Here’s Looking at You: Lunch at Keens

Banquet Lincoln over1 Heres Looking at You: Lunch at Keens

The Lincoln Banquet Room at Keens

We last wrote about Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street in September in our very first blog entry. We’re going back to Keens today as we begin a series of features about the restaurants that have generously donated prizes for our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes. (Entry info below. For more on the prizes, click here.) It was called Keens Chophouse in Don Draper’s day, but much about Keens remains the same today. And that’s a good thing because you won’t find a better steak or Caesar salad in New York than Keens’. We’ve often commented, as have others, on Mad Men’s fastidious attention to period detail, including the food and drink. But when we visited Keens last year we noticed that it didn’t resemble the Keens depicted in Mad Men (Season 3, Episode 4, “The Arrangements”) where Don, Pete Campbell and Pete’s friend Horace (“Hoho”) Cook retire to discuss Hoho’s half-baked plans to make jai alai a major national sport. Perhaps its expecting too much for a show filmed in L.A. to recreate the interiors of every New York restaurant depicted, but Keens’ warm, Victorian interior is very distinctive (that’s Keens in the banner of our blog): the ceiling is lined with tens of thousands of clay churchwarden pipes that belonged to members of the city’s Pipe Club which originated at Keens in the early 1900s. We were surprised when Keens Executive Chef Bill Rodgers told us that until we contacted him while writing The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook he had no idea there was a Mad Men scene in a recreated Keens.

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Keens Famous Mutton Chop

If you had been the fourth at lunch with Don, Pete and Hoho at Keens in 1962, the cover of the lunch menu delivered by your waiter would have read, “Here’s Looking at You” and the mutton chop, priced at $6.95, was highly touted: “With special pride we recommend Keens’ Famous English Mutton Chop (There is nothing else like it).” Today, be prepared to pay $45 for what a reviewer for New York Magazine called, “a colossal roasted hunk of flavorfulAbout Mutton Ad1 Heres Looking at You: Lunch at Keens mature lamb.” Keens mutton chop has been fawned over by critics from James Beard to Frank Bruni. The restaurant opened in 1885 and when it served its one-millionth mutton chop it was news worthy of The New York Times…in 1935! (For more on the history of Keens, visit their web site.) We feature Keens excellent Caesar Salad in our book, a recipe that remains unchanged since the Mad Men era. But many other Keens staples remain as popular today as they were half a century ago. According to Bill Rodgers the English Mutton Chop, Filet Mignon, and Prime Rib are still favorites as are the Crabmeat Cocktail, Cape Cod Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller and sliced tomato salad with onion and Stilton cheese. Food fads come and go but Keens remains true to its chophouse origins.

If you want to try Keens for yourself, you’ll have chance if you enter our Dine Like a Mad Men Sweepstakes. Visit our Facebook page and click “Dine Like a Mad Man.” You could win dinner for two courtesy of Keens!

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

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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.