Fresh Off the Vine

We’d heard some rumblings about this local bakery popping up quietly in town. There were breads showing up at Ward’s and Citizen’s Co-op, farmer’s markets, and then The Top! What? How did this sneak under our radar?

I hunted them down online and stalked them on Facebook. And then like a big, wet, unexpected kiss from an overly friendly dog, I saw that they were actually opening up a storefront right across the street from Satchel’s. Boom! There you go. Vine Bread & Pasta.

I always said that the reason I wasn’t heavier on the scale was because Uppercrust was across town, and harder to get to. Now this place is right around the corner. I could walk there if I wanted to (yeah, like that’ll happen). So when The Man and I had a spare morning free, we went to check this place out.

If you’re driving there, you will miss it. It’s back off the road in a little warehouse park between the Ole Barn bar and the row of storefronts next to it. It was hot the day we showed up (check their days and hours before popping in), and it was a typical warehouse space, so as the summer warms up, it should get painful in there for working.

Anyhow, we grabbed up some pastries and a loaf, and scurried home because we hadn’t even had coffee yet (gasp!). We got a cheese croissant and chocolate croissant, a cranberry scone, and a country loaf. The croissants were tasty; the pastry dough was not as flakey as Uppercrust’s but miles better than Flour Pot. I would have liked a bit more cheese in the cheese one, maybe another kind of cheese in with the Swiss? And a great deal of the chocolate in the other croissant was designer and you could taste the quality.

The country loaf is a sourdough, and I can count the ingredients on one hand. It’s good bread. That being said, we did one set of sandwiches with it which wasn’t very successful, and then one set of grilled sandwiches, which worked out better. The bread didn’t quite hold up in its unaltered state, and required a bit of toasting or grilling to give it some structure. And the whole heel of it turned out to be a giant air pocket, which was disappointing, but happens with wild bread like this. On the whole (haha, pun intended), it was a nice, simple bread that somewhat lacked the stronger sourdough qualities we were expecting.

The scone was nice, and I’ve craved and scored a few more since our first visit. It feels like eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry. Happy belly and happy mouth–almost a meal in itself. The cranberries are a nice touch, but I’d love to add a hint of orange or lime to give it a little pop of flavor.

We’re looking to get our hands on more of the other bread styles, including the rosemary baguette. And I really, really, really want to try some of their fresh pasta. Overall, it’s good bread, and a local business, so I highly recommend trying it if you can (look at their site to see what other local businesses use their bread, like Tempo Bistro, Manuel’s Vintage Room, and Civilization).

We will be watching and tasting, and keeping our fingers crossed. This bakery has some growing to do (haha, another pun! I am so not funny), and there’s a lot of potential here. It’s fresh off the vine and might need to ripen just a little longer (okay, done with the horrible plays on words here, I swear).

Vine Bread & Pasta
1801 NE 23rd Ave, Unit C2
Gainesville, FL
352-682-8038

VineGainesville.com (their site has been down since I last checked 5/14)
On Facebook

Check site for hours and other place to get Vine products.

[Girl21]

Ketchup and Cheese Sammies

Growing up, I had a friend who had those cool anything-goes parents. My friend got to play in her mom’s make up. The dad gave her brother a full case of Bazooka bubble gum for his birthday with the one rule that it all had to end up in the trash immediately post-chew. They had a black Lab mutt named Cucaracha that would climb the shed in the back and jump up on the house’s roof to bark at neighbors and buzzards. When I slept over there were no bed times, or rules about the TV (which was always on) or when to take a bath. It was very Pippi Longstocking.

On the other hand, there weren’t actual meal times, and no one claimed responsibility for grocery shopping regularly. And although I doubt we would get into trouble for using the stove, we didn’t know how to cook. To make matters worse, the dad was almost always out doing stuff or in his shop, and the mom often wasn’t feeling so good (in retrospect, the word would be ‘hangover’). So we were sometimes left to fend for ourselves in an empty kitchen.

This is the first place I ever experienced a ketchup and cheese sandwich. At six-years-old, it was love at first taste.

I am not talking about grilled cheese with ketchup. Just two slices of bread slathered in your standard ketchup, and then closed around whatever slices of cheese you have handy. I prefer a nice sharp cheddar or Swiss. That’s it.

Over the years, I also grew to love jelly and cheese. If brought to school and left in your backpack for the morning, the jelly soaked into the cheddar and crystallized a little. Or cream cheese and jelly. My sister went in the other direction and developed a life-long love of mustard and cheese sandwiches. And my brother went another route and does Sriracha and cheese.

