Menu ads like this are treasures for anyone interested in social history, providing vital clues about things like prosperity, class, nutrition, the reliability of transportation, and how well that community was integrated with mainstream America. Almost everything listed here could be found on menus anywhere in the Eastern United States; there are no regional specialties at all. The selection of fresh fruit also reveals rural Santa Rosa had access to any produce on the West Coast, probably via the markets in San Francisco. Eating Hawaiian bananas and Southern California Oranges in early January must have seemed a luxury indeed, and proof positive of great progress.
Several dishes here centered on canned goods, which had no stigma at the time of being a cheap, poor quality substitute; to the contrary, canned food was expensive (spending 10¢ in 1905 for a can of vegetables would be the equivalent of $2.50 today), and prized because cans made available exotic and out-of-season items — pity those who had to make do with only fresh, local, ingredients. The asparagus was surely from a can, and “Shaker Green Corn” was the name for canned young (green) corn. This is also very much a traditional Victorian America menu: Canned sardines then could be offered with any meal, including tea, eaten on buttered toast or available on the side as a condiment (if the St. Rose was truly a high-class dining establishment, they would have served it in a special sardine dish).
Some dishes are unfamiliar today. “Chow Chow” was a type of relish based on diced green tomatoes and cabbage, but there were many variations, particularly in the Southern U.S. Orange Fritters were just that — slices of an orange battered and deep fried (cherry fritters were also popular). Celery Salad is a throwback to 19th century England and America’s odd fondness for the tasteless sticks (search eBay for “celery vases“); apples, lemon juice, and other items were also sometimes added, but like all of the salads here, celery was probably just chopped, mixed with mayo and served over lettuce.
This menu is also notable for what’s missing. Even though Bodega Bay is just down the road, there’s no Dungeness crab, abalone, or salmon offered, even in one of those ubiquitous salads. No egg dishes, either, despite the city also being next door to Petaluma, egg capitol of the world. And why no wine?
The curiosities here are the “Smothered Sole” and “German Breakfast Cheese,” again both items familiar in the Eastern U.S. As there weren’t many German immigrants in the area, the Limburger-like cheese may have been brought in for manager Spier or another principal. A delicate Eastern Atlantic Ocean fish like sole couldn’t be canned, so it’s a mystery what type of fish would be served in a 1905 California restaurant — presumably, it was well, well, smothered.
Hotel St. Rose
A.E. Chartrand – Prop.
S. G. Spier – – – Mgr.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 1905
SOUP – Wing of Turkey, Cream of Clam.
Sour Pickles, Olives, Sweet Pickles, Chow Chow.
FISH – Smothered Sole, Tartar Sauce, French Imported Sardines.
ENTREES – Breast of Chicken on Toast, Butter Sauce, Tenderloin of Beef with Mushrooms, Orange Fritters, Wine Sauce.
BOILED – Ham, with Apple Sauce, Tongue with Young Horseradish.
ROAST – Turkey with Dressing, Cranberry Sauce, Browned Chicken with Green Peas, Canvasback Duck with Baked Apples, Prime Beef.
VEGETABLES – Asparagus, Shaker Green Corn, Mashed Potatoes, Browned Sweet Potatoes.
SALADS – Chicken, Radishes, Celery, Shrimp, Large Oysters with Cracked Ice.
DESSERT – Hot Mince Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Lemon Pie, English Pound Pudding Hard Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream and Pound Cake.
CHEESE – Edam, Roquefort, German Breakfast, Swiss, American, St. Rose Crackers.
FRUITS – Riverside Oranges, Honolulu Bananas, Choice Oregon Apples, Bartlett Pears, Preserved Peaches, Mixed Nuts with Raisins, Dates.
DRINKS – Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Cocoa, Milk.
Music from 5:00 to 8:30.Cor. Fourth and A Streets
Santa Rosa : : : Cal.
– Santa Rosa Republican