Here's a sure sign of a culinary hit: You're still raving about the experience a week later and dole out leftovers like they are precious family heirlooms.
Here's another: The leftovers are things you bought after the meal to take home for later.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for diners at Pamela's Bakery, Cafe, Espresso in Eagle is not drooling on the display cases while picking out which delectables will be heading home in a giant goody bag.
In the case of one Boise Weekly reviewer and her guest, the effort wasn't successful, and we deeply apologize for any saliva marks left on the glass.
But there are no regrets when it comes to dining at the small, comfortable cafe, where everything is made with top-quality ingredients and with such skill that even the diet-conscious find themselves conveniently ignoring the calorie content of their meals. Sometimes, a cookie is worth a few extra miles on the treadmill.
Serving breakfast, lunch and take-home dinner entrees, Pamela's has gone beyond its bakery beginnings to become what should be a destination retreat for anyone who thinks attention to detail, culinary expertise and concern for taste and quality are essential in a dining experience.
Pamela's offers an array of pre-made cold sandwiches and wraps for lunch, as well as homemade soup and quiche, but five days a week, the cafe offers a selection of hot sandwiches that alone are worth the trip to Eagle.
The Grilled Turkey Club ($8.95) quickly endears itself to diners with its layers of grilled, thin-sliced turkey breast, thick-cut bacon, avocado slices, gooey provolone cheese, tomato and lettuce on the choice of a fresh croissant or sourdough bread.
As a general rule, bacon makes anything better, but thanks to this sandwich, there is now also the avocado rule: Avocado sliced thin enough that it doesn't shoot out the side of the sandwich also makes everything better.
But it was the Bavarian Cheddar Melt ($8.95) that earned declarations of lifelong devotion.
After a single bite, one diner—eyes wide with joy—proclaimed it one of the best sandwiches she'd ever had. She credited the caramelized onions, which achieved the usually evasive combination of sweet and savory. They were the ideal complement to the ham and mellow cheddar and tomatoes on grilled sourdough.
Each sandwich includes a side salad, served neatly in a cup made out of a red cabbage leaf. With offerings like Asparagus Chicken Leek Shell Pasta, Couscous Tabouleh and Broccoli Walnut Grape Salad, it was hard to choose. After much hemming and hawing, we went with the Orzo Florentine—orzo pasta with black olives, spinach, pine nuts, cheddar, capers and hard-boiled eggs in a dijon garlic vinaigrette—and the Asian Slaw—napa cabbage, scallions, cilantro, almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds in a sweet dressing.
Each salad was a delicate combination of flavors that ranged from salty to sweet in the same bite without being overwhelming.
After making sure every morsel was accounted for, the bakery display case was calling like a siren in Greek mythology. There, beautiful bars and cookies rested next to gooey pecan sweet rolls, elephant ears and perfectly formed muffins. An entire shelf was taken up by cakes so rich and dense that the ability of the glass shelf to support them was questionable.
Cookies range from $1.25 to $2.75, while bars cost $2.95 to $3.50. A pumpkin spice cookie ($2.50) and a snickerdoodle ($1.25) somehow managed to leave with us, stored ever-so-briefly in a white paper bag.
Thankfully, Pamela's also has a full coffee bar, so it was easy to grab a quick cup of earl gray tea ($1.85) to help combat the full-and-sleepy feeling as we plotted when we would be able to sample the full breakfast menu and even more baked goodies.
—Deanna Darr thinks frosting is often the best part of a meal.
The day following a breakfast excursion at Pamela's Bakery, Cafe, Espresso, I slid a helping of huevos rancheros onto a plate at home and gleefully microwaved the heap of food. A whopping four days passed before I re-warmed half a gooey pecan and cinnamon roll ($3.25) covered in icing and licked the plate clean in front of a small crowd of salivating co-workers.
Generally speaking, breakfast food does not lend itself well to leftovers. Reheated egg yolks and warmed-over soggy toast just don't hold much appeal unless the alternative is something nearly inedible. Or so I thought before Pamela's.
Rewind to the moment breakfast arrived. One slice of ham and asparagus quiche, a plate of biscuits and gravy, one Dave's Mess, a plate of huevos rancheros and what shall henceforth be known as "the infamous gooey pecan roll." It was enough food for six, maybe seven, and we were but three.
The biscuits were an immediate standout. Smothered in gravy and sausage, they were soft and warm and refused to succumb to mush beneath the thin sauce. As a side on two breakfast platters, they were thick, sliced in half and perhaps grilled on a flattop.
Dave's Mess ($8.95) was a tub-sized kitchen sink scramble with sausage, green and red peppers, mushrooms and bacon over potatoes and under a few slices of avocado. The quiche ($6.95) earned high marks for its heft and buttery crust, although it did make a trip back to the kitchen for some time warming up. The thick bean and tomato stew ladled over scrambled eggs and a tortilla made huevos rancheros ($8.25) into a simple, avocado-and cheese-topped plate of breakfast chili.
If forced to lodge a measly complaint about Pamela's, my meat-loving male dining companions agreed on one: another handful of sausage in the gravy.
Truthfully, though, the ship is tightly run by a proprietress who is clearly hands-on. We watched an aproned Pamela take orders and man the register. She cleared and wiped tables while bantering with us about the bakery's logistics: Pamela is the baker, her mother the culinary expert and her father has charge of the coffee and marketing aspects. By the time we were leaving, she was ready to sit and talk cake with a bride-to-be. (Based on personal experience, I can tell you that your guests will coo over a Pamela's cake and may boldly help themselves to more than one helping, so be sure to get more than you think you need.)
Despite getting only halfway through my breakfast and having a takeaway box in hand, the deli case proved too difficult to pass by on the way out the door. I added a brownie ($3.50) and a couscous tabouleh salad ($2.65) to the stack of food for home. Lightly dressed and tossed with herbs, cucumbers and tomatoes, the couscous was the kind of cautiously filling but barely there meal that would make for a hearty dish on a hot summer day. The brownie, however, was definitely not "barely there." In fact, I parceled it out for days, slowly chipping away at the vanilla dipped, white chocolate chunked blonde brownie, carefully making it last.
Pamela's is a restaurant oozing confidence. Those in charge know what they do well and have capitalized on those strengths—at least with regard to breakfast and baked goods. From what I understand, lunch follows suit, and if I were to put money on dinner (a single, daily changing special), I'd bet in its favor.
—Rachael Daigle lays odds on the oozing, gooey side.