I brought this up the other morning while The Man was getting his coffee and I was making his lunch for work. He was duly horrified at the thought of a ketchup and cheese sammie. After much dramatics, he allowed me my sandwich because he liked mustard and cream cheese on a bagel.

Not one to let something like that alone, I posted this on Facebook and got back a volley of other personal favorites which included PB&J with hot sauce, grilled cheese with jam, and avocado/cheese/honey. I think everyone has a secret comfort sammie. Something they eat that is fast, weird, and a little ghetto. But hits the spot and makes your belly purr.

My dad was a repair guy his whole life and every day he would take a PB&J to work and leave it in the sandwich baggie on his dash in the truck. It would sit in the sun and heat up and get all soggy and crusty. If he didn’t have time to break for lunch, or it was a particularly difficult afternoon, he would sit in his truck in the shade of a tree for a few minutes and eat that mangled, baked, dripping sammie like it was a cold beer and a pizza. Comfort food.

If you haven’t tried the ketchup and cheese version, I highly recommend it. Preferably at 2AM, in your PJs, leaning over the kitchen sink. Possibly while it’s raining. It’s awesome.

[Girl21]

Flaco’s at Night

Flaco's Pig Sign, Downtown Gainesville

I spent a great deal of my youth skulking around downtown Gainesville at night. My older brother was in a band and I discovered that any girls with a band were let into clubs without being ID’ed. Not that I drank at that age. Seriously, I went to T.G.I. Friday and had an ice cream coffee drink on my 21st birthday, and that was my big first drink. I kid you not.

We hung out downtown, and I lived off of Mountain Dew or the Jamocha milkshakes at the Burger Barn while the boys schemed about scoring drinks and girls and stardom. This was back in the time of Hardback Cafe, Florida Theater, Insomnia, Purple Porpoise, and all of the random parties the band played in the rat warren of the student ghetto. If we were lucky, we would eat at Kesl’s Coney Island. If it was late, we ended up at Taco Bell.

Not that I’m saying anything bad about Taco Bell (don’t sue me!), but with age, my expectations for late-night food have increased to include the criteria that it must at least be edible. Carbs and protein are the food requirements after midnight. I’m a salad fanatic, and I wouldn’t touch the stuff late at night. Warm carbs and protein are what the stomach requires.

Fortunately Flaco’s is within walking distance of many of the usual places we hang out with friends at night these days, and it’s open until 2:30 AM Wednesday through Saturday. Just enough time to wander down there for some to-go food after having a pint or two. In case you’re wondering if it’s open, they provide that big neon pig sign to light the way. If you want to find it, Flaco’s is right across from the cow building. You know what I mean.

Flaco’s is a Cuban bakery and coffee shop. Firstly, if you’ve never had Cuban coffee, do not attempt this without a diving buddy. Secondly, if don’t know much Spanish, you can still order food at Flaco’s because they’re prepared for people like us (unlike some of the Cuban places in Miami which you might be physically removed from for asking “What’s quee-so?”). Their menu has nice little descriptions that are easy enough to be understood when you’re tired and can’t focus your eyes well.

They’ve got a lot of great hand-food and bowls of food, so you can eat and run (stumble), or you can sit around their stylishly shabby dining areas and enjoy the gorgeous smell of good food cooking. It’s a bit moist in the summer, but in the cool months, it’s lovely. Like someone’s kitchen. By ‘someone’, I mean ‘someone who cooks well and often’.

You can find hot sandwiches (yes, a few vegetarian options), salads, ‘plates’ & ‘bowls’, arepas, empanadas, coffee, drinks, and beer. They’ve even got a taco bar Saturday after 10PM. I’ve not been to take advantage of this fabulous event, but I imagine all of the celebrities attend.

Our usual late night to-go has narrowed down to queso blanco arepas, and two Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches, one with black beans and one with lentils. I’m an arepa fan–cornmeal patties with a slab of fresh cheese half melting in the middle. There are many ways to make arepas, not all of them good, but Flaco’s are delish.

The Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches are simple Cuban bread with swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and either black beans or lentils, and pressed to warm. A far cry from the late-night burritos from Taco Bell that I was always convinced must contain the recycled wasted from liposuction clinics.

Flaco’s is the kind of place I would have felt at home at in my stupid youth. Miss-matched second-hand furniture, interesting art, a kind of rumpled and angsty mood at night. The food is honest and tasty. The pigs are a bit creepy in a fun way.

