ANTEBELLUM DINING: BELLAMY MANSION HOLDS ITS FIRST ANTIQUITY DINNER EXPLORING VICTORIAN-INSPIRED CUISINE
In 1861 Grovely Plantation in Winnabow would cart in locally grown produce to feed the nine slaves and 11 family members that resided at the Greek Revival and Italianate-style Bellamy Mansion, located at 5th Avenue and Market Street. Myriad foodstuff would make their way to the dining table through the downtown port. Veggies and fruits—like pineapple and coconuts, which were then considered exotic—and the fishermen’s daily catches, like bass, trout, crab, eels and catfish, were sold at the riverfront. Butchers slung pheasant, quail, venison, beef, and pork, and numerous dry-good stores, bakers, and grocers provided constant locally made items for public consumption.
“The diet was varied,” Gareth Evans, executive director of Bellamy Mansion, describes of the 19th-century people. “It is what you think of as classic Southern stuff: sweet potato, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken and dumplings, black-eyed peas, lima beans, etc. Basically, everything you’d see at Casey’s [buffet] today.”
Sourcing and buying local wasn’t just a trend in the 1800s; folks made and sold soaps, honey, pickled okra, and the like as a viable business. They didn’t stamp their homemade goods “artisanal”; it simply was a way of life. Technological and transportive advancements quashed a lot of localized eating through the centuries, thanks to importing and exporting. Sourcing from farms somehow lost its way among modern dining; however, today, it’s seeing a revitalization in locavore movements worldwide. The Bellamy household always procured foods from out-of-town farms, but even then “out of town” ended only at 9th Street. “Local and organic was the norm,” Evans says, “as was sustainability in all its forms.” He points to Bellamy’s green tour currently taking place, which highlights the architecture and building materials, as well as the family’s food sources.
“For example, they had passive solar by way of belvedere and half-basement ventilation; they also recycled water from the roof using a huge cistern in the yard,” he explains. “We talk about how a big house like this would have a cow, chickens and other animals, as well as supplies from plantations nearby. While the times are hugely different, some of the ideas that occur aren’t.”
Kitchen gardens existed, from which the enslaved house cook, Sarah Miller, would churn out breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and catered soirees at the Bellamy. From Hoppin’ John (a black-eyed pea-based side dish), to the Bellamy chicken salad (made with hard-boiled eggs, celery, and mangoes), to molasses cookies, the recipes can be found in an unpublished Bellamy cookbook. Evans will be sharing them on July 26th, at 6:30 p.m. at the mansion, as it hosts its first foodie fundraiser, an Antiquity Dinner.
“Food features in all the writings the family left,” Evans says. “The kitchen and dining room are recreated in the house, so we can talk about this feature of life extensively. Showing the notion of locally sourced food with fine cuisine and wine in a setting like the mansion—which hasn’t been used for a formal seated dinner like this in decades—all makes for something unique.”
Evans asked local chef Matthew Gould of Canapé to do the first dinner. Gould shared his desire to do period-style cuisine, something he always envisioned as part of his pop-up restaurant, Canapé, before it became a brick-and-mortar.
“The Antiquity Dinner won’t be a true interpretation of Victorian-style cuisine,” Gould clarifies. “It’s inspired by what they ate and redesigned in the context of modern gastronomy. I’ll be following their standards of cooking ‘in season,’ according to what’s growing now, as they really used all local ingredients. I’ll also use techniques they did, like smoking with fire, which will be tasted in the asparagus and vinegar I’ll be making.”
The menu will be five courses, with a cocktail hour prefacing the dinner. Canapé’s manager and mixologist, Jordan Culler, has crafted two drinks appropriate to the era. “I researched ingredients popular in antebellum America,” he says.”I also researched what Jerry Thomas was doing.” Known as the father of American mixology, Thomas popularized numerous cocktails stateside in the mid-1800s, often working with gin, bourbon, vermouth, bitters, cognac, egg, and orange. “Everything was fresh,” Culler says. “There were no mixers.”
The cocktails consist of the Bellamy Smash (gin, Saint Germaine, muddled spice, and champagne) and a Mansion Spritz (bourbon, Cherry Heering, Agnostura bitters and soda). Each course at dinner will be paired with wine tastings that Culler hand-selected, too. Gould will serve a summer salad of fennel, mustard greens and baby carrots, as well as a chilled heirloom tomato soup, stuffed quail, a day fish, and coconut cake for the finish. He chose quail because it’s somewhat underserved in modern cuisine today, yet was a typical fowl eaten during the Civil War times.
“It’s a great marriage between history and something we’re all into: food,” Evans says. “The idea of doing food the way it was done 150 years ago really appeals and goes nicely with the ever-growing trend toward local, sustainable agriculture. It also gives people a fresh take on history and this museum.”
The fundraiser will appropriate funds for Bellamy’s educational programming. They hold two or three major events a year, as well as host ongoing happenings like their jazz series, lectures on various topics, a wine festival, and celebration parties. The Antiquity Dinner is new to the lineup, as will be the two art shows they’re holding in the fall.
“I like to diversify what we do,” Evans says. “Our largest event last year (Family Day) drew 900 people, and the lectures are usually packed. In total we saw 20,000 people come through on tours or to events last year. “
Only 20 tickets are allotted for the Antiquity Dinner. Evans will utilize the parlors to keep it a very intimate setting; Ice Sensations’ Ski Kowalski will be doing an ice sculpture for the occasion, too. Diners will learn about the Civil War mansion, the family who inhabited it, as well as the prominent foods and recipes of the day. “It raises interest in history from an angle we haven’t covered before,” Evans confirms. “That’s very valuable and draws people in.”
Only 20 seats available: $100
Black tie optional
Bellamy Mansion • 503 Market St.