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 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.
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 (http://lacaravelle.com/) produced by owners Rita and André Jammet. Use it to toast your purchase of a new Jaguar.