Our great annual birthday party takes place Sunday with parades, concerts, family get-togethers, picnics and demonstrations of gratitude and pride in our country and its forbearers. One of the most meaningful celebrations will take place at the City Tavern in Philadelphia. Here one is apt to run into the spirit of those valiant signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The Tavern, founded in 1774, was the meeting place of those early leaders. Here they relaxed and refreshed their thirst and appetites, all the while deciding the future of their fledgling country.
On Independence Day (4th of July) the staff at this historic tavern and restaurant will hold a special celebration. Philadelphians will be taken back in time by the genuine colonial food and actors depicting the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Chef Walter Staib, who is also the owner, is dedicated to preserving American history and has written The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine (Running Press; ($35).
The tavern was first opened in 1773 and over the years played an important role in the establishment of a new nation. It was originally constructed by subscription by such leaders as Gov. John Penn, John Dickinson and Benjamin Chew. The First Continental Congress held its first unofficial meeting here in the summer of 1774. The Tavern also was the site of a gala celebration of the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1777.
The original tavern was demolished in 1854 to make room for new brownstone shops and businesses. Then in 1975, after much scrupulous research, the National Park Service and Concepts by Staib, Ltd., the tavern was restored to its original plan. The tavern now appears essentially as it did more than 200 years ago. Each minute detail was considered, even to replicating the front awning as it appeared at the original entrance.
One of the most fascinating rooms in the tavern is the Cincinnati Room, named in honor of the Pennsylvania chapter for the Society of the Cincinnati. Members are direct descendents of the revolutionary officers who founded the original chapter at the City Tavern in 1783. These descendents were responsible for refurbishing the room where regular meetings and celebrations are held.
Lest you think that those early, dedicated forbearers spent hours at the popular tavern in raucous revelry, such is not the case. Although they loved their spirits and indulged in the pleasures of the table, serious and history-making decisions were made by those courageous leaders.
One of the early patrons of the tavern was John Adams, who was in Philadelphia in 1774 to attend the First Continental Congress. Patriotic friends took him to City Tavern and Adams later remarked on it as “the most genteel tavern in America.” Paul Revere brought the news of the closing of the port of Boston to Philadelphia and refreshed himself at the tavern.
Would that we could all join Walter Staib and the staff at the City Tavern and partake of the favorite foods of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and other patriots who gave us the gift of independence, freedom and unlimited opportunities. On Sunday, as you celebrate, include a toast to those fearless leaders and to Walter Staib for his dedication to genuine Colonial American history and the food that is so much a part of our heritage.
According to the City Tavern Cookbook: “Rather than taking a sip after a toast as we do today, toasters drank an entire glass of their beverage of choice. Following are the13 toasts, as given at the second Independence Day celebration at City Tavern on July 4, 1778:
The United States of America
The protection of the rights of mankind
The friendly European powers
The happy era of the independence of America
The commander in chief of the American forces
The American arms by land and sea
The glorious 19th of April, 1775 (Battle of Concord)
The glorious 26th of December, 1776 (Battle of Trenton)
The glorious 16th of October, 1777 (Battle of Saratoga)
The 26th of June, twice glorious, 1776-1778 (1776 Battles of Fort Moultrie, Fort Sullivan and Sullivan’s Island; 1778-Battle of Monmouth)
May the arts and sciences flourish in America
May the people continue free forever
May the union of the American states be perpetual
Lest you think these thirteen toasts were achieved with water, tea or other non-alcoholic beverages, think again. Although Madeira was the drink of choice at City Tavern, our hearty ancestors consumed abundant amounts of rum from Jamaica, French brandy and English whiskey. Put them all together and you’ll have:
City Tavern cooler
2 tablespoons peach brandy
1 tablespoons Jamaican rum
1½ teaspoons whiskey
1 cup fresh apple cider
■ Fill a 12-ounce highball glass with ice cubes.
■ Add the brandy, rum, whiskey and apple cider. Serves 1.
Note: This writer does not suggest 13 libations as you recite the toasts. One will do. Happy 4th!
Q: My niece in Ohio visited me this winter and enjoyed your column. She is going to the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival and has e-mailed me asking if I could get her a recipe for sauerkraut pie. She wants to enter the contest and has lost her recipe. I hope you can help me, help her.
— Lois Gustafson, Naples
A: As a sauerkraut maven, I have lots of good recipes using kraut and I hope this pie will come off a winner.
Sauerkraut cream pie
Pastry for two 9-inch single-crust pies
½ cup sauerkraut
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
■ Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust on a floured surface and line 2 pie pans; set aside.
■ Drain the kraut and rinse with cold water, then squeeze it dry and set aside.
■ In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly, about a minute. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla and lemon juice and blend.
■ In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and cornmeal. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and blend; fold into the kraut.
■ Pour into the unbaked pie shells. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely before cutting and serving. Makes two 9-inch pies.
Doris Reynolds is the author of “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet was Fried” and “Let’s Talk Food.” They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a 4-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” For information or comments regarding today’s column, contact Doris Reynolds at email@example.com.