The Grove Café & Market
Twenty more years
I think that we’ve all, at one time or another, had the “where will I be in 20 years?” conversation, either with ourselves or other people. I predict by then I will have gained 10 more pounds. I will also have mastered the art of growing corn (it is an art) and will still be paying off the interest on my student loans. I can also predict some amazing technological advances in the food industry, such as tricolored watermelons, diet doughnuts and nutritious gravy. Utilizing these same gastro-psychic abilities, I can say Huning Highland’s newest well-polished jewel, The Grove Café & Market, will still be a haven for those wishing to have a relaxing lunch in a soothing, almost organic environment.
Minutes after walking through the doors, I felt like someone had smothered me with VapoRub. In contrast to the outside (all warm oranges and yellows), the inside was cool blues and greens, easy music and vegetative artwork with lots of leaves and a seed pod. The floor was rustic-on-purpose concrete, and the front wall was all windows, shining heavenly light onto market shelves filled with local and imported yummies.
I temporarily forgot my plans to eat in favor of browsing the market merchandise, and I don’t regret it. The three rather old-fashioned dry goods shelves held an excellent representation of what I call “party foods” (maybe in 20 years I’ll be fancy enough to eat this stuff every day) like teas, nut butters, jams, vinegars, oils and chocolates. The two standing displays held delicacies like mustards, gourmet chips, cookies and gourmet dried pastas. Leading the way back to the counter was a small refrigerator case showcasing fine cheeses, nuts and a modest antipasto bar with artichokes, olives and peppers.
I made note of a few particularly delish items to beg my rich friends for at Christmas (I hope in 20 years I’ll have more of those too), such as jars of Dave’s Gourmet golden heirloom tomato sauce, little pots of Marcona almonds in rosemary honey and fresh-baked English muffins ($9 for a half-dozen) to eat with the key lime curd I was eyeballing on the display next to me.
Of course, this all made me very, very hungry. I finally approached the counter to find several chalkboards written with either the Magna Carta or the menu—it was hard to tell. I opted to read a paper printout menu, and found it much easier to navigate than the ocean of words above me. I ordered the tuna salad niçoise ($8.95), the croque monsieur ($7.95), a skinny mocha latte and a bottle of pure joy, also known as Orangina.
My bottle of joy and I found a nice table by a window, and I tucked into my wee pulpy soda. I brought a menu back with me to check out the stuff I had passed over, and I was beginning to regret not ordering the aged salami sandwich with provolone and tapenade, or the veggie sandwich with tomato, roasted yellow peppers, English cucumbers, guacamole, Havarti and greens on olive bread. Havarti is an amazing, versatile cheese. It’s rindless, it’s creamy, it’s Danish, and if you’ve never tried it with caraway seeds or dill, then deep regret is already familiar to you.
My lunch took only minutes to arrive, and the sandwich was exquisite. Open-faced and with melted Gruyère, the black forest ham was smoky and succulent, the whole grain mustard was respectably tangy and the rustic farm bread was lightly toasted. The fruit cup was a surprise, as it contained fat raspberries and blueberries, and I thought I had reached nirvana until I realized that my salad was served in plastic box.
This seemed like a sacrilege, at best, because $9 for a salad does suggest dinnerware of some kind, and although there is tuna involved, the delectable lemon-basil vinaigrette deserved much better than to be relegated to the status of plastic ramekin. The aforementioned tuna was in salad form, and it wasn’t bad at all, but a bit heavy on the preserved lemons, which clashed with the vinaigrette. Even though the tuna salad wasn’t working there, I bet that it would on their “tuna toastie” sandwich, ingeniously combined with white cheddar and wheat bread.
My latte was a sweet pick-me-up (they even spent the extra dough to get those little sleeves with their logo sticker on them), and I used it to fuel my way back out the doors. I had to do it, because if I used the credit card one more time to buy balsamic anything, I’ll still see the bill in 20 years.
Overall, I would have to rate this place pretty high for atmosphere and, above all, quality of food. Their unabashed use of local, organic and really cool seasonal ingredients puts a lot of local places to shame. I would love to see more local eateries take the effort to utilize New Mexico honey, Heidi’s organic jams and use local butter lettuce.
In 20 years, I have no doubt I will see eggs with seven yolks each, the abolition of margarine, fish that are born marinated in herbs and white wine, and anchovy bushes for the backyard. In the meantime, I will contemplate the passing of time and anxiously work on my additional 10, or maybe 20, pounds.
The Alibi Recommends:
Croque monsieur or madame
Fresh mozzarella sandwich
Coconut cream cupcakes
The Grove Café & Market, 600 Central SE, 248-9800. Hours: Tue.-Sat. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Price range: Moderate to expensive. No smoking, credit cards accepted, booze, specials, patio, organic/local goods.