A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

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Entry from January 02, 2009
Marguery Sauce (Filet of Sole Marguery)

"Sole Marguery” (or “filet of sole Marguery") was the special dish at Marguery’s Paris restaurant in the late 1800s. The Marguery sauce was so prized that “Diamond Jim” Brady (1856-1917) sent young future restaurateur George Rector to Paris just to learn how to make the sauce. Brady allegedly met Rector at the New York docks, screaming, “Did you get the sauce?” When Rector cooked a meal for him, Brady declared that the Marguery sauce was so exquisite that it would have made a Turkish towel edible. A New York City restaurant called Marguery’s opened on Park Avenue in the 1930s to accommodate the demand.

“Filets de Sole Marguery” is cited in a French cooking periodical in 1895. A 1900 article (below) asserts that the celebrated “sauce Marguery” is simply Normandy sauce, with mussel juice, shrimp paste and oyster sauce done in butter and white wine.

Epicurious.com - Food Dictionary
marguery sauce
[mahr-guh-R , AY]
A sauce made from a reduced mixture of white wine and fish stock blended with egg yolks and butter. The sauce, which was developed by French chef Nicolas Marguery in the late 1800s, is most often served with mild fish, such as SOLE.

Wikipedia: Diamond Jim Brady
James Buchanan Brady (12 August 1856 – 13 April 1917), also known as Diamond Jim Brady, was an American businessman, financier, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age. 

Born in New York City to a modest household, Brady worked his way up from bellboy and messenger. After gaining employment in the New York Central Railroad system, he became the chief assistant to the general manager by the age of 21. At 23, Brady parlayed his knowledge of the railroad industry and its officials to become a highly successful salesman for Manning, Maxwell and Moore, a railroad supply company.

Known for his penchant for jewels, especially diamonds, he collected precious stones and jewelry in excess of US$ 2 million (adjusted for 2005 dollars, approx. $50 million).

Brady’s enormous appetite and resultant girth were as legendary as his wealth. It was not unusual for Brady to eat enough food for ten people at a sitting. George Rector, owner of a favorite restaurant, described Brady as “the best 25 customers I ever had.” A typical Brady breakfast would be: eggs, pancakes, pork chops, cornbread, fried potatoes, hominy, muffins, and a beefsteak. For refreshment, a gallon of orange juice—or “golden nectar”, as he called his favorite drink. Lunch might be two lobsters, deviled crabs, clams, oysters and beef, with a few pies for dessert. The usual evening meal began with an appetizer of two or three dozen oysters, six crabs, and a few servings of green turtle soup, followed by a main course of two whole ducks, six or seven lobsters, a sirloin steak, two servings of terrapin and a host of vegetables. For dessert, the gourmand enjoyed pastries and a two pound box of candy.

The Story of the Sauce
Diamond Jim Brady was a gourmet quite beyond par excellence and one that, moreover, was fortunate enough to live in nineteenth century USA, which was the era of the fifteen course dinner.

It all happened because Diamond Jim Brady, on a visit to Paris, visited the Cafe de Marguery.
But now arose a problem - Jim Brady, at the Cafe de Marguery, had tasted that establishment’s famous dish - the fillet de sole Marguery, and had fallen completely under its spell. He casually mentioned to Charles Rector that unless he could come up with something as good, he might very well consider changing restaurants. Of course Charles Rector wasn’t going to let this happen! He acted quickly to avert the tragedy. He summoned his son George post-haste from Cornell University where he was studying Law, and dispatched him by the very next ship to France with the instructions to ‘return either with the Sauce Marguery or in it’.

