By V. Sheree Williams
No matter how long I have lived in the Bay Area, there is always a new place to discover with good eats to indulge in. A business meeting in 2015 would take me to the Noir Lounge in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood. Located on Hayes Street, the name along with the location hinted (at least in my mind) to a swanky spot attracting millennials and other hipsters looking to dodge boredom on any given night. Walking in, my preconceived notions weren’t far off as the wine bar known for its love of classic black and white movies, cozy nooks for couples or custom-made communal table for sharing food as well as conversations was silently letting me know that this is where I wanted to be. A meeting and cocktail later, I was out pledging to myself to definitely return.
Last October, I did just that with an invitation to attend the launch of The Lunchpad, a new upscale sandwich experience “combining the finest ingredients with unexpected and original touches,” now offered inside the Noir Lounge. In the company of other foodies and media professionals, I enjoyed sampling many of the items featured on the new menu that included the Italian beef sandwich, house-made pickles and habanero bacon to name a few.
I caught up with the mastermind behind this new culinary experience, chef Adam Hubbell who also leads pickling classes held at Noir Lounge, to get the inside scoop on why The Lunchpad will be the city’s hottest sandwich spot.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the menu and reinventing the sandwich experience for your guests?
My inspiration for the menu was from many years of trying out different flavor combinations. I am a huge fan of sweet and savory combinations. I also spent several years cheffing at a southwest restaurant in Boulder, CO where I developed a love of spicy and fresh flavors. There is just something to be said about a well-balanced flavor combination.
What are a few special menu and/or ingredients highlights that may be exclusive to The Lunchpad SF?
I would say that our house bacon is pretty unique to The LunchPad. Candied habanero bacon has allowed us to kick up the flavor profile of many of our sandwiches. It has taken a few different forms over the years but I feel like we have really nailed it down. We also make our own giardiniera. Giardiniera is a spicy pepper relish that has heat and a nice acidity that complements many of our sandwiches, but is featured on our Chicago style Italian beef sandwich, “The King Beef.” We also do a cashew pesto that is a unique twist on an old standard. We sub roasted cashews for pine nuts and have created a fun almost buttery sweetness that adds another dimension to our flagship sandwich, “The Turkey Drizzle.”
There is an art to pickling. When it comes using pickled ingredients for menu items, how do they enhance one’s culinary experience from a taste perspective?
There is an art to pickling and there is also a science. From the art perspective, you have creative freedom to add whatever spices and flavors you want. Pickles are really up to the consumer. Some people like them sweet, others salty, more dill, more clove…etc. From a science perspective, you need to know the basics of preserving. I recommend the Ball Blue Book to start your pickling experience or going to an educational seminar or class. Pickles are an awesome addition to sandwiches as they are a perfect match with savory flavor profiles lending a much need reprieve from the rich and salty, the sweet acidity balances it right out. We also do pickling classes at The Lunchpad a few times a year.
What can we look forward to from The Lunchpad in 2017?
2017 is going to bring is some fun new sandwiches and salads. We’re going to include a unique twist on a chef’s salad featuring our famous habanero candied bacon. We’ll be switching out some of our sandwiches on the daily specials menu and introducing a Shrimp Po’ Boy and a Meatloaf sandwich as well. All of this will be happening in mid-January. Lastly, we’ll be adding fried pickles as a menu item on select days. In addition, we plan to really ramp up our corporate catering and are looking forward to putting out some new items that will truly make office lunches sing.
This all sounds really good and makes me hungry all over again. The Lunchpad is open Monday – Friday from 9 am – 2:30 pm and from 11 am – 2:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays and serves the brunch and lunch menu all day long. The Noir Lounge is located at 581 Hayes Street in San Francisco. For more information and to view The Lunchpad menu, visit www.thelunchpadsf.com.
Photos courtesy The Lunchpad