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Lunch on the side

West-side catering outfits tap midday market, showing savvy and taste

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Black Tie Gourmet: When served with Atlantic salmon, - Mesclun greens, bean sprouts, tomato and egg, even - dried plums get some love. - L'AURA MONTGOMERY-RUTT
  • L'Aura Montgomery-Rutt
  • Black Tie Gourmet: When served with Atlantic salmon, Mesclun greens, bean sprouts, tomato and egg, even dried plums get some love.

Now serving lunch."

It's a sign usually seen on an expanding restaurant, one that's either doing so well or so poorly at dinner as to warrant testing the finicky waters of a lower-priced day menu.

But a catering business devoting a little attention to the prep and service of lunch strikes me simply as good PR. Get people in the door to sample a gourmet item, and maybe they'll think of you for their next special occasion, right?

Black Tie Gourmet Deli & Wine Caf started doing lunch two years ago, while Garden of the Gods Gourmet launched a lunch venture a little over a month ago. I visited both west-side operations to see how they handle the small-plate process.

My girlfriend and I began on Black Tie's well-shaded, eight-table patio, complete with wrought-iron seats, a hearty perennial garden and a pleasant fountain. We ordered the broccoli and cheese soup of the day; a spinach salad mix of bacon, tomato, Portobello mushrooms, cranberry raisins, Mandarin oranges, egg, sunflower seeds and bean sprouts ($8.25); and the Willapa Bay shrimp sandwich of cream cheese, Dijon mustard, Tabasco and Madeira wine-enriched baby shrimp under melted Gruyere on an English muffin ($8.95).

While awaiting our food, which we were warned would take 20 minutes, we perused the indoor deli cases of beers, cheeses, meats, salads, soups, ice creams, cakes and sodas.

After 30 minutes, our food finally arrived all at once, instead of the soup early, as requested. My girlfriend, needing to be back to work soon, rushed through the salad, which was good but could have benefited from a homemade dressing. The sandwich was intensely rich and satisfying (and could be added to the omelet-rich breakfast menu), but a sharp citrus flavor dominated the soup obtrusively.

We took a slice of Bailey's Irish Cream chocolate torte to go, which was lacking the liquor's flavor and dense with icing, but not altogether disappointing.

On my second visit, I was greeted with a "Sit wherever you like I'll be with you in a moment. I'm the only waiter."

Upon which I heard one woman comment to her friend, "They're like that every time we've been here."

Yet she comes back, perhaps for the Veggie Man (served this time in about 15 minutes): I found it a gorgeous marriage of pesto and Portobello mushrooms with avocado, red onion, bean sprouts, tomato, cucumber, spinach and Pepper Jack on wheat ($8.25).

The "Triple T" (smoked turkey, Taylor ham and tomatoes with Gouda, onion, sprouts and red peppers on sourdough, $8.25) sounded great to a coworker enamored by Taylor ham (New Jersey pork roll), but needed better bread and some kind of spread.

Garden of the Gods Gourmet: Taste the killer focaccia - while sizing up the huge take-n-bake  selection. - L'AURA MONTGOMERY-RUTT
  • L'Aura Montgomery-Rutt
  • Garden of the Gods Gourmet: Taste the killer focaccia while sizing up the huge take-n-bake selection.

Fifteen blocks west the next day, we entered the chic, stainless-steel deli and tasting room at Garden of the Gods Gourmet, which overlooks a bustling open kitchen.

Of five sandwiches that day, we opted for the Kahlua Pork and Pineapple and Tri Colore Veggie sandwiches, each on focaccia ($8 each). They were prepared in front of us within five minutes while we perused the large market space and its generous take-'n'-bake section. Before heading to the small, unremarkable patio perched above the parking lot, we stacked sweet potato, mango-chipotle, corn and flour tortilla chips (free and bottomless, like the lemonade and iced tea) and added $2 salads veggie pasta, as well as mandarin orange and jicama. (Full disclosure: At this time, I was recognized by a former coworker in the kitchen, but my food had already been prepared and I'd already been treated as a member of the general public.)

Outside, we fell in love with the veggie sandwich's thick-sliced fresh mozzarella, asparagus and red pepper with light vinaigrette greens. And the focaccia was everything gourmet bread should be.

Again, the teaser liquor failed to show up in the taste, but otherwise the Hawaiian-style pork was tender and pineapple delectable. The chips were sinfully delicious and both salads hit the mark, the jicama in particular for a subtle flavor that reminded me of a Dreamsicle.

With its limited seating in mind, I'd suggest having a to-go destination in mind before visiting Garden of the Gods, but don't worry about its limited menu I'd take fine food over more choices any day.

As for catering places carving a niche in the market, I think it's clear both already have.

And they make it worthwhile to pay the extra couple bucks at lunch and go gourmet.

matthew@csindy.com

Black Tie Gourmet Deli & Wine Caf

1005 W. Colorado Ave., 487-1933

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., breakfast served to 11 a.m. Monday-Friday and until noon Saturday and Sunday.

Garden of the Gods Gourmet

2528 W. Cucharras St., 471-2799

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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