These recipes are based on Rufus Estes’ 1911 Cookbook: Good Things to Eat. Captain Estes, as he was known, cooked for the premier class cars of Pullman Trains. This was equivalent to ultra first class today. The most expensive rail car at that time was $20,000. That’s about $600,000 in 2020 dollars. US Presidents, foreign diplomats, and world-famous performers were his guests on these luxury trains, the ultra-elite of the day. It’s in the kitchens of these deluxe trains that Rufus Estes’ honed his skills as a chef and developed many of the recipes in this book.
The dishes in his book aren’t written out in the way we know recipes today. Exact cooking times or temperatures are often missing. And there are many variations on a theme, a slew of dishes that are the same except for one or two ingredients. For example, beef marrow quenelles, calf’s liver quenelles, and chicken quenelles. You just quinellaed what you had available when between two stops. But even though Estes was making dishes with limited ingredients and from ingredients with long shelf lives, these dishes had to be exquisite. I mean, I don’t know when the last time was that I had a quenelle of anything. How about you? His recipes are short and to the point, but full of flavor.
Anybody who can cook for Presidents with a 5-line recipe is someone worth learning more about.
I’m so happy I went to the effort to create this wine event where my friends and I could get together. It was a little bit of work packing everything up. But now I have everything I need to just do it again next month.
I also really enjoyed this meal. Even though this was fancy food for its day, it still had a “comfort food” quality about it. And it was very versatile. I think you could add some rice to the hash to extend and make it the entire meal. I mean, there were a ton of veggies in it already. Or, you could add scrambled eggs instead of hard-boiled to make it more breakfasty. I think that’s what’s great about these recipes. They’re just a point of departure and the sky’s the limit once you add your creativity.
The dessert was perhaps my favorite dish. The orange zest really added some spark to the cream. But I think the cheese ramekins and the berry shrub were the stars of the meal. I’ve already gotten requests for these recipes. Don’t worry guys, they’re on the site.
Sparkling 2018 Malvasia Bianca (Sonoma)
2017 Albarino (Spain)
2019 Albarino (Uruguay)
2017 Grenache (Santa Barbara)
2017 Grenache (Spain)
2017 Riesling (France)
2018 Riesling (Germany)