After roughly a year-long hiatus, lunch is back at Bottletree Café, and it may be better than ever. I used to take the crazy girl there, because it had all the vegetarian and even vegan dishes she preferred. I’m not saying she had a protein deficiency, but there was a reason she had me climb up on the roof of her house to take the dish down so satellites could not beam into her brain.
Scarlet, on the other hand, is skeptical of too much granola. You can’t even get her to go on a picnic in the country. She wouldn’t go anywhere that reminded her of a production of Hair.
But she is like Mikey, the kid in the commercial, so I do sometimes try to trick her into trying things she is so adamant about not liking. Well, I remembered, from the crazy girl days, the lunch at Bottletree as being mainly hummus, greens, and pinto beans. So what? I thought if she tried it, she’d like it. She just hates it when I’m always right.
But I needn’t have worried, because when we sat down at the bar—where I usually find myself at night checking out the best musical acts in town—and looked at the menu, much to my surprise, there was a big fat bacon cheeseburger staring up at us from the pages, along with the familiar vegan selections.
Well they’ve decided to be more accommodating to rational humans who do some things in moderation, at least, I said under my breath. But I tried not to get too overconfident, because you are never out of the woods with Scarlet, I had to remind myself.
Still, I have a bad habit of pushing my luck, so I tried to talk her into a hummus appetizer. That is a dish I love that can vary so much from joint to joint, some smooth and creamy, some thick and dry, some garlicky, some tasting strongly of tahini. So for me it is a good benchmark to get the feel for a place. No need to tell Scarlet it is also natural and healthy!
True to form, even though it varies so much, Scarlet insisted she couldn’t stand the stuff. So the best I could do is convince her to get an appetizer trio. With a choice of three pita spreads, we could get regular hummus, red pepper hummus (which I usually adore), and one of Scarlet’s favorites, pimiento cheese.
“Fine,” said Scarlet, “we can get that, and you can have the hummus. I will eat the cheese.” In fact, the pimiento cheese at Jackson’s was about the only thing we agreed on the first time we met.
And Bottetree’s home-made pimiento cheese was also delicious, so that took some of the pressure off. It had a little bite to it, but not too spicy, not too tangy with lemon, or acidic with onion.
The regular hummus had a grainy texture, just a little slick with olive oil, neither too dry like some or too creamy—or worse, liquidy—like others. I did not say anything or else she would have backed off just to win the point, but before we were through I was fighting Scarlet for the hummus, too. The red pepper hummus was smoother, spicier, and scarletcolored with those beautiful roasted red peppers.
And fortunately for the public order, our entrées came before I had a chance to rag Scarlet for eating the hummus. I did mention one time that she complained over and over that she did not like lamb, but gobbled it up in Mughal Indian restaurant.
“I think we’ve established I would eat these shoes with that curry sauce on it,” the funny girl retorted.
But I managed to avoid any trouble this time because Scarlet loved her burger. It compared favorably to her usual favorites at 26 and Bottega. Not a bad carnivorous dish for a purported bunch of tree-huggers. And it was nice and colorful, with green lettuce and a bunch of little Roma-sized tomato slices.
I can confirm, because I actually got a taste of it. How? You might ask. Well. I held a piece of my chicken fingers for ransom. And I got to put my sliver of beef on the bun, which Scarlet discarded. Too many carbs for a man-eater. That grass-fed beef with a slice of tomato was delicious.
The chicken finger dish, by comparison, is not much to look at. It comes in a basket with three dark brown chicken fingers, and a bunch of thin-sliced sweet potato fries that look like they might be switches left over from the Blair Witch Project.
I was starting to think this must be some dish prepared by the English. But I was wrong this time, much to Scarlet’s delight, because everything tasted great. The fingers, despite their earthy hue, were piping hot and tender, and thick enough that they were not overwhelmed by the batter with just a string of meat inside like some skinny fingers I’ve tried. They were hot juicy and satisfying.
There was a dill mayo dipping sauce on the side. I could barely keep Scarlet out of it, need I add.
Normally I would have been done, but Scarlet was being so smart and sassy, I decided to sweeten her up. She loves it when I do that. We asked about the desserts and were told the home-made Italian cream cake was “transcendental.” And the firm-textured but moist white cake with almond icing was pretty close to a religious experience. I usually don’t eat icing, but what could be subtler, silkier, or sexier than almonds? Especially when I dug into my bag and tried a little Las Perdices Pinot Noir Reserva with the cake. I did not pour her a second glass, but otherwise made no attempt to restrain Scarlet until the generous slice of cake was gone.
But was it vegan?
We didn’t even ask.
Bottletree Cafe 3719 3rd Ave South 205 533-6288