if I remember correctly, my friend Linda never wanted to hear too much about how great restaurants were, in order not to build it up in her mind to unachievable mythic proportions.   I am terribly guilty of browsing online menus and judging a book (or restaurant) by its cover (website/storefront) and dreaming in my foodie world about everything from amuse-bouche to decor to bathroom sinks (really.)
We go to a church in Orlando called Summit.  It is quite a bit different than anything Z or I grew up with and sometimes leans a little on traditions of the high church in order to teach a lesson or draw us closer to Jesus.  Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a tradition I am certain I have never previously participated in.  There was a service about considering our mortality which concluded with the imposition of ashes, a mark on the forehead in ash with the sign of the cross.  It is a way to begin the Lenten season moving toward Easter.  Our small group meets on Wedsnesday evenings so we decided to meet for dinner and head to the service.  The chosen dinner spot was Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria.
Where am I going?  We had never been to Pom Pom’s and there was some hype – ‘my favorite’ and ‘great menu-lots of items.’  We snooped it out on the website.  It looked alright but I had an off vibe.  We made our way to the tiny stripmall housing it with it’s unlit metal sign.  It is dimly lit with sort of pop-asian art for sale.  A wall of $9 loaves and a few gourmet cupcakes in a case.  A sign on the wall proclaiming best non-bar hangout.  We ordered drinks – tea is a specialty, I had Passion – which is a black tea, good but nondescript.  Z had Coke (usual) and sandwiches.  Oddly they had no chips, only gourmet (read, not matchy to the food, but inventive- German potato salad with your Asian pressed sandwich anyone?)  All I wanted was a few crunchy chips.   Z ordered an Asian pulled pork and I had a Turkey with cranberry chutney, no sides.  It was ok, if not a little overpriced.  I kept thinking, well, I could make this with a minimum of work.   So, there is is, hype.  It didn’t live up.  It was probably ok, a good lunch spot even, but not worth my dreams of grandeur.

nordstrom cafe

I’ve spent many happy hours in
different Nordstrom cafes.  Throwbacks to a time when ladies shopped and lunched.  A quiet place for relaxing and refueling for the grueling hours of shopping in front of you.   I’ve variously been there with my grandma, mom, sister, niece, friends.  It is sort of a cross between a cafe and a bistro serving crafted salads and sandwiches along with long cooked meats and sauced pastas.  Z often takes me for Saturday lunches.  My favorite sandwich-a warmed ciabatta with sliced chicken, balsamic onion jam, herbed aioli, and arugula alongside impossibly good fries and kalamata olive dip.  My favorite sandwich is only a ‘chef’s special’ and I despair of the day it falls from grace.  His-a cool citrus turkey with manchego on wholegrain.  This is where he realized he likes the salty bite of olives.  Good food and good memories.

goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto, watercress – that’s just on the bread

> ok, that was a little excessive. We are back into Tom Colicchio’s book tonight for dinner and having the goat cheese, avocado, celery, walnut pesto, watercress on fresh bakery brown bread sandwich. You toss the celery and watercress in a brightly acidic lemon vinaigrette that cuts the richness of goat cheese, avocado and walnut pesto. If that wasn’t enough, we are having Nordstom’s Kalamata Aioli and shoestring fries on the side. Totally fresh luxury.

Nordstrom’s Kalamata Aioli Recipe, adapted from Tastebook by Allison Maxwell

3/4 cup Mayo
1/4 cup roasted garlic puree
1 fresh clove garlic
1 to 1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the top off of a whole head of garlic; drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for an hour. May be done ahead of time.
Puree the olives and 1 fresh clove of garlic very well in a blender or food processor. Place in a bowl and add garlic puree, lemon juice, and mayonnaise, Mix well with a whisk. Adjust for salt and pepper.

Walnut Pesto

1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper and Salt
Place ingredients in blender or use immersion blender to puree. Try not to lick the bowl.

meatloaf, pickled mustard seed and tomato relish


last night we had a couple of friends over for dinner.  We found some amazing looking ciabatta at the Fresh Market and found this ‘wichcraft sandwich to pile it into.  Tom Collichio’s meatloaf with a slow cooked tomato curry relish and bloomed pickled mustard seeds with cheddar and bacon.  It ain’t your mom’s meatloaf!  The monsoon let loose right before they arrived and the lights went out for a moment.  The Florida rainy season doesn’t stop us!  We finished off the night with slices of homemade chocolate banana bread with dark chocolate chips.