Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione

It was a whale of a tale on last night’s Mad Men episode (“At the Cod Fish Ball”). It began with Megan’s Dover Sole and ended with poor Sally facing two very unpleasant

 Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione

Shirley Temple with a Shirley Temple

sights, one of which was a whole cooked fish and the other…well, let’s just say Roger is up to his old tricks. “At the Cod Fish Ball” was a song made famous by Shirley Temple, so we weren’t surprised to see Sally served a cocktail by that name with her dinner.

Megan didn’t scrimp on dinner for her visiting parents and Don. Dover Sole, imported from Europe, “is considered by many food lovers to be the best-tasting fish in the world,” according to an article in the November 1964 issue of Life Magazine. “If you by chance have a fish market elegant enough to carry it, filets may cost $3 or $4 a pound.” Julia Child called Dover Sole “a dream fish” with a “texture firm enough to hold yet delicate to the tooth.”

Given Megan’s French heritage and Julia Child’s overwhelming popularity in the mid-1960s, Sole meunière would have been a natural choice. To make this French classic the sole, whole or fillet, is dredged in flour, pan fried in butter and served with the resulting

juliachild Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione

Julia and a friend

brown butter. Simple and elegant it was one of Julia’s personal favorites. As she wrote in her Memoir, My Life in France, her first meal in Rouen was Sole meunière: it was “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley… I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth… The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter… It was a morsel of perfection… It was the most exciting meal of my life.”

 Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione

The Hemisphere Club by day; The Tower Suite by night.

Two New York restaurants got shout-outs last night, too. When Don and Megan save the Heinz account, they’re at the Tower Suite, the evening incarnation of the Hemisphere Club, a private luncheon dining room for Time/Life executives on the 48th Floor of the Time and Life Building on Sixth Avenue. “Although New York viewed from a great height is one of the visually exciting places on earth, there are astonishingly few restaurants that take advantage of the fact,” wrote New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne shortly after the Tower Suite opened in late 1960. The Hemisphere Club was one of a series of private clubs for businessmen that opened in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Pinnacle Club and The Harbor View Club were two others. “One thing all of these clubs have in common, of course” said The New York Times on August 25, 1960, “is their altitude, a factor that seems to fulfill some inner need of the executive ego.”

The sky-high cakes (one appeared to be German Chocolate) we see on the table were part of the Tower Suite’s six-course meals served over two to three hours. The club was a creation of Restaurant Associates, the outfit behind the over-the-top Forum of the Twelve Caesars featured in Mad Men Season 4, Episode 7 (“The Suitcase”).

Further south, the cozy Minetta Tavern where Peggy expects a marriage proposal from4801251 Minetta Tavern Greenwich Village New York City Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione Abe but gets only a consolation prize – an invitation to “live in sin,” as her mother puts it – is still going strong on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. (It was bought and revamped in 2009 by Keith McNally.) “A neat and frequently crowded restaurant…[i]t has a loyal, genteel clientele and the quality of the food, which is Italian, ranges from the ordinary to the excellent,” said The New York Times on March 20, 1964. The steak, which Abe says is supposed to be excellent, cost $4.25 back then; it’s $26.00 today with Pommes Frites.

Baked Alaska, that classic dessert that enjoyed immense popularity in the 1960s finally makes an appearance in Mad Men at the smoke-filled fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Baked Alaska is a dessert made by placing ice cream in a pie dish lined with slices of sponge cake or Christmas pudding and topped with meringue and placed in an extremely hot oven for just long enough to firm the meringue. The meringue insulates the ice cream during the short cooking time. The name ‘Baked Alaska,’ also known as a Norwegian omelette, dates to 1876 when Delmonico’s Restaurant named it such to honor the new American territory of Alaska. It didn’t look like Sally was enjoying that either but maybe Roger ruined her appetite.

