Dressing Downton

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The Dressing Downton exhibit has opened in Chicago at the Driehaus Museum. I’d never been to the Driehaus, but the exhibit drew me. In this restored mansion once owned by the Nickerson Family, there’s an exhibit of the costumes featured in PBS’ Masterpiece’s lavish drama Downton Abbey.

This Gilded Age mansion was the perfect venue to see costumes of the same era. With your $25 admission, you get a free audio tour, which enables you to hear not only the descriptions of the rooms, but the stories behind the costumes from the early 20th century. In several cases the costumers would find a vintage dress and embellish or restore what remained of it, which gives the clothes more authenticity.

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My friend and I savoured both the costumes and the house itself so it took about 2 hours to get through the three story house. If you drive down, you can get your parking validated so you wind up paying just $14 for 12 hours parking, which is a real deal in Chicago. The museum is holding several events such as author talks and a viewing party for the series’ finalé. I wish I could attend, but I leave for China tomorrow. Alas.

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The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook

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The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Batnes beckoned me at the library. Consisting of recipes for the folks upstairs as well as downstairs, The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook not only offers recipes, but is full of insights and explanations about cuisine in Edwardian England. Recipes include crunchy fig and bleu cheese tarts, classic oysters Rockefeller, crispy roast duck with blackberry sauce, Mrs. Patmore’s downstairs pork pie, chicken, leek and caerphilly cheese pie for St. David’s Day, and treacle tart.

I made Sir Anthony’s Apple Charlotte last week and it’s a new favorite. Looking at photos of apple charlotte it seems that many recipes call for bread rather than bread crumbs. This recipe was so delicious that despite my curiosity I doubt I’d bother with a different version.

Sir Anthony’s Apple Charlotte

2 c. light brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 t. nutmeg
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. allspice
5 large tart apples, pared, cored, sliced thin
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. fresh orange juice
½ c. butter, cold, chopped
½ c. butter, melted
1 loaf French bread, shredded into crumbles. 1 c. reserved
butter for topping

Preheat oven to 350.

Note: I just used Progresso plain bread crumbs

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Reserve 1 cups of the mixture to use as a topping.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together apple slices, lemon and orange juices.
  3. Cover the bottom of a medium-sized dutch oven with bread crumbs and bits of cold butter. Layer with sliced apples and brown sugar mix, then with another few tabs of butter. Repeat until the dutch oven is filled.
  4. For the top layer, combine the reserved bread crumbs, ½ c. melted butter and 1 c. reserved brown sugar mix. Top with more butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I served it with vanilla ice cream, which might be an American touch.

Source

E. A. Baines, (2012) The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, Avon, MA, Adams Media.

Thoughts on Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 1

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I can’t recall anticipating the return of a television show more than I have Downton Abbey‘s Season 3. Perhaps Sherlock, when it comes but that’s way off in the distance. I’ve re-viewed several of the episodes from the previous seasons when they were re-broadcast and noted little details that I’d missed.

At last on the 6th, we got to meet Cora’s mother, the brash American, Mrs. Martha Levinson, played with great panache by Shirley MacLaine. Talk about a bull in a china shop and someone to set Violet’s teeth on edge. How did Cora develop such grace? Her father must have been more reserved.

Julian Fellow’s story drew me in as I wanted to tell Branson, the ex-chauffer to lighten up, put on the Downton clothes and make his case by drawing on people’s sympathy rather than jumping on a soap box every chance he got. I did feel sorry for him when Sybil’s old suitor sneered at him and slipped him a mickey.

Another great story element was the announcement that Lord Grantham has lost his fortune, well, Cora’s fortune. That news, hushed up as it has been, charges every scene with tension. What will all the characters do when they find out? For now only a few know.

Thomas never ceases to devilishly plot and this time he got on O’Brien’s bad side. By making her nephew get in trouble by marring Mathew’s dinner jacket, Thomas became the victim of O’Brien’s prank of hiding all Lord Gratham’s good shirts thus adding to the ruin of the episode’s most significant social event and making the Lord look like a waiter or a Chicago bootlegger, take your pick.

We got glimpses of Bates in jail and Anna trying to do a bit of detective work to get him out. We also see that if he doesn’t keep his cool with his cellmate, Bates may get himself into further trouble.

As usual, the two hours went fast and tantalized fans with great character development and plot points. It looks like Edith’s going to marry Sir Anthony, the old geezer she’s so fond of. He’ll treat her well, it seems, and she is keen on him, but generally when the groom’s so luke warm, that doesn’t bode well for a marriage. Time will certainly tell.