men premiere on April 7.  Given the promotional images of Don and Meghan lounging on a beach in Hawaii – Meghan with blue drink in hand —  we chose to toast the new season with the Blue Hawaii cocktail. This tropical concoction made its Mad Men debut in Season 4, Episode 3 (“The Good News”), when Joan Harris prepares a Hawaiian-themed New Year’s Eve dinner for husband Greg shortly before he deploys to Vietnam.

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Blue Hawaii from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, courtesy of Holly Korus (

A popular cocktail in the 1960s, the Blue Hawaii, grew out of Americans’ infatuation with the nation’s newest state. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the oil of dried laharas orange peels grown on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The oranges aren’t blue, of course. Colorants are used to make blue, orange, yellow and green curaçao.

Though named for the Aloha State, the Blue Hawaii is not truly of Hawaiian origin. The Bols liquor company, maker of blue curaçao, was looking for a way to increase sales of the product and asked a bartender at Waikiki’s Hawaiian Village Hotel to come up with a cocktail that would parlay Hawaii’s popularity into revenues.

Aloha, Season 6!

Recipe from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook (SmartPop, 2011).
Adapted from Sippin’ Safari: In Search of the Great “Lost” Tropical Drink Recipes and the People Behind Them by Jeff Berry (SLG Publishing, 2007) and Gourmet Magazine (June, 1969).

Joan’s Blue Hawaii

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

DSC 0006 Aloha Mad Men: Toast Season 6 with a Blue Hawaii


  • 3 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 ½ ounces light rum
  • 1 ounce sweet and sour mix (see recipe for homemade sweet and sour mix)
  • 1 ounce Blue Curaçao
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 small cube fresh pineapple, plus a wedge for garnish
  • 1 maraschino cherry, for garnish
  • Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice


  1. To make the drink: In the container of a blender, mix pineapple juice, rum, sweet and sour mix, blue Curaçao, lemon juice and small cube of pineapple. Add ½ cup crushed ice and blend.
  2. Pour into a punch glass and garnish with a cherry and a small wedge of fresh pineapple.
  3. To make the Homemade Sweet and Sour Mix: Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and cool.
  4. In a pitcher, combine syrup, lemon juice and lime juice. Refrigerate until cold.
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It’s National Irish Coffee Day: Warm Up with The Pierre Hotel’s Irish Coffee

It’s chilly here in Northeast, and throughout much of the country, so it’s a perfect time to celebrate National Irish Coffee Day.

 Its National Irish Coffee Day: Warm Up with The Pierre Hotels Irish Coffee

The Pierre Hotel’s Irish Coffee (photo by Nina Gallant for THE UNOFFICIAL MAD MEN COOKBOOK)

Our favorite version of this mid-century creation is from the Pierre Hotel, and we’re happy to share it.

From The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin (SmartPop, 2011)

Pierre Hotel’s Irish Coffee
Season 1, Episode 6, “Babylon”

It doesn’t take long for Don Draper and Rachel Menken, the daughter and heir apparent of a Jewish department store owner, to become romantically involved. But the romance ends abruptly when Don asks her to run away with him and she refuses. Eager to see her again, Don calls asking to meet, saying it’s strictly business and that he wouldn’t have called unless it was urgent. Rachel reluctantly agrees to meet Don for “just lunch” and tells him to meet her the next day at the Tea Room in the Pierre Hotel.

The famed Pierre on East 61st Street, now part of the Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, is the setting for several memorable scenes in Mad Men. It’s where Peggy and Duck Phillips have a tryst (Season 3, Episode 7, “Seven Twenty-Three”), and when the principals of Sterling Cooper maneuver to start their new agency, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, they temporarily set up shop in Room 435 of the Pierre (Season 3, Episode 13, “Shut the Door, Have a Seat”).

Don tries to charm Rachel when they meet in the Tea Room, but she reminds him sternly that he said he had urgent business to discuss. To underscore her determination to keep the meeting strictly business, she orders only coffee. “Irish coffee?” asks Don, hoping to take the chill out of their encounter. “Coffee,” she replies.

That the Tea Room at the Pierre served Irish coffee may have been one of the fruits of an advertising push that started in 1956 to market Irish whiskey in the United States. As the New York Times reported on October 2, 1956, a reception at the Irish Products Center on East 50th Street featured representatives from five of Ireland’s biggest distillers and an Irish singer and television personality, Carmel Quinn, who “explained that Irish coffee consists of hot coffee, with sugar and Irish whiskey, topped by whipped cream.”