Flaco’s
200 West University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
352-371-2000
www.flacosgainesville.com

Donna’s Turnstyles – $4.95
Queso Blanco Arepas – $3.50

Hours
Tues | 11:00AM- 4:00PM
Wed- Fri | 11:00AM-2:30AM
Sat | 12:00PM-2:30AM
Sun & Mon | Closed

[Girl21]

Breakfast Club Sandwich, The Top

Breakfast Club Sandwich, The Top

Be afraid. Be very afraid. This sandwich. Will. Kick. Your. Ass.

We were at The Top for brunch last Sunday with friends before a friendly meander around the art fair downtown. No big deal. We’ve done brunch at The Top dozens of times. It’s always good, and there’s plenty of coffee. And if I’m lucky, there’s Cuban bread with goat and cream cheese with guava on the menu (absolutely recommend, but I wish they’d put more goat and less cream cheese).

The menu was a bit different Sunday. We’re used to that. They’re working on brunch constantly. You never really know what cool things will get added.

Case in point…. bom bom bommmmmm… the Breakfast Club. At first it was a curiosity that the guys skimmed over. But they started talking about it and getting worked up to try it out. An egg, tofu, or tempeh, with lettuce, mayo, tomato, bacon or seitan bacon, on sourdough toast, with swiss cheese. Side of home fries, grits, or fruit. And another $1.00 for fried green tomatoes on it.

Well okay, it’s a sandwich and it sounds good. How many times have you had something very much like that? I could whip up one of those as a late night snack. But the Man and his foodie guy friends don’t ever take the easy option. Especially when there’s an option to add cheese, hot peppers, seitan, gravy, fried onions, eggs, or more beer to anything. So of course they had to go with the version that had all of the bells and whistles.

Even then, seriously, the basic model of this sandwich is enough to make Takeru Kobayashi pause for a breath before reaching for the second half. The triple-decker had a few quivering tooth picks speared through it to hold it together, but that was just a gesture. It was touch and go while they contemplated how to put Sriracha on these things. I almost saw fear in their eyes. Almost.

Suffice it to say, they could have split a sandwich and been more than happily full for the rest of the day. But not our gentlemen. With one eye on their own plates, and one on the other’s plate, they managed to devour the whole thing without making it look like it was any kind of competition. Which it wasn’t.

I wish we could have rented adult-size strollers for the art fair because the guys were food-drunk zombies. If they weren’t pointed in a specific direction and given a gentle push, there were content to stand in the sun and digest. And I cannot underline this enough… we did not buy any food at the art fair. This is how happy and full they were. Subdued like a bludgeoned anaconda, bloated from eating a whole goat.

So thumbs up and as many stars as possible to The Top’s Breakfast Club sandwich on their brunch menu. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”

[Girl21]

Pesto Asparagus Sandwich

Pesto Asparagus SammieGarlic herb focaccia
Stone ground mustard
Pesto
Sliced cheese… Muenster, provolone, mozzarella, swiss, etc
Marinated asparagus

We love easy meals that taste like they came off a trendy SoHo bistro menu. And a sandwich that takes two minutes to assemble is a fantastic option for picnics, pool parties, and impromptu lunch work-dates.

We can usually get all of the ingredients we need at our local grocery shop. (Buy local to support community businesses!)

Start with a light bread, preferably herbed or flavored. I love this rectangular focaccia made by a local bakery. If you’re looking to assemble in a hurry, make sure to pick something already sliced!

Mustard varies by personal taste, but we like a stone ground, medium flavor style. Something with a good flavor that won’t take control of the sandwich. As for pesto, those little good-quality jars in the gourmet or health food sections are guilty little pleasures. After all, fresh is best, but who has the time or resources often?

Slather opposite sides of your sammie with the mustard and the pesto. Then apply a layer of your preferred cheese. We use Muenster, provolone, or swiss because it’s fairly easy to find pre-sliced and good quality. We settled on Boar’s Head Muenster last time and it was perfect.

Before you seal up your sammie, slide in a few stalks of marinated asparagus for texture and flavor. Look for the right kind of jarred asparagus though because it can be very bad if you go the cheap route. Look at the heads to make sure they’re still intact so you don’t end up with mushy asparagus slugs.

Suggested accompaniments: blue corn chips, black bean humus, and dry cider or real ginger ale.

Mwah! Delish!

[Girl21]