POSTED ON DECEMBER 12, 2007:
Not Your Garden Variety
Ripe Tomato is summer fresh cuisine
The Ripe Tomato
Tucked away in the southeast corner of The Market, an interior design mall, is The Ripe Tomato. This little space in The Market has been transformed into a cozy Tuscanesque dining area with a handful of tables and decoratively painted walls to allow an out-of-store experience.
This menu is a light fare consisting of Salads, Wraps, Sandwiches and Soups with interesting names and compositions.
Take for instance, Freaky Greeky. This salad is a bed of mixed greens with parmesan crusted chicken, crumbled garlic feta, black olives, Roma tomatoes, sliced red onion and garlic feta vinaigrette. How about the Oh My Thai salad, which is a bed of mixed greens with spicy teriyaki chicken, shredded carrots, pineapple tidbits, lo mien noodles and pineapple coconut mango dressing.
This playful expression of words is purposely placed by the owner, manager and chef, Lisa Saylor. "I have a fun side to me and want to express that in my menu names, so they will be memorable to my guests," she says. "Particularly, I want to honor my husband and four daughters with some of these names," she says. This is evident with Nate's Plate sandwich, and of the Little Tomato children's menu consisting of Naysa-Roni (daughter Naysa's favorite Kraft Macaroni); The Pick Nick (daughter Nicki who enjoys a variety of foods at picnics); and Hannah Banana (toasted wheat bread with sliced banana, peanut butter and honey, something her husband and daughter Hannah eat for breakfast).
A friend and I met here late one morning to sample the menu. I ordered Nate's Plate ($8.65) which is grilled focaccia bread with smoked turkey, 2 cheese blend, pepperoni, black olives, deli peppers and creamy Italian sauce. This and all sandwiches are served with the diner's choice of tomato and mozzarella salad, pasta salad, broccoli slaw, side salad or sun chips. Also, a cup of soup may be added for an additional $1.55.
This was a very tasty sandwich with all ingredients blending together into a compact Italian meal. The bread was fresh and hearty, holding the sandwich's ingredients in place quite well. The Italian sauce was mild, yet flavorful, adding another dimension to the sandwich. (All sauces and dressings are made in-house).
I also sampled one of soups, Chicken Tortilla, the most popular according to Saylor. It was a very hearty soup with bite-sized pieces of tender shredded chicken, fresh tomato, kidney and black beans and corn, all in a thick, creamy soup. It was not spicy, but rich with the ingredients' flavors. This was topped with slender cut crisp tortilla chips.
My dining companion had The Texoma sandwich, a new menu item which is Tex Mex bread with corn, cheese and peppers baked in, with chipotle chicken breast, habenero pineapple sauce, grilled pineapple and mozzarella cheese. Saylor says some people are hesitant to try this sandwich because of the habenero, but we found this explosion of ingredients all blended amazingly well. The habenero pineapple sauce was particularly enjoyable, with a "quick" hot and very sweet taste colliding in the mouth to my friend's enjoyment.
He also sampled one of the day's soups, the Tomato Florentine. This hearty soup consisted of shell pasta, onion, tomatoes, green peas, parsley, mushrooms, all blended with various spices and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. He enjoyed the many ingredients, and the heartiness of the rich tomato broth.
Saylor says 3-4 soups are prepared for each day's menu. And, Saylor is proud to say that she uses as much organic ingredients that she can, getting her bread (which she calls "old style, artisan rustic bread") from Farrell Family Organic Breads in Tulsa and organic vegetables from local farmers.
Salads, says Saylor, are popular and are made with Romaine and mixed greens: no iceberg lettuce in these salads. The Very Very Berry and the Freaky Greeky are the most popular. Other menu items include Wraps: The Chilada, The Romani, The Parmesana and The Spinner. Sandwiches: The Artichoke (ranked most popular), Veggie Wedgie, The Albuquerque, The Georgia and The Triple Play.
Desserts are a "conglomerate" affair, she says, making some in house and getting some from bakers around town. Six special desserts are featured each day. Lemon Cake and Coconut Cake are good sellers, as well as the chocolate selections. I sampled the pumpkin roll because it was one of the desserts made in house. This roll was filled with a very sweet and rich cream cheese filling then topped with whipped cream. It was a great seasonal ending to a fine meal.
Saylor has an interesting background of two years in a technical culinary school in Florida blended with her education and experience as an interior designer, adding that "God gave me this gift from early on. I had been catering for a while," she recalls, using both her design and culinary backgrounds in this profession. While in culinary school, she apprenticed with an infusion chef, and that experience, she says, piqued her interest in blending flavors, thus, the interesting combinations of ingredients in her menu.
She also runs a very successful catering business out of her kitchen, able to cater event up to 800 people. She prepares company box lunches and trays, and her cookies she makes for her catering events, she says, are some of the best. "I've been called the 'cookie queen,'" she laughs.
The Ripe Tomato
8281 S. Harvard Ave (inside The Market)
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