January 04, 2008

The Water Gate Inn

It's restaurant recipes again today, folks, randomly chosen from the never-dwindling stacks of culinary ephemera.

This small, privately published softcover cookbook, New Hobby Horse Cookery: Favorite Recipes of Water Gate Inn (1953, 48 pages), features recipes from a long-gone Washington, D.C. eatery.

Once located in the historic Foggy Bottom district of our nation's capital, on a quarter-acre overlooking the Potomac River, the restaurant was quite popular in its day for its Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine and decor. An old menu gives the restaurant address as "2700 F Street, Northwest" and on a giveaway matchbook, as "Potomac and F."

This old postcard shows an exterior view of the charming ivy-covered restaurant.

The Foreword, written by owner Marjory Hendricks, tells a bit about the history of the restaurant and its recipes.

Marjory and her sister Genevieve, a well-placed Washington interior decorator, purchased the old Riverside Riding Academy in 1942 and transformed it into the Water Gate Inn. The two sisters already owned and operated another successful restaurant, Normandy Farm , located about 20 miles away in Potomac, Maryland. She describes Normandy Farm as "authentically French Provencial" and "a Washington institution since 1931." Water Gate Inn became known as the "in-town" branch of their original restaurant.

The book was compiled by a woman named Flora G. Orr. Hendricks gives credit to Orr for the recipes:

"Many have been the requests for recipes at Water Gate Inn. Hence, this little book, but because our space was limited, we could not give you every recipe that we use. It was necessary to be highly selective.

The book was compiled by Flora Orr, noted food expert, who has long been responsible for finding, testing, adapting and standardizing so many of our recipes. Her invaluable weekly critiques steer us on the paths of well-designed food and service."
There are about eighty different recipes found in this cookbook. As well, there are also pages devoted to things like Ten Ways to Prepare and Serve Broccoli (Green Cauliflower); Ten Cakes from One Recipe; and A Variety of Salad Dressings. The last two pages consist of "Home Menus Using Water Gate Inn Recipes." A suggested menu for a luncheon was:

Philadelphia Clam Chowder
Kutztown Cheese Souffle
Schnitzel Beans
Grandma Shield's Montgomery Cake-Pie
The book is illustrated with small black and white line drawings and a photo of one of the dining rooms. Notice the old wooden hobby horses used as decoration. This theme is carried over to the cover of the cookbook, which shows a red hobby horse pattern on the front and rear.

There were several old postcards advertising the restaurant. Some of the postcard captions reveal popular menu items, many of which are included as recipes in this cookbook.

Here's a later view of the restaurant interior. According to the caption on the rear, the retaurant was even open on Christmas Day.

The postcard caption reads: "Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant famous for hot popovers, rare roast beef, seafood, Mennonite chicken, Dutch apple cheese pie. Log fires, club dining room, cocktail lounge, excellent bar. Gift shop. Air-Conditioned. Open every day all year, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Marjory Hendricks, owner."

Another view of the dining room:

The small piece of property on which the restaurant was situated was part of the real estate appropriated for the future John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Hendricks received $650,000 for the land in 1964 and the building was demolished in 1966.

Although Marjory Hendricks originally planned to move her restaurant to the infamous Watergate residential and commercial complex, it never became a reality.

Normandy Farm had been sold previously, to another family, back in 1958. That restaurant still exists, although it has changed hands several times since then and is now known as Normandie Farm. The popovers are still on the menu.

I've taken several recipes from the cookbook to show you here. One is the recipe for the famed popovers.

Men Live for Popovers - a small, handwritten caption above the recipe.

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
2 cups sifted flour

Mix well-beaten eggs with milk, melted butter, salt and nutmeg. Sift flour over gradually, beating with strong rotary beater until the batter, while still thin, is smooth and has the appearance of heavy cream. Put batter in refrigerator to chill it thoroughly. Prepare oven so that it will be 450 degrees f. Grease custard cups with unsalted vegetable fat. Put greased cups in the oven so that they will be sizzling hot to receive the batter. Take hot, sizzling cups from oven. Fill each cup two-thirds full of the chilled butter. Pop immediately into the 450 degree oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer. It takes at least 35 minutes to bake popovers. Serve hot with butter.

This recipe seems a bit unusual. It's unfortunate that there's no photo so we can see what they looked like.


1/2 cup shortening
6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon lemon juice
10-20 drops yellow food color
2 cups flour (sifted before measuring)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Broken walnut meats
30 to 35 whole cloves

Cream shortening and sugar together; add eggs well beaten; beat entire mixture well. Add mashed bananas and lemon juice and at least 10 drops of yellow food color. Mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture gradually to liquid mixture, beating well after each addition. If dough does not seem sufficiently golden in color to simulate real bananas, add more food color, drop by drop, beating it in well. Grease thoroughly iron or aluminum cornstick pan and let the greased pan get thoroughly hot and sizzling in your 400 degree oven. Fill cavities with banana dough, pressing a broken black walnut meat and two cloves at the narrow end of each to represent blossom-end of bananas. Bake about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F., but do not allow to get brown. The "banana" should be golden yellow. Arrange "bananas" for serving in round wooden bowl, wrapping "bananas" in napkin to keep them hot.
The next two recipes are advertised on their postcards.


Disjoint freshly killed and dressed chicken, season nicely and saute pieces until golden brown. Put pieces in baking pan, cover with sour cream thinned out with some sweet milk. Bake until chicken is tender and has been thoroughly permeated with the sour cream seasoning gravy. Whenever, during the cooking, the sour cream thickens too much, add some milk. Serve in flat casserole with sour cream gravy all around and sprinkled with chopped parsley.


Break freshly-cooked and dressed shrimp into pieces not more than one-half inch in length. Combine them with enough fresh or frozen peas to make one-half the measure of the shrimp pieces. Make a white sauce with cream or very rich milk, butter and flour and seasonings. Put shrimp and peas in this sauce. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. The addition of a few mushrooms, chopped green peppers and pimentoes is permissible, if desired. Just before serving, season with sherry wine. If necessary to thin the sauce during cooking, use chicken broth.

There was an earlier edition of this cookbook published in 1950 entitled Hobby Horse Cookery: Favorite Recipes of Marjory Hendricks's Water Gate Inn, Washington, D.C., also compiled by Flora Orr.


At 7:27 AM CST, Blogger T.W. Barritt said...

This looks like it was a charming restaurant - too bad it is no longer around. It's the type of place I'd like to eat. The breakfast bananas are fascinating - I guess it was a VERY yellow muffin/breakfast cake!

At 4:42 AM CST, Blogger RajNRaj said...

I have been digging into the history of Water Gate Inn and was delighted to have fund your post. In fact, I just purchased this book at an auction. Having once lived in Foggy Bottom (unfortunately after the Inn was gone), I have frequently patronized its sister restaurant, Normandie Farm, in Potomac, MD, with French country decor as opposed to the Pennsylvania Dutch theme of the Water Gate Inn. Although limited in choices of vegetarian dishes, the Sunday brunches at the Normandie are great, so are afternoon teas. Anyone trying to capture the old world charm MUST visit.

At 5:51 AM CST, Blogger RajNRaj said...

One more thing... about Normandie Farm-- Ms. Hendrick's first and sister restaurant to the Water Gate Inn-- Be sure to check out the old photographs on display, with many celebrities enjoying visiting/dining.


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