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September 7th, 2005 KELLY CLARKE | z-Bite Club
 

EVERY DAY IS SUNDAY AGAIN

     
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CALENDAR GIRL: Former Sunday co-owner Shannon Caulfield and her husband, Ben, do dinner at L'Astra.
IMAGE: AMY OULETTE
Yes, friends and fellow eaters, our baby Sunday was taken from us too soon. Only nine months old, Benjamin and Shannon Caulfield's sweetly retro Southeast Holgate Boulevard brunch spot-the kind of place where vegans and greasy-spooners could chow on hearty omelettes and clink coffee cups in caffinated peace-was bulldozed to the ground in July to make way for a new structure destined to house a Starbucks. Figures.

But take heart, Bite Club has found the Caulfields once more. The young couple's indie-homey aesthetic and eats have been reincarnated at their lunch and dinner place, L'Astra (22 NE 7th Ave.), which opened two weeks ago in a building tucked behind East Burnside Street's Ozone Records O3. The wee digs, now dressed in a girly palette of pink, black and sherbet-stripes, last belonged to Colleen's, a happy cafe reopening in a few weeks in a bigger space farther east on Burnside Street.

L'Astra trades Sunday's breakfasts for wallet-friendly afternoon dishes like smoky pancetta-and-potato tarts and thick, savory veggie sandwiches. Early evening is the time for sticky-but-satisfying gnocchi and fresh-cooked green beans tossed with walnuts and chevre. It still smells like the old Sunday, though, of garlic and fresh greens, a pairing Shannon was sautéing on one of the new place's two hot plates when Bite Club stopped by last week. Save for the strains of jazz on the record player, L'Astra was empty. But after tasting the restaurant's changeling menu (charming to a fault, every morning Shannon types up the day's offerings on an actual typewriter), we're confident that Sunday regulars will migrate over soon, especially after L'Astra gets its liquor license.

The best thing on the tiny joint's even tinier menu right now is actually an item the Caufields never got around to serving at Sunday-house-made ice cream. On our last visit, even Bite Club's lactose-intolerant companion threw caution to the wind and joined us in devouring a double scoop of gooey cinnamon ice cream dotted with chewy figs-the fruit's tiny seeds popping in our mouths with every spoonful.

Sometimes change is good.

Now, we'd be lying if we didn't say the idea of a bunch of quiche-pimpin,' vinaigrette-tossin' caterers infesting LaLuna's huge former digs at 828 SE Ash St. didn't weird us out a bit. But, hell, at least the outfit making the long-gone Southeast Pine Street rock refuge its new home is Simpatica Catering-the fresh crew behind Pix Pâtisserie's popular Brunch series (2 pm every Sunday at Pix, 3402 SE Division St., 232-4407) and Viande Meats.

Simpatica's seasonally obsessed cookers (chefs Jason Owens, John Gorham and Ben Dyer) plan on opening later a supper club and private event space called the Simpatica Dining Hall in the space adjacent to their roomy new kitchen later this fall.

Come get an eyeful at 6:30 pm this Friday night, when the gents hold an open house complete with Simpatica eats, drinks and-in a nod to the building's former life-old-timey live tunes from the Dickel Brothers. Check out www.simpaticacatering.com for details.

 
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