Well, last night was Refuel’s annual Whole Hog Dinner. There were three seatings offered: 6:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. In preparation for my senior years, I opted for the early bird special, arriving maybe five minutes before the scheduled seating. As I neared the restaurant, I noticed a group of people milling about outside. Assuming they were anti-foie gras protestors, I prepared to launch a verbal barrage their way. I don’t know what made me hesitate, but it’s a good thing I did because it turned out they weren’t protestors but diners waiting for the restaurant to open its doors.
Finally, the door was opened and we were welcomed inside. Unlike the previous Whole Hog Dinners I attended, this one was family style. We were seated at one of three long banquet tables along with some forty other strangers, and the festivities commenced…
A great dish, but this was the first hiccup of the family-style service. The previous two courses went well as we were served one platter to be shared between four people. Those who wanted more could eat more while those who wanted to save their appetites could opt for smaller portions. But when the boudin noir arrived, we were informed there were six portions, one for each diner (meaning the four diners to my left, myself, and the gentleman sitting across from me while his wife and my date would have to fend for themselves). Another two platters were served to the other side of the table. Normally, I would have offered the platter to the ladies but, since they were seated to my right, they were technically on the opposite side of the dividing line which meant that serving them the boudin noir would deny the foursome on my left their portions. The platters to our right never found their way over so we all sat there awkwardly and made idle chitchat until one of the foursome on my left finally made the move and helped themselves. In the end, the ladies elected not to go for the boudin noir so the six portions for the eight diners worked out fine, but given the singular nature of the servings, I didn’t understand why this course wasn’t served individually.
Then, it was time for the big show. The confit pigs’ heads were trotted out for display purposes. They were given a place of honor at the front of the room so that guests could take advantage of the photo op.
Alas, my pic of the actual crispy-skinned pork served with roesti potato and sauteed savoy cabbage came out to blurry. I only had the briefest of opportunities to snap a pic before the platter was whisked away. By the time it came back, everyone had helped themselves to the pork cheek so I had to settle for neck and snout. Listen, pork neck and snout are great – but they’re no cheek.
So, overall, some truly wonderful dishes. But I can’t even begin to tell you how much I really, REALLY, REALLLY HATED the family style dining. I’m sure it works well – if you actually happen to be dining with family, maybe even friends – but it’s all sorts of awkwardness when dining with strangers. Especially strangers who think nothing of helping themselves to all of the pork cheek.
Chef Ted and Chef Rob bid us a fond adieu as they prepare for the next sitting…