Simple to describe; not as easy to make. According to Andrew Smith, editor of The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford University Press, 2007), Irish coffee was purportedly invented in 1943 by Joe Sheridan, the chef at the airport in Limerick, Ireland, to soothe exhausted New York–bound passengers whose flight had to return to Limerick because of bad weather. A passenger on the flight brought the recipe back to San Francisco, where he and Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel, tried to re-create it. At first, the whipped cream kept sinking to the bottom, but then Koeppler eventually met Sheridan and learned the secret: “The coffee must be lightly sweetened, the cream must be both fresh and softly whipped, and the cream must be poured into the hot coffee over the back of a spoon.”

The Pierre of the early 1960s, as you would expect, looked quite different than the Pierre of today, especially since undergoing a $100 million renovation in 2009. The Tea Room is gone, but the hotel’s elegant Two E Bar/Lounge still serves what it calls a “Classic Irish Coffee,” and graciously shared the recipe with us. If Rachel and Don were to meet at the Pierre today, we’d definitely recommend she indulge in the Irish coffee. You don’t need to be Irish to love Irish coffee!

Pierre Hotel’s Irish Coffee

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

 Its National Irish Coffee Day: Warm Up with The Pierre Hotels Irish Coffee

Delicious Irish Coffee from THE UNOFFICIAL MAD MEN COOKBOOK by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin courtesy of The Pierre Hotel, New York, New York, as referenced in Season 1 of Mad Men, when Don Draper and Rachel Menken meet at the Pierre Hotel.


  • 2 ounces Irish Whiskey (see note)
  • 3 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 4 ounces hot coffee
  • Whipped cream, for topping


  1. Stir whiskey, brown sugar and coffee together in a mug. Add whipped cream on top.


Note: The Pierre Hotel uses Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey, but says the drink also works well with John Jameson Irish Whiskey. Any variety of whiskey made in Ireland would suffice, hence the name “Irish Coffee.”

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Are you ready for Season 6? Try some Mad Men Trivia!

25539 banner geekswhodrink625 300x144 Are you ready for Season 6? Try some Mad Men Trivia!

Geeks Who Drink offers a challenging Mad Men trivia night

Ready for Mad Men’s Season 6 this spring? Then whet your appetite for the upcoming season with a Mad Men trivia night. To celebrate the Season 5 finale, The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook authors, editor Leah Wilson and Mad Men trivia hound Josh Benton, took on other Mad Men fans in a trivia battle sponsored by Geeks Who Drink at Common Ground in Allston, Massachusetts. Our team, The Blankenships (named for one of Don’s many secretaries), duked it out with teams such as Roger in the Sky with Diamonds and Sterling Cooper Draper Holloway. The Blankenships, even with our advanced Mad Men culinary knowledge, were only hanging in because of Josh’s extraordinary memory.

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The Blankenships captured 5th place

The Blankenships went in confident, were in second place for a while, but were soon trailing in 5th place, where we landed at the end of the night. But we we glad we could offer a prize — a copy of our cookbook — to second place winners, Tim Gilman and Lauren Feinberg!


IMG 3609 283x300 Are you ready for Season 6? Try some Mad Men Trivia!

Second place winners Roger in the Sky with Diamonds, a/k/a Tim and Lauren, took home The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

To help refresh your memory for Mad Men Season 6,  Geeks Who Drink generously shared a few trivia questions, all involving snarky Pete Campbell. Test your Pete Campbell IQ and send us your answers, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook.

What global event was going on when Betty discovered she IS pregnant, and Peggy told Pete that she WAS pregnant?

Roger and Don gave Pete a verbal beat-down after he pitched his “Backbone of America” idea to what client?

Finish Pete’s airplane joke: “Some of the passengers were on their way to a golf tournament. Apparently, the minute the plane hit, the bay turned BLANK.”

Questions courtesy of Geeks Who Drink.  Thanks to them for providing excellent Mad Men trivia, and see the event recap here.Comm

Ratner’s Kosher Restaurant: The Harmatz Family Shares Memories of the Mad Men era, a recipe and giveaway

ratners Ratners Kosher Restaurant: The Harmatz Family Shares Memories of the Mad Men era, a recipe and giveawayIn late November we were contacted by a reader, Michael Eisenberg, who was particularly interested in our May 21 blog post about Ratner’s, a Jewish kosher dairy restaurant featured in Season 5 of Mad Men (“Christmas Waltz,” Episode 4). Eisenberg’s wife Melanie is the great-granddaughter of Jacob Harmatz who opened Ratner’s with partner Alex Ratner in 1905. (A coin flip determined the restaurant’s name.) With Eisenberg’s help we interviewed Melanie and her father, Robert, Jacob Harmatz’s grandson and the third generation owner of Ratner’s, about the iconic New York eatery on the Lower East Side. Among other things we were surprised to learn that the Harmatz family had no idea Ratner’s had a cameo in Mad Men until they read our blog.

