Sometimes a lucky drive-by is what puts a restaurant on my radar screen. Other times, I get recommendations from friends, colleagues or the restaurants themselves. And, sometimes, I get an email telling me that "this café serves everybody—not JUST Sabre Springs Swingers!" Nutmeg Bakery & Café in Poway? You had me at swingers.
Hey, even pervs in the suburbs need decent sandwiches and baked goods, right? Don't think you North Parkers have the lock on naughty behavior.
It's been a few months since I heard about Nutmeg (12640 Sabre Springs Pkwy.), and I'm glad it's taken me awhile to get over there, because this new little café is firing on all cylinders. Nutmeg has raised the bar for what suburban communities, typically full of generic and processed chain restaurants, should start expecting and demanding from their food establishments. Why should the hipster urbanites have all the cool places? Soccer moms want to eat local and organic, too!
Nutmeg serves breakfast and lunch (although it's closed on Sundays), with an accessible and creative menu of sandwiches, paninis, salads and more.
Try "Cheryl's" panini, a toasty concoction of walnut butter, Nutella, a touch of honey and crispy slices of smoked bacon. Yes, the "put bacon on it" trend has become a bit overdone, but let's not lose sight of the fact that bacon is really tasty, and it can add a delightfully salty twist to an otherwise sugary creation. I liked the combo of meat and sweet in this gooey delight.
The Busy Bee sandwich is another excellent study in savory and sweet contrasts. Thinly sliced, honeyed ham is paired with its traditional sandwich pals, mustard and greens, but it also shares space with caramelized pineapple spread and a punchy cracked-pepper goat cheese. I loved all the flavors in this sandwich and was even more delighted that it came on toasted olive bread, studded with little briny, black Greek gems.
It's still soup season, and Nutmeg changes its selection daily, so explore what its ladles have to offer. I'm in complete denial of the miserable cold that's trying to take over my sinuses, so I felt invigorated and boosted by a healthy bowl of the Coconut Rice & Mushroom soup. The coconut gave the broth a bare hint of sweetness, with a lovely grassiness that still felt substantial and complex. Meaty mushrooms and bright scallions gave toothy texture and flavor, while creamy, homey brown rice rounded out the comforting and humble bowl.
There are plenty of in-house baked goods, as well, including cookies, tarts, scones (which were a bit too hard on the outside—but that seems to be standard in most bakeries I find, so maybe it's my personal preference not being met) and a most intriguing croissant bread pudding with caramel sauce. I already have a dessert-themed return trip planned for that one.
I didn't spot any "Sabre Springs swingers" on my visit to Nutmeg, but no matter. Put your keys in a bowl, take a seat and enjoy your meal.