The Refuge: A Culinary Treasure on the Island

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by Tanja DePasse

Just over the IOP Connector, a new oasis sits almost hidden in a back corner. The Refuge brings something new and sophisticated to the island, without ever taking itself too seriously. The brainchild of sisters Jocelyn and Patty Lamond, it is at once ambitious in scope (a full coffee bar, bar/lounge and dining room) and yet simple in execution (the spaces flow easily from one to another, and the menu ties it all together).

The interior is a welcoming mix of coastal chic and clean modern influences, and the sisters worked closely with local designer Lorraine Vale to achieve its unique look. The result is one of the loveliest dining spaces anywhere on or off the island.

The menus change throughout the day, with the coffee bar’s espresso and latte drinks and delicate pastries taking center stage in the morning, along with egg sandwiches and full breakfast options. The afternoon brings soups, salads and sandwiches, and, as the evening tide rolls in, the elegant cocktails and dinner entrees make their appearance. Weekend brunch is a real celebration, with live music and an extensive menu.

I had the pleasure of being able to spend some time with Head Chef Robert Miller and Executive Chef Jared Rhine to get insight into this ambitious menu, their inspirations behind it and their plans for its future. Miller told me that one of his main priorities is to utilize local ingredients as much as possible. The seafood that makes up the daily catch comes from St. Jude Farms in Edisto, while pastries and desserts are from local bakery Pane Di Vita.

Rhine explained that the menu “… much like the changing tides will rotate and feature dishes whose inspirations come from all over the world.” He went on to clarify that the menu will have several staples. For example, in the present dinner rotation, The Refuge is offering a coffee-rubbed filet topped with a Yukon blue cheese mash. Customers can count on different cuts of beef prepared a variety of ways.

The same concept applies to the daily catch. I was lucky enough to be introduced to that night’s featured seafood dish. Miller explained that it was a true Maryland-style crabcake served over haricot verts and topped with fried wontons. When Rhine emerged with the plated special, my jaw dropped. I was amazed at the size of not only the dish itself but of the large pieces of crab that comprised the crabcake.

The real treat came next. The chefs explained that they had been working on something for a future menu, and it had just come out of the oven – short ribs that had been braised osso bucco style. They plan to serve the short rib on a saffron risotto with fresh gremolata.

Meanwhile, bar manager Michael Fitzgerald was preparing a cocktail for me to try – a jalapeño and cilantro margarita containing a jalapeño simple syrup that Fitzgerald makes himself. The freshly squeezed juices and herb garnishes make his cocktails sing.

The Refuge is located in the Island Center at 1517 Palm Blvd. on the Isle of Palms. To learn more, call 843-242-8934 or visit www.therefugeiop.com.

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