We’re happy to share our interview, with images of Ratner’s courtesy of the Harmatz family, and Ratner’s signature Vegetable Cutlets with Gravy recipe. We’re also giving away two copies of The World Famous Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook courtesy of Ratner’s.

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A Ratner’s menu from the Mad Men era.

Can you tell us a little bit of the history of Ratner’s? 

Ratner’s started in 1905 on Pitt Street in the Lower East Side and later moved to 138 Delancey Street in 1918, where it remained until closing in 2002.  Until the 1970s, blue laws prohibited stores from opening on Sundays. However, certain streets on the Lower East Side were exempt from the law so that the Jewish Community, which observed the Sabbath on Saturdays, could shop on the weekend.  As a result, the Lower East Side became the place for Sunday bargain shopping followed by a meal at Ratner’s. It was a tradition. Lines stretched down the block on Delancey Street and on a typical Sunday we would serve up to 1,200 people.

How did Ratner’s become a Vegetarian Kosher Dairy restaurant? Were there others in the area in the 1960s?
Obeying Jewish Kosher laws, meat and dairy cannot be served together. In the early 1900s, Ratner’s was strictly dairy and became the restaurant for kosher patrons looking for a dairy meal. There were many strictly dairy restaurants at the time, but by the 1960s tastes began to change and Ratner’s began serving fish as well.

Can you describe the atmosphere at Ratner’s in the 1960s? Who worked there?

In the 1960s, many of the customers had moved to the suburbs and would come back to their roots on Sundays to shop on the Lower East Side and eat at Ratner’s. The waiters and cooks were mostly Jewish immigrants of Eastern European descent and had worked there full time for many years. Many were holocaust survivors. They had a sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude. They acted like they were the boss and their shtick became a well-known part of the experience. One particular waiter kept boxes of shoes in his basement locker and would try to sell them to the customers while waiting the tables.

What were some of the best-selling menu items of the era? What were some of your favorite dishes?

The best selling and popular dishes at the time were the potato soup, vegetarian chop liver, vegetarian cutlet, blintzes, perogen, cheese cakes and danishes. Also, customers enjoyed the free onion rolls waiting for them at the table.

Did recipes change over the years, or did the restaurant always use the original recipes?

Most of the recipes were the original recipes. They stood the test of time and it was this nostalgia that kept many of the customers coming back.

Who were some of the famous clientele at Ratner’s in the Mad Men era?

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New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, center, and Senator Jacob Javits, third from right at Ratner’s in the 1960s.

In the 1920s, Ratner’s was known as being the hang out for some of the old gangsters like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. By the 1960s, it was a place to be recognized in the community. The Sunday before every election the politicians would stop by for a good luck blintz and a way to reach the Jewish vote. Many of the customers in the 1960s included politicians such as Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Senator Jacob Javits, Senator Kenneth Keating, and Senator Robert Kennedy. Governor Rockefeller thought the blintzes were good luck and would serve them at his election-eve dinners. Stars would stop in as well.  Jackie Mason’s brother, who kept kosher, was a regular customer and would bring Jackie. Other stars included Groucho Marx, Phil Silvers, Elia Kazan, and Walter Matthau.  Ratner’s was used in several movies including a scene in The French Connection.

We’ve included the Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets with Gravy Recipe seen in this blog post because the Mad Men scene in a re-created Ratner’s shows a sign on the wall promoting them. What can you tell us about this recipe?

The Veggie Cutlet was an old time favorite. When eating a strictly dairy meal, it was the best substitute for eating a meat dish.

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Ratner’s owner Harold Harmatz with New York Mayor John Lindsay.

Do you still produce foods for sale?

The frozen food business, including the blintzes, soups, and potato cakes, started in 1978.  Initially, the products were sold to a couple of small stores in the suburbs. Eventually, the business grew more popular. A custom blintz making machine was purchased from California to handle the volume and Ratner’s frozen foods began being sold in supermarkets. When the restaurant closed in 2002, the rights were sold to King Kold who may have sold them to someone else. You can still find Ratner’s frozen foods in supermarkets.

