April 01, 2020

THE LUNCH BOX Blue Hill Food Co-Op, Cafe

Blue Hill Food Co-Op and the Cafe

Main Street, Blue Hill, 374-2165

Back in the day, co-op food markets were scary. The people there seemed righteous and mean, and you felt apologetic for asking what tempeh was. (It’s fermented soybean cakes.)

But that was then. Wholesome, organic and natural foods extend beyond the crunchy crowd now. Co-ops are for everyone: construction workers, peace activists and even reporters. Locally run markets – mine happens to be the Blue Hill Food Co-Op – have become necessary to way-of-life eaters of all stripes. Sure, that’s true for breakfast and dinner, but the meal I most often skimp on nutritionally is lunch. At the co-op’s cafe, I don’t have to.

Daily-made sandwiches feature responsibly grown or raised food – much of it organic and local. One recent day, sandwich options included egg salad ($5.50), chicken salad ($5.95), turkey pesto with havarti cheese ($6.95), BLTs ($6.50) and a ham and tomato combo ($5.95). The meats are unusually flavorful, as are the eggs from Harborview Farm in Brooksville. Vegenaise, an egg- and dairy-free dressing, tastily replaces mayonnaise. My favorite sandwich – yes, tempeh – was not offered that day, but one of the nice workers behind the deli counter quickly whipped up two ($5.50 each) to take out.

On any given day, the grab-and-go cooler may also feature containers of cole slaw, red curry chicken salad, vegan lasagna, hummus, sesame noodles and tabouli as well as garden and Greek salads in traditional and meatless variations. Natural and organic sodas, juices and shakes wash it down.

Patrons can take out or sit at the six tables or a window bar in the cafe, where politically correct coffees as well as soups – crab squash bisque and mushroom barley, for instance – are available. Naturally, there are bins for your returnable bottles and cans. Bringing your own coffee mug is encouraged. Cell phones are not. But your mouth will be full anyway, especially if you choose one of the freshly baked desserts: fudgy brownies, ginger almond cookies, lemon bars or giant chocolate chip cookies. Low impact, it’s worth remembering, is not always low-cal.

If you’re still stuck in the idea that “healthy” food lacks flavor, the Cafe at the Blue Hill Co-Op will change your mind. It may even change your palate. Who knows? Maybe on your way out you’ll already be thinking dinner and grab a package of spicy arugula from Four Season Farm in Harborside and a round of Camembert cheese from Silvery Moon Creamery in Westbrook.

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