In 1851, fifteen wealthy New Yorkers wanted to show a group of Philadelphia friends just how impressive a meal could be and took them to Delmonico's, New York's finest restaurant. Not to be outdone, the Philadelphians invited the New Yorkers to a meal prepared by James W. Parkinson in their city. In what became known as the "Thousand Dollar Dinner," Parkinson successfully rose to the challenge, creating a seventeen-course extravaganza featuring fresh salmon, baked rockfish, braised pigeon, turtle steaks, spring lamb, out-of-season fruits and vegetables, and desserts, all paired with rare wines and liqueurs. Midway through the twelve-hour meal, the New Yorkers declared Philadelphia the winner of their competition, and at several times stood in ovation to acknowledge the chef 's mastery. In The Thousand Dollar Dinner: America's First Great Cookery Challenge,research historian Becky Libourel Diamond presents the entire seventeen-course meal, course by course, explaining each dish and its history.A gastronomic turning point, Parkinson's luxurious meal helped launch the era of grand banquets of the gilded age and established a new level of American culinary arts to rival those of Europe.
"Sensible and sensitive detailed analyses of each of the dozens of dishes virtually materialize them for the reader's sight, smell, taste, and touch. Although the age of this sort of sumptuous banqueting has passed, contemporary tasting menus from acclaimed chefs owe much to the precedents of feasts such as this one."-Booklist