Test-Driving Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go has been high on our list of places to try for quite some time. The Man and I rarely have a day off together, so we are usually limited to dinner restaurants. But the elements of the universe aligned perfectly and we were finally able to check off one on our list.

I’ve been watching from afar as Tempo Bistro evolves (stalking on Facebook, I admit), and I adore the food culture that drives this tiny lunch shop. There’s a heavy, passionate emphasis on in-season, locally grown and sourced, natural and organic ingredients to make flavor-driven sandwiches, salads, and soups. A little bird told me that they’re looking to get their bread from Mosswood in Micanopy, which will bring me back again just to try that out.

The Man and I were both hungry, and let’s be honest, more than a little cranky. So the snippy negotiations on where to get lunch, and what to get, took much longer and involved more bruised feelings than necessary. We settled on Tempo Bistro’s “Piedmont” and “The Blueprint” sandwiches, with a side “Far Eastern” salad. I sent The Man to pick up our order, which is always a bad idea when he’s hungry. He returned with a large bag that included a bottle of ginger ale, a bottle of root beer, potato chips, and Flour Pot Bakery cookies (oatmeal toffee and ginger) which I’m sure were too tempting while attempting to pay and go.

All of the food was lovely. The bread was knobly and whole grained. All of the greens were fresh and tasty. The dressing made my tongue do that little prickly shiver like all of my taste buds doing The Wave. It was all done simply, efficiently, and elegantly. Even the packaging was environmentally friendly.

Tempo Bistro, BlueprintThe Blueprint: “Blue and goat cheese, Tempeh, roasted walnuts, red bell pepper ribbons and microgreens, pressed with mayo on multigrain”. Not only do I love, love, love blue cheese and goat cheese, this sandwich was pressed, so all of those lovely little cheesy and furry goat flavors came out just a little more. I’m not a huge fan of tempeh only because I know what it really is and it’s kind of gag-tastic. But the tempeh in the sandwich was very mild and added a nice texture without being too fungal like it can sometimes get. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this sandwich and will be eating it again.

Piedmont: “Sliced roasted turkey or Tempeh, granny smith apple, goat cheese, red onion and spinach on multigrain”. We of course got the tempeh instead of turkey. The apple, onion, goat combination is always fun and flavorful. Again, the tempeh was nicely underplayed so the nuttiness came out to support the spinach without tasting like feet. And yes, I know tempeh is a wonderful protein source, so my brain knows it should be eaten. This is also a great sandwich. Next time I might ask for a little extra goat cheese just because I love it so much.

Far Eastern Salad: “Seasonal lettuce, napa cabbage and basil with toasted almond, microgreens, red bell pepper, shredded carrot and sesame ginger dressing”. When I licked the lid of the little container of the dressing, my tastebuds did a little dance. I’m a salad addict, as you may well know, and I could eat this three times a week. I especially loved the little flavor bursts of basil that lurked in the greens.

So in case you haven’t noticed, we are both giving MAJOR thumbs up to Tempo Bistro. The Man actually looks like he wants to go back right now. He keeps hanging over my shoulder and telling me what he wants to get next time we order there. (“The Sadie” has sauerkraut which makes him drool, and “The Caribbean” has him titillated.)

The shop itself is in a tiny space next to the Starbucks at 16th Ave. and 13th St. There are a few tables in case you want to eat in, but I recommend taking out (it’s “To-Go” for a reason). It can also get awkward to park during busy times of the day, and that parking lot is a disaster to get out of and go in certain directions. But it’s totally worth the trouble of getting to the bistro. The food is delish. The people are genuine foodies. And it’s a local business that supports local business. You can’t go wrong.

Tempo Bistro To-Go
1516 NW 13th St
Gainesville FL 32601

Hours: 11:00-5:00 Monday-Saturday

Our lunch: $33.00
Two sandwiches, salad, two drinks, two cookies, chips, and tip. Worth every penny!


Pacific Redwood, Organic Red Wine

Pacific Redwood Wine

September 5, 1965. Michael Fallon, a San Francisco journalist, uses the term ‘hippie‘ in an article about the new generation of beatniks gathering in the Haight-Ashbury area. A lot of people point to this as the first recognizable use of the term that brands a generation, culture, and way of life.

California is still home to a significant population of hippies–the original version and the new vintages of them. I myself was born in California and come from authentic hippie stock. This is why I am making an effort to get over my temporary fixation with Spanish wine and try more California wines. This is also why I lean towards organic anything. (And why when my doctor disapproved of my not having had many of my shots as a child, I had to explain that I felt lucky to at least have a real birth certificate.)

Over the years, the hippies that lived and thrived in northern California grew weary of covertly growing their lucrative crop of the Devil’s Weed, and a few turned to the newest cash crop—grapes. Wine grapes to be specific. They slowly became farmers, then vintners, then they became famous. And rich. And it was all legal. They got thanked by the state of California’s tourism captains. The French hated them. It changed the face of the countryside, now littered with B&Bs and tasting rooms among the grapes.

