Poussin (Young chicken) soup
Capon (castrated roosters)
Menu dated 8th December 1886
(26th November in the Julian Calendar)
Dinner at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, hosted by Their Imperial Majesties Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Marie-Fyodorovna of Russia to mark the founding of the Imperial Order of Saint George.
This Imperial banquet hosted by Tsar Alexander III celebrates the foundation of the creation of the Order of Saint George (Imperial Russia’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross) which was established by Catherine the Great on 26th November 1769 (Julian calendar).
The Tsar was head of the Order; and the guests invited to this annual dinner were, themselves, past recipients.
Written in Russian, the menu outlines an eleven course banquet starting with turtle soup, followed by sterlet (small sturgeons) steamed in champagne; and an array of game meats including red partridges and grouse.
Seven years later, this annual dinner would be the scene of yet another attempt to assassinate Tsar Alexander III; this time by food poisoning. The Tsar survived, but fifteen of his imperial guests were not so lucky.
The menu is magnificently illustrated at the top with St. George slaying the dragon while the column on the left carries the personal imperial monogram of Tsar Alexander III (AIII) sitting atop a Medal of the Order of Saint George hanging from the black-and-orange Ribbon of Saint George which, itself, sits atop the imperial arms of Russia: the double headed eagle. The menu is hand-coloured and highlighted in gold-leaf.
Memories of dining with
Tsar Alexander III
During the reign of Tsar Alexander III, Hon. George Van Ness Lothrop served as the United States' ambassador to the imperial court of Russia. His wife, Mrs Almira Lothrop, recorded her firsthand account of being invited by the Tsar and Tsarina to a ball at the Winter Palace and the supper that took place afterwards:
“In the middle of the room, but at one side, was the imperial table, where their majesties, the imperial family and the ambassadors and their wives sat. At their right was the table for the diplomatic corps. On the tables, in a line, were arranged great pieces of silver, a design of horses, or of knights, perhaps three feet long, then a silver vase with palms and flowers, then another design, then a silver candelabrum holding fifteen candles, then another fine piece, all of pure silver and close together.
“If you will try to think how many it would take for two thousand people, it will give an idea of the silver in this palace. The large pieces had a border of flowers at the base. For every two people, there was a salt cellar in silver of different shapes. Mine was a bear; on each side were two receptacles, one for salt and one for pepper. The forks, knives and spoons were all very handsome, many of them were of silver gilt. The china too was very fine. I never saw such wide tables, it seems to me they were more than six feet in width.
“They give people much to eat: in one fine room in the centre was an immense round table, and a buffet ran all around, for tea, cakes, etc. Another buffet, in a corridor, must have been 150 or 200 feet long. At all there were champagne, tea, lemonade, (or what they call such), cakes, ices, — all very handsome. During the evening, ices, the shape and color of fruits, were handed around. After the supper, all went to the ball room, where a waltz was danced that lasted some time; then about one o'clock their majesties left, and immediately the company dispersed".