Whether it’s a tray of lasagna or a foie gras torchon or the humblest of sandwiches, balanced flavors that are in tune with one another are key to a successful dish. Here, a slice of sharp cheddar lends an unconventional note to the classic salty-sweet combination of roast turkey and cranberry sauce. Iggy’s raisin-pecan bread adds texture (as do the greens), along with a pleasant sourdough twang to the mix. A smear of mayonnaise or a few slices of bacon would elevate this sandwich, but the foundation is undeniably sound and makes for a melodious party in my mouth.
Before heading out to see the fireworks along the river on Sunday, I had lunch with a couple friends at Miracle of Science near MIT. Some of the breakfast/brunch items looked tasty and I laid green eyes on some shrimp kebabs coming off the grill, but I settled for a succulent chicken breast sandwich, served with home fries and habanero mustard. Several aspects of this sandwich stood out to me. First, I was really impressed with the bun’s texture, although I was at first skeptical of its pale exterior. At slight pressure, the exterior crackled to yield soft, delicate innards that had a faint hint of butter (or was that me wishfully thinking?). Also, it gets props for smushing well while retaining burger bun integrity. For sure it is one of the top burger buns I’ve eaten. Second, the chicken was well-seasoned, moist, juicy, all the things a slab of grilled chicken must be in order to be worth eating (unless you smack your lips on dry cardboard, which I occasionally enjoy in cracker form, but not my chicken). Third, as you can see from the photo, the meat: bun diameter ratio was just about 1:1, perhaps a little greater, such that there was some nibble-licious chicken poking out the sides of the sandwich. Bun excess and/or undersized patties are a pet peeve; huge buns with not a lot of meat, and vice versa, don’t belong together on a plate.
This morning I was on the prowl for a breakfast sandwich and briefly considered the egg and cheese biscuit I could economically procure with my $0.99 Dunkin Donuts coupon. Another option was a personalized breakfast sandwich from a local deli for a very affordable $2.99, coffee included. But as the saying goes, there are breakfast sandwiches and there are breakfast sandwiches, and having absented myself of one for some time, my inclinations leaned toward the latter. That, in addition to its proximity, wireless, and faded brick walls, was how I wound up at Darwin’s (see previous post). Thankfully, thankfully, my sandwich was achingly good — eggs over medium, with perky, intensely bright yolks, crunchy grassy asparagus, fresh tomato, and savory brie oozing between toasted sourdough. The bread crust shattered on contact, its chewy innards yielding to such a heady flavor that I put down my book and succumbed to its absolute godliness. And this was a good book. Someone recently told me that good art is painful, and I would argue that the experience of eating really great food can be painful too. It makes you wince, if not physically then in other ways.
The original subject for today’s post was not the breakfast sandwich I just described but something less delicious, less delicious because sadly it never existed. Before my pursuit of a breakfast sandwich I woke up itching to make banana and granola pancakes with cranberry compote. To be honest, the thought started the night before, as I was storing away a fresh batch of granola. I had some bananas in the freezer, milk and fresh cranberries in the fridge – the stars seemed aligned. The only thing missing, but the limiting ingredient, was someone to share my pancakes with. I wanted someone to share my pancakes with, in both senses of the word. My breakfast sandwich was outstanding but it didn’t entirely erase the image in my head of what could have been.
1629 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138
Darwin’s is a self-described “unique, bohemian, shabby – chic deli and cafe.” Sounds ripe with the possibility of pretension but I will pass judgment. Anyway, their sandwiches get consistently mad raves, so I decided to check it out yesterday night and was not disappointed. Feeling beefy, I ordered The Ashton — roast beef, red onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, feta chunks, and sweet tarragon vinaigrette — on sourdough. The bread was fresh and first-rate, and in fact all the ingredients were, a must for any sandwich to impress. $8 is not cheap and will not breed a daily habit but I can definitely appreciate a gourmet sandwich with some regularity, so I might try and work my way through the menu. One every two weeks and I should be finished by spring, just in time to start all over.