Season Two

Best known as the acclaimed chef and proprietor of Philadelphia’s City Tavern, Walter Staib brings American history to life. From Colonial Williamsburg to the historic Harriton House, he explores America’s culinary beginnings and gets to know such notables as Charles Thomson, Dr. Philip Syng Physick, Betsy Ross, General Lafayette and more through the food they ate and the recipes they prepared. Chef Staib cooks meals inspired by his historical heroes over an open hearth, including Virginia ham, citrus marinated salmon, crow roast of pork, vol au vent with sweetbreads and more.


In this episode, we visit the farm home of Charles Thomson, the Secretary to the Continental and the Confederation Congresses. Thomson is little remembered in history, but was influential in helping to argue the cause of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, a close friend, loved to ride out to Harriton House after a long day of debating, and relax with good food and wine with Charles and Hannah Thomson. Chef Staib prepares Shrimp in Saffron Cream, Marinated Asparagus and Fennel Puree in the Thomsons’ kitchen at Harriton House.


Samuel Powel has the distinction of being the last mayor of Philadelphia under British Rule, and the first after the War of Independence. Powel hosted elegant parties at his residence for his friends George and Martha Washington, along with Jefferson, Adams and Franklin. In this episode, we tour the Powel House, and Chef Staib prepares a Washington favorite: Forced Cabbage and a Traditional Beef Stew with Egg Noodles.


Dr. Philip Syng Physick is considered the father of American surgery. His string of innovations include using cat gut for sutures and inventing the tool still used today for performing tonsillectomies! But Dr. Physick also came up with the idea of flavoring carbonated water, something we now call soda pop! In this episode, we tour Physick House, and Chef Staib prepares Smoked Brook Trout on Potato Pancakes, Coq au Vin Chicken , and Brussel Sprouts in honor of the Doctor.


In 1793, Yellow Fever that was running rampant in Philadelphia, President Washington made the wise decision to move the government’s operations north to Germantown, a settlement miles away from the plague-ravaged city. He set up his offices in a charming rented home, Deshler Morris House. We’ll tour the house and Chef Staib will prepare Shrimp Toast, along with a Larded Heart of Beef Tenderloin in Washington’s honor.


Betsy Ross is one of the most celebrated women in American history. Although there is still controversy around her story, the details appear to support a woman of great courage who was asked by Gen. Washington to defy the British and secretly give our nation its identity. Ironically, there were very few rules for how the US Flag should look until the 20th century! Learn why in this episode as Chef Staib prepares meals Betsy would have made, Oyster Stew and Roasted Duckling Glazed with Honey.


No Colonial American has contributed more to our understanding of nature and science than Benjamin Franklin. From electricity to ecology to the Gulf Stream – and let’s not forget bifocals, we have Franklin to thank for its discovery. And that’s in addition to being one of our Founding Fathers. What a resume! In this episode, we salute Benjamin Franklin by preparing a favorite French dish of his, Vol au Vent with Sweetbreads, Beef and Pork Pie, and Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage.


David Rittenhouse taught himself Newton’s Laws by the age of 13. Soon after he became an expert clockmaker, and then a Professor of Astronomy. Rittenhouse created an orrery, an elaborate machine to track the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars that is as beautiful as it is spectacular. We’ll see Rittenhouse’s orrery, and learn about his life as Chef Staib prepares a Crown Roast of Pork with Madeira Sauce along with Sweet Potatoes and Apples in his honor.


In the summer of 1793, a terrible plague swept through Philadelphia. Yellow Fever wiped out ten percent of the population. People of means escaped, leaving their African-American slaves behind to tend to the sick. The slaves cared for their patients so selflessly that the city awarded them two churches in thanks – the first African-American owned properties in America. The plague was also the reason Dolley Madison end up a First Lady. Find out how on this most remarkable episode, as Chef Staib cooks Citrus Marinated Salmon with an Eggplant Doré.


We all know the story of Benedict Arnold, and how he betrayed his new country to the British. But few know the role his wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold, played in his treasonous act. And few realize how close Arnold was to being caught on the dramatic day of his flight across to British lines. In this episode, we’ll tell the story of Benedict and Peggy Arnold. In spite of them, Chef Staib prepares a favorite dish of the time, Lobster and Corn Fritters and Baked Veal Chops with Braised Artichokes.


The variety of livestock we see on farms today differs significantly from the ones that were common during the Revolutionary Era. Washington is actually credited with being the “Father of the American Mule.” Modern techniques have plumped animals up and induced them to grow much more quickly. But an effort is underway at Colonial Williamsburg to get back to those original breeds. In this episode, Chef Staib cooks at Harriton House, preparing Beef Barley Soup, Pork Ragoût and Sally Lunn Dumplings.


Colonial Williamsburg is one of the oldest settlements in America, and the British assumed the once thriving city would become America’s capital. Today, it is a rich teaching environment, where visitors can experience an entire village of Colonial life and authentic foods, including a recreated Coffee House. Chef Staib cooks in Peyton Randolph’s (the President of the Continental Congress) actual kitchen, preparing Chicken Vermicelli Soup, Veal Fricassée and Curried Rice Pilaf.


Lafayette is portrayed as the dashing young French General at Washington’s side. We forget the misery and heartache Lafayette’s support of America’s cause brought him in France, where he and his wife ended up penniless, dishonored and imprisoned. In contrast, his American victory tour of 1824 was a sold-out event wherever he went. In this episode, Chef Staib pays tribute to Gen. Lafayette by making a very French meal of Tripe Soup, Roasted Sweetbreads and Creamed Savoy Cabbage.


The Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg was the epitome of fine dining and cultured cuisine. In this episode, we get a rare tour of the Palace kitchens, and see how the “beautiful people” of the Colonial Era lived. Chef Staib also gets elbow deep in chocolate making, after preparing Cod Fish Fritters, Stuffed Roasted Quail, Virginia Ham and Pineapple Sauerkraut in Peyton Randolph’s kitchen.