Blue Ridge Country Store

subject: Blue Ridge Country Store
take-out vehicle: aluminum and plastic containers
cost: $7.33

Located on the east end of the Downtown Mall, the Blue Ridge Country Store has long been one of my go-to places for a healthy lunch. They have an excellent salad bar, daily-made wraps and sandwiches, and a wide selection of prepared sides and desserts in their wall of refrigerators. It wasn't until today, however, that I tried one of their warm lunches.

Of the dozen or so soups, chowders, and stews basking beneath the heat lamps, my eyes settled on a small stack of ready-to-go containers labeled "Roasted tilapia w/ mango chutney and basmati rice." Granted, it was a dreary, soup-eating kind of day, but the tilapia was in my hand before I could argue with myself. From the fridges then came the black bean and corn salad, and before I knew it, I was eating lunch.

The tilapia, though pleasing to my eye and visibly seasoned, failed to impress, and unfortunately the mango chutney did little to help. The fish itself was flaky though a tad over done, likely caused by its time spent under the heat lamp; together with chutney, however, I felt it more than tasted it. It just didn't have much flavor of its own.

The chutney was thick, warm, softly chunky, and mildly sweet. I picked up on echoes of whispers of spices underneath the fruit, but overall it was a fairly straightforward chutney.

The black bean salad, I was not totally surprised to discover, didn't really jibe with the (minimal) flavors of the main dish. In fact, had I not eaten them separately (I finished the fish before starting the salad), I doubt I would have tasted the tilapia at all. I guess my only compliant was that I didn't buy any tortilla chips, because it looked, felt, tasted nothing like a salad and exactly like a good black bean salsa. Lucky for me its plastic container is resealable.

It wasn't a bad lunch, but given the weather outside, perhaps it really was a soup-eating day after all.

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