New Years at the Old St. Charles Hotel

Background History

This menu is from The St. Charles Hotel on New Years Day in 1906. The hotel sat downtown on St. Charles Ave, along Canal Street. Construction of the hotel first began in 1835, and some said it was one of the first great hotels in the United States. Others are quoted as saying it saw “more important political events than any other building in the country, outside of Washington, DC.” It possessed a dome on the top that contained an art gallery, and the whole city could be seen from these windows. The original hotel is sometimes referred to as the “Old” St. Charles hotel, as this building burnt down in 1851.

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The original St. Charles Hotel, c. 1840

 

The second, larger version of the hotel opened in early 1853 and could accommodate up to 700 people by 1888. Naturally, the busiest time of the year was Mardi Gras, and the hotel would often be completely overbooked. Unfortunately, this building also burnt down in the spring of 1894.

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The exterior of the second St. Charles Hotel, c. 1860

 

The third and final version of the hotel was opened just two years later in 1896. This version of the St. Charles hotel was bought out by Sheraton Hotels for $5 million and renamed the “Sheraton-Charles Hotel.” In the mid 1960s, it was sold to New Orleans developer and businessman Louis J. Roussel Jr., who had big plans for the building. It was demolished in 1974, and the 40-story, 800-room “Grand St. Charles Hotel” was supposed to replace it. Instead, the lot sat vacant for more than ten years, until the Place St. Charles tower was built in the 1980s.

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The third building of the St. Charles Hotel in the late 1940’s

 

Menu Breakdown

This particular menu was served at the hotel on New Years in 1906. The menu itself can be seen below, followed by specific menu items that needed some clarification.

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  • Bayou Cook Oysters: These oysters came from the west side of the Mississippi river, and only appear on menus between 1900 and 1908. They spiked in popularity before becoming extinct due to habitat loss as oil companies expanded and the building of multiple levees on the river.
  • Oyster cocktail: raw oysters served with salsa or tomato sauce, usually in a martini glass
  • Creme Of Asparagus Soup, Mousselaine: Only appears in this particular menu. My best guess is that it is some kind of asparagus soup, mousselaine-style. This similar to hollandaise sauce, made with both eggs and cream.
  • Consomme Robespierre: a type of soup with game meat and vegetables in a beef broth.
  • Boiled Chicken Halibut, Sauce Hollandaise: Halibut is a type of white fish that is very similar to flounder. As stated above, hollandaise is a creamy and egg-based sauce.
  • Potatoes En Surprise: a potato casserole.
  • Petit Bouchees A La Mazarin: “petite bouchees” translates to “little bites” so this is most likely some kind of appetizer. It could be any number of things here but it is definitely something small enough to be bite-sized and picked up with the fingers.
  • Supreme De Volaille, Perigourdine: a plate of vegetables and meat, covered in perigourdine sauce. This is a thick, dark sauce made with veal stock, truffles, and goose or duck liver.
  • Noisette Of Filet Of Beef A L’imperial: Small fillets of beef, like filet mignon, covered with imperial sauce. This is a sauce made with mayonnaise, cream, lemon, and Worcestershire sauce. Usually paired with seafood today.
  • Pear Fritters A La St. Charles: Pears are sautéed until soft, mixed with batter, and then deep-fried. Probably a specialty at the hotel.
  • Lalla Rookh Punch: An adult ice cream sundae, made with vanilla ice cream and rum or brandy.
  • Lettuce And Tomato Mayonnaise: A salad made of lettuce and tomatoes with a mayonnaise based dressing.
  • Boned Capon Au Aspic: chicken with the bone in (a capon is a castrated rooster), served with a savory jelly made of chicken stock and gelatin.
  • Mince Pie: a British pie, filled with dried fruit and spices, usually served during Christmas time in England.
  • Champagne Jelly: exactly what you think it is.
  • Charlotte Russe: These are also known as ice-box cakes, and are served cold. This is a cake made of lady fingers filled with thick custard or Bavarian cream, and flavored with cooked fruit, spices or brandy.
  • Nesselrode Meringue Glace: A frozen pudding pie made of meringue, roasted chestnut puree, candied fruit, and dark rum.

Let’s Get to Cooking! 

I decided to try to make the Charlote russe cake from this menu. I liked dessert options here more than I liked the entrees, and this seemed easy enough. I enjoy cooking and baking, so I loosely followed a recipe I found online. I figured the basis for the cake hasn’t changed much. I started by gathering the ingredients I needed to start making the cake. All I needed was simple syrup (sugar and water), lemon curd, lady fingers, cream, and sugar. 

 

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From left to right: simple syrup, lemon curd, lady finger cookies, and cream.

I added sugar to the heavy cream, and used an electric beater to whip it into whipped cream. After, I added the lemon curd into the whipped cream for a citrus flavor.

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Next, I had to dip the lady fingers into the simple syrup.

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Then, I arranged the dipped lady fingers and filled them with the lemon whipped cream.

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This was the final result. I think it came out well and it tastes pretty good. As I said before, I enjoy baking so I really liked being able to do this for a final project.

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The final result.