Herring and Partridge Eye for the King
A special dinner for King William I in Groningen
In the summer of 1830 king William I visited the provinces of his country. In July it’s Groningen. Details of his visited are reported in the Groninger Courant. The royal arrives in the morning of July 21th. Time for audiences and presentations, and luckily also a couple of meals. Lunch is an intimate déjeuner at the town majors place. In the evening he is invited to a formal large dinner and dance in the Schouwburg. The next day William I inspected the troops, after which he visited some public asylums and institutions. The day ended with a dinner and a gala. (You understand that his slender waist expands somewhat over the years) The 23rd continued the journey with Leeuwarden as destination.
A meal list of the dinner in the Schouwburg has been preserved, undoubtedly drawn up by the caterer/cuisinier. Sadly nameless so far. Obviously there has been consultation with the host and minor changes have been made. It is not a menu as we know it today. dr. Joris Oddens (Huygens Institute) found this piece in the Groningen archive and was happy to forward it to me so that I can share it with you.
Of course, in 1830, the meal followed the protocol of the Service à la Française. Whether it concerns two or three courses is not entirely clear, but I suspect two, with some relevées to refresh the whole. If there are three, you can think of a substitution with a restart of a second serve at the vol au vent and sweetbreads. Unfortunately, there is no drawing of how everything was presented on the table. And we also don’t know which soups were served. At least two, presumably a somewhat firmer and a creamy soup. William I’s preference for herring has also been considered. These are – look how very tasty, Your Majesty – specially served from the buffet at the Ham and Carrés with green peas and beans (so no carrots, they go with the cauliflower on the table).
We do know that the table was decorated with three plateaus with some vases with flowers. In any case, it must have been a beautifully symmetrical whole with some showy dishes right in front of the king, who of course was handed all the tastiest snacks first. These are the dishes, I’ve adjusted the spelling here and there for clarity.
- The soups, served from the buffet
- Croquettes en de pastries
- Ham and Carrés with green peas and beans. The herrings are served at that moment from the buffet.
- Beef tenderloins with stringbeans and salad beans
- Veal and Roastbeef with carrots and cauliflower
- Several puddings with sauces
- Vol au vents and sweat breads
- Spring turkeys and spring geese with a salad
- Pheasants, capons, quails with sanbal (achar of cucumber)
- Refined pasties of turtle doves
- Glazed (jellied) dishes of fresh salmon and eel.
- The sweet dishes and the pastries.
- The sweet jellies (orange manger, blanc manger, jaune manger, peach manger With a pièce montée).
Order of Serving the Dessert
- Strawberries, cherries, berries, raspberries etcetera.
- China appels (sweet oranges)
- Apricots, grapes, peaches
- Several tastes Icecream
- Compotes with fruit in brandywine.
- Item with ginger.
Look closely: oranges, apricots, peaches and melons. Nice orange all of them. The compotes may also have contained some orange coloured fruit.
Of course, wine was also served with such an extensive and excellent meal. A few stand out. Madera is served with the soups, who is not explained further. Then a château Pomiès Agassac is served, now described as a balanced, supple, fruity wine, which will please everyone who loves Medoc. What was it like then? There is another Medoc on the program, the Baron Villeneuve de Cantemerle Haut-Médoc. Are we assuming that the king and his entourage and the high guests get a “better” Medoc than the rest?
There are also white wines of course. Such as the Hochheimer, from the eastern corner of the Rheingau, an old wine region, already known from the Middle Ages. The light, white wines were quite popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the vineyards mainly consist of Riesling, but you will also find Spätburgunder and Müller-Thurgau near Hochheim. In addition, they served a Rüdesheimer, a highly valued Rhine wine in the area where the Romans already believed that you should plant vines there. A crescent-shaped pruning knife from Roman times was found in 1900 in an excavation pit near the Brömserburg. And so the wine region remained popular, also in the Frankish, Merovingian and Carolingian times. Charlemagne recommended planting the noble vines from Orleans because of the favorable climate, but it was the Archbishops of Mainz who pushed viticulture to great heights between the 11th and 14th centuries. The records go back to 1074. Unfortunately, there is no ‘label’ attached to these wines. The burgundy and port are also not named. It’s different with champagne. It is an Oeil de Perdrix, a designation that goes back to the 18th or early 19th century. At that time it was not yet possible to artificially ‘decolor’ the juice of the red grapes, so that the champagne retained a pink color, a natural rosé. He owes the name ‘partridge’s eye’ to the color of the eye of this (incidentally tasty) bird. We went to hunt for a bottle and found a lovely Oeil de Perdrix at the Domaine Joël Michel in Brasles. Do you notice the colour? Almost a light orange, and so, worthy of a king of the House of Orange.