Why did the restaurant close?

Ratner’s closed in 2002. Food tastes changed and especially the Lower East Side changed. The original Eastern European Jews have all moved out of the Lower East Side.  The neighborhood is a younger trendy crowd who don’t have the same taste for veggie cutlets.

Were you surprised to hear that Ratner’s was featured in Mad Men?

We found out that Ratner’s was featured in a scene in Mad Men from your blog. We are big fans of the show but didn’t catch the cameo while watching the episode the first time.  It was very exciting to see the show pay tribute to the restaurant. Mad Men does a wonderful job in keeping the authenticity and capturing the period. We would love to know how the idea to include Ratner’s evolved and how they came up with the set.

Ratner’s is legendary. What do you miss about the restaurant?

Looking back, the best part and what will be missed the most, was the people. The memories of the different colorful characters and the personalities of both the staff and customers is what can be enjoyed now.  During the 1960s, the restaurant felt like a big part of New York culture.

RatnersCookbook 150x150 Ratners Kosher Restaurant: The Harmatz Family Shares Memories of the Mad Men era, a recipe and giveawayThe Harmatz family has contributed two copies of the original The World-Famous Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook by Judith Gethers and Elizabeth Lefft (Bantam Books, 1991) to give away to our readers! Enter to win!


Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets With Gravy

Harry Crane and the erstwhile Paul Kinsey, now a Hare Krishna, meet for two meals at

KinseyCrane Ratners Kosher Restaurant: The Harmatz Family Shares Memories of the Mad Men era, a recipe and giveaway

Paul Kinsey and Harry Crane have a vegetarian meal at Ratner’s in Mad Men’s Season 5

Ratner’s on the Lower East Side, in Mad Men‘s Season 5, Episode 10 (“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. 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 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 vegetable 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. The cutlets called for canned vegetables, although we prefer them with fresh.

Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets with Gravy

Yield: 6 servings (cutlets); 4 cups (gravy)

Ratners Vegetable Cutlets 1024x702 Ratners Kosher Restaurant: The Harmatz Family Shares Memories of the Mad Men era, a recipe and giveaway

The recipe for Vegetable Cutlets with Gravy from Ratner's Deli as seen on Season 5 of Mad Men (Christmas Waltz). Recipe adapted from The World-Famous Ratner’s Meatless Cookbook by Judith Gethers and Elizabeth Lefft (Bantam Books, 1975)


  • For the Cutlets
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2/3 pound)
  • 6 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 (16-ounce) can diced carrots, drained (see note)
  • 1 (16-ounce) can cut green beans, drained
 (see note)
  • 1 (16-ounce) can of peas, drained
 (see note)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups matzoh meal (approximately)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Vegetable Cutlet Gravy (see recipe)
  • For the Gravy
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 (1-pound) can of tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups Mushroom Water (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon mushroom powder
 (You can grind dried mushrooms ,such as Porcini, for the mushroom powder)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  • For the Mushroom Water
  • 2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 quart water


  1. To make cutlets: Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Mash.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat butter and sauté onions and mushrooms until tender.
  4. Pour mushroom mixture into a bowl with mashed potatoes. Stir in carrots, green beans, peas and 2 eggs. Blend thoroughly. Add enough matzoh meal so that mixture can be shaped into large patties. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Shape into 12 patties. Beat the remaining eggs well. Brush patties on both sides, coating thoroughly. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until lightly golden browned. Serve hot.
  7. To make the gravy: In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons butter and sauté onion, carrot, celery, green pepper and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add tomatoes, mushroom water and mushroom powder. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. Mix remaining 2 tablespoons butter and flour and enough water to make a paste. Stir into saucepan and cook until sauce bubbles and thickens. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Serve hot spooned over Ratner’s Vegetable Cutlets.
  10. To make the Mushroom Water: In a large saucepan, combine mushrooms and water. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.
  11. Strain broth and chill until ready to use. (Remaining chopped mushrooms may be chilled until ready to use in any dish).


The original recipe calls for 16-ounce cans each of diced carrots, cut green beans and peas, but we prefer substituting an equal quantity of fresh vegetables, lightly steamed.

The authors suggest serving vegetable cutlets with noodles and butter and a sliced orange salad.

