Visitors to Gadsby’s Tavern restaurant will find a new blend of old and new tastes as a new manager and a new chef take over.
The old tastes were featured as part of the antique appraisal weekend that was sponsored by The Friends of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum earlier this month.
Featured items included beef olives, venison pasty, stewed rock fish, roast turkey, stewed cucumbers, ragoo of beans and broiled mushrooms.
Dessert consisted of blanc-mange and raspberry cream. The recipes for the dishes were featured in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, published in 1796, and The Virginia House-Wife, by Mary Randolph, published in 1824.
“These dishes are not necessarily served in the restaurant but are certainly representative of the era,” said Paul Carpe, the new manager of the restaurant. “We found it interesting to try and reproduce these recipes. The only thing that we really couldn’t find was okra because it just isn’t readily available here in the summer.”
The buffet tasting was a success. “I would guess that about 60 people came,” said Paul Garver, assistant director at the museum. “The weekend was a tremendous success and I would guess that the taste is something we would like to continue next year.”
The restaurant has always featured dishes from colonial times but owners and managers have looked for the right blend of old and new that will spell success. “We certainly want to keep some of our colonial dishes,” Carpe said. “However, we really feel that we need to offer some more modern fare to make the restaurant successful. We get a lot of tour groups and that is important. But we also need to have local customers.
“If you live in Alexandria, chances are that you come to Gadsby’s when you have out-of-town guests who want to eat in colonial surroundings. We would like the restaurant to be some place that Alexandrians come once a week or once every two weeks just for a good meal at lunch or dinner. To make that happen, we believe that we need to have a real blend of old and new dishes,” Carpe said.
CARPE BECAME the manager only three months ago and has extensive experience in restaurant management. The new chef, Luca Mustafa, has recently moved to the area from New York City, where he worked at Tavern On The Green.
“I was very lucky that Luca was looking for a job just when I was looking for a chef,” Carpe said. “He is creative and is very interested in working with all of us to find just the right blend of dishes.”
That blend will include offering lighter fare at lunch and a children’s menu. “Many tourists have children with them and the restaurant had offered only smaller portions of our regular menu items,” Carpe said. “We really feel that we need to offer things like hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese,” Carpe said. “At lunch now, people can order a variety of salads. People eat a lot lighter than they did in colonial times.”
Traditional colonial dishes will, of course, still be available. “We will have our traditional items,” Carpe said. “That’s part of the ambiance of the restaurant. People will just have more choices.”
Jean Federico, the director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, sees the blend as a good thing. “Our staff works closely with the staff at the restaurant on furnishings, glassware, dishes and paint colors,” she said. “We want the restaurant to be successful so I understand the need to have both colonial and modern dishes. I might be concerned if they had grills outside to make hotdogs and hamburgers, but other than that, I think it’s fine,” she said.
The restaurant is operated privately. “We are very pleased that they work with us on special events and look forward to continuing that relationship,” Federico said.