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McCoole’s at The Historic Red Lion Inn – From A Century of Restaurants by Rick Browne/ Andrews McMeel Publishing, LCC.

Aug 15, 2014 03:07PM ● Published by Erica Shames

Quakertown, PA
Est. 1750

One of the most famous features of this historic inn is a small section of the dining room floor. But before we get into that, let’s talk about its role in the Revolutionary War, and the time it served as a resting place for the Liberty Bell. Yes, the genuine, yet-uncracked Liberty Bell.

Walter McCoole opened his small tavern in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in 1750. The area was beginning to attract a lot of settlers, many of them Quakers. In 1876, a book about the history of Bucks County observed: "It was probably called Quakertown from the first, possibly as a slur upon the Friends who settled it; and very likely was first called 'the Quake's town.' In this time Walter McCoole kept tavern at the cross-roads ... and built one of the first mills in the township."

During the Revolutionary War, the tavern became the center of a historic rebellion by Germanic Pennsylvanians against a tax imposed by the federal government to fund a possible, some said imminent, war with France. The taxes were based on real estate and slave ownership. Since there weren’t a lot of slaves in the state, the burden fell on homeowners, with the taxed value based on the number and size of the windows in their homes.

When tax assessors were harassed, intimidated, and threatened with jail by local militia, the government responded by sending troops to capture and imprison the protestors. John Fries, the organizer, and several others were arrested, tried, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to hang.

The gallows happened to be across the street from the Tavern, where they had held organizational meetings. But two days before the execution, President John Adams pardoned them.

In 1810, the inn added two rooms and expanded the kitchen. In 1865, more rooms were added as the new railroad began bringing in potential customers to the area. Today’s owner, Jan Hench, brought the Red Lion back to its former glory, even turning their old stables into McCoole’s Arts and Events Place, with room for large meetings and gatherings.

The menu spans history and geography, with foods from Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, the Deep South, the Eastern states, the Caribbean, and the Southwest. Of course, you can also order tavern fare such as burgers, finger foods, a wide variety of steaks, and pasta. They have twenty-five or so tap or bottled beers to wash it all down.

In a beefy mood, I ordered the Tournedos au Cognac, which are pan-seared in butter, slathered with demi-glace, and flamed with Cognac, then topped with a mountain of delicious hickory-smoked mushrooms. I had room for their Warm Bavarian Apple Torte, with fire-roasted apples and buttery pastry, made even more decadent with a large scoop of cinnamon-caramel ice cream.

While sitting in the dining room, I looked out the window and thought I spotted the Liberty Bell right across the street. It is a duplicate, put there to commemorate the real bell’s visit in 1777. When it seemed as if the British would capture Philadelphia (which they did), the bell was moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and hidden—the fear being that the redcoats would melt it down for cannonballs to use against the Colonial army. On the way to its hiding place in an Allentown church, the famous bell briefly rested in Quakertown, right across the street from the Red Lion.

And that famous floor? From 1939 to 1942, Erick Knight, an English-American author, sat in the dining room. When his wife’s dog was killed by a car, he bought her a new puppy—which soon bonded with him and became his shadow for nine years. He began writing a book about her, typing notes while she happily slept beside his chair at home, or rode shotgun when he drove around town, did chores, or just wanted to get away from the typewriter. And when she was good, he took her to his favorite restaurant, the Red Lion Inn, and he bought her a raw When tax assessors were harassed, intimidated, and threatened with jail by local militia, the government responded by sending troops to capture and imprison the protestors. John Fries, the organizer, and several others were arrested, tried, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to hang. The gallows happened to be across the street from the Tavern, where they had held organizational meetings. But two days before the execution, President John Adams pardoned them. In 1810, the inn added two rooms and expanded the kitchen. In 1865, more rooms were added as the new railroad began bringing in potential customers to the area. Today’s owner, Jan Hench, brought the Red Lion back to its former glory, even turning their old stables into McCoole’s Arts and Events Place, with room for large meetings and gatherings. The menu spans history and geography, with foods from Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean, the Deep South, the Eastern states, the Caribbean, and the Southwest. Of course, you can also order tavern fare such as burgers, finger foods, a wide variety of steaks, and pasta. They have twenty-five or so tap or bottled beers to wash it all down. In a beefy mood, I ordered the Tournedos au Cognac, which are pan-seared in butter, slathered with demi-glace, and flamed with Cognac, then topped with a mountain of delicious hickory-smoked mushrooms. I had room for their Warm Bavarian Apple Torte, with fire-roasted apples and buttery pastry, made even more decadent with a large scoop of cinnamon-caramel ice cream. While sitting in the dining room, I looked out the window and thought I spotted the Liberty Bell right across the street. It is a duplicate, put there to commemorate the real bell’s visit in 1777. When it seemed as if the British would capture Philadelphia (which they did), the bell was moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and hidden—the fear being that the redcoats would melt it down for cannonballs to use against the Colonial army. On the way to its hiding place in an Allentown church, the famous bell briefly rested in Quakertown, right across the street from the Red Lion. And that famous floor? From 1939 to 1942, Erick Knight, an English-American author, sat in the dining room. When his wife’s dog was killed by a car, he bought her a new puppy—which soon bonded with him and became his shadow for nine years. He began writing a book about her, typing notes while she happily slept beside his chair at home, or rode shotgun when he drove around town, did chores, or just wanted to get away from the typewriter. And when she was good, he took her to his favorite restaurant, the Red Lion Inn, and he bought her a raw steak which she gobbled right off the floor beside his favorite table. She must have been on her very best behavior many times, because she ate so many steaks there that the flooring began to deteriorate and it eventually had to be replaced for safety and sanitation reasons.

Inns, taverns, and restaurants all over the country brag that “George Washington slept here,” or “Ernest Hemingway drank here,” and so on. But the Red Lion upstages them all. The book Erick wrote was, and is, perhaps the most beloved canine yarn ever. And his four-legged pal became the role model for a dozen movies, a radio series on ABC and one on NBC, a dozen TV series, and sixty more books. Which makes McCoole’s Red Lion Inn the only place in America that proudly proclaims: “Lassie Ate Here!”

 

Tournedos au Cognac – From The Historic Red Lion Inn, Quakertown
Serves 2 to 4

¼ cup olive oil
1 (32-ounce) beef tenderloin, cut into 16 medallions
¾ cup Cognac or brandy
1 ½ cups hickory-smoked mushrooms (see Note)
2 cups beef or veal demi-glace (see Note) 
2 parsley sprigs or minced fresh chives, for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the medallions, in batches if necessary, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Using tongs, transfer the medallions to a heated platter and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the Cognac to the pan, being careful with the resulting flam-up, and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook to reduce the liquid to about ½ cup.

Add the mushrooms and demi-glace and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Divide the medallions between two or four plates and spoon the mushroom mixture on top. Garnish with parsley or chives and serve at once.

NOTE: If you don’t want to smoke your own mushrooms, you can substitute any unsmoked mushroom. You can buy demi-glace in jars at specialty foods stores. The Red Lion makes its own.

From A Century of Restaurants by Rick Browne/ Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.

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