Friday, October 30, 2009

The Jane Austen Diet at JASNA

Ironically, I planned to give up my Jane Austen dieting for the week-end of the JASNA annual meeting in Philadelphia. I figured that the food served would be too processed, too diverse and from too far away to maintain any kind of accuracy. Crazily enough it turned out that there was a 18th centuryrestaurant right across the street from the hotel. Though pricey and completely touristy, I decided to give City Tavern a go. The Tavern was built in 1773 and was the new local hot spot when signers of the Declaration of Indepence lunched there. Modern day visitors are greeted by waitstaff dressed in colonial costume and served beer in pewter mugs.

Sadly, cuisine-wise the City Tavern didn't stack up. I ordered a a goulash, which of course shouldn't have even been on the menu and a Spruce Beer. The beer was extra delicious, though I'm not entirely sure it was authentic. It's quite possible that the careless waitstaff just brought me the wrong thing. My dining companion ordered "salmagundi" which is a fancy 18th century name for a mediocre chef salad. The best thing about the place was the bread basket which was a variety of authentic recipes including a sweet potato muffin supposedly from Thomas Jefferson. I assume that would be TJ's cook's recipe, as I doubt the famous founding father, plantation owner and slave impregnator was in the kitchen with sleeves rolled up.

What ended up happening after that cuisine wise was pretty much as predicted. I couldn't find anything remotely within my diet so I did my best. I did take care to eat a comically large amount of food on Friday night. We dined at The Continental, a martini bar and tapas place. Eating a bunch of tapa may be the modern equivalent of the multi-course dinners served in Jane's Day. All in all I had a small to medium serving of more than a dozen dishes. I probably owe every member of the central Jersey JASNA group a few bucks since we split the check. I felt like I ate two or three times what everyone else did. I had an evening of whist playing for which to fortify myself. I also took home the most insane left-overs ever: Deep Fried Philly Cheese Steak Egg Roll. I had it for breakfast. Though not remotely on the Jane Austen diet, I was at least carrying on the tradition of starting my way with a formidable breakfast that draws stares from anyone likely to encounter me while eating it. And really, that's what it's all about, right?