07 January 2015

Drake Gives Thirty-First Annual Game Dinner at Chicago

At Which Are Present Many Leading Citizens of Illinois and Some of Other States.

Together With a Large Number of Society Ladies of the Garden City and Elsewhere.

Mention of Some of the Prominent Guests — What the Tables Contained in Eatables.

Special to the Globe.

Chicago, Nov. 20. — Almost as much an institutional part of Chicago as the stock yards, the system of parks, etc., is the annual game dinner given each November by John B. Drake, of the Grand Pacific. Thirty-one years ago Mr. Drake gave the first game dinner at the old Tremont house. He modestly disclaims the honor of originating the idea of such entertainment, and laughingly declares that the Indians, which were hereabouts at that time, were responsible for it, as they then provided such a tempting variety of gave for so little money that he was for this reason tempted into entertaining his friends with this sort of hospitality. Mr. Drake further states for a fact a man could gain a fine reputation for hospitality in Chicago in 1855 with a very modest outlay, providing he spread his banquet of the easily procured game which in great variety glutted the market of the then little city. However, this outgrowth of the wilderness and the prairie (which were then the environments of Chicago and are now a part of the city proper) has proven a continually increasing elephant on Mr. Drakes; hands and isn't now at all the affair started out with. The first game dinner given included, all told, something less than fifty quests; the game dinner given last night numbered between five and six hundred quests. The game, which was so inexpensive and plentiful in 1955, is now both scarce and high, and although at from the 10th to 20th of November one kind of game is just going out and another is just coming in, which enables Mr. Drake to offer his guests a greater variety of game than is served at any one time elsewhere in America, and perhaps it would not be too much to say any where else in the world.. It now takes months to arrange for the providing of game for this grand entertainment and the source of the supply of some of it is even as remote as the Pacific coast; in fact, a great deal of it comes from the vicinity of the Rocky mountains. A fine buffalo calf was fattened up in Dakota for this

Thirty-first Game Dinner.

given last night, which was a most successful and brilliant affair. Coming as it does, early in November, the game dinner sets the ball in motion, so to put it, and is the grand initiative of the season's gayeties. A full dress affair,, handsome new dinner dresses are displayed in their first freshness, and "claw hammer cutaways" and "Prince Alberts" have not the tell-tale lateral wrinkles which have fixed themselves at the waist later, when they have acquired that put-on-often look which is all too apparent as the season advances. The dressing at this thirty-first game dinner was particularly elaborate and handsome. There was a much larger proportion of both full and demi-trains than there has been for several years, and the number of decollete costumes gave the assembly quite a full-dress English look. The quests began to arrive at about 5:30 o'clock and were received by Mr. Drake in the grand parlor. They gathered in little friendly groups and the hum of gay chat and merry laughter floated through the great double salon and broad halls. At 6:15 o'clock John Hand's orchestra, stationed in the broad approach leading down to the grand dining hall, struck up a bright, inspiring march, and the brilliant concourse of ladies and gentlemen swept along down the wide dancing hall and into the dining room. The card of each guest bore a number corresponding to a number over the table to which he was assigned, so that but a few moments were consumed in seating the large assembly. The groupings at the different tables were admirably arranged for the promotion of sociability, and Mr. Drake's personal attention to each group and hospitable inquiry as to their being acceptably served, made the occasion one of thorough enjoyment to each individual guest. Among those present last night were three gentlemen, besides Mr. Drake himself, who attended the first game dinner at the old Tremont and, with one or two exceptions, have attended every one of the long series. They were Hon. John Wentworth, Philip Wadson and Col. J.J.S. Willson. One John Gabrel, who was head waiter upon the occasion of the first game dinner, and has been in Mr. Drake's employ from that time until the present, assisted in serving the dinner last night.

