The Albany Hotel

The Albany Hotel Menu in 1888

The Albany Hotel in Denver, Colorado was once a place of great historical significance during its time. At the corner of 17th and Stouts Street in 1885, the hotel was beautifully designed  by E.P Brink as an American-centric take on the classic French flats that were popular at the time, especially among the aristocratic class during the time. Arguably the main  reason for the choice of the hotel to be built in Colorado, was because of an extensive mining boom. Just a little less than a decade prior to the hotel’s opening years prior to the hotel’s opening in 1879, with the discovery of the lode at Leadville. The Lode at Leadville, which was a mining discovery that yielded over 80 million US dollars worth of silver during the boom.  This mineral boom was comparatively as profitable as the Colorado Gold Rush, twenty years before it. The economic mineral boom was a catalyst largely because of Congress’ decision to  authorize the United States Government to make large scale purchases of silver in 1878 (Emmons 196). The boom heald strong throughout the 1880s, resulting in an intense increase in the population and overall wealth of Colorado, especially in the mountain valleys. Not to mention it also lead to the many historical structures in throughout Colorado.  This boom heald up until 1893 when it crashed due to a decline in silver prices.

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There is little information about the decor of the hotel itself but there are a handful of letters that mention the velvet rugs, rooms filled with murals, as well as the infamous colonial room, a room large enough and most accommodating for the highest high rollers. The Albany Hotel in its hay day would go on to host many important events of the time, including  the National Elks Convention in 1906 (in which a large bull elk was stabled in the hotel lobby) and the Democratic National Convention in 1908 (Rudolph 1). Popular stars from the Wild West era shows like, Annie Oakley, Johnny Baker, and the very famous William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody stayed at the hotel while playing in the area (Rudolph 1).

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An import factor of any hotel of that time attempting popularity and success was the food offered, especially if one wished to have repeat visitors. The Albany Hotel was popular especially for its luncheons, for around a dollar twenty five  everything set out in front of the guest to be served as they requested. In particular, October in the year 1888 the menu included some items that we are still familiar with today, mashed or boiled potatoes, fried eggplant, mangos, and pineapple sherbert. Most of the menu mimics today’s cuisine except for the  Calf’s Brain, A La Poulette. This was an item that was popular in Europe before making it to the states, according to Mary Ronald, author of The Century Cookbook, they would have commonly been prepared:

“Soak the brains for an hour in cold water; then simmer in water containing a tablespoonful of vinegar for twenty minutes; an Onion, thyme, bay-leaf, salt and peppercorns in the water also will improve the flavor of the brains; place again in cold water to blanch; remove the skin and fibers, and cook by any of the receipts given for sweetbreads. The boiled brains may also be served with any of the following sauces poured over them: a plain white sauce; a white sauce with chopped mushrooms; a white sauce seasoned with mashed yolks of hard-boiled eggs, a little mustard, tarragon vinegar and chopped parsley, and a tablespoonful of chopped pickle added just before serving; a Vinaigrette sauce; a Hollandaise sauce; a tomato sauce; or a sauce made of browned butter and a dash of vinegar.”

Today, brains are less common in most diets of most United States diet (with the exception of Southern Amish community) yet the recipes are relatively the same as they were at the time of the menu with the exception of the common practice of frying them so they possess a crunchy texture on the outside while keeping the inside moist and soft. Included is a popular recipe used by Thanh Berthou: 

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Soak the lambs’ brains in a large bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours to remove the excess blood.Carefully separate the lobes by removing the white central cortex in the middle.Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season it with some sea salt.Use a slotted spoon to carefully poach the brains in the simmering water for 3-5 minutes. You don’t want to cook it completely, but just long enough for the brains to firm up and become easier to handle.Use a slotted spoon to remove the brains to a plate lined with kitchen paper and allow to cool.Fill a large pan with enough vegetable oil for deep-frying (about 5cm or 2 inch depth) and heat to about 180°C (350°F).Dip the poached brains in the beaten egg and lightly coat with some flour.Deep-fry the brains in batches for about 5 minutes each, or until they turn lovely and golden. Drain on some kitchen paper and sprinkle over some sea salt flakes.Serve immediately.

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The reign of the Albany Hotel was ended by a disastrous fire on September 2, 1962,when the basement of the Hotel caught on fire, burning for more than four hours, killing one person, and injuring 50 others, including firefighters. Here are images of the hotel, the fire and the tear down of the hotel in 1976 (Rogers 1).

 

 

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