D&E's Porterfield in Wall Street Journal

Date Posted: 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL - "DEER ON THE riverside right now," our server announced.

Diners shifted their gazes from their amuse-bouches to the train windows. We were rolling through Quebec's Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, and outside, a white-tailed deer was munching leaves in a flower-dappled meadow as it watched the train go by. We were basically doing the same thing: enjoying the suppertime spectacle.

In the golden age of rail travel, passengers were served decadent dinners at tables set with snow-white linens, fine china and crystal stemware. "In the 1920s and 1930s, many of the best chefs in the country were working for the railroads," said James D. Porterfield, author of "Dining By Rail: The History and Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine." Any contemporary Amtrak rider is wretchedly aware that's no longer the case—microwaved breakfast sandwich, anyone? Except, that is, on journeys like the one I recently took, a three-hour "dinner cruise" on a train run by Le Massif de Charlevoix, a roughly 90-mile-long railway in eastern Canada.