The Decorations

were very elaborate and beautiful. At the entrance of the dining hall was an immense piece representing the procession of game. This consisted of a jaunty wagon to which where harnessed white jack rabbits. In the wagon on a seat high in air, sat, on his haunches, a huge rabbit playing a fiddle, while a procession of the thirty-five different kinds of game served, au natural, followed this quaintly devised band wagon. Festoons of smilax and handsome floral designs were arranged in artistic harmony, and suspended in the center of the ball was a huge flower piece forming the figure 31. Each of the tables was adorned with handsome center pieces, which were triumphs of the florists' and confectioners' skill. The hall was brilliant with electric light, and as the dinner went forward the sparkle of glass, the glow of flowers, the glitter of jewels and the shimmering of silks and satins made up a picture wholly conteur de rose. The following was

The Menu:

Blue Points.

Soup — Venison, hunter style, game broth.

Fish — Boiled trout, shrimp sauce, baked black bass, claret sauce.

Boiled — Leg of mountain sheep, ham of bear, venison tongue, buffalo tongue

Roast — Loin of buffalo, mountain sheep, wild goose, quails, red head duck, jack rabbit, black tail deer, coon, canvas back duck, English hare, blue wing teal, partridge, widgeon, brant, saddle of venison, pheasants, mallard duck, prairie chicken, wild turkey, spotted grouse, black bear, opossum, leg of elk, wood duck, sand hill crane, ruffled grouse, cinnamon bear.

Boiled — Blue Wing teal, jack snipe, black birds, reed birds, partridge, pheasants, quails, butter ball duck, English snipe, rice birds, red wing starling, marsh birds, plover, gray squirrel, buffalo steak, rabbits, venison steak.

Entrees — Antelope steak, mushroom sauce; rabbit braise, cream sauce; fillet of grouse, with truffles, venison cutlet, jelly sauce; ragout of bear, hunter style; oyster pie.

Salads — Shrimp, prairie chicken, celery.

Vegetables — Boiled and mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, green peas, celery.

Ornamental dishes — Pyramid of game, en bellevue, Boned duck, au natural, pyramid of wild goose liver in jelly, the coon at night, boned quail, in plumage; red wing starling on tree, partridge in nest, prairie chicken on socle.

Desert — Almond fancy cake, kisses, brandy drops, ornamental pyramid, bon-bons, Jamaica sorbet, Neapolitan ice cream.

Fruit. coffee. cheese.

The List of Guests

included, as the game dinner has from the first, not only the leading men of the city and state, but many of national prominence. Among these present were:

Gen. Terry and wife, T.H. Blackstone and wife. U. Balcolm and wife, Gen. Williams and wife, Lewis Baker and wife, W.D.C. Grannes and wife, James McKinsley, Col. Huntingdon, W. Jackson, John Crerer, Arthur Karton and wife, A. Addy and wife, C. Ordway and wife, Mrs. Antoinette Van Hoesen Wakeman, R.K. Fairbank and wife, J.W. Done and wife, Hon. C.B. Shipman and wife, A.B. Adam and wife, A.M. Wright, wife and daughter, John B. Carson and wife., Mrs. S. Madill, G. Blackwell, O.W. Potter, and wife, Orson Smith and wife, J.W. Oakley and wife, Jerrett Wilcox and wife, Milward Adams and wife, Dr. Vilas, Dr. Howard Thomas and wife, Judge Oates and wife, Dr. O.W. Nixon, William Penn Nixon and wife, J.W. Scott and wife, E.R. Wadsworth and wife, Moses Wentworth, Chauncey C. Blare and wife.

The dancing began at 9:30 o'clock, and while the younger portion of the assembly tripped the light fantastic toe, the older ones gathered in congenial groups and chatted, while enjoying the music and the spectacle of the gay dancers. The festivities continued until the stroke of 12 o'clock gave warning that it was Sunday morning and that the thirty-first game dinner had joined the procession of its predecessors.

November 21, 1886. St. Paul Sunday Globe 8(325): 12.