Menu dated 1st September 1857
Honeymoon dinner in Venice for Their Imperial and Royal Highnesses Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte of Austria-Hungary (the future Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico).
They didn’t know it then, but when the newly married Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte of Austria-Hungary hosted this dinner in 1857, they would one day become the Emperor and Empress of Mexico.
Almost as an entrée to their brief imperial reign, this menu is fittingly dotted with the flavors of Latin America from the rum drenched iced-punch to the pineapple ice-cream. Indeed the humble pineapple would eventually materialize in gold perched atop the crown in Maximilian's imperial coat-of-arms.
Ultimately Maximilian would be executed at the hands of a revolution, and Charlotte would return to Europe lonely and in a state fit for an asylum of the era.
But this dinner menu is from a happier more joyous time. Just a month earlier the couple had been married and, on the night of this dinner, were now in Venice for their honeymoon enroute to Milan, having already spent a week at their villa in Trieste.
Just weeks later the Archduke and Archduchess would return to Venice after Milan, where Ferdinand Maximilian would take up his appointment as Viceroy of the Kingdom Lombardy-Venetia.
The menu is stunning both visually and in its offerings with seventeen courses including a prized specialty from the Middle Ages, Tête de Veau , Sauce Tortue. This culinary treat is made from calf’s head poached in wine and topped with a complex garnish made from the calf’s tongue and brain alongside fried quail eggs, cockscombs, truffles, veal quenelles, gherkins and stuffed olives. The sauce and garnish was named after the turtle, tortue, given that was the original dish that it accompanied.
Maximilian was the brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary and in his own words was a “great admirer of excellent cookery, and generally find that everything must be eaten in season and at the right moment. One must not be too exclusive or partial in cookery, nor in anything in the world”.
He was a lover of wines and championed Champagne as “the key to wit and the source of humor’" .
The assassinated Emperor’s memoirs are rich in their descriptions of food and wine of the era. Of one trip he recounted “my greedy thirst was satiated with the most excellent sparkling Moselle, a wonderful kind of wine, the acquaintance of which I had formed only in Gibraltar, at dear Sir Robert’s, and in which ‘the bouquet’ of the Moselle imparts a flavor to the too sweet Champagne. This delicious beverage is obtained by growing grapes from Champagne on the banks of the Moselle”.
Similarly, of a banquet in his honor on a visit to Algiers in north Africa, Maximilian described “a delicious roast gazelle” that was “delicate and pleasant in smell, white as snow, which excelled both roe and buck in flavor, and which, by its excellence, made one forget all sentimentalities regarding the flowery diet of the slaughtered animal”.
This menu card carries the archducal royal monogram printed in gold-leaf consisting of the letters “F” and “M” for Ferdinand Maximilian and, in the centre, the crossed letter “C” for Charlotte.
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Maximilian I: Emperor of Mexico and brother of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary
Le potage á la reine
Chicken consommé thickened with tapioca and garnished with diced royale and shredded poached chicken breast.
Les petits pains de foie gras á la gelée
Small pastries topped with with foie-gras medallions and a thin slice of ornately shaped truffle; and then sealed in layer of aspic jelly
Le potage julienne
Consommé made from carrot, turnip, leek, peas, celery and sorrel
Le poisson sauce gênoise
Filets of differing fish dressed in a Gênoise sauce made from red Bordeaux wine, mushrooms, truffles and parsley, which is then blended with an espagnole sauce and butter specifically from Isigny, Normandy.
Les suprême de vollailes á d’ecartate
Wing and breast of chicken dressed with a tomatoe sauce and garnished with thin slices of pickled tongue shaped into cockscombs
Les filets de boeuf á la jardinière
Sautéed filets of beef served with spring vegetables, cut into consistent shapes and sizes, tossed in the butter used for their sautéeing
Le punch au rhum
Palate cleanser of white rum mixed with pineapple and orange juice poured over crushed ice and served in frosted glasses.
La tête de veau, sauce tortue
Calf’s head that has been simmered in court-bouillon with the tongue and sweetbreads that have been cooked in white wine along with olives, mushrooms and gherkins shaped as olives; which is then served in a mold surrounded by an elaborate garnish of veal quenelles, cockscombs, stuffed olives and thin slices of truffle, calf’s tongue and brain along with the shaped gherkins, fried quail eggs and heart-shaped croûtons. (the dressing was originally for turtle dishes, hence the name, tortue).
La mayonaise de homards á la gelée
Lobster medallions served in an elaborate mould made from mixing mayonnaise with aspic jelly.
Les épinards au jus
Spinach mixed with the juices from roast meat
Les cailles garnies de croutes
Whole deboned quails stuffed with foie-gras, dressed in a Madeira and truffle sauce, and served with baked slices of brioche.
La salade verte
Les pommes au riz meringue
A three layered dessert with the base made from a rice pudding flavoured with vanilla and marmalade; then topped with caramelised apple in cognac; and topped with soft meringue.
Le pain d’orange á la parisienne
Frozen dessert made from orange and cream
La compote de fruits, Le fromage anglais, Les glaces d’ananas
Compot of mixed fruits, English cheeses, Pineapple ice-creams