While Downton Abbey isn't ostensibly a 'foodie' show, I still can't watch it without getting a bit peckish. All that blather about inheritance and estate upkeep that goes on during these dinner scenes can't distract me from mooning over the exquisite china and decadent meals. Season 4 is in full swing, and to celebrate I'm noshing on these five Downtown Abbey-inspired foods and drinks.
5. Oysters on the Half Shell. Grand Downton dinners comprised many, many courses, and seafood was almost always featured earlier rather than later in the meal as palate preparation for heavier proteins. Oysters, by far the most popular shellfish during this period, were usually served on the half shell, often with a simple dressing. If shucking, cleaning, and preparing your own bivalves at home makes you want to swoon, I suggest letting Liberty Kitchen or Brasserie 19 do the work for you.
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4. Shepherd's (Cottage) Pie. More a "downstairs" rather than "upstairs" meal, shepherd's pie (also known as "cottage pie") was popular working-class fare not only because its combination of potatoes, dark meat, and root vegetables made for hearty fuel, but also because it could be made easily from leftovers. Given Downton is airing during the winter in the U.S., this warm comfort food is particularly fitting for a Sunday-night viewing potluck.
3. Shortbread Cookies (in themed tin!). Okay, I recognize that there is nothing particularly symbolic about shortbread cookies with regards to the show, but, gee, doesn't the special packaging make you believe it to be so? I'm sure Lady Cora, the Dowager Countess, and all those other biddies are nibbling on something during their tea 'n' gossip sessions.
2. Mrs. Patmore's Raspberry Meringue Pudding. This terrific blog contains many, many Downton-inspired recipes, as well as handy hosting guides for theme parties, but one standout is the scrumptious light and fruity raspberry meringue pudding. Just don't do as Mrs. Patmore did and garnish with salt instead of sugar.
1. Claret. What better way to rejoice in the return of our favorite fictional aristocrat family by indulging in a glass of a noble, distinguished spirit? In keeping with the period, that means a fine wine (though we saw in Season 3 the early introduction of cocktails, vino still rules). The British elite of the late 19th and early 20th centuries favored dry red Bourdeaux wines, known collectively as "claret." Visit your local wine store or Spec's for a good Bourdeaux recommendation, or just buy the "official" Downtown Abbey version.