Eating through United States history
Key Lime Pie from America Eats Tavern. (Greg Powers)
Jose Andres, the highly acclaimed Spanish chef based in Washington DC, is introducing Americans to their culinary history at a pop-up restaurant, America Eats Tavern, opening, most appropriately, on the Fourth of July.
Andres, who was named the James Beard Foundation’s 2011 outstanding chef, has created the restaurant as an extension of the National Archives’ exhibition, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet. The tavern is steps away from the National Archives building and occupies the former site of Andres’ Café Atlantico restaurant, which is relocating.
Named after a Works Project Administration writers’ project chronicling American “foodways” of the 1930s, America Eats will offer a new take on American classics while celebrating native ingredients and long-forgotten dishes. A casual tavern menu will be offered on the restaurant’s ground floor, while a more refined, elegant menu will be available on the second and third floors.
Historic drinks on offer include milk punch, based on Benjamin Franklin’s 1763 recipe; a champagne cocktail from the 1935 Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book; and Ramos Gin Fizz, from an 1880 New Orleans recipe. Appetisers will include 1964 Buffalo wings; 1899 oysters Rockefeller; George Washington Carver’s peanut soup; and a shrimp in grapefruit salad from the famous Joy of Cooking cookbook. Sandwiches will include Reuben on rye, peanut butter and jelly, and Philly cheese steak, while entrees will include Lewis and Clark’s bison steak; 1860s Derby Day Kentucky burgoo with rabbit; a clambake from “an 1800s social gathering”; and seafood and pork jambalaya, from an 1853 recipe from Gonzalez, Louisiana. Desserts will range from Key lime and pecan pies to pineapple upside down cake and New York cheesecake.
Andres, who was born in Asturias, Spain, and has worked in Washington since 2003, said he had long dreamed of opening an American restaurant. “At the same time”, he added, “I wanted to bring into perspective who we are, from before the Europeans arrived in America, to today.” He hopes to bring a unique perspective to American dining, because foreigners “have an amazing way to see through the prism what sometimes people who live on the scene are unable to see.”
Profits from the restaurant — which will be open through 4 July, 2012 — will be donated to the Foundation of the National Archives.