Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Restaurants and Chefs of some of America's Legendary Department Stores

America had some well known Department Stores. Many of them survived over 100 years before they were sold and sold again and eventually many of them became obsolete. When Department Stores first opened in America, they had restaurants, diners,  cafeterias and even bars.

In their prime, many of them were well known for their restaurants. Customers could spend time shopping and enjoy Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner in the store. Many of the restaurants became very well known for the famous Chefs and their Menus. Many of the Chefs became celebrities in America and have written well known cookbooks .
My interest in this story was brought to my attention by a friend of ours who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She sent me a recipe for a cake that became popular in the restaurant of a legendary Atlanta Department Store. I'm a retired executive from the retail industry. A few of the well known department stores that I worked for in my career include Lord & Taylor ( we actually have a son named Taylor, named after the store), Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's.
Here's the store that started this journey of sharing the history of America's Department Store Restaurants. Thank you Lynn for inspiring me to write this story.

Rich's /Atlanta, Georgia

Founded in 1867, Rich's symbolized the shopping experience in Atlanta during the 20th century.
In 1867 Morris Rich, a Hungarian immigrant borrowed $500 from his brother and opened a Dry Goods Store on Whitehall Street in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1975 Natalie Dupree, a prominent Georgia Chef, opened a cooking school at Rich's that ran for nearly ten years.
The Magnolia Room was the restaurant at Rich's. They became famous for their Coconut cake at the Bakeshop.

Rich's Bakeshop Coconut Cake

Thawed frozen coconut really does make a difference in this easy cake. You can also assemble this cake when the layers are still warm because the shortening based icing does not melt.
It's even better the day after it's made.
This is the recipe for a 3 layer cake.
Here's what you'll need:

3 - 8" cake pans
Shortening and flour for the pans
There are three recipes for this cake.
Rich's Bakeshop Yellow Cake
Rich's Coconut Filling
Rich's Coconut Icing

2 1/4 C cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
1 TBS powdered milk
1/2 C water
2/3 C whole milk
3/4 C vegetable shortening
1 1/3 C granulated sugar3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Prepare cake pans with shortening and a dusting of flour.
In a large bowl, mix flour,salt, baking powder and ( Set Aside).

In a small bowl or measuring cup - stir powdered milk into the water and mix until dissolved.
Combine whole milk with powdered milk and  (Set Aside).

In a stand mixer, cream together shortening and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Add half of the flour mixture just until incorporated and then half of the milk mixture, beating until just incorporated.
Repeat, adding remaining flour and liquid and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
Scrape the sides of the bowl during mixing.
Pour batter into pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Cake is done as it springs back when lightly pressed in the center with your finger.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for a few minutes.
Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Rich's Coconut Filling:

2 pounds frozen shredded un sweetened coconut, divided.
2 TBS water
2 TBS granulated sugar

In a large bowl, thaw coconut (Set Aside).
Take 1 1/2 C of the coconut and put it in a small bowl (Set Aside).
Combine the water and sugar and pour over the smaller bowl of coconut.
It should be very moist but not soupy.

Rich's Bakeshop Icing:

1/2 C shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 pound confectioner's sugar
2 TBS powdered milk
1/2 C water ( for dissolving powdered milk)

In a stand mixer, combine shortening, vanilla and salt.
Cream together until incorporated.
Slowly add confectioner's sugar until it forms a very thick consistency.
Dissolve the powdered milk in the water and gradually add just 1 or 2 TBS at a time until it reaches a spreadable consistency.


Place 1 layer of cake on a serving cake plate and spread a thin layer of icing on top.
Spoon 1/2 of the moistened coconut on top of the icing.
Continue with the second layer of cake, icing it with a thin layer of icing and spreading the remaining moistened coconut on the icing.
Next, Cover the entire cake with icing. The top does not get moistened coconut.
Use a thick coating so the cake does not show through.

Place the cake plate on a tray.
Take handfuls of the dry, thawed coconut and press the flakes into the icing.
The tray will catch any coconut that falls.
Continue pressing coconut over the entire cake until it's completely covered.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour.
The cake tastes better when served the next day.

Neiman Marcus / Dallas, Texas

Neiman Marcus had the Zodiac Room that opened in 1953. In 1955 Stanley Marcus hired New York born Helen Corbitt to be the executive chef. Her cookbook and recipes are legendary today. I have a copy of the original cookbook.
In 1994 Kevin Garvin took the position of President of Food Services. He was hired to modernize the restaurants. The Zodiac Room's popovers that Corbitt introduced are still served today. She was also famous for her Chicken Broth, Orange Souffle and Chicken Salad. Garvin has gone beyond preserving these well known dishes from Helen Corbitt to celebrating them. His third cookbook will be released in October 2014. In 1999 Garvin hired Anita Hirsch to take the position of Corporate Executive Chef. There's a great story behind Neiman's famous Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. It's not known whether or not the story is truth or fiction, but it remains the history of the cookie today. They're still served at the restaurants.
Apparently, a woman and her daughter ordered the cookie for dessert. They loved the cookie so much that they asked if Neimans would share the recipe. They were told that Neimans did not share the recipe. She asked if she could buy the recipe at which the waitress replied "yes", and it would be "two fifty". It was added to her bill but she didn't see it until she got her statement a month later. She was upset that they had charged her $250.00. Neimans told her they wanted the recipe to be something that was special and not afforded by all. The woman decided to share the recipe with the world so that no one would ever have to pay $250.00 for the recipe.

