Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Oh là là là ! La Chatelaine of Dublin, OH
We stepped into a rather charming-looking restaurant, a tri-colored flag posted prominently on its façade. Inside, the temperature rose considerably from the crisp autumn winds; clearly the wintry weather was hitting central Ohio early this year. Around the interior were a series of menus, all of which indicated familiar names and harkened back to memories from trips past. My speech began to take on a dual persona as I transitioned into French mode, my ears quickly acclimating to the music playing on the speaker system (this must be a live, streaming radio station I recalled). The Dublin, OH, location of La Chatelaine instantly became a place of homey comfort.
Despite the brisk weather, Brianne and I had earlier visited a Rita's Italian Ice stand (the one located on Henderson Rd), where we each got Blendinis (a blending of Italian ice or frozen custard, and a mix-in of choice). I went with chocolate custard and mini peanut butter cups. For what it was, it certainly fit the moment. That said, there are a few places ranked higher on my list. (Though maybe I might need to go back, you know, for research purposes...) From Rita's we continued onward in search of a winter coat and when we finally gave up, we found our way to La Chatelaine.
In French, chatelaine translates to lady of the manor. I suppose the lady of the manor in this series of family-owned Columbus businesses would be Gigi Wielezynski. Gigi and her food chemist husband Stan Wielezynski immigrated from France to the United States in 1985, and since 1991, La Chatelaine has been among Columbus's staple restaurants. The three restaurants are currently run by Gigi and Stan's four children: Tad, Val, Marie-Charlotte, and Janek, more information on each of which may be found here. In this article, Charlotte is quoted as saying "You might not come to La Chatelaine and see somebody French," Charlotte said. "But everyone's going to greet you with a 'Bonjour!' " Not only were Brianne and I greeted with « Bonjour ! », at the Dublin location (opened in 2007), but our waitress Véronique(?) switched linguistic gears fluidly between English and French for us. (You can only imagine how excited was by this point.)
To start things off, we got an order of Escargots de Bourgogne. Swimming in warm butter and herbs, the snails were utterly delicious. Paired with grilled breads, this appetizer course was a wonderful introduction to the restaurant. I will say, though, that the fact we weren't fishing for the snails out of their shells was an ingredient I did miss, i.e., that taste of success. (Anyone who's eaten escargots in France or elsewhere that uses this piece of dining equipment should know what I mean.) For different preparations of snail, click here. If you're looking to cook up some Burgundy snails, you may want to start out with these. Just don't forget they're not fast food!
Shortly after receiving the escargots, our soups arrived. Brianne's was a tomato soup, whereas mine was a soupe à l'oignon. The bread served with it soaked up the full-bodied beef broth, as the cheese melted into it and was enrobbed in beautifully caramelised onions. I mean, look at this and tell me your mouth isn't watering.
While Brianne ordered Spaghetti à la Gigi (made with ground beef and a sauce of tomato, onion, and red wine), I ordered as my main course the Duck Confit en Cassoulet. Complete with a richly, fall-off-the-bone duck leg, a thick slice of pork belly, and a clearly (in terms of texture) housemade sausage of pork and merguez, the dish was rounded off by a healthy serving of beans in wine sauce. In this one dish, I recalled most clearly two of my favourite regions of France, i.e., Brittany and Alsace, both of which lean heavier gastronomically on the meat spectrum.
To conclude our meal, Brianne and I headed over to the dessert case. After minutes of indecisiveness amongst everything that seemed just as good if not better than the last, we settled on the above creation. Draped in white chocolate, an almond flour wafer served as the base for the buttercream mouse whose ears were made of almonds. As a whole, this served as a light ending to this first experience at La Chatelaine. Click here for a cross section of the wafer dessert. And click here for the small album of our food adventure on the last Saturday of October.