Friday, August 12, 2011

Gold & Gemstones in Art + Remembering Delmonico's in NYC

If Gold and Jewels
are the Medium -
What is the Message?

With the value of gold soaring towards $2000 an ounce, I thought it was a good time to feature art made of precious materials. When I was in undergraduate school, one of my Art History professors said something nonchalantly that stuck with me. He wondered out loud "Why don't more artists incorporate precious metals and gemstones into their sculptures and paintings? These artworks would have an intrinsic value inherent in the materials themselves and the artists wouldn't have to rely so much on the changing aesthetic tastes of the art world. At least their work would always be worth something." This statement could fuel a debate about "What makes art desirable and collectible?" which could last unresolved forever. He did have one point, gold and gemstones are naturally beautiful by themselves. 

Kate Moss by Artist 
Marc Quinn

Recently a solid gold sculpture, by artist Marc Quinn, of model Kate Moss was unveiled at the British Museum in London. It is the largest solid gold sculpture created since the Pharaohs of Egypt demanded their likenesses be in solid gold. An interesting note is that although Ms Moss posed for the sculptor, she did not pose in the contorted position depicted in the actual sculpture.


The most famous icon from Ancient Egypt is the funerary mask of Tutankhamen. It is made of solid gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, cornelian, quartz, obsidian, turquoise and colored glass. 

The most impressive piece found in Tutankhamen's tomb was the kings gold inner coffin. This large solid gold piece shows the king holding the crook and flail, symbols of the Pharaohs.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Bird brooch/pendant - A present  from is man to his wife, to commemorate the birth of their fist child. 1971. Gold, sapphires, yellow diamonds (briolette diamond is 95 carats), white diamonds. 
Bird brooch can also be worn as a detachable briolette and the wings detach and become earrings.

Gemstones have always been part of Royal treasuries around the World and they still make for extravagant jewelry worn as a symbol of wealth. Shown above is a piece from "The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels” an exhibition earlier this year at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. To view more images of this exhibit, go to All images are copyrighted by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Salvador Dali
Starting in the 1940s until the mid-1950s, artist Salvador Dali created a collection of Surrealistic Jewelry where the actual artworks became more important than and very much overpowered the expensive medium of gold and gemstones from which they were created. These works can be appreciated on two levels, (1) as conceptual works of art created simply to please the eye, uplift the spirit and stir the imagination and (2) they can be appreciated for their value as beautiful jewels. I only had room for a few examples. For more information on these Jewels designed by Salvador Dali, please go to

Ringo Starr's Gold Drum

Ringo Starr is shown accepting the gold plated snare drum in 1964 from William F. Ludwig, Jr., president of Ludwig Drum Company (second from left), as his daughter Brooke, Ludwig's director of marketing at the time, R. L. Schory (far right), and the other Beatles look on.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed the Gold-Plated snare drum for six months during 2010. Photo courtesy of: Ludwig Industries.

Gold from the Americas

The search for gold was one of the driving factors in the European exploration and colonization of the worlds beyond the European / Asian / Arabian / African land mass. The existence of a second great continental land mass to their west was unknown to Europe until the fateful day in October 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed on an island in the Caribbean, having miscalculated the circumference of the globe by about 25 percent. 

Columbus, a master mariner, then in the service of Spain, was searching for Cipangu (Japan), the island of "endless gold," which he had read about in Marco Polo's Travels —thereby initiating what would become the many European claims on the "New World".

The island's inhabitants greeted Columbus with curiosity and some wore little pieces of gold suspended from holes in their noses. Columbus was determined to learn more about the availability and quantity of this gold. The precious metals in the Americas would be a major obsession of conquerors, colonists, travelers, and opportunists for centuries. As Columbus sailed among the islands his ship ran aground. The
Santa Maria was firmly stuck on the banks of an island that he named Española (Hispanola). While the crew attended to the damaged vessel, local people arrived to trade bits of gold with the sailors. The island chieftain told the mariner that the precious metal could be found in abundance and gave him an impressive mask inset with large pieces of gold. This led Columbus to believe that the shipwreck had been providential and this wealth would be a tangible indicator to the Queen that the voyage she had financed was a success and this would also be a vindication of his vision to reach far east by sailing west. On the voyage  back to Spain, Columbus wrote a letter to the Spanish Court telling them of the new found lands and the wealth that lay there.  This letter was eagerly received in Spain and was published in Latin for distribution in the spring of 1493. In Europe, this news spread quickly.

