I am turning into a lady who lunches.

Maybe it's just because it's summer, but lately I've found myself going out to lunch with friends and family a lot more than usual — and appreciating this female ritual more than I ever have before.

For most women I know, the meal is just an excuse for getting together for a lot of talking (or, as my friend, Brenda, puts it, gabbing).

Since I really, really like the food part, becoming lost in a fog of food enjoyment seemed like a potential distraction from the ways of female socializing.

But I do like a good gab-fest, which is what Brenda and I had during a recent late lunch at Normandie Café and Bakery, a pretty little place on the Murray Holladay Road.

I get the feeling that Normandie is totally different for lunch and dinner: People order at the counter for lunch from a variety of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads, while at-table service is de rigueur for the evening.

But we ladies were there to lunch, and we were glad to take a sample from a basket of round cinnamon-dusted cookies to help us make our final choices.

We shared a couple of sandwiches, plus one of Normandie's salads — and, of course, some dessert, but more on that later.

The first sandwich, and one I expected to be my favorite, was the "French onion beef dip," essentially a French dip sandwich dunked in onion soup instead of au jus. The thin-sliced beef was moist and meaty, but I found the bun too soft for this type of sandwich. Crusty on the outside but tender and airy within, it was already soggy on the bottom when the sandwich arrived at our table, before we'd made one dip into the soup.

And, though it was savory and silky textured, I found the soup a little under-flavored for sandwich-dipping purposes.

Instead, and much to my surprise, the turkey club panini was my favorite sandwich of the day: tender thin-sliced turkey, thick-cut bacon, tomatoes and an inspired combination of white cheddar cheese and a simple aioli, which melted together in the warm and crispy panini to produce a wonderfully rich but subtle dressing for the sandwich.

With the sammies, we had crispy housemade chips that could have used more salt (though I admit that's a matter of taste; I just like salty chips).

We also shared a great half-size salad of fresh peppery greens, crumbled gorgonzola cheese in a bitter-salty gorgonzola dressing, crunchy candied pecans and cubes of green apple, which gave the salad a tangy-sweet snap.

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For dessert, Brenda had a subtly (maybe too subtly) flavored strawberry eclair, while I enjoyed one of Normandie's beautiful and perfectly constructed fresh fruit tarts, sweet pastry cream in a thick crust topped with berries and Mandarin oranges. As we prepared to say goodbye until our next lunch, it was a sweet finish to the meal.

Lunch prices: Quiche and frittatas $6.50, soup and salad $3.50 to $13.95, sandwiches and wraps $3.95 to $11.95, pasta $8.95 to $11.95, combinations $7.50 to $8, baked items starting at $1.35.

Normandie Café and Bakery

Rating: ★★1/2

Where: 1984 E. Murray-Holladay Road, Holladay

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Also: Sunday brunch, table service nightly and Sunday

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.

e-mail: skratz@desnews.com