Thanks to Watercolor Cafe owner Kate Dupre, we recently learned a few tips about what makes a great sandwich. We won’t give all her secrets away, but we’ll share a few insider secrets on how the café’s team assembles a few of their signature goodies.
Dupre says she’s loved sandwiches since she was a little girl growing up on Mackinac Island and in Florida. “I appreciated sandwiches because my dad would eat a sandwich every day for lunch. He’s a dad that goes by the books,” she laughs.
Her favorite variety? “As a kid, smooth peanut butter with grape jelly,” Dupre says. And it has to be grape jelly, she adds, recalling the time her mom made her a PB&J with butter on one side so the jelly wouldn’t soak through the bread. “I still love PB&Js,” she says. These days, Dupre, who’s marking her fourth season as owner of the charming lakeside café, and her team create inventive sandwiches that are as fresh as Mackinac Island’s air.
In addition to the lower-level café, an upstairs area hosts art classes for visitors and island residents. Dupre’s a professional artist, too, and her artistic touch can be found in her fare and her shop’s interior design, which complements the Great Lakes beauty outside the café’s windows.
Michigan BLUE sat down with her recently to find out what causes those long lines that wind through the café and out to the sweet little terrace come breakfast and lunchtime. We also found out about the best mustards and pickles!
BLUE: What’s your biggest seller, and why?
KD: The breakfast sandwich, which is served hot on sourdough from Tribeca Oven. The bread isn’t super-pungent, and it’s good. The sandwich starts with an egg, and also has bacon, cheddar, avocado, and chipotle aioli. I think people like the taste profile of the sauce. We mix a couple things into the chipotle; it’s not spicy, but it has a small kick to it. I highly recommend this sandwich.
BLUE: Where do you get your food? Is it difficult to get fresh food on the island?
KD: I get most of our food from Sysco or Gordon’s Food Service. They deliver six days a week!
BLUE: The wrap bread you use is so good. Who makes it?
KD: I’m particular about what I purchase. Those wraps are made by a company called Hacienda. They’re made with flour, kale, garlic, and onion powder, as well as other items. They’re so good!
BLUE: Do you have a signature sandwich?
KD: The Monet. It has brie, turkey, baby spinach, whole-grain mustard — I’m a big whole-grain mustard person — and fig preserves. We serve it warm, and the fig gives it a sweetness.
BLUE: Other favorite offerings?
KD: The avocado toast, the PB and banana, and the gardening goat sandwich.
BLUE: Ahh, the GOAT of sandwiches? How would we make one at home?
KD: We use goat cheese with tomato and balsamic. I don’t mean a balsamic vinaigrette. The balsamic is a balsamic reduction glaze, versus a vinaigrette. Toast the bread first!
BLUE: Do you have any ideas for those who love chicken sandwiches?
KD: Consider making chicken salad sandwiches on multigrain. For ours, we put slices of red grapes in the salad, inspired by the coffee shop that was in the space before me. They made chicken salad with grapes. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s a bit of paying homage. Also, consider a unique dressing rather than all mayo. Our dressing is two-thirds mayonnaise and one-third poppy seed dressing, so you get that poppy seed texture.
BLUE: When you’re making a sandwich at home, what are some of your must-have ingredients?
KD: I’m always happy with a stone ground or honey mustard on a sandwich. Inglehoffer makes a great stone-ground product. I’m also known to top anything with a fried egg. Why not? And here’s a shout-out to Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickles, which are always in my refrigerator and served as a delicious accompaniment to a savory sandwich.
BLUE: Can patrons at your café customize or add a twist to their sandwiches?
KD: I welcome that, if they want to add a twist or double the size. We’re always thinking about new combinations, so in the back of the kitchen we’ll say, “Wow, that sounds good!”
Pesto Grilled Cheese
(RECIPE FROM WATERCOLOR CAFE)
Sourdough bread (thin or medium slices)
Provolone cheese (sliced)
Cheddar cheese (sliced)
Lightly butter what will be the outsides of your sandwich bread. Start stacking, with the spinach wedged between the two different cheeses — put two slices of cheddar down first, then a handful of spinach spread across the bread, then provolone. The top bread slice should have a hearty spread of pesto on it. Use a panini press to warm it, or pan-grill on medium with a lid, making sure to flip the sandwich halfway through, until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden, crispy brown. Slice and enjoy. Bonus flavors: add bacon, tomato, and/or avocado.