The gold rush was on and the search for valuable art objects made of gold became a predictable part of all European exploration of the New World. Gold mines were very rare, because the gold had primarily been harvested in tiny bits and pieces from the rivers and streams over the centuries. 

In what is now Mexico, the ruler was the Aztec king Montezuma II. Wishing to befriend Cortés, he sent emissaries with extravagant gifts and Cortés quickly sent the gifts back to Spain.
Albrecht Dürer, who saw the treasures in Brussels, wrote in his diary about the gifts "brought to the King from the new golden land: a whole golden sun, a whole yard wide, likewise a whole silver moon, also equally big, likewise two chambers full of … wonderful things for various uses, that are much more beautiful to behold than things of which miracles are made."

Cortés was far from being befriended by the gifts. He marched on to Tenochtitlan, imprisoning Montezuma II and sacking his treasury. Much of the beautiful objects went to Spain, but only a few of the most exceptional pieces reached there as art objects made by the native artisans; most were melted down and arrived as bullion. 

Francisco Pizarro, sailing along the Pacific coast encountered communities with abundant gold and silver. Inca Peru was the richest of all the American kingdoms where temple walls were covered with gold and golden pots held golden treasure. Precious metals had been worked in Peru for 3,000 years before Pizarro arrived, the Incas all wore personal adornments of gold and silver. Their creations were highly imaginative and included miniature gardens made entirely of gold. The civilization was stripped of its wealth and the golden art in their beautiful temples was rendered into neat bars.

Forty years after Christopher Columbus saw modest bits of gold among the peoples of Española, the dream of a seemingly endless supply of gold from the New World had come true for the European royal courts. 

(The main source for this article "Gold from the Americas" was from an essay by Julie Jones, curator of Oceania and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, plus Wikipedia and misc. other online sources.)

There are many other great works of art created over the centuries in Art History using gold and gemstones, maybe in a future article, we can look at a few more.

The Greatest Restaurant New York Ever Produced

Delmonico's is a restaurant which has survived, in various incarnations, through much of New York's history, trends, harsh critics, wars and politics. It has been revered, incinerated, revived, reworked, deceased, great, mediocre, and closed several times. Delmonico's has returned to NYC under new corporate management.

On December 13, 1827 the Swiss Del-Monico brothers, Giovanni (John) and Pietro (Peter) pooled their savings of $20,000 to open a small cafe and pastry shop in lower Manhattan. In 1835, the original location of Delmonico's burned down in a massive fire that swept downtown Manhattan, taking out over 700 buildings. They moved their eatery to a guest house at 76 Broad St. and began work on a new space at 2 Williams Street. 

They opened this grand restaurant nicknamed "The Citadel" in 1837. It had three floors and many private dining rooms. The rumor was that the outside pillars were smuggled in from Pompeii. They catered to the wealthy New York elite of the city as well as titled foreigners visiting or living in the city. Their wine cellar was stocked with 16,000 bottles of French wine. They hosted balls, held ceremonial dinners for Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and hosted cotillions. For many years Delmonico's held the reputation as being one of the finest restaurants in the world.

