It’s been one month since the #cbusfoodbloggers met up at The Refectory for what was, hands down, one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life. Nary a day has passed that I haven’t thought about this meal. In case this sounds like an exaggeration, just take a gander at the tasting menu we were served:
That is eleven courses, my friends, which does not include the delightful house baked bread served with the creamiest of butters or the barrage of house made desserts we endured. With a menu this intricately designed, I found myself turning to Google learning new terms as we moved from dish to dish. In this spirit, I thought I’d take a different approach for this blog post and explain some of the lesser-known preparations and ingredients (with some help from Google and my copy of the Food Lover’s Companion, of course). Learning is fun, right!? I will do my best to refrain some saying “and it’s freakin delicious” after each description, but no promises.
Beet Cured Verlasso Salmon Gravlax with octopus remoulade, tomato flakes, and avocado.
- Verlasso salmon are among the purest found anywhere–they are ocean farmed and are eco-friendly (based on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program listing).
- Gravlax is a Swedish specialty of raw salmon cured with salt, sugar, and dill.
Chilled White Asparagus and Smoked Salmon with portobella cap and Béarnaise vinaigrette.
- White asparagus is basically the same as green asparagus except it is grown in the dark (or underground), which prevents chlorophyll from forming. The white variety is more tender than the green variety.
- Béarnaise is a classic French sauce made of clarified butter, egg yolk, white wine vinegar, and herbs (often tarragon).
Red Snapper, Blue Crab, and Basil Terrine with saffron remoulade.
- A terrine is a packed, loaf-shaped concoction of various meats. Sort of like a meatloaf, except a terrine is typically served cold, and the “meats” can vary widely, from organ meats to seafood. A terrine is a great way to use up leftover bits of meat and is similar to paté.
- A remoulade is an aioli (or mayo-based) sauce, often flavored with cornichon pickles or capers.
Rabbit, Leoncini Ham, and Quail Egg with Black Truffle Aspic Timbale and sweet carrot vinaigrette.
- Leoncini Ham is a brand of cured ham imported from Verona, Italy.
- Black truffle is a highly coveted underground mushroom, which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the most expensive edible mushrooms in the world.
- Aspic is a savory meat-based jelly.
- Timbale is finely minced meat or seafood, pressed into a mold, then baked.
Escargot Terrine with layered shiitake mushrooms and garlic parsley butter.
- Escargot is the French word for snail.
- Terrine (see above)
Red Radish Carpaccio with roasted pistachio, Parmesan cheese, and champagne vinaigrette.
- Carpaccio is typically a dish of raw, thinly-sliced meat or fish — here carpaccio refers to the raw red radish.
Mussel Soupe with white wine, shallots, and leek in a saffron cream.
Roasted New Zealand baby rack of lamb in a seaweed crust, caraway lamb jus, and salt water tuile.
- Caraway is an earthy seed, in the same family as cumin and coriander, with a hint of anise (licorice) flavor.
- Jus is a meat-based gravy or sauce.
- Tuile is a baked wafer.
Roasted Duck Breast with pine nuts and rosemary pesto, crispy duck bacon, cepes bordelaise, and mushroom crepe.
- Cepes are small brown mushrooms (like porcini).
- Bordelaise is a classic French sauce made with red wine, butter, shallots, and bone marrow.
- Crepes are very thin pastries.
Sturgeon and Gambas Duet with herruga caviar blinis, sun dried tomato beurre blanc.
- Sturgeon is a meaty, firm, white fish.
- Gambas are Spanish-style shrimp, often prepared with a garlic sauce.
- Herruga caviar is made from herring roe (fish eggs). Caviar is simply sieved and salted roe.
- Blinis are savory pancakes, often served with caviar.
- Beurre blanc or “butter sauce” is a classic French sauce made from hot butter and vinegar or white wine.
Duet of Pan Seared Scallop and Seafood Strudel with saffron vin blanc sauce.
- Strudel is a type of layered pastry, often filled with something sweet, but this dish takes a savory approach.
- Vin blanc is a white wine sauce.
Ladies and gentlemen, have you made your reservation yet??
For those who haven’t experienced The Refectory firsthand, I’ll note a few interesting pieces of the back story, starting with the building itself. Built in the mid 1880’s, the original structure served as a church. It was later relocated on the property and structurally joined with two small schoolhouses. The building continued to serve as a church until the 1970s, when it was sold and converted into The Olde Church-House restaurant. Then in 1980, the building was sold again and The Refectory was born.
The word “refectory” is a nod to the history of the building–a refectory is a communal dining hall within a church or religious institution. The current owner, Kamal Boulos, has been with the Refectory since before the Refectory existed–he started in the kitchen at The Olde Church-House restaurant, worked his way up to general manager, and then purchased the restaurant in 1991.
Chef Richard Blondin is from Lyon, France. He moved to the States as a teenager, and has been with the Refectory over 25 years. Chef Blondin is known for his masterful sauces and intricately designed dishes.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful desserts. By the time we made it through the tasting menu, we’d lost our lovely light. Thankfully, #cbusfoodbloggers always bring reinforcement.
The desserts were, of course, fantastic! Some of our favorites:
- Warm Pear Tarte Almond Frangipane, Pistachio Ice Cream, Trio of Coulis
- Vanilla Crème Brulée “Paul Bocuse” with Butter Sablé
- Belgian Chocolate Dome Godiva Liqueur Center, Creme Anglaise
- Mascarpone & Peach Melba Tarte Accented with Raspberry Coulis
For a truly special dining experience, I whole heartedly recommend The Refectory. It is unlike anything else in Columbus. Truly sublime.