Valar Ipradas : Game of Thrones Menu Preview

Tonight The Commissary will play host to Chef Aaron Mercier, of Rook’s Rustic Tavern, as he serves up a menu inspired by the hit HBO show Game of Thrones. This is the third installment of his Parliament of Rooks pop-up dinner series.

Chef Mercier’s menu is designed to showcase his “inner nerd” and will feature “seven novel-inspired dishes in honor of the Seven Gods of Westeros”. (It is the opinion of this author that The Seven are but a balm for a pox that has spread across the once mighty face of Westeros, and that real relief will only be obtained in the cleansing  fire of the Red God. Praise be to R’hollor!)

We were granted a sneak peak at the menu, and its got us hungrier than Hot Pie after his daring escape from Harrenhal! Here is what Chef Aaron has in store:

  • Kingslander’s Summer Salad – Mixed herbs, foraged mixed greens, ground cherries, flowers, vinaigrette
  • Treacherous Leek Soup- Mushrooms and warm spices
  • Dornish-style Stuffed Cherry Chiles – Queso fresco, machaca con carne seca, thyme bechamel, shallot chips
  • Rillette a la Tyrion – Rillette of bacon and smoked fish, pumpernickel toast points, Chef’s whole-grain mustard, blackberry compote
  • Braised Oxtails with Herbed Rice- Chili jus, cattail pollen, green onion
  • Pigeon Pie – Pigeon, peas, gravy
  • Samwell’s Blueberry Tart- Saffron creme batard, candied herbs

This menu is sure to satisfy all diners, from the most noble and discerning families of venerable Meereen to a ravenous Dothraki bloodrider. (If you are getting even half of these references than this really is the dinner for you!) Dinner starts at 7, with libations available for purchase from Actual Brewing Company. Tickets for the dinner are $60 and can be purchased here. And, as an added bonus, the first five readers to purchase tickets and enter the code “Wanderlunch” at check-out will receive a 15% discount. John Snow may know nothing, but even he knows a great deal like this when he sees one!

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(UPDATE) The Commissary to host “Fresh Street” Founders for Pop-Up Dinners plus an Q&A w/ Chef Kim

The Commissary (1400 Dublin Rd., Columbus) has become the epicenter of pop-up dining in central Ohio. Recent highlights include Chef Bill Glover, of Gallerie Bar & Bistro, and his music-meets-dinner concept and an upcoming “Game of Thrones” feast, the third installment of the “Parliament of Rooks” series from Chef Aaron Mercier.

Add to that list the highly anticipated return of dj-turned-chef and pop-up pioneer Kenny Kim, co-founder of the now legendary pop-up Fresh Street Yakitori, formerly of Brewery District night spot Double Happiness. The Commissary will host Kim for a three-night stand, 7/24 – 7/26, and you better get your tickets for this one fast!

To say that people are excited for this dinner is an understatement. A Facebook post soliciting kitchen help for the event has seen significant traffic since its publication a few days ago. (And the number of people volunteering to help cook is impressive; it seems that Chef Kim will be able to afford himself an entire brigade!)

Kim’s original pop-up brought the idea of less-than-permanent dining to Columbus in the form of Fresh Street Yakitori, specializing in delectable grilled meats on a stick. Fresh Street was perfect and had everything you could want from pop-up dining. Ever evolving menus, hand written on butcher paper, illuminated by twee illustrations of the food. It was housed in a cool bar that, if it wasn’t a show night, was usually full enough to be inviting yet empty enough to feel exclusive and special; a haunt for CCAD graduates and an emerging scene of downtown cool kids. Heavily influenced by co-founder Misahko Ohba, the take on Japanese street food was simultaneously exotic and familiar. I’ll never forget the first time I had the pork cheek. Incredibly tender and charred just right over the coals in their little brick grill, this was a special. And the portion was perfect, just enough to really let you taste your food, but not enough to totally slake your craving for street meat. Part of the Fresh Street magic, at least for me, was that I always wanted more. According to Thomas Keller a truly great dish will leave you yearning for “just one more bite”. Columbus has been waiting for that one last taste for several years, and it seems that we will finally get it!

So here’s the line up:

  • 7/24 @ 7:00 PM – Fresh Street Backyard BBQ
  • 7/25 @ 6-9 PM – Fresh Street Taco Shop
  • 7/26 @ 11:00 AM – Fresh Street Japanese Diner Brunch

Just reading the names of the pop-ups has me hungry. Each one of these meals plays to Kim & Ohba’s specific strengths as chefs and should be great venues for showcasing their food. I’m especially intrigued by the brunch. Chef Misako trained at the Vantan Pastry School in Tokyo and I’m curious to see if this pastry knowledge will work its was into the meal.

These dinners are a definite don’t miss. To purchase tickets to one (or all) of the dinners click here.

UPDATE 7.15.15- Chef Kenneth Kim was able to answer some questions about the pop-up. Keep reading for info straight from the source!


W.L. – The dates for the pop-up are 7/24-7/26, will you be doing three seperate dinners?

K.K. – Yup. We want to make sure there are different reasons to go to each even. First night is a Japanese backyard BBQ theme event. Second night is a Japanese taco shop them. Third day is a Japanese-American breakfast/brunch diner.

W.L. – Is this dinner affiliated with The Commissary’s Kickstarter campaign? If so, will non-backers be able to buy tickers?

K.K. – It is (affiliated with the kickstarter campaign) but we need everyone to come. Non-backers are invited for sure. Come one, come all!

