New York, New York

Last week the Associated Press travel editor interviewed us about our recommendations for iconic Mad Men haunts for fans touring New York. (Read the article here.) There are so many outstanding choices, it’s hard to decide, but here are a just few of our favorites.

It’s an easy stroll from the mythical Madison Avenue offices of Sterling Cooper to our first stop, Grand Central Station. Take a few moments to soak in and admire this architectural New York, New York gem. You’ll be transported to an era when Diamond Jim Brady might have board his private coach car for a trip to Chicago. When you’re ready for lunch, step into one of Diamond Jim’s favorites, The Grand Central Oyster Bar, located below street level in the train station. This was and is a favorite of the denizens of Madison Avenue, too, and the likely location for Don and Roger’s famous two-dozen oyster lunch (with alcohol, of course). Roger compared eating oysters to kissing a mermaid. You can choose from dozens of types of fresh oysters. Unless you already have a favorite (Wellfleet, Bluestones, Chesapeake to name a few), ask your server for a sampler.

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Doug Quinn of P.J. Clarke’s (AP Photo)

Walk off lunch by wandering the great avenues of midtown — Madison, Park and Fifth – until you’ve worked up a thirst. Then stop by P.J. Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street and order a Vesper or Side Car from legendary barkeep Doug Quinn. This is where the Sterling Cooper crowd often gathered after work. (Tell Doug we sent you!)

When the dinner bell rings, head for Barbetta at 321 West 46th Street, the elegant northern Italian restaurant where Don takes young Bethany Van Nuys on their first date. Or, try Sardi’s, the culinary heart of Broadway, where you’re likely to spot someone famous, either in person or on the walls in the hundreds of caricatures of legendary actors and

 New York, New York

The walls of Sardi’s are lined with hundreds of caricatures.

entertainers who have seated themselves there. You can order exactly what Don orders for himself and Bobbi Barrett because it’s still on the menu: Steak Tartar. He also orders a dish no longer on the menu, but it’s one of our very favorite recipes from The Unofficial Mad Men CookbookHearts of Palm Salad. If it’s a succulent, perfectly prepared steak you’re after, served with rich New York ambience, go where Don and Pete Campbell go to entertain Pete’s friend Horace Cook: Keens Steakhouse at 73 West 36th Street. Order the Caesar Salad and they’ll prepare it tableside, a real touch of class.

If it’s a Tuesday night between now and the end of Season 5 of Mad Men in June, you can take in jazz and a Mad Men-inspired cocktail at The Pierre Hotel’s Two E Bar/Lounge (2 East 61st Street), the successor to the Tea Room where Don meets Rachel Menken for coffee to try and relight an old flame. And when it’s time to turn in The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street is offering a special “Mad Men in the City” package from now until June 30. It includes a complimentary copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook! Many Mad Men scenes are set at The Roosevelt, so create your own scene where Don takes up residence after his split from Betty.

If you find yourself heading uptown on the West Side, for either a night cap or for an early morning libation, visit The Dublin House at 225 West 79th Street. This is where Joan’sdh harp 215x300 New York, New York husband, Dr. Greg Harris, gets loaded one evening before coming home. Years ago, The Dublin House was a rough and tumble neighborhood bar where construction workers and newly arrived sailors whose shipped had docked at the West Side piers would start the day with a shot of whiskey and a beer. In those days the Rusty Nail was one of only two or three cocktails served at The Dublin House, though the cocktail menu has expanded over the years. As it says on their web site, “back in the day, people stopped in for a couple before work, so The Dublin House has always opened at 8 am. Always has, still does, every day except Sunday when it opens at noon.” You could always choose to start your Mad Men tour here, early in the morning, but don’t overdo it.

Whether you’re a New Yorker or a visitor, be sure to enter our Dine Like a Mad Man Sweepstakes. You could win drinks and dinner at some of these and other Mad Men establishments. And if you aren’t going to be in the Big Apple in the near future, but want to get your Mad Man on, check out our list of Mad Men inspired events around the country.

Grazie Barbetta!

This week we continue our tour of the New York restaurants that generously donated prizes for our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes, which you can enter from our Facebook page by clicking “Dine Like a Mad Man!”

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The main dining room at Barbetta

When Don Draper begins dating the lovely Bethany Van Nuys in Season 4, we first see them at a Benihana Steakhouse, one of many restaurant chains that surfed the wave of American interest in Polynesian and Japanese foods that accompanied Hawaii statehood in 1959. They’re seated around a teppanyaki table with other guests, hardly the intimate dinner Bethany had in mind. Perhaps to atone, Don and Bethany’s next date is at the very elegant Barbetta on West 46th Street, founded in 1906 and operated to this day by the founder’s daughter Laura Maioglio. Specializing in northern Italian cuisine from the Piemonte region, Barbetta is the oldest Italian restaurant in New York still run by the founding family.

Like Executive Chef Bill Rodgers of Keens Steakhouse, Maiolglio had no advance notice Barbetta would be depicted in Mad Men. She learned about it when diners who had seen the episode mentioned it to her. “I have looked at the show often since its inception because of the excitement and buzz that it immediately caused and because it deals with the very years in which I recreated and relaunched Barbetta,” Laura wrote us.

