By Demetra M. Pappas
Philadelphia celebrates past (and earliest) presidencies. Retired academic Ed Mauger’s Philadelphia on Foot Tours provides good information and great dish. Across from Independence Hall and next to the Liberty Bell on Market Street, an outdoor, open-air site marks the executive mansion where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived, when Philadelphia was the capital (1790-1800). Recently discovered, excavated (word is that there were hopes of finding a pot or a couple of artifacts, when the foundation of the original building was discovered), and this was opened barely a year ago. With updated political vocabulary, the permanent exhibition, subtitled, “Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation,” comments that the former kept slaves.
At Congress Hall the House of Representatives met on the main floor, while the Senate assembled upstairs, giving birth to the names of Upper and Lower Chamber. The Powel House (home of Samuel Powel, last Mayor of Philadelphia under the British and the first of the United States, served as a salon for Washington, Adams, Benjamin Franklin (and, some believe, every signer of the Declaration of Independence. Betsy Ross, who Washington commissioned to create the American flag, is celebrated at her restored house.
City Tavern reconstructs the tavern where delegates of the Constitutional Congress met. Martha Washington’s chocolate mouse cake finishes a hearty meal (like beef and morel mushrooms or crown roast of pork Madeira, reputedly enjoyed by John Adams) in the style of the revolutionaries. Historically (or culinarily) dedicated folks can find the recipe in The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine, by Chef Walter Staib with Paul Bauer. This coffee table cookbook traces City Tavern’s historic provenance, and has recipes inspired by Hannah Glasse’s 1745 book, The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Easy, along with those of the First Lady herself, in her 1753 cookbook, Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery. Staib and Bauer’s book is a visual treat.
On board the Moshulu, modern American cuisine is served on the largest four-masted sailing ship still afloat in the world, docked permanently at Penn’s Landing, with spectacular water views and lush wood paneled interiors replete with murals. “Chef Fernandez,” a native New Yorker, infuses the cuisine with modern American and Continental preparations (the chef’s steak specialty comes with green asparagus, lump crabmeat, delicate chive potato puree and a Hollandaise cabernet thyme reduction).
Penn’s View Hotel, a 52-room European style hotel in the heart of the Old City, and a refurbished 19th century hardware store, with distinctly modern services, great views of Penn’s Landing and around the corner from Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States (since 1713).
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