Thursday, February 23, 2006

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport: French Meadows Cafe

Grilled Cheese Sandwich - 2 stars
$6.99 with green salad
February 22, 2006

Every so often life surprises you. I just had the best meal I can remember having in an airport, on my layover flying back from Milwaukee, in the F concourse at MSP (which, in general, has very good food for an American airport). The French Meadows Cafe is an all- or mostly-organic sandwich shop (with assorted other things, like organic bananas, various pastries that look like they were designed by an unreconstructed tie-dye-wearing Berkeley hippie), and organic, shade-grown coffee. I was expecting my sandwich wrapped up in a bag to eat on the plane, but instead it came on a plate with a salad made from organic mixed lettuces and only a shade too much of the ubiquitous balsamic vinaigrette. (Did you know that in Italy, balsamic vinegar is rarely if ever used in salad dressing? But I digress.)

The sandwich itself was two thick slices of cheese layered around sliced tomato and what seemed like roasted red pepper strips, grilled between two slices of what claimed to be pain au levain and came reasonably close. Except for a bit too much of a sharp mustard, it was one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've ever had - not too cheesy, not too greasy, with a nice accent in the peppers and good character in the bread. It was almost a shame to hurry through the sandwich to catch my flight back home.

So why, you may ask, am I reviewing a grilled cheese sandwich? Well, I recently decided to stop eating land animals, including birds (although I am reserving an exception for anything cooked by my mother, because I can't bear to tell her). In a remarkable stroke of timing, I made this decision just before three consecutive weeks of sales calls in the South and Midwest (Louisville last week, Wisconsin this week, Des Moines next week), and then a fourth week in Paris, which I will have to spend eating nothing but bread, cheese, pastries, and sorbet at Berthillon (4 stars, if anything ever deserved it).

The sales call, like last week's, was about as much fun as a sales call can be: really nice people, good questions, no posturing, and further confirmation that they (meaning the entire industry out there) want what we've got. There are dark moments in any sales cycle, such as when the prospects insist on focusing on the tiny gaps in your product, they complain that it can't be implemented in six days, or the mammoth and universally-recognized company that pretends to be your partner competes against you, fails miserably due to a combination of arrogance, incompetence, and shoddy products, and finally goes and stabs you in the back out of desperation (but that's ok, because white-hot burning stab-them-in-the-guts-and-crank-out-their-entrails-with-a-food-mill hatred is a perfectly good motivator when you're tired, far from home, and cramped into a middle seat on an airplane with woefully inadequate legroom) ... but what was I talking about, anyway? Oh yes: today was a pretty good day, and I really liked these people.

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