“Have your history and eat it too” in a book about Pennsylvania taverns “where the stakes were high and the rum was flowing.”
“When I went to these places and started digging, there was always something more,” said author M. Diane McCormick of “Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History: Pennsylvania Pubs Where Rabble-Rousers and Rum Runners Stirred Up Revolutions.”
The Harrisburg writer highlights “neat, little historical tidbits” from 12 stops on her “pub crawl through time,” including favorites in and around Philadelphia.
“Pennsylvania makes revolutions, and Pennsylvania has pubs,” she explained. “That’s not a coincidence. Gather people with gripes in a public place, add rum or wine, and the flame torch is lit.”
At the General Warren in Malvern, think espionage and intrigue. During the American Revolution, this loyalist stronghold hosted British spy John André and officers plotting the Paoli Massacre. Its long history includes stints as a nursing home and biker bar.
“If you go back to 1745, it was originally built as a restaurant, a tavern, a hotel,” said proprietor Patrick Byrne. “The mode of transportation has changed from a horse and Conestoga wagon to Teslas and BMWs. The type of currency has changed to the American dollar, but organically, it’s still the same.”
While his inn once served the King’s men, powerful patriots made City Tavern an "epicenter of revolt."
“This was one of the first fine-dining restaurants in Philadelphia," described Aaron White, project manager for “A Taste of History” with chef Walter Staib, who “spent decades researching the recipes.”
“It’s very much a living history project,” he added. “You can come here and get the full immersion with the safety of refrigeration.”
Immerse yourself in the book’s other spots too like the Blue Bell Inn in Blue Bell, where George Washington “was regrouping and licking his wounds” after the Battle of Germantown, and the Black Bass Hotel in Lumberville, a “morgue for canal builders dying by the score.”
Learn how two taverns - McCoole’s at the Historic Red Lion in Quakertown and Bethlehem’s Tavern at the Sun Inn - played roles in the Fries Rebellion of 1799, a tax revolt and “pivotal moment in American history.”
McCormick also weaves tales of the Whiskey Rebellion, Prohibition, Molly Maguires, Battle of Gettysburg, Underground Railroad and today’s “brewpub revolution.”
“I think the brewpub has really brought back community taverns,” she said. “We can still find our own corner and make our own history.”
Meet the author
Hungry for more? Join M. Diane McCormick, author of "Well-Behaved Taverns Seldom Make History,” at the General Warren in Malvern Wednesday, March 27. Hear more of the inn’s history and why it made the book.
“People did have choices of taverns,” she said. “And they came to the General Warren because the food and hospitality were excellent there.”
Experience both beginning with a special reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by an 18th century meal, lecture and Q&A session over mini sweets, coffee and tea; $45. Reservations requested, 610-296-3637. www.generalwarren.com
This strawberry hazelnut tart is in honor of an unsung American hero, the general who emigrated from Poland to America to help the revolutionary cause. He showed up on Benjamin Franklin’s doorstep in Philadelphia and volunteered to lead the troops. In 1776, the Continental Congress commissioned him Colonel of Engineers and he fortified America’s forts and rivers against the British Navy and designed West Point. This dish is made as a tribute to the great general, engineer and freedom fighter because he wrote that he loved strawberries, a fruit that grew wild and abundant in his “second home,” America.
Makes one (9-inch) tart
4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 cups almonds, toasted and finely ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup strawberry jam
Chantilly cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter a 9-by-1 3/8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. To make the pastry, stir together the flour, almonds, cinnamon, allspice and cloves in a large bowl. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated, stopping at least once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixing speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until it forms a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Dust the work surface and about half of the chilled dough lightly with flour and roll into a circle about 11 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Ease the pastry into the prepared tart pan, being careful not to stretch it, and gently press it into the sides of the pan. Trim any excess from the edges. Roll the remaining pastry into a 10-inch square about 1/4-inch thick and cut into 10 (1-inch-wide) strips.
To assemble the linzer torte, spread the strawberry jam evenly over the bottom pastry and weave the pastry strips diagonally over the jam to create a lattice. Press the ends of the strips into the edges of the bottom crust, trimming any excess as necessary. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and remove it to a rack to cool completely. Gently remove the sides of the tart pan, place the linzer torte on a serving platter and serve with Chantilly cream or vanilla ice cream.
Chef’s note: This recipe is quite versatile and can also be used to make delicate linzer cookies. Simply cut the dough into rounds and cut out the centers of half of the rounds with a smaller cookie cutter. Spread the full rounds with jam, place the remaining rounds on top and bake just until golden.
RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF WALTER STAIB
Virginia Ham and Oysters
This dish was served all over Virginia as a combination. Oysters traveled very well, especially in cooler months. While Colonial cooks would have used whole oysters, it takes practice and a steady hand to shuck them, so home cooks should buy them ready to cook. Frugal 18th century cooks would have made this with leftover ham, but this recipe uses a new ham and requires 3 days of advanced preparation, so please plan accordingly.
1 Virginia ham
2 shallots, minced
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sherry
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons flour
1 dozen oysters, shucked, and their liquid
1 bunch of chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon “catsup to last 20 years” (historic recipe)
1 bunch parsley, minced, for garnish
Remove ham from wrapper and submerge in cold water. Store in the refrigerator and continue to soak in water for 3 days, changing the water at least twice daily. When ready, remove the ham from salty water and boil in fresh water for 1 hour, or until heated through. Carefully remove from water and slice the ham thinly.
Combine 3 tablespoons cold butter with flour to make a beurre meunière. Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the minced shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sherry. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Add beurre meunière and whisk to combine. Finish with “catsup to last 20 years.” Pour the oysters and their liquid into the cream sauce and let simmer over low heat until the oysters have curled and are still soft. Do not overcook, or the oysters will become hard and rubbery. Chop the chives and add to the simmering sauce. Keep warm, but do not continue to cook the oysters. Arrange the ham on a large platter and pour the oysters and cream sauce over the ham. Garnish with parsley.
RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF WALTER STAIB