When I was in college I spent a summer working at a cafe in a spa in Sonoma, where three of us would cram ourselves into a tiny prep space and assemble meals for the guests. Since we were operating in a spa, these meals were obviously implied to be healthy but were for the most part probably far from it, what with all of the mayo, aioli, and caesar dressing I remember going through, and most menu items came with bacon. I’m pretty sure I gained a few pounds from my daily habit of drinking the “leftover” vanilla milkshakes we whipped up for one spa service that I forget the name of but was the rough equivalent to “treat yo self.”
In a nod to our healthy environment we did serve up various wheat grass drinks (and then waited for the inevitable summons to hear a guest complain about the “vile” concoctions we had served them) and at least one dish with the mandatory hummus and alfalfa sprouts. We also offered cappuccinos and lattes, though we didn’t shout about it, as the espresso machine was a mystery to all of us. I do sometimes wonder how we didn’t get more complaints about the coffee, because if I’m making your espresso-based beverage you will get the same thing no matter what you ordered- a badly drawn shot drowning in a random quantity of scalded milk and weak foam. Enjoy!
The guests were really there anyway to hang out at the pool in between spa services and be away from screaming children, not to eat diet food, and no one seemed to mind the overly-indulgent menu, especially one item, a salmon sandwich that was popular enough with the guests that we regularly had to run back to the main kitchen on busy days to beg for more salmon. That sandwich still sticks in my brain today, ten years later, with its bacon, mayo, and greens, all served on a brioche bun with probably something else although I honestly forget, because it was the salmon and bacon combo that really stuck with me. That glorious sandwich was served with chips and a side salad, and again, not really sure how it counted as “spa” food but I didn’t care. The couple of times I got to hang out in that spa area as a guest I made sure to order it, reveling in the succulent salmon garnished with crisp, salty bacon.
I decided to recreate the sandwich in my own tiny kitchen, although this proved to be a bit difficult since like I mentioned before, I didn’t really remember too many specifics of what was on it. So I improvised. The most important elements obviously were the salmon and bacon, so I had those, and I added on some peppery watercress for a green element and an herby, caper mayo as a finishing touch. I don’t know how close I came to the original but my version rocks! It’s crispy, salty, and refreshing all at once, all tied together by the creamy, herby mayo and best eaten in a fluffy white terrycloth robe right after a massage. Or, you know, at any other time in your pjs on the sofa. Whatever works for you.
"Spa" Salmon Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tsp capers, drained
- 1 tbs chopped fresh dill
- 1 tsp minced chives
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 strips bacon
- 2 salmon filets or 1 large filet cut in half
- 1 cup watercress
- brioche buns or other
- Make the mayo: combine mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, dill, chives, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in the capers and set aside.
- In a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off most of the remaining bacon fat in the pan into a small bowl and set aside.
- Set pan back over heat, and toast the buns in the remaining bacon fat in pan. Set buns aside.
- Add reserved bacon fat back to the pan and cook the salmon, about 5 minutes per side, skin side down first. Finish salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Assemble sandwiches: spread top and bottom buns with the herb caper mayo, then layer salmon, bacon, and watercress. Serve.