Stuck without a menu plan for your Carnival guests? This one can rightly be considered a classic. The dinner was created to mark a special occasion on Feb. 12, 1872: the visit to New Orleans by Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia.
The foreign dignitary had arrived in the city by steamboat around 9 p.m. the day before, but he and his entourage stayed aboard the ship for a night of dancing and what the press described as "social intercourse" until the following morning.
At around 10 a.m. on Feb. 12, which was Lundi Gras that year, Mayor Ben Flanders and a small group of aides stepped aboard the James Howard and officially welcomed Alexis to New Orleans. According to The Daily Picayune, Flanders kept his remarks brief.
"We have come, sir, to welcome you to our city, and to extend to you its hospitalities, and to hope that you may have a pleasant sojourn among us," Flanders said. "We have come in an informal manner, hearing of your well-known dislike to public displays."
And that was that.
If the grand duke was not fond of public displays, his visit was ill-timed, since it coincided with one of the greatest public displays on the planet. He is inexorably associated with Carnival lore, having visited New Orleans just as Rex was making his first appearance as the king of Carnival.
There were about 20 guests, give or take, at the Lundi Gras dinner served at the St. Charles Hotel, according to a detailed story published the following day in The Daily Picayune. They included Gen. George Armstrong Custer, a pal of Alexis. (In a comparison that has perhaps not aged well, the paper described Custer as being "as amiable as he is gallant.")
"Everything has been arranged concerning the Grand Duke's meals," the Picayune wrote. "At 9 o'clock in the morning he takes his coffee, at 12 o'clock breakfasts, and dines at 6 o'clock."
The Lundi Gras dinner, served at the lavish St. Charles Hotel, was unfortunately "a simple one." The menu included a soup described as "fleury," filet of sole, several beef dishes, chicken and peas, a salad and desserts including "pommes meringues," cakes and ice cream, followed, of course, by coffee and cigars.
"At half-past 7 o'clock, the Grand Duke announced his readiness to depart for the opera," wrote the Picayune. "A splendid open carriage, lined with red satin and drawn by two handsome gray, was stationed at the ladies' entrance of the hotel, in which the Grand Duke entered with Admiral Posiet and Mr. Machine, and proceeded to the Bourbon Street theatre."