The Russian Tea Room

hearth13 300x181 The Russian Tea RoomThe Russian Tea Room on West 57th Street is never mentioned or depicted in Mad Men, but it’s just the kind of place a Madison Avenue ad executive would have frequented in the 1960s. And it found its way into The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook because it’s famous for one of Roger Sterling’s favorite dishes, Chicken Kiev. When Roger fixes the recently divorced Don up with young Bethany Van Nuys, he has his secretary book a table for Don and Bethany at the now defunct Jimmy’s LaGrange, another popular hangout for the Madison Avenue crowd. “They have Chicken Kiev,” says Roger to Don. “The butter squirts everywhere.”

Picture 163 300x206 The Russian Tea RoomThe muddled history of Chicken Kiev is covered in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, but if you want to try The Russian Tea Room’s version, on the menu since the 1940s, go to our Facebook page and enter our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes, because one of the first prizes is a generous gift certificate courtesy of The Russian Tea Room.

ball room07 300x181 The Russian Tea RoomFounded in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, The Russian Tea Room has hosted its share of the rich and famous. Maybe you’ll be seated in one of the intimate booths once occupied by Woody Allen, Madonna, Rudolf Nureyev, or another of the famous guests who fancy fine Russian cuisine. Located next to Carnegie Hall, many a performing artist has repaired to the Tea Room after a bravura performance.

If you took your lunch with Don and Roger in, say, 1963 at The Russian Tea Room, in addition to the Chicken Kiev you might have tried the Boeuf a la Stroganoff, Pelmeni (stuffed dumplings made with unleavened dough) or Red Borscht with pickled beets. By the way, the authors of The Russian Tea Room Cookbook concur with Roger: the way to identify a perfectly prepared Chicken Kiev is “a spurt of butter at the first touch of knife and fork.”

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!”

maindiningPIC1 300x233 Grazie Barbetta!

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.

clinton photo 300x225 Grazie Barbetta!

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.