So young George Rector the hopeful Law Student ended up as a dismayed Culinary Spy in France. He couldn’t very well walk into the Cafe de Marguery and ask for their recipe, you know - recipes, especially such popular ones, were very closely-guarded secrets - otherwise everyone would know how to cook them and then nobody would come to the restaurant to eat. So it was no easy matter getting his hands on the Sauce Marguery. He could not even stand around and see how it was prepared as only the restaurant’s Master Chefs were allowed that privilege. But George was a resourceful and clever chap, not to mention the fact that he had to think of his father’s honor back home. So he went and asked for a job at the Cafe de Marguery. He began as a bus-boy, progressed to waiter and then apprentice cook and then further up the ladder. It took him an entire year. But ultimately not only did he have the sauce recipe, his cooking of it was also pronounced as perfect by a panel of seven Master Chefs.

With his mission accomplished, George embarked on the return journey to the USA. His father and Diamond Jim Brady were waiting there on the Manhattan docks to receive him, and, even as the ship gangway was lowered, George heard Jim Brady hollering over the noise of the dockside crowd, “Have you got the sauce?”

“I got it!” George yelled back and saw wide smiles spread across the faces of the two men.

No sooner had his feet touched the shore than they bundled him straight off to the restaurant and told him to start cooking.

Jim Brady went to round up all his friends and that night they all tucked in with great gusto the fillet de sole Marguery - only now it was called the fillet de sole Marguery a la Diamond Jim.

It was an absolute sensational success!

Diamond Jim Brady had nine helpings and proclaimed himself more than well-satisfied.

“George,” he said. “If you poured some of that sauce over a Turkish towel, I believe I could eat all of it!”

1er Aout 1895, Le Pot-au-Feupg. 225, col. 1:
Filets de Sole Marguery
ON NOUS a souvent demande de donner la recette de <>, c’est-a-dire la preparation des filets de sole devenue aujourd’hui un plat fort repute et qui est, comme on sait, une des attractions de table d’un de nos grands restaurants parisiens.

Nous pouvons donner a nos lectrices l’assurance qu’en suivant nos indications--tres detaillees, mais nous devons avoir aussi en vue les debutantes--elles reussiront ce fameux plat que, il y a quelques jours, nous avons nous-meme deguste <>.

M. Marguery, avec la plus aimable obligeance, s’est mis a notre disposition pour nous fournir toutes les indications dont nous avions besoin.

Soles, moules, crevettes sont excellentes en cette saison : c’etait donc le moment de publier une recette tant desiree, en la mettant a la porteee des cuisines privees.

Pour 3 ou 4 personnes.
1 sole pesant 1 livre brut on 2 soles formant meme poids;
1/2 litre de moules;
100 grammes de bon beurre fin, au moins;
20 grammes de farine ou 2 cuillerees a bouche rases;
1 jaune d’oeuf frais;
1 decilitre de vin blanc, soit un demiverre;
1 decilitre d’eau de moules;
3 cuillerees a bouche de creme douce;
1 petit oignon pesant, epluche, 20 gr.;
(Col. 2—ed.)
1 cuilleree a bouche d’epluchures de champignons;
Persil, thym, poivre.
Temps necessaire:  3/4 d’heure.
Pg. 237, col. 2:
(Indication complementaire)
Cette recette a ete donnee dans notre precedent numero.  Par suite d’omission, la quantite de crevettes a employer n’est pas indiquee sous la rubrique: proportions.  Cette quantite est de 125 grammes de crevettes grises, poids brut.

20 November 1898, Fort Wayne (IN) Sunday Gazette, “Thanksgiving Menus,” pg. 9, col. 5:
French Sole, Marguery.

11 February 1900, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “It Will Be Expensive to Eat in Paris,” pg. 2:
And here another question rises. Marguery’s, a restaurant really of the middle class, is chiefly noteworthy because so many Americans have learned to run to it for its “special” sole with Norman sauce.

“Delicious! Wonderful! They say that sauce is made in a locked room by the one cook in the world who knows how to construct it!” What foolishness! Six years ago it was simply “sole, sauce Normandy”; today it is “sole marguery,” or “the sole of the house,” but always a mussel juice, shrimp paste and oyster sauce done in butter and white wine. Of course it is good, but it is not the only Paris dish of which to take home a remembrance, as happens to so many.

