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Old and New Palace
One cannot well write a book on Bohemian restaurants of San Francisco without saying something about the great hotel whose history is so intimately intertwined with that of the city since 1873, when William C. Ralston determined that the city by the Golden Gate should have a hotel commensurate with its importance. San Francisco and the Palace Hotel were almost synonymous all over the world, and it was conceded by travelers that nowhere else was there a hostelry to equal this great hotel.
To the bon vivant the grills of the Palace Hotel contained more to enhance the joy of living than anywhere else, and here the chefs prided themselves with providing the best in the land, prepared in such perfect ways as to make a meal at the Palace the perfection of gastronomic art.
There are three distinct eras to the history of the Palace Hotel, the first being from 1876 to 1890, the second from 1890 to 1906, and the third from 1906 to the present day. In the earlier days the grills, both that for gentlemen and that for ladies, were noted for their magnificent service and their wonderful cooking. A breakfast in the Ladies' Grill, with an omelet of California oysters, toast and coffee, was a meal long to be remembered. Possibly the most famous dish of the old Palace was this one of omelet with California oysters, and it was prepared in the following manner:
(For two): Take six eggs, one hundred California oysters, one small onion, one tablespoonful of butter, one tablespoonful of flour, salt and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs to a froth and stir in the onion chopped fine. Put the eggs into an omelet pan over a slow fire. Mix the flour and butter to a soft paste with a little cream, and stir in with the oysters, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the eggs begin to stiffen pour the oysters over and turn the omelet together. Serve on hot plate with a dash of paprika.
This is the recipe of Ernest Arbogast, the chef for many years of the old Palace. The slightly coppery taste of the California oysters gives a piquancy to the flavor of the omelet that can be obtained in no other way, and those who once ate of Arbogast's California oyster omelet, invariably called for it again and again.
We asked Jules Dauviller, the present chef of the Palace, for the recipe of what he considered the best dish now prepared at the Palace and he said he would give us two, as it was difficult to decide which was the best and most distinctive. These are the recipes as he wrote them for us:
Planked Fillet Mignon
Trim some select fillet mignon of beef, about four ounces of each, nicely. Sauté these in a frying pan with clarified butter on a hot fire. Dress on a small round plank, about four and a half inches in diameter, decorated with a border of mashed potatoes. Over the fillet mignon pour stuffed pimentoes, covered with a sauce made of fresh mushrooms, sautéed sec over which has been poured a little chateaubriand sauce. Serve chateaubriand sauce in a bowl.
The second is:
Cold Fillet of Sand-Dabs, Palace
Select six nice fresh sand-dabs. Raise the fillets from the bone skin and pare nicely, and season with salt and paprika. Arrange them in an earthenware dish. Cut in Julienne one stalk of celery, one green pepper, one cucumber, two or three tomatoes, depending on their size.
With the bone of the sand-dab, well cleaned, make a stock with one bottle of Riesling, juice of one lemon and seasoning. Add chervil and tarragon. Season to taste and cook the Julienne ingredients with some of the stock. When the rest of the stock is boiling poach it in the fillets of sand-dab, then remove from the fire and let get cold. Put the garnishing around the fillets and put on ice to get in jelly. When ready to serve decorate around the dish with any kind of salad you like, and with beets, capers, olives and marinated mushrooms. This must be served very cold and you may serve mayonnaise sauce on the side.
We asked Dauviller what he considered his most delicate salad and he gave us this recipe:
Palace Grill Salad
Select three hearts of celery and cut them Julienne. Cut some pineapple and pimentoes into dice. Mix all well together in a bowl and add mayonnaise sauce and a little whipped cream. Sprinkle some finely chopped green peppers on top and serve very cold.