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Something to whet the appetite

What’s for lunch? Ask a thousand people, and you might just be surprised at the answer.

“What’s for lunch?” is the subject line of a daily e-mail we send out here at The Messenger. It features listings from area restaurants with daily specials, menus and, well, good ideas on where to go for lunch each weekday.

Since the e-mail is sent from my address, any replies come right back to me.

Sometimes that’s the best part of my day.

“Leftover chicken and broccoli” came one reply Wednesday morning, although the writer sounded disappointed she wasn’t going to enjoy an invite to one of the restaurants listed on the e-mail.

“Subway” came another reply, just minutes later.

And one reader even joined me in a conversation about Daylight Donut’s “best burger in town.” Sadly, I had not yet tried one.

So that prompted a discussion in the newsroom … one filled with audible moans from Perry Brown, our graphic designer. “Oh, yeah, it’s good. It really is the best burger in town.”

With that kind of billing, I had to try one. So I e-mailed Leftover Chicken and Broccoli Girl and set a friendly date for Friday at lunch. We had a plan for lunch … two days out.

But when Thursday came along, lunch found us at the Charles Henderson High School Culinary Arts Café’, and “what’s for lunch” took on a whole new meaning.

Each year, members of the Troy City Schools Education Foundation are treated to lunch prepared by the students in the Culinary Arts program at the high school. It’s always a treat, and we’ve enjoyed some wicked-good chicken salad (I hear Steven Curtis even scored the coveted recipe from Kathy Beckett) and many other tasty dishes.

But this year? Well, it was a feast for the eyes as well as palate. Under the tutelage of instructor Paula Hinson, the Culinary Arts students took the art of presentation to a new level. And let me just say, burgers and fries with banana pudding for dessert will never be the same for folks who experienced the meal. From the shot glasses filled with condiments to fries artfully arranged ala flowers in stemmed glasses, to the sliders on the side, the meal was a visual treat. Reggie Bryant grilled the burgers (who knew Big Reggie could cook?) and as one lucky enough to sit at his table during the meal, let me just add his service skills were impeccable. And while I didn’t partake of the banana pudding, it must have been good: all the dishes were cleaned and I think I overhead Mark Salmon comment about his wife needing the recipe.

Sadly, the CHHS Culinary Café isn’t open for lunch to the general public. But you can rest assured that the skills students are learning in the academy (from kitchen to service to hospitality management) might one day be transferred to restaurants right here in Pike County. And then, you might find a variation of Big Reggie’s burgers on another menu … or maybe that decadent banana pudding.

Meanwhile, there’s Trina Shelton’s burger, known affectionately as the “best burger in town.” Leftover Chicken and Broccoli Girl and I met at Daylight Donuts on Friday so I could try the burger (she already knew of its wonders) and we ended up splitting the burger and the BLT, both on Trina’s wonderful homemade yeast buns. And I could hide my smile each time the door opened and someone asked for “the best burger in town.” Now that’s clever marketing.

So what’s for lunch for you next week? If you’ve signed up for our e-mail list and need some ideas, just watch your inbox. I think we’ll have something to whet your appetite.

Stacy G. Graning is publisher of The Messenger. She can be reached via e-mail at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com. If you want to know “What’s for Lunch,” sign-up for the daily email at www.troymessenger.com.