Stork Club at New Years in the 1950s by artist Albert Dorne (1906-65)
No matter how much I love ancient history and food, there’s something about New Years that makes me think New York City and the golden age of the nightclub.
How about a little eye candy for my New Year's present to you before a bit of background on the Stork Club?
Ah, The Stork Club. Its rooms overflowed with celebrities. I really don’t think there’s any modern correlative in New York.
In the 70’s there was Studio 54 but since then, it’s been a long run of ‘flavor of the month’ clubs that have the shelf life of raspberries on a hot day. The Stork Club was hot from the mid-30’s through the mid-1950’s –– a 20 year run.
Ernest Hemingway, Spencer Tracy and George Jessel
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli
JFKennedy and Jackie Kennedy
Elizabeth Taylor and her parents
Frank Sinatra and his wife and children
Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio
The Stork Club began in 1929 when a man named Sherman Billingsley got together with a couple of swells and started the place on 58th Street. It really got going when it moved to its final resting place at 3 East 53rd street in 1934. Within 2 years it was taking in a million a year.
Stork Club Ladies Room
The men’s room was unusual, or should I say men’s rooms, plural. Billingsley didn’t like the idea of an unpleasantly oderiferous men’s room so only urinals were in the downstairs men’s room. You had to go up a few flights to sit on a toilet in the #2 room.
The Blessed Event Room was terribly popular as was the Cub Room -- also referred to as “The Snub Room”.
The Cub Room with Orson Welles in left front
Billingsley ruled the place like a potentate. There were laws that had to be obeyed ‘or else’ (the kitchen was full of warning signs – and with the exception of the beloved Jack Spooner, employees were told if a person was known by the employee, they had no business in the club) but he was also generous -- bestowing 100G in gifts every year to his favored patrons.
I read in a great article in Life Magazine that he had a waiter whose only job was to light Ethel Merman’s cigarette, and he also had a man who followed him discretely throughout the evening and interpreted his hand signals:
“Bring a round of drinks to these folks.”
“Get them out and don’t let them come in again.”
“Call me to the phone, I want to get away from this table.”
“No check for this table, I’ve got it.”
The biggest of the professional gossips was a fellow named Walter Winchell (1897-1972) – his rival Ed Sullivan had court at El Morocco.
Winchell’s radio shows and columns helped to make the Stork Club what it was. He reported on who was doing what in the club and kept the buzz on high.
Being the voice of the Stork Club had its perks. His favorite Stork Club dishes were named after him and put on the menu.
The first was Winchell’s chicken Hamburger (recipe in the article above). The second was Chicken a la Walter Winchell. It’s an insider joke because it is made with turkey not chicken. I found the recipe on a fun site by the grandson of the famous Jack Spooner who was the gate-keeper captain of the Stork Club. He knew everyone and was much loved.
The recipe is comfort food at it’s finest and a superlative way to get rid of the last of the holiday turkey and ham. The sauce couldn’t be better and its little beard of broccoli brightens the dish perfectly (it's a good addition to my Creative Cooking Crew Challenge too -- what to do with leftovers!)
I also include the famous Stork Club Punch that packs quite a wallop.
Don’t despair, on January 1st, put your ice bag on you head, relax for a few hours and prepare this for your New Year’s Day treat.
HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!
8 thick slices of roast turkey (or deli slices) – chicken works just as well, of course
4 thick slices ham (or deli slices)
6 -12 spears of cooked broccoli, sliced
1 ½ T butter
1 ½ T flour
1 ½ c light cream + ½ c milk (OR 1 c cream and 1 cup milk)
2 egg yolks
1 Tb hollandaise sauce (add a squeeze of lemon juice to 1 T of softened butter if you don’t have hollandaise hanging around)
1 ½ T prepared mustard
½ t salt
pepper to taste
2 T heavy cream
Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour. Heat and gradually add cream and milk. Stir over low heat till mixture thickens and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir some of the mixture into two beaten egg yolks.
Return egg mixture to saucepan and heat a few minutes longer.
Stir in 1 T of Hollandaise sauce (or lemon and butter), 1 ½ tbs. of prepared mustard, salt, pepper and heavy cream
Warm the meat and broccoli in a covered dish in a low oven. Remove and heat the broiler.
Alternate slices of roast turkey and baked ham on a broiler pan Top with broccoli. Spoon sauce over meat and broil till heated through and bubbly – just a few minutes.
From 1944 NYTs:
STORK CLUB PUNCH
1 1/3 cups orange juice
1 1/3 cups pineapple juice
1 1/3 cups lemon or lime juice
1/2 bottle Jamaica rum
1/2 bottle Bacardi rum
1/3 bottle domestic maraschino liqueur
1/3 cherry brandy
Sliced orange and lemons or limes.
Slice fresh pineapple, if available
Mix ingredients, except slices fruit and cherries, in a large bowl, then pour into a punch bowl containing a big piece of ice. Add the sliced fruit in amounts to taste—there can be as much or as little as you like. Serve with bread and butter sandwiches or simple cookies. This makes a quantity sufficient for twenty.
The Creative Cooking Crew Roundup will be at the end of the month. Links up then!