The king is coming for dinner; how do you impress him?

Louis XIV is coming to your house for dinner in a few days. (Yes, I know he’s been dead for 300 years; don’t trifle me with details.) Given what Lou is accustomed to, what would you serve that would most astound him? The only rule is that the ingredients have to be available at your typical large grocery store. Well, it also has to be food-related; wowing him with your 600 watt home entertainment center is out.

I figure there are three ways to shock Louis with modern food: quality (including freshness), quantity, and availability. For example, fresh fruits/vegetables in December would be unique for him.

My menu:

Starter: cheese plate with fresh vegetables and fruits and cream cheese dip.

First course: fresh garden salad with salmon. I’m sure a king would have had fresh fish on occasion but probably only when near the ocean.

Main: Fried chicken. I would think the quality and size of the chicken breasts would be fairly impressive, even to Lou. I assume a royal kitchen could deep fry food but would it do as well as a modern gas/electric range? Sides would be corn on the cob and cole slaw.

Dessert: it would have to be ice cream, no? Maybe with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The Sun King almost certainly had ice cream at some point but it couldn’t possibly match something like Cherry Garcia from Ben & Jerry’s.

Ok, that’s a bit of a weird menu but I assume Louis had all sorts of mismatched items at his table. I don’t know what drinks I would serve. Would modern wines be noticeably better than what a king would experience circa 1700? Would cold, crystal clear water from the tap be impressive? What about with ice?

I figured modern beef wouldn’t be that impressive; surely His Greatness had butchers who knew how to get good cuts of tender meat. Fresh lobsters might have been an option except Louis probably would have considered it peasant food.

What say you? What’s on the menu at Chez Doper?

Paris to le Havre is roughly 120 miles along the Seine River. So fresh fish was not uncommon at all, and there was both river and lake fishing, and farmed fish available to the king, so fresh fish would not have been uncommon at all.

Actually, let me change from random thinking, and source what I know from my hobby of historical cooking.

La Varenne wrote what is considered to be the first really royal/high cuisine cookbook in <let me hit google real quick, I have a repro copy but it is buried in a box right now> 1651. If you can handle french, here is a fascimile to flip through.

Fresh meat, poultry and fish would not be particularly unusual, nor would random fruits and veggies - they did have greenhouses, and forced strawberries were apparently a court favorite. To be honest, anything you would find in a western European based modern cookbook, other than perhaps molecular cuisine would be reasonably known to the court. Recipes were shared around just like now - though the formatting is odd to our eyes, written by professional chefs for otehr chefs, they are more aide memoires, a listing of ingredients and hints like take fair broth and seeth the as usual and season with kitchen powder. [And yes, I understand recipes written like that, I have probably hundreds of recipes memorized from when I worked in a kitchen plus 45 odd years cooking myself. I would be comfortable writing a recipe for Sauce Maltaise by commenting Hollandaise made with blood orange juice because I know quite well how to make both versions of Hollandaise sauce =)]

If you really wanted to wow him, some of the molecular cuisine - foams, fumes and liquid pearls, probably stuff like using freeze dried powdered fruits as garniture, unusual meat such as kangaroo, Australia was barely discovered in 1620 or so, I am not sure if much had made its way back to the old world at that time. Perhaps if there is something fruit and veggie specific to the area that may have not been brought back yet.

The problem is that what we consider a ‘wow’ meal would be reasonably common in the court - a cheese and fruit board, compound salads, fancy desserts were common in the court.

[For a number of years, my only cookbook was actually the 1938 edition of Larouse Gastronomique - it got killed in the house fire and a friend was amazing and gave me her 1961 english translation as a Christmas present. It is also generally written as a sort of encyclopedia with aides memoire rather than actual recipes in many instances. I inherited my moms cookbook collection, some 400ish books plus I have a compendium of medieval and renaissance reprints, something like 38 or 40 more cookbooks of historical note.]

Get him drunk on craft beer and give him a Taco Bell feast at 3 in the morning.

The American dinner served by Nero Wolfe at Kanewa spa

merican Dinner
Oysters Baked in the Shell
Terrapin Maryland…Beaten Biscuits
Pan Broiled Young Turkey
Rice Croquettes with Quince Jelly
Lima Beans in Cream…Sally Lunn
Avocado Todhunter
Pineapple Sherbet…Sponge Cake
Wisconsin Dairy Cheese…Black Coffee

I’d take a page from Allan Sherman and serve him chop suey.

I doubt there is anything I could dazzle the Sun King with.

The meal I would serve would simply be the best things I could do.

Spinach salad to start.

Fresh corn on the cob

Roast pork loin with rosemary.

Mashed potatoes as my grandmother taught me to make.

Baklava for dessert, Or possibly white sponge cake with whipped cream and berries.

Neat question.

I’m a very competent cook but I’m not going to astound him with any of my dishes, so I’ll astound him with the process.

