OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Elegant Barker Hall Dinner Saturday fit for royal appetites

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-04-07T00:00:00Z 2013-04-11T08:50:04Z OFFBEAT: Elegant Barker Hall Dinner Saturday fit for royal appetitesBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

When publicity contact Matthew Kubik pitched me his invitation, he used the following hook: "How do you cater a meal fit for a queen, especially for Queen Elizabeth I who lived 400 years ago?"

He promises me the chefs of Great Lakes Catering faced this challenge and devised some very creative options while developing the menu for this week's Barker Hall dinner and theater event Saturday.

I wrote about, and attended, this annual function last year, when the theme was dedicated to the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Not only was it an amazing evening, it's one of the most affordable and worthwhile fun events I've attended in our readership area.

This year, the dinner will have an Elizabethan theme, since following dinner, guests will enjoy the history-filled tale of rivalry with a presentation of the play "The Queens." Written by Ken Brelsford, it depicts the political and family struggle over the throne of England between the two crowned cousins Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots. The event is at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 13.

Just like last year, each guest attending will receive the identity of a person who lived during the time of Elizabeth I. Guests are also encouraged to join in what will certainly be a fun atmosphere by wearing Elizabethan style hats and vintage clothing designs and lots of eye-catching jewelry.

This year's party is presented by the Metamorphosis Traveling Theater Company, Community Arts Society of Trinity and Great Lakes Catering. The play will feature Jeanoma Babcock and Judith Joseph as the family feuding monarchs.

Tickets are $35 per person and are available through BarkerHall.com payable through PayPal. Reservations can also be made by calling Trinity Church at (219) 874-4355. All reservations must be made in advance by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. Barker Hall is at corner of Franklin St. and Sixth Street in Michigan City, just a stone's throw away from beautiful Barker Mansion.

"We found out Elizabethan-era people actually ate a greater variety of food than we do today," Great Lakes Catering owner Ed Kis said.

"They just didn't eat a lot of vegetables."

But all types of meats could be found on the Queen's table such as lamb, beef, mutton, pork, bacon, veal, rabbit, hare and fancy fowl such as goose, grouse and pigeon.

I'm told exotic birds were also eaten.

"One menu item we definitely decided against was peacock," the chef said.

But on the Queen's table, this delicacy was served dressed in its own iridescent blue feathers which were plucked, then replaced again for decoration after the bird had been cooked. The beak would be gilded in gold leaf. Roasted swan was another menu item that was crossed off the menu for this weekend. But I'm told swan was an Elizabethan treat reserved for special occasions, largely because swans were regarded as too noble and dignified for everyday consumption. The bird was often even presented to the table with a gold crown upon its head. And to this day, English law stipulates that all mute swans are owned by the Crown and may not be eaten without permission from the Queen.

Since William Shakespeare wrote his plays during the reign of Elizabeth and most of his plays have reference to eating and food, the menu team for Saturday told me they turned to the work of The Bard for inspiration.

So Saturday's main course is roast pork accompanied by spices apples a la the focal point boar's head so often seen in literature.

Spit-roasted meat was eaten at nearly every meal at the court of nobles since it was a symbol of extreme wealth. It's because not only could just the afford fresh meat year round, they were also the only ones who could afford to roast it since this required much more fuel than the standard means of boiling food. Only the aristocratic set could pay a "spit boy" to turn the spit all day to assure even cooking of meat. The Barker Hall menu also includes chicken breast with apricot sauce as a second meat choice for those who do not eat pork. The Barker Hall dinner menu includes ale and wine, which were frequently consumed at an Elizabethan meal and a special punch served after dinner for a toast to the Queen.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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