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Famous Foods for Famous People

The Stage Deli, an institution in New York City, was famous for its sandwiches named after celebrities. Sadly, those mile-high sandwiches have disappeared along with the closing of the Deli. But for a lucky few, whose memory lives on in the form of famous dishes, here are some of the more popular, familiar to all.

Beef Wellington: Who put the beef in Wellington? Controversy abounds. The Duke of Wellington, a war hero who clobbered Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, frequently dined on steak, pate and mushrooms, so after he emerged from his military duties, this rich dish was purportedly created in his honor (what Napoleon dined on is unknown, quite possibly crow). However, some historians pooh pooh that story and insist meat wrapped in pastry dough had been around for centuries, unlike the Duke. (Yes, but did it also include mushrooms and pate?). A possible connection to Wellington, New Zealand also shares the credit.

Oysters Rockefeller: This one is easy. Created by the son of famous New Orleans restaurateur Antoine’s, it was named after John D. Rockefeller, who at the time (1889) was the richest man in America (and the oysters were pretty rich themselves). The original recipe was never shared, hence all future chefs have had to wing it. No one knows if it was a popular item on John D’s dinner table, but we’ll just assume it was.

Cherries Jubilee: Nobody was named Jubilee, but this special dessert was probably created by renowned chef Auguste Escoffier, who prepared the dish for one of British Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations (she lived a long time), widely thought to be the Diamond Jubilee in 1887. When this flaming delicacy wasn’t setting the dining hall’s draperies on fire, it was savored by royalty in both England and Europe.

Eggs Benedict: Certainly not named after the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold, there is a bit of competition concerning its origin. Well-known New York City restaurant Delmonico’s claims ownership way back in 1860, but a gentleman named Lemuel Benedict insists it was his creation after ordering a full plate of breakfast foods, topped off with hollandaise sauce at the Waldorf Hotel, 34 years later.

Caesar Salad: A San Diegan named Caesar Cardini owned a restaurant called Hotel Caesar in Tijuana during Prohibition, thus enabling him to serve alcohol during the 1920s. It was in his kitchen that this popular salad was created. Californians flocked there to munch on Romaine lettuce, anchovies and a special dressing; diners could also enjoy a cocktail or two. (author’s note: as a San Diego resident, I can assure readers that these days no one travels south of the Border for any kind of salad, trust me.)

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