February 26, 2010

Let's Do Lunch

Imagine this: it has been a busy week of working late and stressful deadlines.  You barely have the minutes to fit in friends, phone calls, not to mention laundry and the less pressing tasks of working out and brushing your teeth.  You barely have the energy to pull off your boots before you crash into your comfy bed (which never felt so good) and the last thing you have time or energy to accomplish is preparing a hearty, low sodium meal for your lunch the next day.  So what is one to do when noon thirty rolls around, the brain and tummy are craving sustenance, and there is nothing around you but sodium heavy, grab and go options?

When faced with this dilemma, I often opted for salad – a little boring, but it was better, or should I say “healthier,” than buying some bananas and chocolate from the Walgreens next door.  Which I admit, I did on occasion.  Some of my favorite downtown options were Mixt Greens and Harvest & Rowe where I could create a salad to my liking and load up my leafies with fillers like hard boiled egg, avocado, and jicama.  But usually, the most substaintial options, like roasted chicken, black beans, and even many of the vegetables were filled with sodium from being preseasoned or parboiled in salt water.  So to say these lunches were satisfying is a bit of an overstatement, but they definitely did the trick.

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered a spot on the Embarcadero that is able to serve up a low sodium lunch that goes beyond my wildest dreams, or my best salad creation.  Boulettes Larder is an adorable restaurant that sits nestled in the Ferry Building.  You can order take out or relax at one of the two community tables inside its doll-house-like interior.  The menu is eclectic and the food carefully crafted and as a diner, you are privy to front row seats in the open kitchen where pots boil and breads rise before your eyes.  The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and a wall of old bell jars filled with spices and herbs beckons you to stay a while and explore.  But in the many times I have passed Boulettes Larder and smelled the rich aromas wafting from its kitchen, I never dared to step in through its curtained doorway.  Neither the lamb and potato hash nor the pulled pork sandwich seemed to scream “sodium free.”

But dare I say it, I spoke to soon.  While on a lunch date there two weeks ago, I was introduced to the kind owner and head chef, Amaryll Shwertner, who, after being given my list of dietary needs, said there was plenty of options for me.  And one of these options even included soup.  It turns out, she doesn’t salt her broth.  She personally believes that the natural juices from the meat provides enough sodium to flavor the stock.  So unless one of the other line chefs salts the soup later in the day, many times her fresh vegetable purees are sodium free.

On this particular day, the asparagus soup had been salted, but the broth remained sodium free.  And let me tell you, there is nothing I find more comforting than a bowl of home-made chicken soup that has clearly been cooked with love and patience.  To make sure I wasn’t just sipping on clear consume, Amaryll threw in some fresh kale stalks that slowly cooked as I ate.   She also assured me that next time, if I called ten minutes ahead, she would be able to add more vegetables to the pot.

I’m looking forward to taking her up on her offer and coming back to this unexpected, low sodium gold mine.  Just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its menu, and if you are able to form a relationship with the people creating your food, the possibilities can be endless.  Chow on and have a fun and food-filled weekend.

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