In 1834 the family bought a farm, in what is now Williamsburg, to grow the best and freshest produce for their restaurant. The 1838 menu offered squab, hare, quail, pheasant, grouse, venison and wild duck as well as salmon, mackerel, artichokes a la Barigoule, eggplant and more. Delmonico's became famous for their Steak Delmonico which was added to the menu in 1850 and served with their special Delmonico Potatoes. 
There are at least eight different cuts which are claimed to be the original Steak Delmonico. Some believe the Delmonico steak was a 2" thick boneless TOP SIRLOIN with delicate marbling. But the debate continues and the Delmonico's Steak can now refer to other cuts: broiled, fried, or grilled, including: 
The first cut of the top loin next to the rib end. 
Also known as a New York strip. 
A Delmonico cut rib-eye consists of two heart cuts of rib-eye tied together with butcher's twine. It resembles a fillet mignon in appearance, but because of the marbled nature of a ribeye, it is more moist. The modern rarity of the Delmonico cut of rib-eye may be due to fact that it renders the remaining pieces of rib-eye unsaleable as anything but stew meat and the profit to be made from a pair of choice rib-eyes is almost always more than that of a single Delmonico.
The famous steak meal also included a potato dish, known as Delmonico's Potatoes, prepared by making a mashed potatoes dish topped with grated cheese and buttered breadcrumbs, then baked until golden brown and served hot.

The guest house at 76 Broadway burned down in 1845. The brothers then built The Delmonico House, a hotel, at 25 Broadway which offered meals a la carte instead of being included in the room rate. In 1842 John died and in 1848 Peter sold his interest in the properties to his nephew Lorenzo Delmonico. He saw the gentry was migrating north, so Lorenzo let the lease run out on the hotel and opened a flagship restaurant at Chambers and Broadway, just north of City Hall in 1856. Six years later he opened a branch further north overlooking Union Square. Lorenzo quickly hired His Nephew Charles Delmonico and Chef Charles Ranhofer as the chef de cuisine, the true secret behind Delmonico's fame. Chef Charles worked for the restaurant group for 35 years, and has been given credit for creating hundreds of dishes including Lobster Newberg, Eggs Benedict and Baked Alaska. He compiled his recipes into a book titled The Epicurean in1894.

Lorenzo opened another Delmonico's at 22 Broad St. in 1865 which catered to Wall Street. In 1876 the wealthy New Yorkers migrated north again, so he closed Union Sq. and opened a restaurant at 212 Fifth Ave. across from Madison Square at 26th. For years this area was New York's central shopping and theater district.

In 1881 Lorenzo died and four years later his nephew Charles passed. 

The final original family owned Delmonico's opened in 1899 at Fifth Ave and 44th, again with grand ballrooms and private dining rooms but now with electricity and all of the modern luxuries. In 1923 the last of the family's restaurants closed. Dining habits changed because of Prohibition and speakeasys pushed aside fine dining establishments without wine or liquor. 

Throughout the years many restaurants using the name "Delmonico's" have opened around the United States and at different locations in NYC, including one in the original "Citadel" location at 2 Williams St. The family originally legally protested this use of their name, but a judge ruled that the name had become public domain after the closure of the last family restaurant. The non-family owned Delmonico's on Williams St. served many of the original famous dishes but finally closed in 1977. A different restaurateur opened a "Delmonico's" in the same space from 1981 until 1999.

Today a corporation operates a restaurant named "Delmonico's" in that same building and of course they serve Lobster Newberg.

The keys to the Delmonico success were simply these:
  • The customer must be pleased;
  • The quality of the ingredients must be absolutely the best obtainable and of the highest quality;
  • Pay little heed to (and indeed, even relish) complaints about the steepness of the prices;  but
  • Let the least hint of criticism about your food or service bring instant, personal and complete attention.
(Sources: For more information see the history of Delmonico's" by Joe O'Connell at The Delmonico's Restaurant website and the Feb. 2, 2011 Village Voice story on Delmonico's.  Another major source was the blog "" - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 issue, written and researched by Amanda Kludt.)

POSTSCRIPT: The rest of the story.

Credit is given to Delmonico’s Restaurant, the very first restaurant or public dining room in the US ever to allow patrons to order from an individual menu, a la carte - as opposed to the standard practice of a "prix fixe" meal with a set menu and a set price. It was also the first restaurant to use white tablecloths and the first to have a separate printed wine list. 

The "Delmonico Steak" (boneless ribeye) is perhaps the best, rarest and most desirable steak on the market.  It originated as the house cut at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City, and is now seen on menus in restaurants and supermarkets across the nation.

