Espression by Lavazza, Adjacent to The Drake, Chicago

On my way to the Grand Cru Bordeaux tasting this afternoon, I realized I had not had lunch, and if I went into a room where there are no empty glasses on an empty stomach, I probably wouldn't have made it out (on my two feet).  By glass 30, I already couldn't tell the difference from one wine to the next, so without food, it would have been more like glass 15.

Luckily, there is a sleek, metro coffee and deli shop attached to the Drake, Espression by Lavazza.  You are immediately greeted by two sexy murals of electrifying women and their cups of Italian coffee.  Approaching the point of sale, there is a glass display of several examples of panini sandwiches, baguettes, and other sandwiches you may purchase.  I thought the Prosciutto and Brie Panini looked amazing, so I ordered that and a Coke.  The server was very helpful and offered to bring the sandwich and beverage to my table.  I'm not sure if they always deliver, or she did this because it was a bit slow at 1:30.  I didn't have to wait long, and she brought this incredibly well-plated dish.  It was a wonderful presentation.

Prosciutto and Brie Panini
Now, I know this is a quick-casual restaurant/coffee shop, and these sandwiches are possibly packaged 3/4 of the way finished, but this was a fantastic sandwich compared to what I expected.  Have you been to Starbucks, and ordered a breakfast sandwich or panini that is thrown in the microwave?  Not that there's anything wrong with that... ... ... ... it's supposed to be fast.  But this sandwich had great flavor and the restaurant took the time to make a great presentation out of a simple deli panini.  The prosciutto was flavorful, the Brie was creamy, with a bit of an astringent rind (it's supposed to be), but it added to the uniqueness of the sandwich.  There was also an apple butter spread that "made" the whole sandwich.  You had sweet from the apple, salt from the prosciutto, and who doesn't like Brie?  It was great!  The side salad traced with olive oil and concentrated balsamic vinaigrette (possibly fig infused... there was something there), made for a great accompaniment.

Onward with my lunch experience, the panini was fantastic, but as I sat longer, I noticed a few things, particularly the staff interaction.  Within about 10 minutes of arrival, most of the other customers had finished, and I was the only one left in the restaurant.  Granted, I wasn't going to be there long, but the atmosphere became increasingly... uncomfortable, and I couldn't finish my sandwich fast enough.  An argument broke out between a staff member who was on the floor cleaning tables, and two staff members behind the counter.  Rather than settle differences in an enclosed setting (might I suggest not the floor), the floor seemed to be an suitable place to find our raised voices.  Needless to say, lunch was quicker than first intended, and I got to the wine tasting a tad early.  If in the vicinity of The Drake, feel free to stop in for a great quick sandwich... just make sure there are other witnesses, I mean patrons, present.


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