Perfect setting, engaging conversation, awesome lunch
I've spent more than my fair share of time as a patient in the UF/Shands teaching Hospital over the years. My sister, Marge, just retired from an illustrious career as a medical administrator in the Dean's Office of UF's College of Medicine. For a non-employee I know my way around the hospital.
I quickly discovered the best way to navigate this gargantuan complex was to start at the back of where the terraced steps and fountain are because it quickly puts you at the heart of the Center.
I'm guessing this area is called the George T. Harrell Plaza, or something like that, because of the plaque recognizing Dr. Harrell on the grounds.
This is a spectacularly beautiful, outdoor lunch stop nestled within the hospital complex. I take pleasure in seeing so many people--employees, professionals, staffers . . . visitors like me--taking time from their day to enjoy this 'good for the soul' environment. Entering the plaza my first thought is always, "What a great place to spend a lunch hour."
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I would like to introduce you to new friend, Assistant Professor Vonetta Dotson. Dr. Vonetta Dotson works in the Department of Clinical Health and Health Psychology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. Dr. Dotson was the perfect lunch partner to fulfill my objective of lunching out on this beautiful plaza since she works at UF Health Science Center.
This plaza is a perfect setting for such an enjoyable lunch hour. Vonetta remembered spending many a lunch hour as a PhD student in the shade of the trees watching the fountain create a sense of serenity for studying, enjoying conversation, and having a mid-day meal.
But a perfect picnic lunch does not happen by itself. Before I arrived basket in hand, I had spent much consideration and logistical arrangements. I gathered our lunch goodies from Fresh Market and the Uppercrust Bakery, both in the Gainesville Marketplace on NW 16th Ave and 43rd St. The GLOB Master made sure he had all sandwiches wrapped, treats prepared, and eating utensils accounted for and ready for lunch.
I talk about synchronicity a lot, and it is hard to beat this 16th Avenue shopping plaza that argurably has one of the best grocery markets and a superlative bakery side by side.
What fun deciding lunch what to include in this lunch for two. After checking with Vonetta and her exclamation, "I can pretty much eat anything, GLOB Master," I set out on the great adventurer of selecting the perfect picnic cuisine.
Granted I could easily go into carbohydrate, starch, and protein convulsions thinking about the delectable lunch choices in the Uppercrust Bakery. That's why I went to Fresh Market first to pick up a salad called the Berry Power Salad. This serving-for-two salad with enough for leftovers for another lunch included spinach, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, walnuts and feta cheese.
Being a lunch outer on a mission, I was glad I had a menu in hand because the Uppercrust Bakery at lunchtime can become busy with customers awaiting their share of savory and sweet pastries from this veritable French breadbasket.
The UB's Artichoke, Tomato, Olive, and Cheese Rose is so incredibly delicious, meatless and meat eaters alike have a look of wonder in their eyes after biting this into this rich pastry with an abundance of flavors.
Our savory pastry rose was big enough to share, but just to make sure, I also picked up a half of a ham sandwich and half of a chicken salad sandwich so we could create a smorgasbord of delights. We cut the half sandwiches into half so both of us enjoyed perfectly prepared ham and chicken sandwiches with cheese, chopped parsley, and a splash of spicy mustard. NOTE TO SELF: This lunch is working, we couldn't finish the other half of our sandwich halves and the remaining sandich pieces accompanied Vonetta back to her office.
If someone made a rule that every lunch should include feta cheese I think I would be OK with that. Although I forgot to include salad dressing, the cheese and berries added enough creamy, juicy texture that a drenching of oil and vinegar might have ruined the tart, fresh, spring time flavors. Dr. Dotson was pleased almost half of the salad as well returned to her office for a later indulgence.
We closed out our meal with two distinctly different scones. The first scone was sinfully loaded with chocolate-chip bliss. The second scone encased a cherry compote of delight that blended nicely with the sugary encasement. The very friendly person at the UB counter suggested we include an icing on our scones. Wow! The topping added a creaminess and sweetness that made the scones especially deletectable.
Vonetta agrees with the GLOB Master that half of a UB Rose Pastry is a complete meal. The combination of all the food groups in the salad, the sandwiches, and the desserts would have made my momma proud. It was a TGIF lunch in a Gainesville foodie bucket-list environment. Combine the food with amazing conversation and a splendid setting, and this could be one of the nicest lunch outings around.
I'm coming back!
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Vonetta Dotson has relocated and is teaching at Georgia state University since this story was initially published.