Monday, July 15, 2019

Rant: A Tale of Two Buns

"The purpose of the sandwich... is to effectively deliver protein or other stuff into your mouth without a fork. Structure, texture, and proportion are as central to the success or failure of the sandwich as its taste. That may be the very best chopped liver, but if the rye bread surrounding it falls apart, you may as well eat it out of a fucking trough."
--Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

This is a tale of two buns: one success, one failure. Anthony speaks the truth, that the structure of the bread is a significant aspect of a sandwich and if it falls apart, the sandwich is a failure.

Last week, a good friend from Minnesota came to visit Boston and I acted as a tour guide for part of his time while he was here. We visited several restaurants, with seafood being prominent, and the bread issue arose at two of the places we visited. To me, the main takeaway is that restaurants need to pay more attention to sandwich bread, and not just show concern for the fillings.

This is a picture of a successful sandwich, one where the bread is a rock star!

Cusser’s Roast Beef & Seafood, located within the Moon Bar of the Mooncusser Fish House, is open for lunch, from Monday to Friday. Their small menu offers Roast Beef Sandwiches and various seafood dishes, from Fish Tacos to Swordfish Souvlaki. My friend had their Fish & Chips, a delicious beer battered fish-of-the-day which was Striped Bass that day. An excellent, seasonal and more unique choice.

I opted for the North Shore-style Roast Beef Sandwich, which was as scrumptious as always. The roast beef was tender and flavorful, complemented by the tangy barbecue sauce. The roll, as I've mentioned before, is perfect. It was served warm and was soft and fresh, with the slight crunch of the seeds atop the roll. Honestly, the rolls you get at most North Shore roast beef joints aren't particularly interesting or memorable. This roll is a success on multiple levels, being a fine vehicle for the roast beef, and the ratio of bread to filling was also very good. The rolls are made daily by their talented pastry chef Katherine Hamilburg. When designing this sandwich, they spent lots of time creating the roll, more than any other aspect of the sandwich.

That dedication has paid off, as they now serve one of the best Roast Beef sandwiches in the area, and that is due, in large part, to their compelling roll. With a more ordinary roll, their sandwich probably wouldn't be as worthy of the accolades.

This is a picture of a failed sandwich, one with plenty of potential but where the bread was lacking.

Another one of our stops was at a well-known seafood restaurant, which receives raves for its Lobster Rolls. I opted for the Lobster Roll ($32), hot with butter, and it came on a toasted brioche roll. There was an ample portion of buttery lobster, and the meat was sweet and tender. It certainly had the potential to be a winner of a sandwich except there was a failure in the structure of the bread. Apparently, there was too much butter, which soaked through the soft roll, causing the middle of it to fall apart and making it difficult to eat as a sandwich. In the end, I had to use a fork to eat most of the lobster, and that shouldn't have happened.

I wanted a sandwich and at the price I paid, the roll shouldn't have failed.

Restaurants, pay attention to your buns! Don't make them an after thought. Put careful consideration into your choices as it can make or break your sandwiches. It doesn't matter how delicious the fillings, without good bread, the sandwich just won't succeed. Your choice of bread can even elevate your sandwich above many others which don't pay as much attention to their bread.

What sandwiches do you enjoy which are made even better because of the bread that is used?

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