It’s Friday, lunchtime, and Eating Companion and I are up in The Compound Boardshop’s surfboard loft in downtown Sarasota, admiring some new shred-sleds, rapping with owner Jacob Shields and manager, Ryan Neff. The shop is celebrating its ninth anniversary, and we’ve come up to eat lunch to celebrate. We called in our order to Brown Bag Provisions, Kelly Drost’s bi-weekly lunch delivery.
Kelly started BBP last year, after years of working as a personal cChef (and, also, as many a local’s favorite bartender at the now-defunct Paddywagon). She forages for veggies and proteins during the week, often down at her cousin Peanut’s farm in Nokomis, and comes up with a menu on Wednesdays which she posts to her website and Facebook, whereupon people and buisnesses from all over the Sarasota area can call in their lunch orders for Thursday and Friday.
Each week it’s different, depending on the available fresh produce. And each week I’ve heard nothing but good things — great things — from her customers. EC and I have been meaning to do this for months, but we’re not nine-to-fivers, and live in Nokomis, and, well, we’re just glad it’s finally happening.
Kelly — who is herself one of those uniquely beautiful people, inside and out, all smiles and positivity — has an extremely friendly and lovely crew of people who help her on Thursdays and Fridays with deliveries, and Ronnie is here now with two enormous brown bags full of goodness.
We’ve ordered literally everything on the menu: this week’s grilled cheese special, with muenster, julienned zucchini and squash, slow-roasted tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese and a cilantro-cumin vinaigrette ($8, with soup or salad); a couple of large salads made of organic spring greens, petite green peas, sliced radishes and queso fresco, with a honey-lime dressing ($7); an order of her red beans and rice with grilled avocado, sweet local mango, pickled red onions, fried tostones (plantains), cilantro and a tangy, “lime-spiked” sour cream ($8); a couple of bowls of her green gazpacho made with tomatillos, green peppers, cucumbers, jalapenos, scallions and zucchini, marinated in red wine vinaigrette, then loaded with basil, cilantro and lime juice ($8); and a couple of the chimichurri pork loin sammies, which sound just ridiculous and are possibly the only reason EC got out of bed and into the truck this AM. They feature a pile of citrus-mojo pork with sliced mango and homemade fried onion rings, topped with a chimichurri sauce.
Thankfully there aren’t any customers in the shop, which this time of year tend to be very attractive girls shopping for new bikinis,as all four of us are just diving in, wiping our hands on our arms, napkins and manners be damned. Jacob and Ryan say they’ve recently agreed to make this a Friday ritual, and I can see why.
The grilled cheese is goopy and delicious, loaded with flavor, the bread fresh-baked and toasty. The gazpacho is cool and light and refreshing, this coming from someone who doesn’t like cold soups out of principle. This meal may be a game changer.
The pork loin sammies are divine, the meat slow-roasted, tender and smoky, the mango and onion ring the perfect combination of sweet and savory, with the low spice of the chimichurri sauce pulling everything together. I keep saying, “I can’t believe this is only $8,” like a bad commercial spokesperson, which is fine — I would gladly go on record, on camera, for this sandwich. And we haven’t even opened up the red beans and rice yet.
I didn’t even look at the description of them, but I thought Ladyfriend was going to make it, and she is still abstaining from meat, so in her absence the dish is kind of for anyone who could possibly still be hungry after the sandwiches, soups, and salad, which turns out to be Jacob and me. The dish is wildly colorful, loaded with mango and tostones, a Caribbean or Central American vacation in a Styrofoam box.
I could eat this every day. I could. I probably should. Maybe I can get Brown Bag to make me a big vat of this stuff to last me through the week – Thursday and Friday are not enough.
But maybe there’s hope – according to Jacob there’s rumor of a Brown Bag food truck.