MISSION VIEJO, Calif. Nov. 2013—Anyone who’s met Michael Samawi, owner and “culinary artiste” of Coffee, Tea and Tulips will appreciate the theme for his new menu: “Jesus as a Foodie Diet, as created by me.”
No disrespect is intended as both Michael and wife Lina are committed Christians. He intends his food to be flavorful and healthy with sauces and dressings applied lightly.
A friend he corresponds with from Toronto, Carmen Correia, posted an illustration of the Last Supper on her Facebook page and wrote that Jesus was a Foodie.
“That did it for me! Historically, our menus have always been centered around the Mediterranean and Middle-East regions,” he says.
Michael named a new “Sandweech,” his name for sandwich. Served on toasted ciabatta, imported tonno (tuna) in oil is served with sliced eggs, anchovy, red pesto and drizzles of fish sauce, lemon juice and olive oil.
For the restaurant’s most popular tea service, the Queen Victoria ($29) guests can choose from six different “sandweech” flavor themes. Titles include: Traditional, Vegetarian, and Artiste’s Daring Adventure and all offer tea-sized treat choices such as Fatteh (hummus layered with chicken) and Hot Club of San Francisco (ham, turkey and spicy cheese).
“I set themes so guests ordering wouldn’t hold up my server for hours choosing their four sandwiches,” he says.
Za’atar (a spice blend) with feta; Pt. Reyes cheese, cucumbers and green pesto; spinach and tomato with red pesto; turkey, cranberry, cream cheese and sunflower kernels; and Black Forest ham with Dijon mustard and apricot jam are some of the options available.
His new twist on egg salad, Deconstructed Egg Salade, is distinctive.
“I hate egg salad. So I took it apart as a way of allowing myself to have it on the menu in a more palatable form. Egg salad is a mash of a mess, with mayonnaise—mayo seems to become the main ingredient and I find mayo repulsive (at least straight mayo). I am an artiste. Food needs a visual, and that includes height and dimension.”
Chicken salad is another typical tea sandwich blended with mayonnaise.
“Chicken and hummus go great as salad or sandwich. I took the classical version and modified it to be ‘cleaner’.”
The Tel Aviv is made with chicken and bacon. Bacon? Michael explains that during Bible times, some Jews raised hogs to sell to non-Jews. “My ‘Jesus as a Foodie Diet’ allows bacon.”
New teas have been added to an already extensive list. Meyer Lemon Vanilla Rooibos is elegant and soft with aromas of lemon. The caffeine-free beverage has no bitterness and doesn’t need sugar.
His most popular tea, Midnight in Paris, is a black tea scented with coconut. Pineapple Oolong, Jasmine Fancy, Darjeeling and Yerba Mate are alternatives.
Michael wants to be different and is certainly an unusual culinary personality in Orange County. His goal is to open a second location in San Diego.
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