Skewered Fresh Fruit with Celery Seed Dressing

Department store eateries, whether the humble lunch counters at Woolworths or the elegant dining rooms of upscale stores like Lord and Taylor or Saks Fifth Avenue, had a definite place in our culture in the 1950s and 1960s; many of the fancier ones became destinations apart from the shopping experience because the food was often that good.

In the 1950s my mother worked as a waitress in a restaurant called The Coin Room in Rike’s Department Store in Dayton, Ohio. The restaurant featured light, well prepared meals for 99 cents plus the 3 cents sales tax bringing the total for a wonderful cooked from scratch luncheon to $1.02. It was great for shoppers who wanted a quick, inexpensive and tasty meal.

My mother brought home The Coin Room recipe for Celery Seed Dressing which was a big hit there and in our home. It was a dressing for a fruit salad.  It tasted great on grapefruit, pears, apples– just about any fruit, as well as greens, nuts and other fruit salad accompaniments.  However, somewhere along the line it got lost.  Rike’s was sold to a conglomerate, The Coin Room disappeared and then, in 1986, my mother died. Then, just this year, tucked in an old cookbook left to me by my mother, there it was.  I couldn’t wait to prepare it again and relive those lovely times.

I submitted this recipe for America’s Best Lost Recipes published in 2007 by America’s Test Kitchen.  The test kitchen “loved the sweet and sour flavors of this dressing and tasted it on everything from apples to greens (we especially loved it on Bibb lettuce) to a cucumber and radish salad.  The taste gets better as it sits, so be sure to allow it the full hour (or days) to develop all of its potential flavor.  Also, be sure to use celery seeds, not celery salt, for this recipe.”

Here it is as a refreshing side for your backyard picnic.  Serve it chilled alongside skewered cubes of fresh fruit of your choice.  Try any combination of kiwi, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, papaya, honeydew, strawberries, apples, pears, grapefruit or peaches.  Just make sure the fruit is ripe.

Celery Seed Dressing (Makes about 1 cup)


¼ cup sugar

½ t dry mustard

½ t salt

½ t celery seed

2 T grated yellow onion

2 ½T white vinegar

½ cup peanut or canola oil


Stir the sugar, mustard, salt and celery seed together in a medium bowl.  Add the onion and the vinegar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the oil until well blended.  Cover and refrigerate until the flavors meld, about 1 hour.  (The dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Whisk before serving.)

Photographer Bill Brady

Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell


    very fresh… must try this

  • Michelle // July 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Reply

    Wow! Stunning photo! Very artistic and beautiful. Loved the story, also.

  • Aleza // July 3, 2010 at 8:13 am | Reply

    Wow, Boy do I remember the Coin Room and there are many recipes I wish I had from Rikes.
    Thank you so much for sharing…I lost my Mother this year and just thinking about Rikes and eating at all of the great restaurants in the Downtown location brought back great memories of eating there with her.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lori
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 16:18:09

    Rike’s Chocolate Cake

    ½ cup butter
    3 eggs
    2 ½ cup sugar
    …5 ½ squares Hershey chocolate (I presume baking chocolate)
    2 ½ cup cake flour
    2 teas. baking powder
    1 ½ cup sweet milk (this would be whole milk as distinguished from butter- or sour- milk)
    1 teas. salt
    1 cup nut meats (type of nut not mentioned, but I think walnuts?)
    2 teas. vanilla

    1. Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolk and beat well
    2. Add melted chocolate and beat
    3. Add flour and milk alternately
    4. Beat egg whites
    5. Add vanilla and nuts
    6. Fold in beaten egg whites
    7. Add baking powder – alone and last
    8. Mix using and electric beater on medium speed

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    Bake for 45 minutes in a 9 x13 greased and floured pan
    -or for 25 minutes in 2 9-inch greased and floured layer pans

    Chocolate Icing

    6 T brown sugar
    3 T cocoa
    3 T butter
    3 T cream
    powdered sugar

    Melt brown sugar, cocoa, butter, and cream together
    Add enough powdered sugar to give the mixture the consistency of frosting.

    Clipped from a Dayton area newspaper over 40 years ago.


  2. Melissa
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 00:04:34

    Is there ANY chance you have a couple of other recipes from Rike’s – their $35 Fudge Cake recipe (you know like the Neiman Marcus recipe legend) and their Rum Cake recipe???


    • phylliskirigin
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 00:23:15

      I’m afraid I don’t, Melissa. I remember what I think was a gingerbread cake square topped with creme anglaise in the mezannine cafeteria. It was really good and I had it many times but I don’t have the recipe.


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