Minetta Tavern Cold Zabaglione (Foamy Wine Custard)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Zabaglione Fish Story and Minetta Tavern Zabaglione

This recipe for Minetta Tavern Zabaglione comes from the Greenwich Village Cookbook (Fairchild, 1969) In Mad Men, Season 5, Episode 7 (“At the Cod Fish Ball”), when Peggy and her beau, Abe, have a date at the cozy Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village, Peggy expects a marriage proposal, but gets only a consolation prize – an invitation to “live in sin,” as her mother, Katherine, puts it. Minetta Tavern is still going strong on MacDougal Street: it was bought and revamped in 2009 by Keith McNally.

Back in 1966 when Peggy and Abe ate there, Minetta Tavern was an Italian restaurant and The perfect dessert for the couple would have been the house specialty, Zabaglione, a custard made with wine that can be served warm or cold.


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup sweet or almond cream Marsala wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Maraschino cherries


  1. Beat egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar gradually, beating continually Continue to beat egg-yolk sugar mixture while adding wine. Put the mixture in the top of a double boiler, and cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Do not allow custard to boil or it will curdle. Cool completely.
  2. Whip heavy cream until stuff and fold into cool custard. Spoon into sherbet glasses and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Serve chilled and decorate with maraschino cherries.
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Is it Lindy’s?

In the late 1950s Craig Claiborne, The New York Times restaurant critic and food writer, approached Leo Lindemann, the owner of the famed Lindy’s restaurant and deli in New York, and pleaded for his cheesecake recipe to no avail. In 1977, Claiborne claimed he had since come into possession of this treasure via

 Is it Lindys?

Craig Claiborne

Guy Pascal, a distinguished pastry chef who purportedly reverse engineered the recipe by watching a former Lindy’s baker who came to work for him in Las Vegas. Pascal said he did various calculations based on the amount of cream cheese he was purchasing and the number of cakes being produced, and by glancing inconspicuously as the furtive baker went about his business. In six months, claimed Pascal, he had deciphered the secret.
After Claiborne’s article appeared, a flood of letters to the Times disputed Pascal’s claim. Some said the original recipe had been published years before in The New York Herald Tribune. Others wrote the real recipe had been published in Woman’s Day or Family Circle or McCall’s or even the Times itself. One astute writer pointed out that the original recipe had been published in Clementine Paddleford’s seminal book, How America Eats (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960).

 Is it Lindys?

In her book, Paddleford, a food editor for This Week Magazine and a food writer for The New York Tribune, wrote, “the late Mr. Lindy…was a lovable, laughable, unpredictable little man. If he liked you he would give you anything except the way of the cheesecake.” Lindy must have really liked Paddleford if her account is to be believed. As Paddleford finished a piece of the famous cheesecake, she asked Lindy, “how about serving up the recipe?” Lindy summoned his pastry chef, Paul Landry. “He couldn’t believe his ears,” wrote Paddleford. “The cheesecake recipe was being handed over by the big boss. I give it to you as Paul Landry gave it to me.”

Paddleford was America’s best known and most influential food writer for over four decades, read by 12 million people a week. So, why would Craig Claiborne, and a famous pastry chef like Guy Pascal, claim to have unlocked the mystery seventeen years later? And why would Lindy, after decades of holding the recipe so close, share it with Paddleford?

 Is it Lindys?

 Claiborne was probably well aware of Paddleford’s claim and chose to ignore it, for it made his own story all the more sensational. Claiborne began at the Times in 1957, towards the end of Paddleford’s career. But, according to Paddleford’s biographers, Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris writing in Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate (Gotham Books, 2008), there was little love lost between them. Claiborne, they wrote, had a way of covering ground Paddleford had already trod “as if he were the first to discover it.” The competition between them was further fueled by the competition between their two newspapers, with the upstart Times on the rise and the Trib on the decline (it closed in 1966). In his own memoir, A Feast Made for Laughter: A Memoir with Recipes (Henry Holt & Co., 1983), published fifteen years after Paddleford’s death, Claiborne was dismissive of the woman widely considered “the grand dame of food writing.” Paddleford, he wrote “would not have been able to distinguish skillfully scrambled eggs from a third-rate omelet.” Ouch!

The answer to the second question, why Lindy might have obliged Paddleford, is simple. Paddleford was so influential that her mention of a restaurant could, according to Alexander and Harris, “easily double its business.”

