Saturday, December 7, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, my column in the Food & Dining section focused on the old restaurant menus stored at the Maine Historical Society.
The collection included everything from a turn-of-the-century menu from Riverton Park Café and a 1939 menu from the Egyptian Dining Room of the Eastland hotel to a 1997 Back Bay grill menu.
I asked readers to weigh in and share their own restaurant memories, and got a larger response than I expected – including a look at some more old menus.
Cynthia Simpson of Gorham sent me a copy of a menu from the old United States Hotel in Monument Square – dated Friday, Sept. 18, 1874! The hotel was owned by one of Simpson’s uncles “who is probably 10 times removed.”
The menu included choices such as baked halibut with brown sauce and side dishes of stewed kidneys and pigeon pot pie.
Andrew Floyd, a business development manager with Arper USA in New York, wrote to say that the fish chowder and salads at the Hollow Reed on Fore Street were memorable meals for him.
“Why a vegetarian restaurant had fish chowder is beyond me at this point yet I loved the top floor with slanted sky lights that looked out back,” Floyd wrote. “Oh – they had pizzas too and I really liked one with black olives and mozzarella.”
Floyd said he worked at The Baker’s Table in Portland in the early to late 1980s as a busboy, waiter, dishwasher and cook before heading to the Culinary Institute of America. His sister was the daytime chef.
“At nighttime the dining room was lit with lovely taper candles (supplied by the candle maker based upstairs) that made the room glow so nicely,” Floyd wrote. “That part of the dining room being what is Rogues Gallery now. Bouillabaisse with rouille was a favorite. As were the homemade pastas that I used to make upstairs at the Port Bakehouse on Sunday afternoons after brunch service. Great memories of a restaurant that was ahead of its time.”
Maggie Krainin of Naples wrote to say that she is still pining for the little chocolate mousse bars they used to sell at the Victory Deli, and wonders if someone out there might have the recipe to share?
“They were about two inches square and maybe three inches high, and they were rolled in chocolate sprinkles,” she wrote.
How about it? Anyone out there have the recipe, or something similar?
Finally, Mary Deland Strain of Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake on South Casco sent along this memo on meal prices from 1965, as well as a couple of menus from 1959:
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod