May 22, 2013
Written by Susan Hunter, Editor
Friday, 17 August 2012 12:27
Tanya Skeeter's enthusiasm about food is evident in the smile that lights up her face when she describes a "signature" dish she serves at her new restaurant, The Gourmet Café at 101 Elizabeth Street in Derby. The Tree of Life salad, featuring strawberries, walnuts, pecans and a spring mix of greens, is made fresh from healthful ingredients.
"Everyone just loves it," Skeeter said.
And the focaccia bread appetizer, with tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese, was also a big hit with those who gathered on July 12 for the grand opening of the cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, and offers catering services.
It's the first restaurant venture for Skeeter, and the first restaurant design adventure for Joan Andrews, a friend of Skeeter's who's an interior designer and architect.
It seems to be a match made in heaven.
Andrews said she got to know Skeeter through her pastor, and had a gut feeling that they would go into business together.
During lunch one day, Andrews remembers saying to her friend, "I don't know how, but one day you and I are going to do something together."
Andrews had definite ideas about designing Skeeter's restaurant.
"I want the restaurant to feel like your home," she said, "and to have a welcoming, warm space. Our world is very hectic. I wanted a place to relax, regroup and enjoy homemade food."
Andrews said she chose a muted green for the walls, because she believes that the color green enhances the appetite.
The bright space is decorated with hanging flower baskets, mirrors, and chairs and small tables that bring an eclectic style featuring Chippendale, Empire and contemporary furnishings.
"It's a Ritz Carleton interior with gourmet food that's affordable," Andrews said. "I wanted everyone to feel welcome and have access to a beautiful interior."
And the space is also practical, with a 16-foot-long takeout counter with storage space inside and a gift shop offering gourmet teas and chocolates, votive candles, recipe books and CD's.
Popular menu items include a coconut mango colada, which is a green tea that can be served cold with cream, shrimp wraps, breakfast wraps, Belgian waffles, omelets, quiche, baked goods, smoothies, sandwiches, paninis, pasta and desserts.
Skeeter said her daughter, Amber Davis, is a sous chef in training, and she plans to hire a sauce chef.
Future plans also include hosting cooking classes, bridal showers and birthday parties in the restaurant.
The Gourmet Café has been open for business since May 11, and Skeeter and Andrews said they're happy to be in Derby.
"This area will go through growth," Andrews said. "This business will be a catalyst."
Mayor Tony Staffieri is enthusiastic about the café.
"It's a whole new concept," Staffieri said. "There are such welcoming colors and all healthy foods. May they bring more places like this to Derby."
The Gourmet Café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 8 to 4.
The website is gourmetcafect.com.
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