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/2 C (1stick) butter, softened
1 C light brown sugar
3 TBS granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
1 1/2 C semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Place the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds until mixture is fluffy.
Beat in the egg and vanilla for 30 seconds longer, until well combined.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add to the mixer, while beating on slow speed.
Beat for about 15 seconds, stir in the chocolate chips and espresso powder and mix for 15 seconds longer.
Prepare a cookie sheet with about 2 TBS of shortening or use a non stick spray.
Using a 1 oz. cookie scoop or a 2 TBS measure, place the dough 3" apart.
Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into 2" circles; there should be room on the sheet for six to eight cookies at a time. Transfer to the oven in batches and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are nicely browned around the edges. Bake for a little longer for crispier cookies.

Bloomingdales / New York City

Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale opened their first Ladies Notions Shop in New York's lower east side in the late 1800's.In 1886 they moved uptown to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. In the 1920's the store expanded to include the entire city block. There's not much information available about Bloomingdale's earlier restaurants. I remember eating at the famous diner in the late 70's. They served a famous Apple Pie with a thick slice of melted Cheddar Cheese on top. That's how my grandmother served Apple Pie. It was incredible.
The only recipe I could find is for  their Double Ginger Cookies.

 Bloomingdale's Double Ginger Cookies:

2 1/4 C all purpose flour
2 3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 TBS butter, room temperature
1 1/3 C sugar
1 egg
1/4 C molasses
3 TBS crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Lina cookie sheets with parchment paper

In a medium bowl, whisk flour , ground ginger, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, beat butter + 1C of sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
Add egg, molasses and crystallized ginger.

Add dry ingredients to the mixer and blend on low speed.
Pour remaining 1/3 C sugar into a shallow bowl.
Using a 1 TBS cookie scoop, shape the dough into 1" balls.
Roll each ball into the sugar to coat.
Set balls 1 1/2" - 2" apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pans for 5 minutes.
Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Saks Fifth Avenue / New York

Saks Fifth Avenue was started in the early 1900's by Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel. They both had separate stores on 34th Street at Herald Square. They combined their businesses to create a speciality store. The only recipe I can find from the restaurant is Sak's Fifth Avenue Tomato Bisque.

Saks Fifth Avenue Tomato Bisque:

3 TBS butter
1 large yellow onion
1/2 celery rib
3 TBS flour
1 TBS minced garlic
2 - (16oz.) cans if diced tomatoes ow 3 large fresh tomatoes, diced.
2 TBS chopped fresh basil or 1 TBS dried basil.
2 - (16oz.) cans tomato puree
1 - (16oz.) can of stock, vegetarian beef or beef.
1/2 C heavy cream
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large stock pot.
Dice onion and celery and add to the pot.
Saute until the onion is transparent.
Add garlic, diced tomato and basil.
Slowly stir in tomato puree and stock, then heavy cream.
The soup should be rose colored.
Add bay leaf and simmer for 1 hour.

Remove Bay Leaf before serving.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lord & Taylor / New York

Lord & Taylor is the oldest luxury, speciality-retail department store in America. Samuel Lord, an immigrant from England and George Washington Taylor, his wife's cousin, founded the store in 1826 on Catherine Street in Manhattan. By 1861 the store was located on Broadway at Grand Street. In 1870 they moved to Broadway and 20th Street. Later, it was one of the first on 5th Ave. There are two restaurants located in the store. Sarabeth's Restaurant is on the 5th floor and Sarabeth's Cafe is on the 6th floor.
Sarabeth Levine is an award winning jam maker, acclaimed pastry chef and restauranteur. In 1981 she began making Orange-Apricot Marmalade in her home kitchen from a 200 year old family recipe and selling it to local shops. Unfortunately that recipe is not available to the public. However, I bought her cookbook and here's her recipe for Strawberry Peach Preserves.

Sarabeth's Strawberry Peach Preserves:

4 pounds of ripe peaches
7 C sugar
8 C fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered lengthwise
1/2 C fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. In batches, add peaches and boil until skim loosens, about 30 - 60 seconds.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl fill with an ice bath.
Peel and pit the peaches and cut into 1" pieces.

Mix peaches with 3 1/2 C of the sugar in a non reactive large saucepan. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until they soften and release their juices and the sugar dissolves, about 5 - 10 minutes.
Stir in the strawberries, the remaining 3 1/2 C sugar and lemon juice.
Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Reduce heat to medium low to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, simmering and stirring often until the liquid is thick and syrupy and the peaches are soft and chunky, about 40 minutes.

Fill jars, attach lids and process the jars for canning.
Place the jars in a canning rack and lower into the water of a canning pot.
If necessary, add enough boiling water to cover the jars by 1 inch.
Return to a boil and process for 10 minutes at a slow boil.

Place a kitchen towel on a work surface. Remove the rack with the jars, from the pot.
Using tongs, transfer the jars to the towel and cool completely.

I know that this is a lengthy blog, but I found it interesting as I got into this history of America's Department Store Restaurants.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.

I recently found this story to add to the post:

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins | History & Recipe

Peace in the Kitchen!

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