Since viewers never see or hear what Don and Bethany order at Barbetta, when writing The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook we asked Maioglio to imagine what they might have ordered in 1964. As luck would have it, in the 1990s she began putting the date each dish first appeared on the menu on the menu and she suggested the roasted fresh peppers alla bagna cauda, which first appeared in 1962, and for dessert pears baked in red wine alla piemontese, which also debuted that year at Barbetta. Many other dishes served at Barbetta today first appeared on the menu in the early 1960s including fonduta with fresh white truffles.

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The Clinton’s with Laura Maioglio and her husband, Nobel Prize winner in medicine Gunter Blobel

When Don and Bethany dine at Barbetta they cross paths with Betty and her new husband Henry Francis, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. It’s an awkward moment. But Henry wasn’t the only politically connected New Yorker or politician to savor Barbetta’s charms in the early 1960s and ever since. Guests have included Governor and Mrs. Rockefeller themselves, many members of the Kennedy family and, recently, former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Barbetta was also popular among giants of the fashion industry such as Oleg Cassini, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren, Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Woody Allen and Dudley Moore and musical leading lights such as Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine and Yehudi Menuhin.

If you’d like to experience the very finest in Italian dining in New York, enter the sweepstakes. You could win a dinner valued at $500 at Barbetta and Maioglio will help you pick just the right wine.

Cooking Up The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

Judy has written two cookbooks pairing food with literature, so it wasn’t a huge stretch to see why she was so curious about the food and drink seen in Mad Men. Just as authors use food and drink to establish time, place and mood, so do directors. Mad Men is justly renowned for its exquisite attention to period detail. If you grew up near New York in the 1960s, as we did, you know Mad Men, though filmed largely in Los Angeles, evokes 1960s Manhattan with arresting accuracy. Everything feels right about it: from the furniture and the narrow neckties to the restaurants and the food. It speaks volumes about Judy that while most female viewers were enjoying the cut of Don Draper’s jib, she was trying to figure out, “what did Betty use to glaze that ham in her fridge?”

 Cooking Up The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

The Drapers and the Cleavers shared an era but not a lifestyle.

Judy was addicted to Mad Men for four seasons before she finally persuaded husband Peter to watch. And then he was hooked. Peter agreed: it was like peeking into our parents’ world with the benefit of adult perspective. The people in Mad Men may dress like the Cleavers and the Andersons, live in neat suburban homes like them and eat similar foods, too, but Mad Men serves up a much different, more complicated and cynical world than the one we thought we grew up in. Ward and June Cleaver never touched alcohol and there was never a hint they were unfaithful to each other, either.

Our goal was to create a cookbook with recipes for food and drink that appear in Mad Men and which were authentic to the times. And we wanted every recipe in our book had to tie in to a specific scene in Mad Men. Historical context was critical so viewers might better understand why the creators might have chosen these foods and these bars and restaurants to feature in the show. For example, why all the Mai Tais? The quick answer is that with the new addition of Hawaii to the Union, Americans were fascinated with Polynesian culture. Why the many French restaurants? Julia Child had just burst on the scene and was popularizing the French cusine detailed in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And America’s royalty, President and Mrs. Kennedy were so fond of French food, they hired a French chef as their White House chef. For Mad Men fans who are also foodies, we thought this kind of gastronomic history would enhance their appreciation of Mad Men and the pinpoint accuracy of its re-creation of 1960s New York.

Our first step in creating The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook was to note every item of foodTheUnofficialMadMenCookbook FrontCover 233x300 Cooking Up The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook and every restaurant seen or mentioned in the first four seasons of Mad Men, from Spam to ham, from caviar to Chicken Kiev; from absinthe and crème de menthe to Canadian Club whisky and Smirnoff’s vodka; from Keens Chophouse (now Keens Steakhouse) and the Forum of the Twelve Caesars (now defunct) to Barbetta and the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

Our next step was to obtain as many recipes as possible from restaurants, bars and hotels featured in the show that are still operating today. If the recipe had changed over the years, as it had, for example, for the Grand Central Oyster Bar’s Oysters Rockefeller, we wanted the recipe for the version served in 1962. Sometimes a concoction we were looking for had long since been extinct. The Beverly Hills Hotel hasn’t served a Royal Hawaiian cocktail in decades, but since Pete Campbell sips one poolside on a visit to L.A. we wanted the privilege of tasting one, too, and the Beverly Hills Hotel was able to oblige, though they had to dig deep to find the recipe.

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The authors taking a break from a marathon Mad Men cooking session.

Next we pored over countless period cookbooks, magazines and advertisements (after all, Mad Men is about the advertising industry), not only for recipes, but to learn about the dining and culinary trends of the era. We also looked for cookbooks the characters might have used, or those we saw on their kitchen counters. When Joan Harris (formerly Holloway) made that crown roast in her tiny kitchen to serve at a dinner party, we turned to The Small Kitchen Cookbook by Nina Mortellito (Walker and Company, 1964) for a recipe. When Pete Campbell asks his new wife to make rib eye in the pan, we thought a logical cookbook selection for Trudy cooking for her “ad man” would have been The Madison Avenue Cookbook by Alan Koehler (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962). Then we tested and retested recipes to make sure they worked and that the result was, if not delicious, as least close.

As Mad Men’s season five approaches, we look forward to renewing our pursuit inside the kitchens, restaurants and bars of Mad Men.