Trendspotting: Vintage-Inspired Food Gifts & Experiences

The 19th century is back in style. This might seem like a reaction against the pressures of our wired times—except that items like heritage seeds and Victorian-inspired cheese knives are sold online and promoted via Twitter.

In This Article:

Vintage-Inspired Food Gifts

Breville's new machine.

Hand-Pie Revival

Our great-grandparents ate hand pies as a portable snack. Now there's an easy way to make the pies: Breville's new machine. $80;


© Emilee Gettle

New Home for Old Seeds

America's oldest continuously operating seed seller, Connecticut's Comstock, Ferre & Co., has a pair of alarmingly young new owners: twentysomethings Jeremiath and Emilee Gettle of Missouri's Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. In 19th-century-style clothing, the couple sells equally historical seeds like the pre-1870s long scarlet radish. 263 Main St., Wethersfield, CT; 866-653-7333 or

For the Home

Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma


Inscribed on these Victorian-style cheese knives: "Eat, Drink & Be Merry." $30;


© Hector Sanchez


Wine totes come screen-printed with old photos. $30;

Pottery Barn's new bar rools -- like this brass-and-steel bucket -- recall old silverware.

Courtesy of Pottery Barn


Pottery Barn's new bar tools—like this brass-and-steel bucket—recall old silverware. $59;


Courtesy of Restoration Hardware


This cast-iron lighting fixture is a replica of an early 20th-century barn door trolley (used to slide a door open). $499;

First-Edition Cookbooks

Frankies Spuntino Cookbook

© Hector Sanchez

Frankies Spuntino (photo) Artist Sarah C. Rutherford is selling her prints from the book of recipes from the NYC restaurant. From $45;

Heston's Fantastical Feasts Experimental chef Heston Blumenthal of Britain's The Fat Duck shares menus with themes like "Titanic Feast." $45;

The Lost Art of Real Cooking This DIY handbook by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger offers old-fashioned recipes written in paragraph form. $19;

Vintage-Inspired Bottles

Winemakers and brewers have a modern obsession with historical flavors.


© Hector Sanchez

Beer Samuel Adams partnered with the world's oldest brewery, Bavaria's Weihenstephan, to create Infinium. Serve this crisp, spicy ale in Champagne glasses. $20.

Madeira In early America, each US city favored a different style of Madeira. The Rare Wine Company has re-created these wines. The latest: nutty, bright Savannah Verdelho. $65.

Aperitif Dating back to 1865, the French quinine-infused aperitif called Bonal is good before a meal or mixed with rye whiskey to make a version of a Manhattan. $20.

Vintage-Inspired Food Experiences

Saloon Style

Mixologists Jeff Hollinger and Jonny Raglin romanticize the Gold Rush era at the recently opened Comstock Saloon in San Francisco. Here, some design highlights:

victorian sconces

© Liza Gershman

Victorian Sconces Fixtures are from the Malder Company, which specializes in custom lighting based on historical designs.

Damask Wallpaper A striking blue damask wallpaper from Home Depot covers walls in the saloon's main dining room. $45 per 33-foot roll;

Embossed Leather Walls in the saloon room are lined with ornate embossed faux leather from San Francisco fabric shop Sal Beressi Fabrics. $18 per yard; 415-861-5004.

Restaurant Menus

At three soon-to-open restaurants, chefs are busy looking backward.

: Virtue Feed & Grain, Alexandria, Virginia

Courtesy of Virtue Feed & Grain

Virtue Feed & Grain, Alexandria, Virginia (photo) F&W Best New Chef 2006 Cathal Armstrong is transforming an old warehouse into a pub where he will serve Irish classics like kidney pie. A 19th-century ad for a feed business painted on an outside wall inspired the restaurant's name.

Next, Chicago Star chef Grant Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas will open Next in early 2011 with a quirky concept: Achatz will debut a new menu every season based on a specific time and/or place (1912 Paris, for example). Instead of taking reservations, Next will sell tickets

House of Shields, San Francisco Chef Dennis Leary will reopen the 102-year-old House of Shields in December 2010. For his menu of classic dishes like oyster pan roast, he looked to books on historical food, including The Best of Shaker Cooking.

Old-West Redux

vintage inspired experience

Courtesy of Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant

When renovating the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, owner Joseph Melluso worked with a historian to evoke 1869—the year the onetime residence was transformed into a hotel. Now staffers in period dress preside over the saloon, complete with a bar from the 1850s, while chef Amy DiBiase explores ingredients that were common in 19th-century San Diego, like oysters, olives and cured fish.

Ice Cream Time Travel

Jeni Britton of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Ohio tells how history makes ice cream better.

Jeni Britton

© Charly Bauer

I can read all I want about Marie Antoinette, the dining car on the Pennsylvania Railroad before World War II and Thomas Jefferson, but the closest I can ever get to time travel is through flavor and scent. When I sell my violet ice cream, for instance, I tell people how scented violets can be grown only in France, and how they were prized as a flavoring in desserts at the court of Versailles. When I put a flavor in that kind of context and share the stories, people slow down and enjoy their ice cream more. This year, I'm doing an assortment of ice creams called Foggy Mountain Collection. Many use forgotten ingredients native to Appalachia, like wild spicebush berries and elderberries. The idea is to conjure the Civil War era. (My great-great-great-great uncle was General Sherman!)

Britton's book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, will be out in May;

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