New York’s role as a fancy food capital began in the early 1800s as a pastry shop near the foot of Manhattan, run by two brothers – Giovanni and Pietro Delmonico from Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
Half a century later, New York had four Delmonico restaurants with a staff of 400. They had invented lobster Newburgh and been hailed by The New York Times as “perfection in gastronomy.” Chef Charles Ranhofer kept Delmonico’s at the top for 35 years: Lobster Newburgh and baked Alaska were among hundreds of dishes associated with his name.
“In 1873,” the book says, “an importer named Edward Luckmeyer broke the taste barrier with a $10,000 dinner.”
That would be close to $200,000 in 2009 dollars – almost a $3,000-a-plate meal.
“Seventy-five guests sat at an oval table nearly as large as the dining room. At the centre of the table was a 30-foot lake surrounded by an artificial landscape featuring waterfalls, streams and grassy hillocks planted with elaborate floral beds. As the guests ate, white swans – on loan from Prospect Park in Brooklyn – paddled across the lake.”
– from AFP
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.