"That chicken chili is really good," my father-in-law said. Not a man who gets excited about food, he was nearly gushing. We were at a party catered by Jaquelyn Powers of Orange Glory, and comments like that were flying. "Have you tried that braised beef?" It was a beef stew with a puff pastry crust that did magical things when dunked into the rich liquid below.
Catering, by nature, is hard to pull off well. You transport some of the food, and even the vittles prepared on site have to sit, either in the kitchen or in chafing pans. Doing it well requires good choices about what to serve and flawless execution. Both the chicken chili and the braised beef were excellent choices, standing up to the conditions with practically no loss in quality over the couple of hours they stood out.
Catering is also about being gracious with nervous and demanding customers, both while planning and during an event. As good as her food is, Powers might be even better at this part of the job. Personable and calm, she's easy to be around. Those qualities also make her an excellent hostess at the Orange Glory café.
"I tell my staff," Powers says, "that customers aren't just coming in for a sandwich. They're coming in to see me, to see you, to get a break in their day." And a trip to Orange Glory is a great break, with excellent food and art that changes every six to seven weeks.
She'd been catering for a couple of years, and business was good. During a trip to Paris last year, she "went bonkers" over the displays of sandwiches in the cafés. "With corporate catering," she explains, "you don't really know what happens to your food. The café is fun." It also works as marketing for the catering business.
Powers's boxed lunches are similar to those at the Little Bakery (which she developed). A boxed lunch is $7 and includes a sandwich, a side dish, and a cookie. That's a buck or so more than you might pay for a sandwich lunch elsewhere, but the quality is outstanding.
The sandwiches conform to rule number one of the Sandwich Credo: start with great bread. Orange Glory uses breads from Baker Street, rapidly developing a rep as the most consistent artisan bakery in town. Powers isn't a vegetarian, but many of her favorite sandwiches are veggie: spinach asiago burger and marinated eggplant with roasted red pepper, for example. If she uses meat, it will be in a creative context. I tried a turkey Reuben, quite good even without thousand island dressing. A ginger-flavored tuna steak sandwich was a welcome change from tuna salad.
For a side, you might find a pasta salad or a slaw. My pasta salad was fairly pedestrian, but an Asian-flavored, red cabbage slaw was right up my alley.
Then there are the cookies. Powers claims to be indifferent to baking; she's more of a fan of the savory than the sweet. But the Orange Glory lemon cookie with white chocolate is simply sublime. The lemon flavor is real and strong, and the buttery, meltaway texture will just send you.
On the light side, Orange Glory has salads. These, like everything else, change daily, but you might find veggie salad with pecan and goat cheese ($5), grilled salmon over greens ($9), or flank steak salad ($8). There are also daily soups, perhaps vegetable ($3/bowl) or seafood bisque ($4). There is also a daily pasta dish.
Powers's husband and partner, Stan, is the son of the owners of the Powers Farm Market. She was quick to point out how much help he's been with the business. "You're not driving each other crazy?" I asked. "Yeah, we are," she said with a laugh. She also speaks well of her "simpatico" employees, especially sous-chef Bernie Damelio.
In season, she'll get pumpkins, apples, or corn from her in-laws. Orange Glory isn't strictly organic, but Powers is exacting about ingredients, building menus around the best of what the Public Market offers. The food has flair, and the place is fun. We certainly have room for more high-end takeout in Rochester, and Orange Glory fills the bill with style.
Orange Glory, 240 East Avenue, 232-7340. Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Yuna's European Grocery & Deli opened this spring on Whitney Road near the former Joey B's (which has moved into the Harbor House Restaurant space along the canal in Fairport). The name comes from Yu-ri and Na-taliya Shyshko, who are Ukrainian. The shop features the foods of many countries, as well as Russian and Latvian beer. Open every day except Wednesday (385-6970).
--- Michael Warren Thomas
Michael Warren Thomas can be heard weekends on WYSL 1040 AM. Details and archives at www.SavorLife.com.