Garfrerick’s Café

The staff of Garfrerick’s Café (from left, David Garfrerick, Rachel Robertson, Robert Barney and Holly Roberts) took patrons back in time for a nostalgic Valentine’s Day dinner at the Buckner Event Plaza.

In 1932, Herbert Hoover was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost 10 cents and all the cool cats were dancing to Duke Ellington’s "It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)."

Last month, David Garfrerick, owner of Garfrerick’s Café in Oxford, created a magical time warp that took patrons back to that romantic age. The occasion was Valentine’s Day, and the location was Buckner Event Plaza at McClellan, which was built in 1932.

The formal dining hall, with its impressive staircase at one end and wall of windows at the other, was the perfect spot for couples to travel back in time.

Garfrerick’s wait staff, clad in white tailcoats, kicked off the evening’s dinner by serving vintage cocktails. Prohibition may have been in full force in 1932, but none of Garfrerick’s enticing cocktails were made with bathtub gin. Among the offerings were Salty Dogs, Singapore Slings and, my personal favorite, Aviators, featuring Absolut Citron with elderflower liqueur, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and violet water.

As pianist Tom Burnett provided easy-listening music in the background, diners were served Beet of My Heart Salad, the first course of the evening’s six-course candlelit dinner. A plate of arugula and spinach was mixed with walnuts and bleu cheese, then topped with golden and red roasted beets and served with orange vinaigrette. It was just as refreshing as it sounds.

The second course was soup, and there were two from which to choose: a satiny butternut squash or a creamy lobster bisque. Since I had a hard time deciding, our waiter, Ranger Rumrill, took pity on me and brought samples of both. As much as I love lobster, I have to admit the squash soup won that contest. Its hearty flavor was perfect for a chilly February night.

The third course turned out to be a delightful surprise, one that wasn’t listed on the prix-fixe menu. "It’s a Cuban-style lettuce wrap with shrimp," Ranger told us. The shrimp was brushed with lime rum and local honey.

And then we were onto the fourth course, which was a gourmet taco. This dish featured an open-faced corn tortilla topped with shredded duck confit, chili sauce and sliced avocado.

Next up was a fall-apart tender serving of beef short ribs resting atop a mound of smashed fontina potatoes. "The ribs were slow roasted in an au jus pear glaze," Garfrerick said.

For the final course, diners were faced with another choice. The dessert options were a heart-shaped chocolate mousse with a red velvet cake center, or a slice of cheesecake on a graham cracker-almond crust served with fresh strawberries.

That one was easy. Cheesecake!

Kudos to the entire Garfrerick’s crew for putting together such a unique and enchanting evening. It’s one my Valentine and I won’t soon forget.

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