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Taking the boring out of lunch

  • Chef Chris Ludwick serves a baby lettuce salad with strawberries, spice almonds and Point Reyes blue cheese with a chardonnay vinaigrette at Grapevine Catering in Santa Rosa on Friday, July 18, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Due to the hectic, on-the-go times we live in, lunch has become the forgotten meal, a ho-hum bite grabbed on the run between meetings and phone calls, soccer drop-offs and appointments.

Whether it’s a boring deli sandwich made with processed meats or random leftovers grabbed from the fridge, the sad little meal at your desk often suffers from a lack of imagination, not to mention taste.

It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little advance planning and simple prep, you can think outside the lunch box and create a healthy sandwich or salad that will renew your flagging energy and punctuate your day with a delicious exclamation point.

“It’s so important that your food has flavor,” said Amy Ludwick, who with her husband, Chris, owns Grapevine Catering and Earth’s Bounty Kitchen, a new deli and cafe in the Skyhawk Village of Santa Rosa. “It’s all about what’s seasonal. We won’t serve tomatoes unless they’re in season and picked at the right time.”

Chris, who was the opening chef at the former Girl & the Gaucho in Glen Ellen, started his own catering company in Guerneville in 2002, which now operates in the kitchen behind Earth’s Bounty deli and cafe.

For a simple but elegant sandwich, Chris follows the Wine Country credo of using only the freshest and the best ingredients, starting with the bread. For his deli sandwiches, he sources fresh rolls from Village Bakery of Santa Rosa, customizing the breads to match the flavors of each sandwich.

For his seasonal heirloom tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich, for example, he prefers the bakery’s soft and rustic ciabatta roll.

Village Bakery’s focaccia roll, which is a little softer and more oily, works well with his roasted turkey pesto sandwich made with Hobbs bacon, provolone, charred peppers and arugula.

For his chicken salad sandwich, Chris is partial to the sweet brioche roll, which pairs well with the grape and pistachio relish he slathers on as a condiment.

“The quality of meat makes a big difference, too,” said Chris, who suggests all-natural meat products such as Zoe’s, Boar’s Head or Diestel of Sonora, which recently introduced a line of pre-sliced deli turkey.

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