Monday, April 9, 2012

Some History on Fine Dining in Victorian New York City

If there's one thing I love about writing historical romance, it's doing the research for each specific book. There's so much detail involved in writing a story, in particular, with Historicals. You have to research the historical period itself, taking into consideration all the goings on of the day. For instance, war, court cases, society, social structure, and location, where you'll do it all over again. i find searching for timelines extremely helpful. It puts me smack-dab in the center of a year and locale. Then once you get a handle on all that, you can narrow your focus. :)

There's so much to consider, fashion, society traditions, servants, and so much more. Like food? Yep... :) But unfortunately, we must kill our darlings for the sake of the story. :)

Yes, it's difficult cutting unnecessary facts and fun information, but sometimes that must be done in order to not make your story read like a history textbook. :)

While doing research for my historical, His Fifth Avenue Thief, the hero suggests that he and the heroine dine at Delmonico's, nicknamed "The Citadel," because of its grandeur. It stood three stories tall with two columns flanking its entrance said to have come from the ruins of the ancient empire of Pompeii. The first and second floors featured large "saloons" or dining rooms with inlaid floors and the most expensive decor. The third floor contained several private dining rooms, as well as the kitchen. The cellar included wine vaults stocked with 16,000 bottles of French wine.

Delmonicos first began as a pastry shop and wasn't made a restaurant until 1831 by the Delmonico's, two brothers from France. For the next ninety years, Delmonico's would be the place to dine if you were anyone of importance. It was said that author Mark Twain and opera singer Jenny Lind loved to frequent Delmonico's.

In 1836, five years after the restaurant's grand opening, it was recorded that Delmonico's was the first place to ever print a menu for diners. Before then, patrons would simply eat what was prepared each day, but Delmonico's provided it's patrons a true Parisian fine dining experience. In the 1830's, Delmonico's menu offered 340 entrées, 11 soups, and 40 hors d'oeuvres

This is a sample of what they served then and how items were priced. It's amazing now to see how "hamburger steak," priced then at ten cents was considered expensive back then. :)

Regular beefsteak, pork chops and fried fish are each 4 cents, roast beef, roast mutton and chicken stew are all 5 cents, and roast chicken is 10 cents. Delmonico's menu is 12 pages long with over 350 dishes listed.

Delmonico's was most known for creating Delmonico's steak and potatoes. Two other famous dishes created there were Lobster Newburg and baked Alaska.

I couldn't include all of that in my story. Though it would've been fun. :) That's pretty much what I learned for less than a page of story. :) Doing as much research as I did, I love using some of what I've learned to enrich my books. :) It's the small details that help give character depth and emotional layers, not to mention enhance the setting.

His Fifth Avenue Thief blurb:
Two years prior, Irishman Aaron O’Connel took his life from rags to riches. Chance and wits have kept him alive in 1850’S New York City. But no amount of money or success can bring his love Cathlene back from the dead. When a thief sneaks her way into his mansion, the last woman he expects to find absconding with his belongings is his long lost wife.
Abandoned on New York’s shores, a widowed, penniless, and ruined Cathlene O'Connel was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Fear and circumstance drove her to a life of thieving in order to survive, but her heart risks the biggest danger of all when Aaron hands her a scandalous proposition: A son in exchange for her freedom.
Now that he has her back, Aaron doesn't intend to let Cathlene slip between his fingers. He'll do whatever it takes to regain her trust and love. But when an enemy from Cathlene's past resurfaces, Aaron not only faces battling for Cathlene's heart, but also her life.
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  1. Oh, I love this kind of research! Could also be that I'm really hungry, lol.

  2. Very interesting! I love this stuff. It's especially fun during research when you can find pricing as you did.

  3. Very fun research. The book sounds very good.

  4. Darcy,
    I must've been hungry while doing research. :) LOL
    Once you start doing research, it's tough to stop. :) As for the pricing, I just happened upon it. :) Glad I found it though. :)
    Thanks, BN100. I did have fun. :)