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A Meal for the Ages

Stan Hywet's Madrigal Dinners make really old food brand new.



Good Queen Bess probably never had it this good. Sirloin of beef draped in a Madeira wine sauce. A medley of root vegetables roasted to tenderness. A stein of hot wassail sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Even in this age of drive-through burgers and frozen pizza, a classic Elizabethan feast would make most of us drop our Big Macs in a nanosecond. Thanks to caterer Bob Pacanovsky, we can go medieval for a few blissful hours at the Renaissance-themed Madrigal Dinners, taking place over the next two weekends at Akron's Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.

Pacanovsky's Caterers by Paparazzi's designed the banquet menu, which features succulent meat-and-starch staples such as the aforementioned beef sirloin and roasted tenderloin of pork with cranberry stuffing. Just don't expect spuds on the side. Because potatoes were thought to be poisonous back in the day, Pacanovsky and Executive Chef Rick Rhoades have whipped up a creamy white-bean puree instead. "We've tried to create authentic dishes with a modern twist," Pacanovsky says.

The vegetable medley, too, is not exactly garden-variety. Instead of standard fare like tomatoes and cucumbers, it features hearty root plants like parsnips and turnips. The feast is capped off with sweet bread pudding and a cup of wassail (steaming-hot apple cider with a splash of orange juice).

Dinner's only the half of it. Before the grand feasting begins, the 300 or so attendees will be invited to walk through parts of the 65-room Tudor Revival mansion. At 7 p.m., troubadours will sound trumpets and, following ye olde tradition, form a procession while displaying a boar's head on a platter.

Then, once guests are seated, madrigal choruses will sing fa-la-la, and Queen Elizabeth herself will make a Yuletide toast of good cheer before digging in.

Looks like Bessie did get the royal treatment after all.

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