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.
If you like to add a bit of cheese to your sandwich, Chris advises using local California cheeses in a wide range of flavors and textures, such as Point Reyes Farmstead’s Toma, Bravo’s Chipotle Cheddar or the Redwood Hill Farm goat cheeses.
“The cost is higher if you eat sandwiches every day,” Amy said of the high-quality meats and cheeses. “But it’s worth it.”
The Ludwicks, who also make an artisan line of condiments, advise thinking creatively when it comes to dressing up the sandwich. Instead of the usual mayonnaise, think about throwing on a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, which will kick up the flavor.
“It’s always fun to have something unique that’s not mayonnaise and mustard,” Amy said. “Chris likes to make his own pestos, flavored aiolis, tapenades and relishes.”
You can purchase many of these condiments at the grocery store, but if you have time, it’s nice to make them yourself. Just be sure to use them up quickly.
If you like to lighten up your mid-day meal with a fresh salad, Chris advises starting with crisp, fresh-picked lettuces that you’ve sourced yourself from the farmers market or your own back yard.