As every school child knows, there’s nothing better than a good sandwich: crusts off, peanut butter and jelly in equal parts, maybe even a little nutella and banana for a treat. But for those over the age of ten, sandwiches can get a bad rap. They get traded for wraps, for salads, falafels. And while I’m all for falafel, it doesn’t hold a candle to a good sandwich. A good, grown-up sandwich.
We spent the last week wandering around Cambridge, Mass., the culinary epicenter of good, grown-up sandwiches. As easy to find as Harvard students and Boston Red Sox Fans, are sandwiches built with rustic breads so fresh you can still smell the yeast. They are piled high with meats and vegetables perfectly spiced and slivered, slathered with cheeses, spreads, and homemade mayos that make you wish you had an old-school lunch pail to carry one to work in every day — or at least a good sandwich shop close by. And they make you remember how there’s little as good in the middle of the day as a tasty, delicious sandwich.
Take Hi-Rise Bread Co., purveyors of what might be the best sandwiches in the entire world. (I say this having eaten a LOT of sandwiches, so take me seriously.) I got to know Hi-Rise a decade ago, when I was seduced by their delicious breakfast sandwiches which I ate (rather gluttonously) on the way to Sunday services. And while indulging in one of their sammies on the way to church might come close to something of a sin, it’s only because they are so incredibly good: Ooey, gooey organic egg yolk, thick cut bacon, gorgonzola, tomato, red onion, and honey-mustard on delicious sourdough made fresh that morning in house.
And then there’s their lunch sandwiches. Really, they’re not so much sandwich as an ode to all things delicious: The #55 is homemade pork and veal pates served with pickled carrots and cucumbers, radish, cilantro, jalapeno, and serrano mayo on baguette. Or try El Presidente: Grilled Bell + Evans chicken breast alongside harissa, kalamata olive spread, tomato and red onion, all on sourdough.
These are the kind of sandwiches that get my mouth watering and, in my book, reinvent the classic lunch meal. In second grade, I started making apple and brie sandwiches on pumpernickle to take to school, but I thought I was always the odd one out. Now that I’ve grown up, I’m beginning to see that I just had a precocious start. Grown up sandwiches are delicious!
Now and again, I remember my love of really good sandwiches so much I attempt to remake them at home. This pork meatball bahn mi is pretty easy, and completely wonderful to eat — even for dinner. I also really like this Moroccan chicken sandwich, although keeping the ingredients in house is rather challenging unless you’re the sort to eat Moroccan chicken all the time. (Maybe we should be!) I also frequently make a wrap that’s a complete remake of one our college cafe served — they called it the Amour De Cosmos, and it’s spinach, chicken, apricot preserves, and jasmine rice… and it’s really, really good. Or you could go with the old standby: a delicious thanksgiving sandwich.
But the honest truth is that no sandwich is as delicious as those that come from a good, grown-up sandwich shop, perfectly wrapped in butcher paper, and ready to make the middle of your day a little bit of happy, yummy heaven. It’s the grown-up equivalent of that perfect lunchbox sandwich and a little note from mom, and just like that, it can be the little thing that makes your day. A delicious, grown-up sandwich kind of day.
Tell me, do you have a favorite sandwich place? Is there a grown-up sandwich that makes your mouth water, too? Or are you a PB&J classicist? (And for those of you living in Boston, be sure to check out Cambridge’s Flour and Darwin’s, too. Flour’s lamb sandwich is delicious, and you can’t go wrong at Darwin’s.)