 Is it Lindys?

Paddleford’s claim to have been given the original by Lindy himself is bolstered by a memo she wrote to Louella Shouer at Ladies’ Home Journal in which she recounts making and remaking the recipe and finally asking “the reluctant chef to come to our kitchen” where he “made the delicacy while our testers looked on at the step by step procedure.”

Lindy’s cheesecake recipe is included in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, adapted from Paddleford’s book. Whether it’s truly Lindy’s original is anybody’s guess, but it’s a winner.

What About the Jello Mold?

Tell someone you’re writing a cookbook designed to take readers back to the 1960s and you’ll get questions such as these:

“Will you include a recipe for jello mold?”

“Do you have Grasshopper pie?”

“How about a tuna noodle casserole made with canned soup?”

“How many recipes involve Spam?”

But when you read The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook you’ll find that the answers to these questions are, “no, no, no and none.” True, there are no recipes in the book that call for goat cheese, wasabi or balsamic reductions, either. And, certainly there was some pretty tacky food that was popular in the 1960s. But there was a lot of fine food, too, even if some of it isn’t as ubiquitous today as it once was.

We didn’t set out to simply compile recipes from the 1960s in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook; the foods had to be featured in Mad Men, served in the restaurants and bars featured in the show, or have some other close connection to the storylines. We also wanted to ensure 1960s authenticity which is why we never settled only for updated recipes for, say, Waldorf Salad or Oysters Rockefeller, though we sometimes included both the old and the new. We worked with chefs, bartenders and restaurant owners to dish up the recipes used in their establishments in the early 1960s, when Don Draper and Roger Sterling might have walked through the door.

il fullxfull.88513562 300x221 What About the Jello Mold?Our quest for authenticity took us deep into the shelves of special cookbook collections and to the pages of magazines and newspapers of the time. Sometimes it was obvious which cookbooks to turn to: on her kitchen counter Betty Draper kept copies of The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, the so-called “Red Plaid,” and Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook. But we Scan 11 300x171 What About the Jello Mold?dug deeper, in some cases into Julia Child’s personal cookbook collection now held at Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library. Holding a cookbook in which Julia Child had inscribed her name is simply a thrilling experience. Sometimes you never know what might fall out of an old cookbook: a handwritten family recipe for scalloped potatoes, or an old Frito’s “Party Games of the Stars” pamphlet featuring Art Linkletter.

We consulted cookbooks by the pre-eminent food writers and chefs of the time: Child along with James Beard, Clementine Paddleford, and Craig Claiborne. Old copies of

 What About the Jello Mold?

James Beard

Life magazine, Gourmet and Woman’s Day, to name a few, also delivered insight into food trends and recipes for canapés, eggnog, and a Bacardi Rum Frappè. Then there were the truly quirky cookbooks we gleefully stumbled upon which were reflective of the times, books such as Poppy Cannon’s New Can Opener Cookbook, a cookbook built around a new utensil of convenience (others were specific to the electric skillet or the blender), and Nina Mortellito’s Small Kitchen Cookbook which showed urban dwellers, such as Joan Holloway, how to make big meals in their tiny apartment kitchens. (In Season 3, Episode 3, “My Old Kentucky Home,” Joan prepares a crown roast in her tiny kitchen.) Betty Draper was insecure about her culinary skills so Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Bookwas a logical place to hunt for recipes and it was there that we found a Turkey Tetrazzini recipe we adapted for our book. Why Turkey Tetrazzini? In Season 1, Episode 9 (“Shoot”), Betty reveals her doubts about her cooking

mad men hearts of palm 233x300 What About the Jello Mold?

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

skills as she serves Don Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner one night. At times we felt like culinary anthropologists, or at least sleuths, as we tried to track down recipes that were both authentic to the time period and connected to Mad Men.

So, no to jello mold — yes to Hearts of Palm Salad, Devlled Eggs and Beef WellingtonAnd is this retro-food tasty? It all disappeared quickly at cocktail and dinner parties where our friends tasted many of the recipes in our book. But there was one part of the1960s social scene we avoided like the plague: there was no smoking.