Now when people think about wine in the US, they think about Northern California. And Paul Giamatti. Because most people saw the movie Sideways after all of the hoo-ha about it. (I prefer Bottle Shock because you learn more about wine, and there’s less whining. No pun intended.) The people that like to draw lines and make categories out of things say there’s three major wine regions in California. Or possibly four. Depending on who you talk to. They also use words like viticulture, appellation, and riparian zones. These people crack me up.

The three, or four, regions are Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and possibly Lake County. Each of these regions are broken down into sub-regions, and of course there are all kind of outlying regions that aren’t as cool or famous. Wine country is about wine the same way that Comic-Con is about comic books. There’s so much more. And the extreme tourism brought on by the fame is further distorting the earthy traditions of the region’s wineries.

Anyhow, being from good hippie stock, and being born in California, I’ve had the nagging feeling that I should drink more California wines. Fortunately the wine buyer at Ward’s seems to think the same thing and has been stocking some interesting options lately. I picked up this Pacific Redwood organic red along with a Chilean and a Spanish.

I’m a bit wary of the organic wines, especially when they advertise they are not just organically grown, but have no added sulfides. They can sometimes be quite rough and need a bit of time to breathe after opening. But this Pacific Redwood from Mendocino County was bright from the opening and didn’t oxidize until it had been open for about an hour. The dark purple-red wine had a very wet and juicy mouth feel, but a mildly woody nose. It initially tasted sweet and young, with lots of berry flavors throughout. There were lovely undertones of honey, and then it finished with a dry peppery flavor before disappearing cleanly.

Overall it was a light, young wine that I would drink again. A little sweeter than I prefer, but quite enjoyable with some snacks or a light meal. I want to try it against a little honey-barbecue baked tofu. Mmmmmm.

So my exploration of California wine continues. With the rise of somewhat legal medical marijuana in the state, one has to wonder if the hippies-turned-vintners feel the urge to return to their original crops, or if they like the more robust success of the less edgy wine culture. I hope they stick with it. At least until California gets that next big earth quake and falls into the Pacific.

Pacific Redwood
Organic Red
About $6-8


Interview: Jesse Lee’s Mac & Cheese

The big No-Shenanigans Mac & Cheese-off 2011 brought some serious foodies to the Thunderdome. It’s ironic that the ultimate champion was also the new kid on the block.

Jesse Lee, Mac & CheeseJesse Lee is a long-time foodie who came to mac and cheese through his experiments with crab bisque. His cook-off entry was only the third attempt at this iconic dish. Yes, you can start hating him now.

After much pestering on my part, he finally threw up his hands and told me to back off. The secrets of his crab bisque mac and cheese were going to his grave. I promptly suggested I could send him there this week if he didn’t give me the info post haste. Unfortunately he’s not very intimidated by me, so we’ll have to settle for the things he was willing to talk about.

Q. Desert Island Cheeses: What 3 cheeses would you be able to eat forever and ever?

A. Extra Sharp Cheddar, Munster and Jalapeno cream Havarti

Q. Top three places you eat in Gainesville?

A. The Top (no pun intended), Dragonfly, Satchel’s.

Q. Spend the day in the kitchen cooking with one person (anyone, living or dead), who would it be?

A. It would have to be Anthony Bourdain. When my father told me about his show, I started watching them almost nonstop whenever I had time. Food, culture, and travel are my trifecta. The show is a window into the soul of a people each episode, and Bourdain does a great job of adding the flair of his own personality to the experience. Laugh, drink, eat, live–simple messages that seem to be universal no matter where you go.

Q. Where did your love of food come from? When did you first realize food was more than just stuff to put in your face? I assume it wasn’t from your bromance with Tony Bourdain?

A. Mother and father most definitely. I was raised vegetarian so they had to work to make eating interesting and they did a great job. I would have to say I realized there was more to food when I was nine years old. It was also the first time I willfully ate meat. I was at a Ruby Tuesdays in the Dadeland mall and didn’t know what to order (back then vegetarian options weren’t common) and my friend ordered a foot long frankfurter. I looked at him and asked them if they were good and he laughed and said they were. So I looked questioningly at my father and asked if I could try one, which he allowed. Once it arrived I watched my friend to see how it should be eaten, he added ketchup so I did and then I bit into it. This was a completely new experience for me, and as the flavors flooded over me, I looked at my father with a scowl as if to say I’d been lied to and wonders had been hidden from me. This made me want to try everything else that might have been hidden from me. Today I still love vegan and vegetarian food, but I enjoy just about everything out there and still try new things when I can.

Q. Single favorite meal of your life–who, what, when, where, and why?

A. This is a very difficult question for me to answer. The experience of sharing meals with family, friends, travelers and strangers all over the world have special meaning and memories for me. Examples would be cooking dinner for 19 people at my friend’s wedding in Tahoe, a farewell dinner with friends in on the Greek island of Ios, sharing a meal with coworkers for the first time in Hyderabad, India, or the first time my immediate family all sat down together for Thanksgiving since I was a kid.

Q. If you could pick up and relocate anywhere in the world to learn to cook the local cuisine for 6 months, where would you go?

A. Asia. I love the food, the flavors, the spices–and wildly attractive presentations and color. They really get that food is an experience for all the senses.

