The Ritz Paris is by all accounts one of the world's greatest luxury hotels. It's known for its full-service amenities, storied guest list, and over-the-top opulence. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald behaved notoriously in the lobby bar. It also happens to be where Coco Chanel lived for the last half of her life. She lived in a two-bedroom suite that's now dubbed the Chanel suite and is open to guests for a jaw-dropping $20,000 per night. She was living there when she debuted her Flap bag, and when she re-introduced her legendary tweed suits. All of the lore surrounding this place made me wonder: what was Holiday at Ritz Paris like during those bygone years?
I stumbled on a Gourmet magazine article from 1956 that recounts a Christmas dinner at the Ritz. Things were bustling in the weeks leading up to it, when high society balls and parties occupied the hotel. Christmas day for residents however, was relatively quiet. The kitchen prepared and displayed an array of turkeys, geese, and ducks on ice. Residents went downstairs, picked the birds they wanted, and specified delivery times. Pretty luxurious so far right? Wait, it gets even more over the top.
The roasted birds that came out of the Ritz kitchen could be stuffed with either foie gras or truffles. Just for reference, the world's most inexpensive truffles currently sell for around $100 per pound, so stuffing a bird with them is pretty decadent. At dinner time, kitchen staff delivered the cooked bird along with pre-ordered side dishes like plum pudding and foie gras pâté. Residents ordered from the kitchen in the morning and arranged delivery of their cooked meal for that evening. The full-service treatment even extended to guests' animals. A Vanity Fair article quoted a Ritz concierge as saying:
“Yes, we are still dedicated to doing our best to satisfy every whim of our clientele. Just yesterday a lady guest ordered a Chateaubriand for her Yorkie, then sent it back to the kitchen because it was not cooked to his liking. The chef took another try at it, and that time there was no further complaint.”
I would sell everything I own (not that it adds up to much) to have drinks with Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the lobby bar. Though I would probably be utterly starstruck and useless for words. Can you imagine though, the raucous conversation that would happen with those two? A girl can dream...