"Baked Alaska" - 1867 - Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), the French chef at the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New York, created a new cake to celebrate the United States purchase of Alaska from the Russians. William H. Seward (1801-1872), a Senator from New York, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and the bill was signed on October 18, 1867. This purchase was known as "Seward's Folly" and/or "Stewart's Icebox." In Charles Ranhofer's 1894 cookbook, The Epicurean, he called it an "Alaska, Florida" and made it in individual portions.

"Eggs Benedict" - In the 1860’s, a regular patron of the restaurant, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, finding nothing to her liking and wanting something new to eat for lunch, discussed this with Delmonico’s Chef Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), Ranhofer came up with Eggs Benedict. He has a recipe called Eggs a' la Benedick (Eufa a' la Benedick) in his cookbook called The Epicurean published in 1894.

Original Recipe Eggs à la Benedick, The Epicurean, published in 1894, Ranhofer:
"Cut some muffins in halves crosswise, toast them without allowing to brown, then place a round of cooked ham an eighth of an inch thick and of the same diameter as the muffins one each half. Heat in a moderate oven and put a poached egg on each toast. Cover the whole with Hollandaise sauce." 

"Lobster Newberg" - was originally named Lobster Wenberg, after Ben Wenberg, a wealthy sea captain engaged in the fruit trade between Cuba and New York. When on shore, he customarily ate at Delmonico's Restaurant. One day in 1876, home from a cruise, he entered the cafe and announced that he had brought back a new way to cook lobster (where he originally got the idea for this new dish has never been discovered). He demonstrated his discovery to the Chef, to which the Delmonicos said, "Delicious" and forthwith entered the dish on the restaurant menu, naming it in honor of its creator Lobster a la Wenberg. The dish quickly became popular and much in demand, especially by the after-theatre clientele.
Many months after Ben Wenberg and Charles Delmonico fought or argued over an as-yet-undiscovered and probably trivial matter.  The upshot was that Charles banished Wenberg from Delmonico's and ordered Lobster a la Wenberg struck from the menu. That did not stop patrons from asking for the dish. By typographical slight-of-hand, Delmonico changed the spelling from "Wenberg" to "Newberg," and Lobster Newberg was born. This dish has also been called Lobster Delmonico.
Delmonico's famous chef, Chef Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), altered the original recipe to add his own touch. In 1876, Charles Ranhofer retired and returned to France. In 1879, three years after he left Delmonico's to retire in France, Charles Ranhofer returned to America and Delmonico's as chef de cuisine at the 26th Street (Madison Square) restaurant. He was the chef at Delmonico's from 1862 to 1896.

Recipe for Lobster a la Newberg, The Epicurean, published in 1894, Ranhofer:
"Cook six lobsters each weighing about two pounds in boiling salted water for twenty-five minutes.  Twelve pounds of live lobster when cooked yields from two to two and a half pounds of meat with three to four ounces of coral.  When cold detach the bodies from the tails and cut the latter into slices, put them into a sautoir, each piece lying flat, and add hot clarified butter;   season with salt and fry lightly on both sides without coloring; moisten to their height with good raw cream;  reduce quickly to half;  and then add two or three spoonfuls of Madeira wine;  boil the liquid once more only, then remove and thicken with a thickening of egg yolks and raw cream.  Cook without boiling, incorporating a little cayenne and butter; then arrange the pieces in a vegetable dish and pour the sauce over." 

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, All rights reserved. Concept & Original Text © Copyright 2011 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.