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Martinez Recipe: A Vintage Cocktail for the Holidays

We’re happy to share a recipe for the Martinez  —  a predecessor of the Martini —  that we mentioned in our blog post about the cocktails that spirits writer Kara Newman recently mixed at Mohonk Mountain House. If your guests prefer a sweeter drink than a Martini, try this version of the classic cocktail Kara mixed to brighten your holidays.

Martinez (circa 1884)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

Martinez1 Martinez Recipe: A Vintage Cocktail for the Holidays

A recipe for a classic Martinez (circa 1884) -- a predecessor of the Martini -- makes a perfect cocktail for holiday gatherings.


  • 1 ½ ounces Old Tom gin
  • 1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Orange peel twist, for garnish


  1. Stir together all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.
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Mad Men Holiday Cocktail: Jade

Jade e1355339196243 224x300 Mad Men Holiday Cocktail: Jade

The Jade Cocktail

The vibrant, green and minty “Jade ” is a perfect vintage Christmas cocktail. Our recipe, from Playboy’s Host & Bar Book by Thomas Mario (1971) is paired with the famous election night scene from the first season of Mad Men, when the Sterling Cooper water cooler is emptied and filled with crème de menthe.

Here is the recipe from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, along with our introduction. Happy Holidays!

Season 1, Episode 12 ( “Nixon vs. Kennedy”)

After the last of the partners has left the office on election eve in 1960, the staff of Sterling Cooper breaks out the booze as they watch the returns of the presidential race on television. It’s a pro-Nixon crowd, and the mood is celebratory.

NBC’s computer projections show the odds of a Kennedy victory at twenty two
to one. Liquor appears from all corners of the office—vodka, whiskey, red
wine—but the supply quickly dwindles so Ken Cosgrove, Harry Crane, and the
others must try to figure out where to get more with the liquor stores closed.

“I have a bottle of absinthe in my office,” says Paul Kinsey, referring to
the high-proof spirit that some believe, mistakenly, has dangerous psychoactive

Joan Holloway offers to open the supply closet, but warns it’s not going to
be “the sack of Rome.”

“What do we have too much of?” asks Cosgrove.

“Rum, crème de menthe, and dog biscuits,” replies Joan.

Soon the water cooler is filled with the deep green crème de menthe, a
sweet, mint-flavored alcoholic beverage. We wanted to offer a crème de menthe cocktail that would make the staff of Sterling Cooper swoon. The Jadetdelivered on its promise of a cocktail that was minty “but not overpowering.”

We’re not sure what else, if anything, the Sterling Cooper staff put in that
water cooler, but the sweet concoction surely went a long way toward taking the
bitterness out of Nixon’s defeat.

Mad Men Holiday Cocktail: Jade

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

Jade e1355339196243 Mad Men Holiday Cocktail: Jade

The Jade, a green, minty cocktail from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, is perfect for the Christmas season


  • 1 3/4 ounces golden rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon green crème de menthe
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange curaçao
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 slice lime


  1. Add rum, crème de menthe, Curaçao, lime juice, and sugar with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake well.
  2. Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass. Place ice in glass, pourcocktail over ice, and add lime slice.
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Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style: Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Mohonk 300x224 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York

To visit Mohonk Mountain House is to step back in time. This breathtaking hotel, opened in 1869, is set on the rocky ledges surrounding Lake Mohonk; it’s a two-mile drive through spectacular grounds from the main entrance to the lodge itself.

 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Judy at Mohonk.

We can easily imagine Mad Men characters at the New Paltz, New York resort, or the giants of the Gilded Age such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie. The Mohonk Mountain House is one of America’s grand old hotels, where the fireplace, not a television, is standard in every guest room, visitors read by the fire, ice skate, enjoy live music in the evening and generally find time to socialize and relax in ways that now seem old-fashioned. (Having said that, there is wireless Internet access, but we suggest using it as little as possible.) This is a place to indulge yourself in many ways, including the exceptional dining room.

What better setting for “How to Holidays,” Mohonk’s weekend of activities designed to help guests celebrate the holidays in mid-century Mad Men style?

Following our morning presentation of The Unofficial Mad Cookbook, Head Chef Jim Palmeri amplified our discussion about the influence of Julia Child and Graham Kerr, chefs he watched on TV as child, on mid-century culinary trends in America. Chef Jim also

20120318 197784 hearts of palm salad 300x225 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad is a festive holiday dish

demonstrated holiday appetizers from our book including Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad and several canapés. Both are quick and simple holiday recipes – and Sardi’s Hearts of Palm salad has festive red and green colors making it especially suitable for the season. Palmeri noted the contrast in textures between the pimiento and the hearts of palm as adding zest to the salad. We’re interested in trying fresh hearts of palm, as he suggested, instead of the canned variety typically found in grocery stores, which can be ordered online.

