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America Eats Tavern & Folger Library Join Forces for “First Chefs” Menu

April 2019

(photo credit Elman Studio)

This past March, America Eats Tavern began a special partnership with D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library, home not only to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection but also the largest collection of early modern western European recipe books in the United States.

The Folger recently launched “First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas,” an exhibit telling the story of early modern food culture and featuring five “First Chefs” and their culinary writings. José and America Eats Tavern’s head chef Claudio Foschi visited the exhibit, where they learned from the “First Chefs” and took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Library’s extensive recipe collection. They chose four recipes from the archives to adapt for AET’s menu, spanning the 17th and 18th centuries.

The first, a Sweet Potato Pudding from the British Grenville family (c. 1640-1750), was transformed by the chefs into a rich and hearty potato cheddar soufflé. The original recipe was an amalgam of ingredients considered “exotic” at the time: potatoes were originally brought to Europe from the “new world,” sweet wine from Spain, and cinnamon was sourced from India and Sri Lanka.

Chef Claudio also adapted Robert May’s 1660 Braised Brisket recipe, using short ribs instead of brisket. The short ribs were smoked for several hours and served with cheese grits (get the recipe here). May’s book “The Accomplisht Cook” was the most extensive recipe collection to appear in print in England at the time and helped introduce the English to continental cuisine. It also included an astounding 21 ways to make an omelette – even egg-loving José could learn a thing or two!

William Hughes’s 1672 book "The American Physitian" called the cacao tree one of the most exciting fruits and vegetables in the Americas. He said chocolate – the “American Nectar” – should be a required morning meal for everyone (…we obviously agree!). Chef Claudio turned Hughes’ hot chocolate recipe into a chocolate-lovers’ dream dessert with chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, and vanilla whipped cream.

And finally, Mrs. Marshall Milk Punch is an adaption of an 18th century recipe for “The Duke of Norfolk’s Punch” that included ingredients from both Europe and the Americas: citrus fruits, sugar, and brandy. The America Eats rendition has Thomas Tew Rum, nutmeg, cloves, egg yolk, and Fever Tree ginger beer.

Check out pictures from the special menu collaboration on Instagram @americaeatstvrn, and stop by America Eats Tavern – many of these specials will continue to be available.