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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Feast for the Eyes

Cafe artspace invites foodies to lunch

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One thing I love about Louisiana is our ability to appreciate when something offers a little something extra. Providing that special touch is often what elevates our experience past the mundane. I find that at Café artspace, having the restaurant nestled on the mezzanine level overlooking a contemporary art gallery is definitely lagniappe.
In addition to fresh food prepared from scratch, each visit is accompanied by gallery exhibitions featuring regional and international artists. While the restaurant maintains its cozy atmosphere, the changing exhibits offer a constantly refreshed experience. In honor of this unique benefit, Café artspace often prepares daily specials that highlight the latest theme.
On my most recent visit, I was fortunate enough to arrive on a day when Chef Steven Van Noppen was serving Turkey Pouette Roosevelt. This traditional New Orleans meal, extremely popular in the finest hotels like the Roosevelt during the 1900s, features slices of grilled sourdough bread covered with thin slices of ham then layered with slices of fresh roasted turkey and ladled with a mushroom cream sauce that is topped with cheddar and bacon.  Although for me the cheddar was a bit of a heavy flavor compared to the delicate cream sauce and roasted turkey, the dish was delicious. They served a generous portion, and I did not leave a bite.  
Side dishes are offered, such as potato and pasta salad, but I usually choose the fruit salad. The fruit is selected from the freshest in season. When our farmers market is open, the fruits are often selected from the best our local growers have to offer. While the sundae glass full of plump sweet berries really did not need any adornment, their generous dollop of freshly made whipped cream topping is one of my favorite treats.
Also, as I was enjoying my lunch, a waitress delivered a gorgeous salad to another guest’s table. The Signature Spinach Salad was a bright mix of fresh spinach topped with apples, orange sections, almonds and goat cheese all drizzled with citrus vinaigrette. Although I could mention that it is a bright, nutrient-rich option for a light lunch, truly it simply looked delicious. It is definitely on my “must-try” list.
The menu has a great variety of choices. With options like pesto chicken sandwiches, black (blackened chicken) and blue salad, BLTs on sourdough, barbecue pulled pork with caramelized onions and balsamic jelly, Asian wraps and club croissants, there is surely a flavor to satisfy most everyone. Plus, listed under the Sips & Suds, if you’d like something a little stronger than iced tea, they have beer and cocktails available.
Van Noppen, was invited by L.J. Thomas, operations director for Shreveport Regional Arts Council at artspace, to assist for a period in developing new specials for the café. Growing up in a military family, he was exposed to many cultures and cuisines at an early age. After attending a culinary school in New York and receiving a degree in hotel management, Van Noppen pursued his passion for cooking and travel in Miami, Europe and Australia. In New Orleans, he spent 15 years perfecting traditional Louisiana dishes served at the finest hotels. More recently, Van Noppen was the executive chef when the Shreveport Convention Center opened, staying for seven and a half years before leaving to open Hill Top Catering in Haughton. It will be a pleasure to see how his experience influences the daily menu as Café artspace continues working to provide a balance, offering our familiar favorites while also elevating the options for our mid-day meals and special events.
In addition to serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Café artspace provides catering services for Central ARTSTATION and artspace events. Thomas has more than four years experience organizing and overseeing the presentation of special events for SRAC and for guests who have booked the use of gallery space for their business meetings or celebrations. Whether it’s a wedding reception in the main gallery, a party in coolspace gallery on the second floor, a child’s birthday party in the funspace on the lower level or simply stopping in for lunch, hosting any event in a creative space makes everything more fun, at least from an artist’s point of view.
Call 673-6535, and the café will prepare a fresh-from-scratch order to go. Of course, my recommendation would be to set aside a few minutes or more to enjoy the lagniappe, a little extra time to view the art that makes having a nice café in a vibrant gallery so special.

Lynn Laird is a writer, fine artist and self-professed bon vivant living in Bossier. With “Flair for Cooking,”
she seeks out interesting ingredients and techniques to help make everyday meals just a touch more fabulous. She can reached at flairforcooking@gmail.com.

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