Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The History of the Roasted Potato

I just got the latest e-mail newsletter from McGillin's Olde Ale House, one of my all-time favorite watering holes (best kept secret: it's a very good restaurant), and as usual with that busy place it's chock full of activities to put on your calendar. But one date especially caught my eye:

Historical Event -- The "beginning of the end" of Prohibition finally came on April 7, 1933, when bars were once again permitted to sell low alcohol beer. McGillin's Olde Ale House will celebrate that monumental day in its long & colorful history and its own 150th anniversary with a historic event. Starting at 6 p.m. on April 7, 2010, McGillin's will offer rollback pricing on drinks and food, hand out free "fireplace-roasted" potatoes and dedicate a plaque commemorating the anniversary. Ma McGillin will be offering pricing from an earlier era, including:

* Free "fireplace roasted" potatoes - to all patrons, all day;
* $18.60 Dinner for Two -- Three course dinner including 2 mugs of McGillin's 1860 IPA, 2 house salads & 2 entrees;
*$1.50 mugs of Victory Throwback Lager & McGillin's 1860 IPA (by Stoudt's for the anniversary);
* Blue Coat Prohibition Martinis -- served in a teacup

"Free 'fireplace roasted' potatoes"?

So I wrote McGillin's, asking about the history of that free spud, and here is what they wrote back:

" Thanks for asking Rich! Below is a clip from William McGillin's obituary from 1901:

'So it came to pass that the Bell-in-Hand was famous in its sphere. Millionaire and politicians, statesmen, leaders in the old set, were glad to step into its shade and quaff of its amber fluid and eat the “roast potato,” which latter constituted its unique and only free lunch. Given a roast potato, some butter, salt and pepper and a glass of nut brown ale, and many temporary kingdoms had been erected. And if perchance the stranger made himself known to the proprietor he was almost certain to be accorded an invitation to inspect the cellars, which inspection, with sundry “samples,” was an event. Mr. McGillin showed the cellars himself and drew the samples with his own hand; and so tender and affectionate was he in his regard for the various brews that no person could be hardhearted enough to refuse to drain every sample glass to the bottom. The sample glasses, fortunately were small, else the consequences of a visit might often have been serious.'

We are bringing this old and famous tradition back for the day - and we will bring it back for other significant days while we celebrate our anniversary!"

Sheer poetry from a bygone era. Imagine the pride of Pa McGillin taking folks down to the cellar to show off and sample (!) his fine brews (a tradition current owner Chris Mullins has been known to do from time to time for certain beer aficionados)! By the way, the Bell-In-Hand was the original name of the tavern now known as McGillin's. You can even find the original wooden sign behind the bar today.

I'll see you on the 7th of April to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition and to savor that historic roast potato.

1 comment:

Patty said...

What a great bit of history ;) thanks for posting!