Traditional 18th Century Holiday Recipes From the Mount Vernon Inn

'Tis the season for historic holiday recipes from Mount Vernon.

Join Patch as we step back in time for a glimpse of holiday life with recipes from times past at Mount Vernon. Our nation’s first president, George Washington and his wife Martha, were very big entertainers at Mount Vernon during Christmas. Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in America,. For more than 40 years George and Martha Washington called Mount Vernon home. We are most fortunate and proud to have George Washington’s Mount Vernon as our neighbor.

A special thank you to the Mount Vernon estate for giving us permission to print the following excerpt and recipes from the Mount Vernon Inn. 

The Mount Vernon Inn restaurant is situated on land that was once part of George and Martha Washington's historic Mansion House Farm, one of five farms on the Washington's 8,077-acre Mount Vernon plantation. Today, The Mount Vernon Inn is located just outside the main gate of the now 500-acre Mount Vernon estate, which has been owned and maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association since 1853 as a shrine to America's first president. Ever since George Washington's family was in residence during the 18th century, visitors flocked to view the lovely Georgian-style Mansion overlooking the Potomac River and the estate's beautiful gardens and grounds. This pilgrimage was made easier for travelers beginning in 1932 when Congress's appropriation of funds permitted the opening of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway--still maintained today by the National Park Service. At this time, at the terminus of the new Parkway, a concession building owned b the National Park Service was dedicated. In 1981, the right to operate this concession was purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and was called The Mount Vernon Inn. In 1992, The Inn was purchased from the Federal Government by the Ladies' Association.

Besides a regular flow of good friends like the Marquis de Lafayette, the Washington's welcomed a seemingly endless parade of visitors to their home (423 guests recorded in the year 1785 alone!), including many strangers who arrived to pay their respects or have their curiosity appeased. Visitors to Mount Vernon in the 18th century often commented on the gracious hospitality and bountiful table. The Washingtons and their guests enjoyed a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available from their well-appointed gardens, fish and meats caught and cured on the estate, as well as fine wines.

General Washington is believed to have had a sweet tooth--with a particular liking for chocolate, walnuts and Madeira wine. Although surviving domestic records reveal little concerning the variety, preparation and quantities of food served at the Washington's table, it is known that the kitchen staff was constantly prepared to serve a large party of guests--and it was a rare occasion when there were none. Several months after his retirement from the presidency, General Washington wrote in a letter--"Unless someone pops in, unexpectedly--Mrs. Washington & myself will do what I believe has not been done within the last twenty years by us, — that is to set down to dinner by ourselves.

Mount Vernon Hospitality

Though they frequently entertained guests at Mount Vernon, the Washingtons also enjoyed dining at the homes of friends and at public establishments in their Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood. The warm Mount Vernon hospitality made dining with the Washingtons an unforgettable experience. We hope that you will have a similarly memorable experience at The Mount Vernon Inn, where our special brand of southern hospitality is modeled after America’s first First Couple, George and Martha Washington.

Christmas at Mount Vernon continues to be a wonderful way to catch the magical Holiday Spirit. For more information on how to celebrate the holiday season in colonial days at Mount Vernon, visit www.mountvernon.org for special Holiday daytime programs offered through January.  Tour the Mount Vernon estate and learn how the George and Martha Washington celebrated Christmas.

Happy cooking and eating!

Mount Vernon Colonial Peanut and Chestnut Soup                        


  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water chestnuts


Sauté onion in margarine. Stir in flour to make a roux. Once the roux is ready, add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and strain. Add peanut butter and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Hold on stove at a low heat until ready to serve. Garnish with chopped peanuts and water chestnuts.(Serves 12)

Champagne Vinaigrette                                                                            


  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon chives
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped onions
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves


Blend all ingredients and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Serve with you favorite green salald.(Serves 8)


Roasted Pheasant Stuffed With Apples, Walnuts & Figs                          


  • 4 pheasants
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 12 dried Mission figs, diced
  • 1 cup chutney
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon all-spice
  • Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Blend the apples, figs, chutney, walnuts, bread crumbs, all-spice and salt. Stuff the cavity with the above mixture. Truss the legs together. Pull string around body, then tie wings together. Place on rack in roasting pan large enough to hold all pheasants.

Roast pheasants for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for one hour and 15 minutes. (Serves 8)

Chocolate Cream                                                                                   

A favorite recipe published last year by Patch with permission from The Mount Vernon Estate from Mount Vernon’s book Dining with the Washingtons.            


  • 1 cup water
  • 5 1/4 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated
  • 3/4 cup sugar, or more as needed
  • 4 cups heavy (whipping) cream


In the top of a double boiler, heat the water until very warm.  Gradually add the chocolate, stirring constantly until melted. Blend in the sugar, and continue to stir until thoroughly dissolved. Add 1 cup of the cream, and continue to heat, stirring to blend.

Transfer the chocolate to a large saucepan, and stir in the remaining cream. Whisk over medium heat until scalding (just below the boiling point).

Use a chocolate mill, whisk, or immersion blender to froth the chocolate cream. Pour into posset or demitasse cups, and spoon the froth on top. (Makes 5 to 6 cups)

Happy Holidays to all!!

Rosina McWhirter December 22, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Mount Vernon is a GREAT place to visit. Topped off with a meal at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant and you can have a perfect day! But please call well in advance to make sure when the Restaurant will be open. It is also a popular private party location and is often fully booked.
Rosina McWhirter December 22, 2012 at 09:51 PM


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