Miller & Rhoads Tearoom evokes delicious memories
ROANOKE – Just the mere mention of Miller & Rhoads Tearoom set memories in motion and made mouths water.
Dressing up to go downtown, snowy white tablecloths and of course, Miller & Rhoads Chocolate Silk Pie were the talk of more than 125 ladies and a few gentlemen at the Roanoke Country Club on Oct. 26. The occasion was the third of three luncheons “Remembering the Miller & Rhoads Tearoom” that were sponsored by Peacock-Harper Culinary History Friends. The culinary collection is housed in the Newman Library, Special Collections, at Virginia Tech.
“We’ve handled 400 people and we could have seated another 100 that were on the waiting list,” explained Mary Rapoport. The Virginia Egg Council spokesperson was the keynote speaker at the luncheon and one of the people who helped pull together the M&R recipes, recreated by Cindy Rosenberger, a former Roanoke M&R Tearoom employee.
The guests sipped Senate Bean Soup originally served in the Richmond M&R tearoom, which was near the Capitol building, had Missouri Club sandwiches topped with a cheese sauce and accompanied by mustard pickles and frozen fruit salad. Salem residents Ellen Holtman, Emily Paine Carter, Jeanne Yopp and Anne Lee Stevens reminisced about going to the tearoom in the former department store in downtown Roanoke when they were preteens and teenagers.
The recipes reminded how Virginians lived from 1957 to 1985.
“You had to dress up, and wore skirts or dresses,” Holtman said “You never wore pants,” explained Stevens. “It was John Meyer or Villager shirtdresses,” recalled Yopp. “And Hoffheimer shoes.”
When they were young marrieds, the mothers recalled taking their children to Miller & Roads to see Santa, and treating the children to the M&R Snowball dessert. “It was a scoop of vanilla ice cream rolled in coconut, with chocolate syrup,” Stevens said.
“Miller & Roads Tearoom was just a special place to go. It was an occasion.”
Committee members Gail McMillan – who is director of the digital library at Virginia Tech’s Newman Library – Martha Akers of Cave Spring, Joanne Barton of Blacksburg, Jean Robbinson of Buchanan and Frances Trent of Roanoke watched models Ann Trinkle and Sharon Rapoport show off their collection of vintage dresses from the 1950s and 1960s. Models used to walk among the diners at the tearoom.
Guest Kathryn Metcalf Snead of Cave Spring was a model at the Roanoke Miller & Rhoads Tearoom in the 1950s, she recalled. She still has the regal bearing of a model.
Guest Betsy Woodruff of Blacksburg brought a special souvenir with her. “This was me when I was 5 years old with Santa Claus at the Richmond Miller & Roads,” she said. Woodruff showed the black-and-white photo to Donna Strother Deekens of Richmond, the Miller & Rhoads Snow Queen who helped out Santa in the Richmond store.
Deekens shared her memories at the luncheon and in her book she had for sale there, “Christmas at Miller & Rhoads.”
Copies of recipes collected with the help of Cindy Rosenberger are available from The Virginia Egg Council at www.virginiaeggcouncil.org. In addition to those served at the luncheon, recipes are for Miller & Rhoads Turkey Pot Pie, Butter Sauce for Gingerbread, Virginia’s Blue Cheese Dressing, Broccoli and Corn Bread, Miller & Roads Pound Cake, and the Original Chocolate Silk Pie as well as a more modern version.