Few pastimes are more entertaining to chefs, home cooks and other foodies than reading vintage cookbooks, marveling at classic recipes, ingredients and techniques. Actually, we can think of one that’s better: Tasting the dishes made from those retro recipes.
Now you can do both, as the Westin St. Francis hotel on posh Union Square in San Francisco continues to celebrate its 110th anniversary.
Two structures now constitute the Westin St. Francis. The best one is the original 12-story grand dame, which underwent a $40 million “transformation” a few years back. It’s loaded with character and charm, and takes visitors on a trip back in time.
“The 1910 Hotel St. Francis Cookbook” is his compilation of “3,000 recipes and 1,000 menus for breakfasts, luncheons, dinners and special occasions,” and was published in 1988 (Windgate, 424 pages, $37 at www.amazon.com/books). The original version was titled “L’Art Culinaire,” published in 1910. The hotel does not have the 1988 edition for sale on site because the minimum order would have been 30,000 copies, explained a spokesperson.
Thumbing through our copy, sourced online, we were struck by the gastronomic marvels back then, compared to how most of us cook and eat today. In the old French tradition, fat and calories didn’t count for much.
We found dishes such as Lamb Chops Sauté: “Season eight lamb chops with salt and pepper and fry in melted butter. Then place the chops on a platter. Put two ounces of butter in the frying pan, cook until the butter is brown and pour over the chops. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, chervil, tarragon and the juice of a lemon.”
How about a bowl of Cream Countess: “Make a cream of asparagus soup, and before serving bind with the yolk of one egg for each person. Color with green spinach coloring.”
One of many lunch menus offers this spread: “eggs Celestine, fried chicken Villeroi, flageolet beans, mashed potato salad, French pastry, demitasse (espresso).” The eggs Celestine call for poached eggs, ham, butter, cream sauce and cheese.
For more details: www.westinstfrancis.com/110-anniversary, (415) 397-7000.