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.

Big and Brown

At last, some food we could really sink our teeth into on Mad Men! In last Sunday’s Big and Brown episode, “Signal 30,” we had lobster, Irish pub food and a spectacular Beef Wellington prepared by Cos Cob, Connecticut’s own Trudy Campbell. Anyone who can pull off Beef Wellington while tending to a very young baby really has her act together because this dish is no easy feat.

“Big and brown” may have been the most memorable phrase of the evening when the Cosgroves and the Drapers (Don reluctantly) make the trek to Cos Cob for Trudy’s dinner party. There’s been some speculation in the blogosphere about what this means; we’re of the opinion it’s Don’s way of asking for a large serving of his favorite whisky, Canadian Club.

But it’s the Draper’s gift of William Greenberg brownies in the red tin that made a splash at the Campbell’s, giving Pete and Trudy a pang of homesickness for the city they left behind for life in the suburbs. “Look what they brought,” Pete says to Trudy. “Doesn’t it make you homesick?” There are no bakeries and no Greenberg’s in Cos Cob Trudy informs her guests. Pete wants to try them “my way,” frozen, but apparently he’s alone in that. But we don’t think he’s talking just about the brownies.

brownies Big and Brown

Greenberg Brownies

William J. Greenberg’s bakery had a location at 1181 Madison Avenue in the 1960s (today the Madison Avenue location is at 1100). A specialist in “hostess gifts,” according to an article in The New York Times on May 17, 1960 titled, appropriately enough, “Gifts Rich in Calories to Please New Mothers,” Greenberg gifts became the food gift to give to young moms. “The reasoning behind this development,” said the Times, “seems to be that after months of careful diet control, every girl is entitled to a good cooky binge or at least the chance at one.” Greenberg’s brownies and other baked delicacies, such as his Schnecken, a type of cinnamon roll, were rich and Big and Brown expensive. A tin of four dozen brownies cost $5.85 in 1960 (today it’s $36 a dozen!). But they were worth it. In 1980, New York Magazin called them an “old money brownie — well bred and adventurous with a refined dazzle.”

Speaking of rich and expensive, that certainly describes the advertising prey of the evening, Jaguar Motor Cars, a potential account lost to that most humble of comestibles, if one can call it that, a simple piece of chewing gum. We hope we don’t have to explain.