Review of the current Delmonico's in the Village Voice on Feb. 2, 2011:
"Lobster Delmonico - The contemporary rendition ($49, now spelled Lobster “Newburg”) remains impressive: meat from a pair of pink crustaceans (Ranhofer’s original recipe called for six) parked in a long shallow plate, with a wallow of Technicolor sauce that enhances the clean taste of the lobster. Bubbling in a small crock, the Delmonico potatoes ($12) were creamy and crusty, but really no richer than you’d get in any steakhouse. Better was the newfangled crab-stuffed mac-and-cheese, tasting more of bacon than crab—a predictable menu inclusion on the part of current chef William Oliva, who needs to not only preserve antique dishes, but strike modern poses, too.
Another old warhorse called chicken à la Keene is named after financier Foxhall P. Keene. Yes, this is the same pimento-flecked chicken à la king found in every school lunchroom, with white sauce resembling library paste. Oliva’s version ($28) has been rather gracelessly updated with wide pappardelle, an assortment of exotic mushrooms, and far too many peas rolling around the plate. It’s like something you might invent at home from things found in the fridge. Much better are the oysters Diamond Jim Brady ($19), a half-dozen specimens paved with lardons and crucolo cheese—a modern dish, to be sure, but one that seems old-fashioned.
In the days when there was enough prime meat to go around, a handful of restaurants could cherry-pick the most tender and well-marbled cuts, which boiled down to porterhouse, rib-eye, and what is sometimes known as the New York strip—a top loin steak slightly further forward on the animal’s shoulder than the other two. What constitutes a Delmonico’s steak—invented well before beef butchering was standardized—is now a matter of controversy, but it was one of those three cuts. The restaurant now serves a boneless rib-eye, and it’s a beauty—an elongated mass of pink flesh, charred on top and bottom, the fat so good you won’t be able to resist gobbling every trace. Served with shredded, breaded, and fried onions, and priced at $44, it should be shared with a friend."

Delmonico's  current 

Caesar Salad 11
Poached Egg, Gemolata,White Anchovies
Iceberg Salad 13
Jasper Hill Blue Cheese, Smoked Apple-Wood Bacon
Delmonico’s Salad 10
Summer Vegetables, Lemon Yogurt
Buratta & Heirloom Prosciutto   13                                            
Summer Pickled Vegetables, Petit Herbs, Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette
Dressed Peekytoe Crab  18                                                     
Mango Ribbons, Red Chili, Cucumber, Lime, Mint, Coconut
Seard King Fish & Tuna Tartare 17                                       
Smoked Bacon, Watermelon, Radish, Aji Amarillo
Shellfish Chateau  26                                                       
Oysters, Lobster, King Crab, Jumbo Shrimp

Warm Seafood Salad 17                                                         
Fava Beans, Tomato, Lemon, Arugula
Fennel Dusted Sweet Breads 18                                            
Sweet and Sour Onion Marmalade, Crisp Pancetta, Roasted Peach
Oysters "Diamond Jim Brady" 19                                               
Lardo, Spinach, Champagne Creme, Crucolo Cheese
Sheep's Milk Ricotta Agnolotti 15                                           
Sweet Peas, Ramp Butter, Chantarelle Mushrooms
Foi Gras 21                                                                       
Chef's Preparation, Changes Daily
Foie Gras 21                                                                     
Chef's Seasonal Inspiration
Main Course
Delmonico Steak 44
Vintage All Natural Boneless Rib Eye
Prime New York Strip 43
Vintage All Natural Dry Aged Sirloin Strip
Double Porterhouse 90
Vintage All Natural Dry Aged Short Loin Steak
Delmonico Double Rib Chop 90
The “John Krupa” Three Pound Bone In Rib Eye
Filet Mignon 44                                                                
Vintage All Natural Tenderloin Steak
Steak Style Oscar 21
Au Poivre 5
Surf for Turf 19
Chicken A La Keene 28
Herbed Pappardelle
1876 Lobster Newburg 49
Sauce a’ la Wenberg
Roasted Monkfish  34                                                       
Chorizo, Summer Greens
Seared Atlantic Halibut 33
Sun Chokes, Roasted Shitakes, Rock Bird Shrimp, Pistachio, Spinach
Grilled Double Cut Lamb Chops 43                                           
Piperade, Rainbow Swiss Chard
Porcini Dusted Veal Chop 48                                           
Chanterelle's, Mustard Spaetzle, Local Escarole

Whipped Potatoes 9
French Fries 8
Hash Browns 9
Classic Delmonico Potatoes 12
Summer Greens, Roasted Red Pearl Onions, Pancetta 10
Creamed Spinach 10
Exotic Mushrooms 14
Grilled Asparagus 14
King Crab Macaroni and Cheese 16
Spaetzle  8


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