W.L. – Do you see this as a continuation of what you did with Fresh Street?

K.K. – We don’t have all the cooking equipment to do fRESHSTREET staples. Our concepts are designed to have fun with everyone. We’re cutting out the fancy shit this weekend.

W.L. – Are you still working with Misako?

K.K. – Yup! I can’t post as many pics of her cooking because we aren’t working side-by-side right now in San Diego, but we are looking to start another venture soon. Also, the Facebook name changed to my birth name instead of fRESHSTREET because I can’t have a business name on a friends page according to Facebook and I can’t figure out how to transfer my page to a business page without losing everything.

W.L. – What have you been up to since you left Columbus? What do you think of the San Diego food scene?

K.K. – Been working a ton of different places, some good and some shitty. I’ve been at gastropus, ramen shops, Asian-Fusion lounges, etc. Misako’s been at bakeries, sushi restaurants, and at a robatayaki spot.

Just like most places, San Diego has some good and some bad. They have a high standard for product there and they like to be a little health conscious. Real estate is more expensive so restaurateurs tend to be more conservative. It’s also a tourist destination, so that changes the food culture here to cater to visitors a bit. There’s a lot of variety here and few spots that nail it, but just like most cities, there’s room for growth. Overall, a better than average food scene. Great Mexican food scene here being right next to Mexico.

W.L.- Your last pop-up at Double Happiness brought in some pretty heavy hitters as collaborators, most notable Jonathan Sawyer and Jenn Louis, do you have any special guests on deck for this dinner?

K.K. – We want this one to be more about local chefs. We haven’t seen anyone in three years or so and we wouldn’t be able to spend anytime with anyone if we brought in “heavy hitters”.

W.L. – Fresh Street has reached almost legendary status in Columbus. To this day I think about the pork cheek skewer and get hungry. If you returned to the city you’d have a fan base ready and waiting. You ever think about coming back?

K.K. – I do. There are a bunch of west coast chefs that I know that want to go to Ohio to try something different. It would be a matter of finding the perfect situation.

W.L. – The Columbus food scene has matured pretty rapidly in the last few years. Are there any places your excited to try while you’re in town? And chefs you’d like to work with?

K.K. – I want to try Hot Chicken Takeover. As for chefs, a lot of the one I like are magically helping out for the event. Like Matthew Heaggans, Lara Yazvac (Pipia), Avishar Barua, and Bekah Lehman off the top of my head. Don’t know too much about the current scene because we been gone.

W.L. – What’s the story behind the Fresh Street logo?

K.K. – It’s just a sleepy hippo with an octopus best friend. I’m kind of the hippo. Misako is the octopus. Just a fun logo that’s different than others. Misako drew it.

W.L. – Final thoughts?

K.K. – These three events are less about showing off skills and more about seeing everyone in fun environments and working with local talent. If you don’t come with any preset ideas of what to expect, you should have a great time.

And there you have it folks, straight from the hippo’s mouth! To see Chef Kim, Chef Misako, and any of a number of Columbus’ best chefs in action GET YOUR DAMN TICKETS NOW! 

Rooks Rising : Chef Aaron Mercier’s “New South Dinner” (video)

Chef Aaron Mercier is the busiest chef in Columbus that you haven’t heard of…yet. Fresh off a culinary tour south of the Mason-Dixon, Chef Mercier brought some of that Sean-Brock-inspired southern cuisine back to the capital city in the form of his second pop-up dinner in as many weeks. Following up on his Dinner Lab debut (and an early spring pop-up at Angry Bear Kitchen, of which i heard the soup course was to die for…) Chef Mercier’s “New South Dinner” was an opportunity to share some of the inspiration he gleamed from dining at some of the South-East’s best restaurants. (Cochon, anyone? Okay, how about The Inn at Little Washington?)

The six-course affair showcased what Chef Aaron does best: thoughtfully crafted menus that are exciting yet accessible and unpretentious. Bucking the trend of the traditional wine pairing, Chef opted for beer in fruitful collaboration with Columbus’ Actual Brewing Company. The combination of his primal, smokey flavors with the often cerebral quality of Actual’s brews proved a match made in dinner heaven.

The stand-out dish came mid-way through the 2-hour affair in the form of a delicious shrimp offering. Large achiote coated crustaceans were served over a bed of creamy corn and pepper chowder (a.k.a. maque choux), a testament to Chef Arron’s time spent in the gastronomical melange that is New Orleans. The dish was garnished with dried corn flowers from Clintonville’s Boline apothecary.

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Maque choux, the dinner’s pitch perfect highlight.

The maturity of this dish, the subtlety of the maque choux punctuated by the savory spicy of the achiote shrimp, shows a chef coming into his own. The plating, rustic and beautiful, while playful and with a deft eye for color. (From a technical standpoint, I’d never seen the blue from the cornflower on a plate before. The effect was powerful.)

Check out the video for a look at the rest of the dishes from “The New South”:

So what’s next for Chef Mercier? In July, look out for another collaboration from Aaron  and The Commissary; this time in the form of a Game of Thrones themed dinner. (Food nerds and regular nerds unite!) At the dinner he also hinted at the opening of a brick-and-mortar concept, Rook’s Rustic Tavern, to be opened “soon” at an as yet unknown location.

If this brief trip through “The New South” was any indication of things to come, we can’t wait for Rooks to find a permanent roost here in Columbus!