Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cocke 'n Kettle

Some are trapped in the '70s, but it takes a lot of talent to embody both the 1970s and the 1770s. The old Cocke 'n Kettle restaurant in Uxbridge, Massachusetts managed to keep its feet in both of those decades.

A fixture in the Blackstone Valley for almost forty years, the Cocke 'n Kettle closed in 2008. Before that happened, however, people came for the famous popovers and the plentiful hors d'ouevres in the cocktail lounge.

You might say that the Cocke 'n Kettle attracted an older, less-than-hip clientele. My fondest memory of the restaurant is watching my great-aunt dance in the lounge at her sister's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1995. That was the only time in my life I ever indulged in a Southern Comfort Manhattan, a drink that you did not (and do not) see among the 21-34 year-old set in greater Providence or Boston.

Yet I prefer to think that the fans of the Cocke 'n Kettle simply appreciated being treated well. The hors d'ourvres in the lounge or the corn fritters at the dinner table were signs that the restaurant respected its patrons and wanted them to leave satisfied and happy. The Sampsons really looked upon customers as welcome guests in their home.

The interior of the Cocke 'n Kettle reinforced that feeling. In many ways the Cocke 'n Kettle was like an actual home. Part of the restaurant was a colonial-era mansion. Visitors took advantage of dining in all the house's various and distinctive rooms.

But people didn't come just to eat in an old farm building. The decor of the Cocke 'n Kettle, which constituted a much appreciated and very specific kind of colonial revival, reinforced new ideas about what it meant to go out to eat. The Cocke 'n Kettle did not re-create the building's past so much as it exemplified an early-1970s interpretation of how to celebrate the colonial period while accommodating the social mores of a society that was becoming increasingly less formal.

In the rooms of the Cocke 'n Kettle you saw two revolutions: the American Revolution and the social revolution of the 1960s/1970s. The dark woods and studded leather chairs spoke to what the owners imagined to be the more rustic or simpler ideals of the colonial and Revolutionary periods. Yet those same wood beams and chairs also provided patrons with a homey feel that allowed them a special night out that was neither stuffy nor overly formal. In harkening to the image of an older New England, the Cocke 'n Kettle created an atmosphere that facilitated the easy yet tasteful socializing that men and women desired in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I've no doubt in my mind that the combined effects of low lighting, dark leather, and British plaid in the lounge gave many the necessary courage to meet new friends or to chat up potential dates. (The short skirts sported by the young waitresses probably didn't hurt either. Today, you just don't find such "clean cut little beavers" eager "to add to your gourmet entertainment." Well, not in a place you could bring your parents anyway.)

The decor and the menu never really changed. I like to think that faithful customers appreciated that they could return to this little reminder of the sense of social change or freedom they were feeling when the Sampson family established the Cocke 'n Kettle in 1971.

I am fortunate to have a flyer that was probably printed around the time the restaurant opened as the Cocke 'n Kettle. Actually, I have two copies. My grandmother and my great-aunt, for whatever reason, both saved them. I hope the photos from the flyer help to illustrate my point.


  1. Dear Kate,

    I know this is a fairly old post, but thanks for posting--the Cocke'n' Kettle was our go-to restaurant for good report cards when we were kids and graduation celebrations when we were older. I associate eating here with being full--fuller than I can imagine ever being ever again in my life--after all those popovers and that French onion soup. You don't see retro swankiness like this much anymore, and you don't see food like this outside of New England (it was a shock to me to move south and discover that Ritz cracker crumbs and butter were not a standard seafood preparation everywhere in the US).

    Hope you get back to posting!

    Kelly M.

  2. Please tell me you can share the receipe from the Cocke' n kettle to make those popovers! I know they must have used drippings from the prime ribs. Oh, they were soooo good.. This was in 1973 or about 30 lbs lighter... Thanks

    1. Hi Gerry. I'm sorry to tell you that I don't have that recipe. But someone out there might and send it to your email address or post it here. Hint, hint readers.

  3. I loved the Cocke n Kettle. It was where our family always went in the 70"s and 80's for celebrations, anniversaries, etc. My parents both loved that place and although they are both gone now, I wish it was still there to bring me back to my childhood.

    1. It was a great place we miss it a lot. We have been looking to see if anyone knows what the recipe was for their Delmonico potatoes, they were delicious!

  4. From a friend, but the end of the recipe is missing!
    Cocke ‘N Kettle POPOVERS
    5 Tablespoons of Canola Oil, or rendered Beef Fat
    5 Large Whole Eggs
    1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt
    1+3/4 cups of Warm Milk, 100*degrees
    1+1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour
    3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of Melted Butter
    Warm the Milk to 100*degrees and set it aside. In a small sauce pan, melt the Butter and then add it to the Warm Milk. In a medium size mixing bowl, break the Whole Eggs and add the Salt. Lightly whisk the Eggs, just until they are homogenized, or one whole mass. The Eggs are whisked just enough to release their power. Over beating them will do just the opposite; and diminish their "rising power".
    Whisk together the Warm Milk and Butter Mixture into the Beaten Eggs, using as few strokes of the whisk as possible. With the measured Flour in one hand and a light wire whisk in the other hand, gradually add the Flour to the Custard Base, while whisking steadily until all the Flour has been introduced. Stop whisking as soon as the Flour has been incorporated. Let batter come to room temperature.
    Preheat the oven to 425*degrees. Place the over sized Popover forms onto a sheet pan to catch any overflow. Ladle 1 Tablespoon of Canola Oil in each of the holes. Now place the forms into the preheated oven. Allow the forms and oil to come up to temperature, approximately 15 minutes.
    Remove the Popover Forms from the oven and ladle in the Batter, using an 8 ounce measure. Quickly return the filled Popover Forms to the oven and close the door. Do not open the door for at least 25 minutes. At the 25 minute mark, turn down the heat to 375*degrees. Bake the Popovers for an additional 35 minutes. Once the heat has been lowered, you can take a peek, to see how the Popovers are doing. If the Popovers appear to be getting too dark, then lower the heat further to 350*degrees. Continue to cook them for the additional 35 minutes. Poke hole in top upon removal from oven to prevent deflating.
    The first 25 minutes are for giving the Popovers their push to become as high as possible. The second increment of cooking time, (35 minutes) is to set and firm up the Popover, and maintain its shape. The Popovers should become an even golden brown in color. The Yellow and White parts of the popover are areas that are not fully cooked, and will cause the Popover to collapse upon removal from the oven. When the Popovers are evenly cooked to a golden brown, remove them from the oven. Remove the [missing from here]

  5. The corn fritters were to die for!