I recently visited the Paushuize (Papal House) at the Kromme Nieuwgracht for a very special occasion, organized by Huize Molenaar. It was the final rehearsal of the ‘Century Dinner’ (Eeuwdiner), which will be held on 6 May and 21 October to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the historical building. As an art history enthusiast and a foodie, I could not be happier to be one of the first people to relish in this unique experience.
The Paushuize was built in 1517, commissioned by the only Dutch Pope, Adrian VI, when he was still attached to the court of Charles of Spain. Sadly, Adrian never got to see his beautiful house. He was elected as Pope in 1522, and died in Rome just a year later. After his demise, the Paushuize was used for many different purposes throughout the history. Today, it is open for public functions. As Utrecht’s second oldest landmark, the Paushuize is one of the most distinctive venues in Utrecht for conventions, group dinners, and weddings.
Although I have lived in Utrecht for a very long time, I never visited the Paushuize until the rehearsal dinner. And what an ah-maz-ing experience it was – a gastronomic time travel through five centuries! Chef Pepijn Gilsing, who leads the culinary staff of the Huize Molenaar, prepared each course with great passion and care, inspired by the culinary methods of the respective era. With each course, Art Historian, Carel Huydecoper, explained how the dish was prepared, highlighting special ingredients, as well as notable events that took place around that time.
The evening was kicked-off with a glass of champagne, embarking us to the culinary traditions of the 16th century. Guests were asked to help themselves to the hors d’oeuvres, as it was the custom back then. There were no forks on the table, as using the utensil was perceived as vanity. There were, however, a spoon for the soup, and a knife to cut the meat or fish. The soup was seasoned with nutmeg, which was brought into Europe by the Dutch East Indies company. After the first course, we were teleported to the 17th century and welcomed with a beautifully set table, with tall stemmed wine glasses, silver cutlery and unique centerpieces.
To me, the most memorable dish was from the 18th century, and one of Napoleon’s favorites, called Chicken Marengo – a delicious combination of Poulet Noir and crayfish from the river Vecht, with tomato-based sauce. This famous dish was named after the battle of Marengo in Italy. To celebrate his victory, the French emperor asked his cook to prepare a special meal, using whichever ingredients he could find in the surroundings. The cook managed to find chicken, eggs, and a handful of crayfish from the nearest river. Apparently, Napoleon enjoyed the dish so much that he asked the cook to serve it after every battle.
The Paushuize ‘Century Dinner’ will be organized twice this year, on 6 May and 21 October. A delicious five-course dinner, paired with great wines, at a beautifully decorated historical landmark – seriously, do I need to convince you more? If you wish to take part in this unique occasion, please click here to make a reservation. Please note that the entire program will be held in Dutch.
Photo’s by: Daniel Versteegh & Huize Molenaar