Google Books
The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe
By Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis and Algernon Bastard
London: Grant Richards
Pg. 21:
Next door to the Gymnase Theatre is Marguery’s, which always seems to be full, and where the service is rather too hurried and too slap-dash to suit the contemplative gourmet; but Marguery’s has its special claim to fame as the place where the Sole Marguery was invented, and though I have eaten the dish in half a hundred restaurants, there is no place where it is so perfectly cooked as in the restaurant where it was first thought of, for nowhere else is the sauce quite as good or as strong. 

Martyn’s Menu Directory
by Charles Martyn
New York, NY: The Caterer Publishing Co.
Pg. 60:  Marguery. Name of a famous Paris restaurateur and restaurant. The inventor of the dish known as Filet de sole a la Marguery.

Chronicling America
8 May 1910, New York (NY) Sun, second section, pg. 5, col. 3:
A Paris Restaurant Where the Customer
Was Always in the Right.

PARIS, April 27.—“La Pere Marguery,” who died the other day after his famous dish, sole Marguery, had taken his name thoughout the world, was one of the last representatives of the old school of restaurant keepers.

Google Books
Castelar Crèche Cook Book
Edited and compiled by the Board of Directors
For the Benefit of The Castelar Crèche, A Home for Homeless Babies
Los Angeles, CA: Times-Mirror Printing and Binding House
Pg. 52:
Boil sole in chablis. Take out fish and remove bone, dividing meat into filets. Add more wine to that in which fish was cooked. Make a sauce of shrimp meat (from the tails), crawfish meat, mushrooms, truffles, mussels, butter, and a good piece of stock meat. When these ingredients are all thoroughly cooked, pour sauce over the filets, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, put in hot oven, let remain until cheese is melted and a delicate brown. Serve.—Mrs. Michael J. Connell.

Google News Archive
31 July 1923, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, pg. 12, col. 5 ad:
THE RITZ. Take a Taxicab and Fifty Dollars. If you have only Fifty Dollars the Filet of Sole Marguery is very Good.

28 February 1925, Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) Free Press, story section, pg. 10, col. 4:
I’m certain that if the doctor could have my perspiration analyzed in his laboratory, he’d find it very high in tenderloin of sole Marguery sauce and condiments.

21 May 1932, Key West (FL) Citizen, “Famous Anecdotes a la George Rector,” pg. 4, col. 7:
“DIAMOND JIM” BRADY liked a sauce he tasted in Paris. Because he was the “best twelve” customers Rector’s had, my father sent me to Paris to learn the art of blending this sauce, so that Brady could be served with “Filet of Sole Marguery.”

Google Books
Dining, Wining and Dancing in New York
By Scudder Middleton
New York, NY: Dodge Publishing Company
Pg. 33:
One dish, filet of sole Marguery, inseparably associated with the French restaurant and known round the civilized world, is prepared in the New York Marguery according to the same recipe.

Google Books
New Orleans City Guide
By Federal Writers’ Project New Orleans
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company
Pg. lvi:
Galatoire’s excels in its Marguery sauce, served usually with filet de truite.

Google Books
Dining Out in New York and What to Order
by G. Selmer Fougner (of the New York Sun—ed.)
New York, NY: H. C. Kinsey & Company, Inc.
Pg. 15:
270 Park Avenue—Phone: WIckersham 2-5999
Type of Cooking:  French
This delightful restaurant, named after a once famous gourmet, the Marquis of Marguery, serves many of the fine specialties which made the restaurant of the same name in Paris world famous. The Paris place has now disappeared, but the Sole Marguery created there will live on forever and nowhere is it better served than at the Marguery in New York. Here it may be obtained with the same delightful flavor and served with a white sauce, mussels, mushrooms, pink shrimp and truffles.

Google Books
New York, Fair Or No Fair:
A Guide for the Woman Vacationist

By Marjorie (Hillis) Roulstone
Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Pg. 73:
...the Filet of Sole Marguery, with its sauce of mussels, mushrooms and truffles,...

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Friday, January 02, 2009 • Permalink