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