The equation is quite simple. Open a wine market and restaurant, add dinner service, split your time between running a business and studying for a coveted Master Sommelier rating, and spending more time with the kids.
Wait… No way that adds up. For Jeffrey and Crystal Birkemeier, that amounted to 14 or 15 hours a day, jostling to get back to the restaurant in the middle of the night to check the ribs that were too low and slow, to get just a glimpse of the life of family.
So recently, the couple removed dinner from the menu at Amapola Kitchen & Wine Merchant in favor of a Monday-Friday lunch schedule.
Quality of life has become a priority for many restaurant players, especially in the wake of the pandemic. In this case, the Birkemeier’s earnings also pay dividends on the quality of life of their diners.
In other words, the Lorraine quiche from Amapola Kitchen makes the day happy and the soul warm.
It’s so delicate in flavor and texture. A sweet cheese flavor tickles the palate. Diced red ham tease with streaks of sweet mist. A heartier smoky bacon would overwhelm the custard, and you don’t want anything to break the daydream. It’s a cloud drifting over a nutty, flaky crust and you’re in the air.
Crystal Birkemeier takes care of the kitchen duties. Her husband fills the shelves with wine, looking for the bottles that bring the most value – not the cheapest, but the ones that offer the most character – while she creates a convenient and attractive menu.
There are salads, the most popular being arugula and beetroot sprinkled with candied pecans. Four sandwich options make up the current range, including a croque monsieur.
Bechamel topping the French classic of ham and cheese also lends a creamy twist to lasagna and chicken pot pie. It is an efficient menu and in which the dishes can be prepared in advance.
The menu changes a few times a month as dishes are added or removed. And the desserts — the Meyer Lemon Pie with fresh blueberries is almost too much eye candy to bother — are from scratch.
Amapola is somewhere between fast food stalls and relaxation areas.
Amapola Kitchen & Wine Merchant is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 32 W. Gabilan St., Salinas. 262-0075, amapolakitchenandwine.com