Have you been to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the United States of America? Should you have plans for a visit (or maybe you live near by) be sure to dine at The City Tavern located just a few blocks from the Delaware River.
The tavern lays claim to be the birthplace of Colonial haute cuisine where you can eat the food our Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington enjoyed. Colonial wait staff round out the atmosphere along with authentic furniture, dishes and historical pictures throughout.
These famous men spent numerous nights discussing the future of our great nation in this tavern as it was the social, political and economic center of late 18th century Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed in this colonial city. It was also the nation’s capital for 10 years while Washington, D.C. was being built.
Here is a short timeline: 1) December, 1773 the City Tavern opens for business; 2) the first Fourth of July was held here in 1777; March, 1834 the tavern’s roof catches fire and is heavily damaged; 1854 the surviving structure is razed; 1975 the tavern is rebuilt and is an historically accurate replication of the original; 1994 Chef Walter Staib wins congressional approval as operator of the tavern featuring 18th century style gourmet cuisine. His restaurant earned a Five Star Diamond Award with his hearty dishes of American cuisine and authentic beverages and desserts of 18th century Philadelphia.
This recent visit to Philadelphia was for a family reunion. Harlans (almost 300) from across the country attended this 4 day affair. My immediate family included 19 members and one night we had the pleasure of eating at this historical establishment in one of the private dining rooms on the second floor. Thank you Aunt Annette and Uncle John! Food brought us together and we all left with some wonderful memories – our group was the last to leave that night!
Shrimp was in abundance in the New World and could be found in the many rivers and the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The Delaware River, which is a major river on the Atlantic coast, is just a couple of blocks away from the Tavern. Grilling over an open fire was the frequent method of cooking back then. I love to grill shrimp, especially these jumbo beauties. They make a great appetizer or served as a light dinner with fresh fruit or a green salad.
A funny story about me and one of my sisters concerning our first taste of oysters, which were possibly the greatest staple of the 18th century diet. She has always been allergic to seafood and I do not like slimy oysters. We were unaware one of the appetizers besides this wonderful shrimp was Cornmeal Fried Oysters.
At first we thought it was probably chicken and we both tried it, not thinking we were eating something neither of us liked. Later in the evening we found out the truth. My sister did not get sick and I only ate one as it certainly was not as delicious as the shrimp and it did taste kind of funny. In conclusion – maybe my sister is no longer allergic to seafood and anything that is breaded and deep fried is going to be good!
Philadelphia's City Tavern's Basil Shrimp, Adapted
Instead of deep frying the shrimps I grilled them; I also used prosciutto instead of bacon and I used green basil instead of purple basil.
- 16 jumbo shrimp (thawed if frozen) peeled and deveined (I also like to remove the tails)
- 16 fresh green basil leaves plus more to garnish (be generous)
- 16 slices prosciutto, trimmed
- 16 flavorless toothpicks
- 12 oz. of your favorite homemade or bottled barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s original)
- 4 tsp. horseradish (or to taste – I love this ingredient)
- 2 dashes or more of your favorite hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
- lemon wedges to garnish
Heat your grill to high, then turn down to medium-high and cook for about 8 minutes, turning once. The prosciutto crisps up nicely and the shrimp are perfectly cooked.
Combine the barbecue sauce, horseradish and hot sauce in a small saucepan. Add the shrimp and toss gently to coat each one. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the shrimps are heated through. Pull out the charred toothpicks and place a decorative toothpick in each shrimp.
Serve on a platter and garnish with lemon wedges and basil leaves.
Recipe by CookingWithAuntJuju.com