ChefJimwithus e1355150588831 224x300 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

The authors, Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, with Mohonk Executive Chef Jim Palmeri.

In the afternoon, pastry chef Sara Parker demonstrated two vintage holiday desserts from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Popcorn Balls (see recipe below). Our Pineapple Upside Down Cake can be made in a skillet, and as Parker told the audience, the cake is foolproof and delicious. The guests seemed to agree.  We’ve never seen four cakes disappear so quickly! Sara also made our Popcorn Balls, quick and perfect for a fun cooking project with kids during the holidays. Our recipe, made with marshmallows tastes like Rice Krispie Treats, but with popcorn. (See our Popcorn Ball recipe below.)

Wine Enthusiast Spirits Editor and author Kara Newman kicked off cocktail hour with a mini Mad Men cocktail primer featuring three classic Mad Men drinks, all beginning with “M”: the Martinez, the Manhattan and the Mai Tai –- all ideal holiday concoctions. We were won over by the Martinez, circa 1884, a forerunner of the Martini made with sweet vermouth, sweet gin, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters. It’s rich amber color is easy on the eyes and it goes down smoothly! The Mai Tai, Trader Vic’s original, (also a recipe in our book) was the best we’ve tasted,

kara.teaching1 300x224 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Kara Newman mixes three classic mid-century holiday cocktails

expertly mixed by Mohonk’s staff! Many guests asked if these cocktails could be created in large batches. As it happens, Kara’s new book Cocktails for a Crowd:  Punches, Pitchers and More, being released by Chronicle Books this spring, answers that question. At the end of Kara’s presentation, we raised a glass to the recent anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition (December 5) and to the holidays!

JudyKara. e1355153179559 300x224 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Judy and Kara Newman toast the holidays with a Martinez and a Mai Tai

We’re happy to share a holiday recipe for Popcorn Balls from our book, as seen in Season 4, Episode 2, (“Christmas Comes But Once a Year”).

During the festivities at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Christmas party in 1964 a conga line forms and snakes through the office, past tables laden with holiday treats. We spotted a classic next to the candy canes: a bowl of red and white popcorn balls.

PopcornBalls 150x150 Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)There are accounts, perhaps apocryphal, that Native Americans gave English settlers in Massachusetts popcorn balls made with maple syrup at the first Thanksgiving. It is at least fair to say that popcorn balls bound with syrup or molasses have been around for well over a century, according to Andrew F. Smith, author of Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America (Smithsonian, 2001). Popcorn’s various forms, including popcorn threaded onto lengths of string, have been a part of festive decorations for Christmas and other holidays at least since the late nineteenth century. In the 1960s, popcorn balls were popular Halloween treats and sold at country fairs, ball games, and the circus.

Popcorn ball recipes proliferated in the United States after the Civil War. The techniques and ingredients varied, but the basic concept was the same: use a heated adhering agent—syrup, sugar, or molasses—then add salt and butter and use the agent to shape the popcorn into a sphere. Flavorings such as chocolate, peppermint and vanilla were eventually added, as were foods like strawberries, nuts, and marshmallows to embellish the original. Additives such as food coloring could turn a normally white popcorn ball into an edible Christmas decoration, like the red and white popcorn balls on display at the Sterling Cooper Christmas party.

At the insistence of Lee Garner, Jr., the firm’s most important client, Roger Sterling dons a Santa suit at the holiday party. He looks pretty forlorn wearing it, but maybe a popcorn ball will restore his Christmas cheer. That and a few martinis.

Popcorn Ball Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


PopcornBalls Mohonk Holidays Mad Men Style:  Canapes, Cocktails (and our Popcorn Ball recipe!)

Adapted from BETTY CROCKER’S NEW BOYS AND GIRLS COOKBOOK (Golden Press-Western, 1965), this recipe calls for marshmallow to make festive popcorn balls for the holidays -- with a taste reminiscent of Rice Krispie Treats.


  • 7 cups freshly popped popcorn
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¹⁄₄ teaspoon salt


  1. Place popcorn in large buttered bowl. Heat marshmallows, butter, and salt in the top of a double boiler, or in the microwave, until melted.
  2. Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn and stir gently to coat. Grease hands with butter and quickly shape popcorn into 2-inch balls. Wrap in wax paper.
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