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Women Under the Culinary Influence - September 2016


Will There Be Anything Else?

by Ron Skaar

Food service, during colonial times, was a hodgepodge of taverns, inns, brandy shops,  and grog houses. In 1648 nearly a fourth of all buildings in New Amsterdam were brewery houses. 

By the end of the 17th century, the average American male over fifteen was consuming over six gallons of alcohol each year. Coffee and chocolate houses, which were the rage back in England, became a diversion from the ruffian taverns. Respectability became the selling point for taverns in the 18th century and the quality of food improved rapidly.

Travel in America was becoming easier and the first road guide was issued in 1732. The history of restaurants in the United States is tied extensively to this avid mobility and to our kinship with France during the American Revolution.

In 1782 a Parisian traiteur began serving separate groups at small tables, giving them a choice of several dishes. Travelers to France brought this idea back to the states. Hostesses of the period worked hard to imitate the French service, décor and recipes.

Delmonico’s set the standard for early American restaurants with a sparkling clean, well appointed restaurant with attentive service. It became the touchstone for changing tastes and a training ground for a generation of chefs in the ever-expanding restaurant industry.

 After telling young men to “Go West”, Horace Greenly noted that what the West dearly needed was “a thousand good cooks”. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Frederick Henry Harvey realized the real gold mines in the West could be found in food service. 

Harvey created beautifully appointed restaurants with great locally sourced food and clean service along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe route. The Harvey restaurants established the guidelines for the success of every restaurant chain to follow. When fights broke out among male waiters he opened the door for woman wait staff in the hospitality business with his “Harvey Girls”.  

In 1948 the first serious cooking school opened in Connecticut, bringing true academic standards to the training of the nations chefs. During the 1950’s, restaurants like New York’s Pavilion set the standards for exquisite food, opulent décor and preferential service. 

Dining became theatre in the 1960’s, with costumed wait staff creating dishes in front of guests and flambéed desserts. Soon, the server began to introduce them self by name which was followed by “I will be your waiter this evening”.

A new era began in the 1970’s when Alice Waters prepared the freshest, locally grown food available. That farm to table concept flourishes today. September 25th is our National Food Service Workers Day. They represent ten percent of the United States work force and account for eight hundred billion dollars in hospitality sales per year!

Photo by Jon Russo



Chicken Salsa Phyllo Triangles

2 medium chicken breasts, boned and skinned

4 ounces grated cheese, Monterey Jack and Cheddar

1-4 ounce can diced green chiles

4 ounces roasted red peppers, diced

1 cup mild or hot prepared salsa

1 package phyllo dough

2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted and pastry brush

Poach chicken breasts for 15-20 minutes. When cool, dice and mix in a bowl with the cheese, chiles, peppers and salsa. Open phyllo, un-roll and cover with a kitchen towel-do not let dry out. Working quickly, place one sheet of phyllo on a flat service and brush with butter. Carefully cover with another sheet, brush with butter and repeat the process with a third sheet, always keeping the remaining dough covered by the towel. With a sharp knife cut the phyllo into 6 equal strips. Place a tablespoon of filling at the top of each strip and fold the dough over filling (as you would fold a flag) to form a triangle.

Place the triangles on a buttered parchment paper lined baking sheet and butter the tops  with melted butter. Continue making triangles until all dough and filling are used. Bake in a 400 degree oven until the pastry is crisp and golden. Can be made ahead and frozen.

Makes 36 to 40 triangles, serve with sour cream or guacamole.