Posts tagged lunch

Lunches by Melissa

There are many reasons why I admire my younger sister Melissa. Whenever she enters a room, her infectious laughter immediately brightens the mood. Extremely ambitious and capable, she has succeeded in her dream of working in the fashion business. She is intensely loyal and loving, and has always supported me in every endeavor I’ve pursued.

There’s one more seemingly small but very important reason why I am in awe of Melissa: No matter how busy or tired she is, she makes homemade lunches for herself and her husband Nedim to bring to work every day. Sometimes it’s leftover pasta, sometimes just a simple green salad. She’s also been known to cook a whole second meal after dinner for their lunches, just so she and Nedim don’t have to waste money on food during the workday.

What, you might say? Does packing lunch every day really deserve such admiration and praise? Absolutely, especially on afternoons when I’ve endured another mediocre serving of pad thai or overcooked pasta from a nondescript restaurant near my Midtown Manhattan office. For some reason, I cannot get my act together to bring my lunch to work on a consistent basis. And when I think about the waste of money and unnecessary plastic packaging involved with buying my lunch every day, I feel very upset and guilty about the food I am putting into my body. Plus, whatever I buy rarely tastes very good, and I know that I could make something ten times better at home.

Some weeks are certainly better than others; like Melissa, I’ll pour some extra pasta into the pot when I’m cooking dinner and bring the leftovers to the office the following day. On another night I’ll add an extra half-cup of brown rice to our dinner, transforming the leftovers into a mean and healthy salad. But rarely do I have the energy to make myself a separate meal for the following day’s lunch. That lovely pearl barley salad up there, filled with crunchy apples and electric pomegranate seeds, was an anomaly, a rare instance when I prepared a healthy meal specifically for my lunch. I need a system. Or maybe I just need my sister to make me lunch every day.

So for the second time in a week, I turn to you again, readers. Do you bring your lunch to work? What are your favorite, easy-to-prepare, lunch dishes?

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Cape Cod and the Sesuit Harbor Café

First of all, let me apologize for being out of touch for so long. Last week Jim and I escaped to Cape Cod and spent most of those days with our feet buried in the sand, only looking up from our books long enough to sigh and stare at the ocean. It was wonderful and relaxing, but after seven days with little cell phone reception or Internet access, I’ve had some trouble getting back on the grid this week.

We took breaks from the beach with quick lunches at the area’s myriad seafood shacks. The options were endless: fried clams, scallops, cod and more. Tasty items indeed, but when I’m on Cape Cod, I’m there for one thing: the lobster roll. And on this trip I found my new favorite spot for it, the Sesuit Harbor Café in East Dennis.

It actually wasn’t that easy to find. Driving through the gates of the Sesuit Marina, Jim and I saw only towers of grounded boats. In addition to this industrial-looking entrance, no signs indicated the presence of a restaurant. But we had faith we would come across it (especially after we asked someone where it was), and a few turns later, our shabby shack finally appeared.

After this rather lackluster approach, we weren’t expecting much in terms of atmosphere. But once we waited in line and placed our order, we walked out back to a charming waterside patio. Boats actually sailed by the tables—that’s what I call ambiance. After a few minutes, a teenage girl emerged from the restaurant, holding a tray with our two “world famous” lobster rolls ($15.95 each). “58!” she shouted. “58!” We waved her over to our table as quickly as we could.

Forget about the French fries and cole slaw, which were perfectly decent; I went straight for the creamy, fresh lobster meat piled onto that grilled and buttered hot dog roll. And I’ll cut to the chase right now: the Sesuit Harbor Café’s lobster roll was one of the best I’d ever had. I tasted the freshness of the seafood in each bite against the crunch of crispy green lettuce. Lightly seasoned mayonnaise, in just the right amount, created a silky sauce around the dense pillows of lobster meat. One week later, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

So please forgive me for being out of touch. I was busy eating lobster rolls. And I wish I still was.

Sesuit Harbor Café, 357 Sesuit Neck Road in East Dennis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts  T: 508-385-6132

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DeFonte’s Sandwich Shop

DeFonte’s Sandwich Shop 

If you were anywhere near New York on Saturday, I hope you were holed up somewhere warm and dry, shielding yourself from the sheets of rain that pounded the area all day. That’s what I should have done, except that Jim and I had decided we needed to have sandwiches for lunch. Not just any old sandwiches—sandwiches from DeFonte’s, the old-school Italian sandwich shop located in Red Hook near the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

Somehow we had never visited this storied home of the Italian hero, even though it’s just a few blocks from our apartment. DeFonte’s has been around for ages, ever since longshoremen roamed the streets of Red Hook. Jim and I wouldn’t let a major rainstorm keep us from our lunch; we’d been talking about going there all week. I put on my knee-high rubber boots, grabbed an umbrella, and bravely headed out the front door. Who’s afraid of a little rain?

After traversing numerous muddy puddles and getting splashed by several passing cars, we stumbled, breathless, into DeFonte’s. A long counter dominates the left side of the shop, with lunch meats, salads, and fried eggplant on display. Special sandwich combinations are listed on the wall behind the counter while a formidable team of sandwich makers takes orders. Besides a small table without chairs where I saw one patron devouring his sandwich, seating is not available. So we stuffed our heroes into my massive purse and headed back out into the rain, towards our dry apartment.

The Valentina Combination from DeFonte’s Sandwich Shop: Fried Eggplant, Provolone Cheese, and Peppers

After draping our wet jeans and coats over the radiators, we sat down to eat while the rain fell with renewed vigor outside. I had ordered the Valentina combination, which included fried eggplant, provolone, and peppers on 1/3 of a roll ($7.75). Sandwiches come in 1/3 and 1/2 sizes, and even though I went for the smallest option, it was still massive. As I bit into my monster hero, I immediately noticed that this was no generic, mealy roll. The crust was appropriately sturdy and crunchy, the interior soft and chewy. The fried eggplant and cheese provided the hefty “meat” of my sandwich, while the peppers in tomato sauce added a slightly spicy crunch.

Jim, always a risk-taker, had designed his own sandwich, putting together sopresata, swiss cheese, peppers, lettuce, tomato, olive oil, and vinegar ($7.75). I snagged the next-to-late bite and was pleasantly surprised by the refreshing mix of salty sopresata, light, crunchy vegetables, and tangy vinegar.

I’ve been reading that DeFonte’s signature sandwich is a combination of roast beef, fried eggplant, and fresh mozzarella, so I’ll have to stroll back across Hamilton Avenue very soon to try it. DeFonte’s is so close to our apartment, and the sandwiches are so good, there’s really no excuse to let much time pass before my next visit. But I do think I’ll wait for a sunny day.

DeFonte’s Sandwich Shop, 379 Columbia Street at Luquer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn T: 718-855-6982

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