What I’d do is lay in a broad selection of fresh ingredients and get them all neatly stored and tucked away. I pre-make as many different sauces and components as I can. When old Loo-loo shows up, I give him a tour of the house and show him the kitchen. To him, the kitchen is going to be an absurd bit of nonsense. I point at the stove and tell him that’s where I’ll be cooking.

He asks me where the larder and pantries and whatnot are. I gesture vaguely at the kitchen. Well, Louis is going to be dumbfounded because there’s no way in hell I’ll be doing any kind of serious cooking in that tiny kitchen. Kitchens are massive, steaming, smoking affairs.

So I sit him down on the couch and put on cartoons, then start bringing out the food. I focus on breadth, serving a tasting menu of so many different items that he loses track of it all. He can’t understand where it’s all coming from. He pokes his head into the kitchen and sees me bumbling about on a single burner with one or two pans. IS THERE A HIDDEN PASSAGE TO YOUR CELLARS? he demands, but I smile vacantly because I don’t speak French. I hand him a plate of fresh potato chips and a can of soda and shoo him back to the couch.

The previous course was bulgogi and rice. The next course is strawberry gazpacho.

He won’t know whether he’s coming or going.

Now that is the best reply I’ve seen. Amaze him with the tech of modern cooking.

He’d be impressed by the menu, astounded by the cartoons. He’d undoubtedly freak out. Then he’d be mesmerized by SpongeBob, though he wouldn’t have a clue as to what was said.

Frankly, I don’t think I’d have to impress him. He’d be so boggled by the cook stove that uses no (obvious) fuel, the electric toaster, mixer, blender, and (maybe) dishwasher, he’d probably forget to eat.

The French don’t eat corn and seem to have a very snooty aversion to it.

I’d order out fancy pizzas and garlicky Caesar salad. I’d make Sabayon for dessert.

I’m gonna show him my collection of power tools. If that don’t impress him then nothing will.

This is my answer, only with wine. I’d have a sample of modern wines of many French vintages and styles stocked up. He probably wouldn’t be overwhelmed by any one item, since while I suspect the winemaking process was less consistent back then, the kings could pick and choose amongst the best. When he finds a few that he likes, I’d let him know that it comes out fairly close to that on most years and that most people can run down to the regional wine store and pick one up for a day’s wages.

However, the OP did specify:
“The only rule is that the ingredients have to be available at your typical large grocery store. Well, it also has to be food-related; wowing him with your 600 watt home entertainment center is out.

As for dinner, I’d probably feed him poison. Exactly what type is the question; hopefully something slow acting that would get past the royal taster, and also let me make an escape.

I’d go for fast food. Back then, the mark of quality in food was packing in as much fat and sugar as possible. Well, we’ve taken that far beyond anything that Versailles was able to.

The King gets our specialty, the Bowl O’Meat, with sauteed eggplant and hamburger served over rice, plus a lovely garden salad.

If he behaves nicely, we all pile into the car with the dog afterwards and go out to Rita’s for a frozen custard treat.

Well, it’s August, so I imagine starting with a chilled borscht would be amazing.

A fresh lox plate, because fresh raw seafood inland would be a nice surprise.

To follow, an Impossible Burger. They do taste good, and voila! It’s a vegetable!. Served with blanched french fries. (french fries, snerk) The fries would be crispy outside, tender inside. And ketchup. Sweet ketchup for the fries.

A sorbet palate cleanser. Nice and cold again. Italian Ice.

Now an authentic pad thai . Suddenly, we’re eating food from the orient.

Heirloom tomato plate for salad, with a selection of cheeses. Tomatoes were eyed askance in Louis’ time, so Louis can feel brave eating it.

Jello and Cool Whip for dessert.

Wasn’t he used to huge multicourse meals with both large quantities of food and large numbers of different dishes at each course?

I’d think most of the menus suggested so far would astonish him mostly with their paucity.

I’d show him how to make pop corn (both salty and sugary) and candy floss. Then I would make an omelette with magic mushrooms and lots of spices. Only then would I poison him. With Amanita phalloides salad, acts slowly enough to put him back in his time machine before it dissolves his liver.

Appetizer: Italian style Antipasto with a selection of olives, peppers, tomatoes, cheeses and thinly sliced meats.
First course: Salad of spring greens with tomato and cucumber garnished with bacon and a nice vinegarette
Main course: Grilled dry aged ribeye with a loaded baked Yukon gold potato and an ear for grilled sweet corn
Dessert: Granny Smith apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream and a warm caramel.

M ade this for our anniversary dinner a few months ago. If it is good enough for The Incomparable Sunflower, is is good enough for a French king

Which is why I’m ordering fancy pizzas and garlicky Caesar salad. Why compete at a level I’m not going to surpass? I’m going for something that’s excellent that he hasn’t had. With a hot-from-the-stove Sabayon for dessert, French and ethereal.