Cloud Nine Deli-Café serves up its sandwich contest winner

<b>The winner:</b>
A combination of arugula, roasted tomato, and turkey with aiola sauce on focaccia, inspired by the letters in the word “art,” won the sandwich contest at Cloud Nine Deli and Bakery in Old Saybrook. Jeff and Betsey Cooley, below, owners of the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme and contest participants, suggested creation of the sandwich.
The winner: A combination of arugula, roasted tomato, and turkey with aiola sauce on focaccia, inspired by the letters in the word “art,” won the sandwich contest at Cloud Nine Deli and Bakery in Old Saybrook. Jeff and Betsey Cooley, below, owners of the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme and contest participants, suggested creation of the sandwich.

Cooking competitions are all the rage, particularly since The Food Network and Bravo began pitting professional chefs against one another in highly rated shows like "Top Chef" and "Chopped."

But Andrea Isaacs, owner of Cloud Nine Catering & Deli-Cafe on U.S. 1 in Old Saybrook, came up with a different idea: to cook up some business beginning in the dreary month of March with a sandwich contest, encouraging local businesses to put their creative thoughts down…on bread.

Isaacs opened Cloud Nine in 1995, sold it in 2006, and when the new owner decided to close the doors several years later, Isaacs said she couldn't let that happen; she returned in 2009 to run the popular local catering company and cafe, known for its tasty sandwiches, soups and salads.

Isaacs credits Jeff Cooley, owner of the Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme, with the initial concept that turned into a contest.

Cooley says that he and his wife and business partner Betsey had gone over the bridge for lunch one day for the first time in quite awhile.

"We were so glad Andrea was there and had repurchased the business," Cooley says. "We wanted to help her build up the business again and suggested she make sandwiches named for local businesses that would sponsor them. I would sponsor a Cooley Gallery sandwich, for example, and advertise it and send people there to eat."

Cooley recalls that he and Betsy finished lunch, left the café, and the next time they returned, Isaacs had added a new twist to his idea. She asked businesses to create their own sandwiches to be featured each week and to spread the word to their staff and customers. Whichever business's sandwich had the most sales would be the grand prize winner and receive lunch for eight for their office.

The Cooleys immediately jumped on board with The ART-ful sandwich — Arrugula, Roasted tomatoes, Turkey — along with nine other area businesses ranging from art galleries to a bank to a medical supply company.

"We went purely with what we thought would be appealing and taste good," Cooley says.

Isaacs says all sandwiches were priced at $6.50 for a level playing field. As an added incentive, featured-business employees who patronized the café during the week of their company's sandwich special got 20 percent off their meals.

"I wanted to create some community spirit in the winter when things get cold and icy and boring on the shoreline and stir up the pot," Isaacs says.

She says there were no ingredient requirements, and some sandwiches were very creative.

"The arts organizations were more exotic in their 'foodie' kinds of flavors," Isaacs notes, "like goat cheese and gingered carrot spread in Diane Birdsall's and aioli and foccacia in [the Cooley Gallery's]."

Godiva Chocolate, whose customer service center is in Old Saybrook, naturally came up with a sandwich for those with a sweet tooth, featuring banana, chocolate and coconut.

"Some of the sandwiches required special bread that I didn't have," Isaacs says. "The MedOptions sandwich was on black Russian bread, and Nancy's Creations was on a curried roll, which I had to go out and find."

She got the black bread at Fabled Foods in Deep River — a wholesale bread bakery where she purchases all her breads — and she found the curried rolls at Vanderbrooke Bakers & Caterers in Old Saybrook.

"The public really got into it," she says. "Things with meat sold better than the veggie ones."

The contest was slated to end the week of May 3 to 7, but there was a three-way tie between Standard Door Supply, McDonald-Sharpe & Associates, and the Cooley Gallery, so Isaacs extended the contest another week, featuring all three sandwiches. The Cooley Gallery took first place by a narrow margin.

"I think I'm going to run the contest again," Isaacs says. "It worked well and was really kind of fun."

Cloud Nine Catering Deli & Café is located at 256 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook. For info, call 860-388-0800 or visit www.cloudninecatering.net.

The Competitors

Week 1: Florence Griswold's Palette Pleaser (Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme); roasted veggies, cucumbers, sprouts and hummus on pita bread.

Week 2: Standard Door Supply, of Old Saybrook; salami, banana peppers, provolone, lettuce, tomato and oil on Kaiser roll.

Week 3: Godiva Chocolate, of Old Saybrook; banana, milk chocolate and coconut on brioche with whipped cream.

Week 4: McDonald-Sharpe & Assoc. Surveyor's Summit, of Old Saybrook; open-face Canadian bacon, chicken salad, apples and melted cheddar on English muffin.

Week 5: Pomegranate Salon, of Deep River; tomato, basil, mozzarella, avocado and muffaletta spread on ciabatta.

Week 6: Diane Birdsall Gallery, of Old Lyme; thick-sliced ham, fresh spinach and goat cheese with gingered carrot spread on country white.

Week 7: MedOptions, of Old Saybrook; roast beef or turkey with Swiss cheese, cucumbers, shredded lettuce and dill cream cheese on black Russian bread.

Week 8: Cooley Gallery, of Old Lyme's ART-ful sandwich; arrugula, roasted tomatoes, turkey with aioli on focaccia, panini style.

Week 9: Nancy's Creations Creation, of Middletown; roasted porkloin, caramelized onions and ginger scallion mayo on curried roll.

Week 10: Coldwell Banker, of Old Lyme; four cheeses with caramelized onions and tomatoes on grilled multi-grain bread.

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