Q. So enough foreplay. Let’s talk about your dish. What made this mac and cheese the winner?

A. I’m not going into detail as to what was in it specifically, but what won it in my mind is that I created an experience of eating bisque and mac & cheese at the same time, the intense creaminess, a strong bisque flavor with the accompanying detail of making the crust reminder the person eating it of the garlic toast traditionally served with bisque.

Q. What were some things you liked about other dishes at the mac & cheese cook off?

A. The other entries were great. Every time I tried something else, my eyes would light up when I got what they were attempting. One of my favorites was the Mac & Cheese that gave you the impression of eating a breaded buffalo hot wing. I ran over to the person just to tell them “I got it!“. Everybody did a great job though. I really enjoyed the whole day and mac & cheese was represented in so many forms from experimental to traditional.

Q. What is your food obsession of the day? What are you focusing on right now?

A. My friends would tell you Guava and I guess they would be correct, I’ve wanted to put it in everything lately. I really want to do a dessert Mac & Cheese next year just to see what’s possible. I’ve been looking into Asian cooking classes but there are none close by so I might have to go at it alone.

Q. Are you going to bring that same fighting spirit to the next No-Shenanigans Cook-off: Chili Death Match?

A. Haha, I imagine I will. I don’t have a recipe for chili yet so I’m going to have to think about what experience I want to create and then start experimenting with it.

So there you have it. The Mac & Cheese Maverick is hungry for more. Was Jesse Lee’s win merely beginner’s luck, or does he have the passion for food that translates to long-time success? The Man and I get front row seats for his food journey since we know where he lives and frequently crash his house to bring him scotch. You, dear reader, will have to wait for the next No-Shenanigans Cook-off to experience the best of Jesse Lee.


P.S. After further harassment, I got a little more about the Crab Bisque Mac & Cheese:
“The first secret to crab bisque mac & cheese is the blending of the bisque and the cheese to make the rue–the cheese must not interfere with the bisque flavor but only add the creaminess you would expect. The other secret is the layering of noodles, cheese, béchamel and breadcrumb strata, creating three distinct flavor and consistency layers all blending together to create the experience of eating bisque accompanied with garlic toast.”

FYI dear readers, there’s no copyright protection on a recipe, so have fun trying to steal this one!

And one more THANK YOU to Loosey’s for hosting the No-Shenanigans Cook-Offs! Follow us here or on Facebook to get updates on upcoming cook-offs and events.

Ba na NA ner NA Ner Na na … Tequila!

Milagro Silver Tequila

The thing about the Tequila song is that you can sing it after drinking tequila. It’s a beautiful marriage of practicality and fun. There’s only one word and you say it only three times. The rest is just instrumental, which can conveniently be ‘played’ using whatever is handy nearby for the dirty sax and percussion.

I can barely hear anyone mention tequila without hearing the sax start playing in my head. And everyone has a tequila story, so when drinking stories come up, tequila is mentioned. This is one reason I was in my thirties before I tried the stuff. Dread of acquiring a half-remembered tequila story of my own.

But yes, tequila entered my life eventually. Not the cheap stuff that makes you feel like Ron Jeremy the next day. The good stuff that costs enough to remind you to drink it slowly.

By now most people know real tequila comes from the actual region surrounding Tequila, an actual place in Mexico. And the tequila association will send coa-armed jimadores after you if you erroneously label your bottle tequila instead of mezcal. Oh and yes, we’ve all been updated that the worm was a marketing gimmick and nothing else.

Tequila is either 100% agave or ‘mixtos’, 51%+ agave and the rest made up of other sugars. There are generally five different categories of tequila based on how long its aged: blanco/silver aged less than 2 months, reposado/rested aged 2 months to 1 year in oak, añejo aged 1 to 3 years in oak, extra añejo aged more than 3 years in oak, and the oddball joven/young which is a mix of blanco and reposado. So just look for the agave content and the age length to determine what you’re actually buying in that strikingly trendy bottle.

That out of the way, let’s talk about Milagro. With over 900 brands of tequila to choose from, you could get arrested 50 times over before you try even half of them. And tequila is like all other liquors. There’s the good and the bad, which have nothing to do with price or fanciness of bottle. You’ve heard of Patron if you listen to hip-hop, and Jose Cuervo if you listen to country. Don’t get caught up in the marketing or you’ll be eating worms.

Of the easy-to-acquire, Milagro Silver is one of the nicer ones for price, taste, and quality. It’s 100% agave, and blanco, so it’s fairly young. There is the typical grassy and succulent agave fragrance at first, followed by citrus. It has a very wet mouth feel but a peppery flavor and an alcohol burn at the end, leaving a slight bitterness. For shots, it’s not bad, but makes an excellent mixer.

The night we emptied this bottle of Milagro, we were doing shots. It went surprisingly fast. Many of our guests felt fine the next day. No one committed a typical tequila blunder like urinating in a closet. It was remarkably tame. Almost spooky. I guess it could have been worse.

Silver, 100% Agave
750 mL | 80 proof
$40-60 bottle