Category

Sandwiches

Category

Sometimes the Simplest Things are the Best

Ham and butter baguetteI was trying to go to a bistro called Le Comptoir du Relais; it was completely full (it almost never occurs to me to make reservations, so this actually happens a lot).  They do, however, have a small take-out window with sandwiches and pastries.  I figured this was a pretty good opportunity to try a ham and butter sandwich, which is supposedly the second most popular sandwich in France.

(The first?  Burgers.  Everyone loves burgers.)

It was so good.  The crispy (but not overly crunchy) exterior of the baguette combined with the pleasantly chewy interior makes this the perfect bread for a sandwich like this.  Combined with the really good quality ham, a very generous slathering of salted butter, and a few slightly sweet cornichons to add some crunch and balance out the rich butter and the fatty ham, it was close to sandwich perfection.  It was maybe the best ham sandwich I’ve ever had.

Crepe with butter and sugar

For dessert?  The butter theme continued with a beurre-sucre crepe (butter and sugar).  This is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a crepe, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar.  It doesn’t sound like much, but the slightly buttery flavour combined with the slight crunch you get from the sugar works shockingly well on the freshly-made crepe.

Unexpected Falafel Deliciousness in Paris

L'As du FallafelThe first time I saw L’As du Fallafel on a list of the best places to eat in Paris, my reaction was basically “falafel in Paris?? Get the hell out of here.”

The second time, I was like “did you not hear me? I said get the hell out of here.”

The third and fourth time, I decided to start paying attention.

It’s a pretty clear consensus: L’As du Fallafel is one of the must-eat restaurants in Paris, so yeah, of course I checked it out.  It didn’t quite blow me away, but I’d say its reputation is deserved — if I had a top ten list of the best falafel I’ve ever had, it’d be on there somewhere.

Falafel from L'As du Fallafel

They do a couple of things that I think elevate this place from good to great.  The first is that the size of the actual falafel balls is probably about half of what you’re used to; this allows you to get more of them, which ups the sandwich’s crisp-factor.

They also construct the sandwich by adding the falafel balls, toppings, and sauce, and then repeating this process several times so that you get multiple layers of everything.  This is actually pretty brilliant, because you wind up with the perfect amount of all of the components in every bite.

Otherwise it’s a fairly standard falafel sandwich, though the addition of roasted eggplant is quite inspired.

Also: holy crap this thing is a mess.  I made the mistake of trying to eat it while walking, and of course I wound up with some on my pants, because how could I not?

Something’s Fishy about this Sandwich

Fischbrötchen in Hamburg, GermanyI mentioned, in my last post, that they’re pretty seafood crazy here in Hamburg.  Specifically, they seem to really love fish sandwiches, because pretty much everywhere you go near the water, there are about a million different vendors serving them up.

The most famous sandwiches are the Bismark, which consists of pickled herring and onion, and Matjes, which consists of a different type of pickled herring, also served with onion.

I should probably note that the last time I had pickled herring, I hated it.  I also really don’t like raw onion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Michael, if you don’t like pickled herring, and you don’t like raw onion, why would you eat a sandwich that consists entirely of pickled herring and raw onion?

That’s an excellent question.

I mean, other than the fact that I’m clearly insane?  I just felt obligated.  These sandwiches are such a big deal here that I needed to know what all the fuss was about, even if I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to enjoy it.  I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

Fish sandwiches from Fischbrötchen in Hamburg, Germany

I was not pleasantly surprised.

The pickled herring was as I remembered it — fishy, vinegary, mushy, and in your face. It’s an acquired taste if there ever was one, and it’s a taste that I have very decidedly not acquired.  Though I typically don’t like raw onion, it was actually kind of welcome here, if only because it was the only thing to cut the pungent intensity of the herring.

Of the two sandwiches, I definitely preferred the Matjes — it was, at least, a bit mellower.  It wasn’t quite the unforgiving assault of fishy sourness.  But no, it wasn’t particularly good — just slightly less unpleasant than the other one.

Adding insult to injury?  That fishy, oniony flavour lingered on my palate for the entire day.  It  was the worst.

Sometimes You Just Need to Have a Burger

BurgermeisterWhile searching for the best places to eat in Berlin, a burger joint called Burgermeister came up a lot.  Typically, this would be the type of recommendation that I’d dismiss without much thought; I’m sure there’s great Mexican/Vietnamese/whatever cuisine in every city I visit, but unless I’m in Mexico/Vietnam/Whateverland, I just have no interest in that food.

But I have to admit: the only burger I’ve eaten since starting this trip has been a fairly abysmal one from McDonald’s.  My burger blog — which I kept going right up until I left — had me eating burgers regularly for years.  I was jonesing.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that yeah, I ate a burger.  I’m weak.

Burgermeister

It’s in a really unique location under a bridge, and it is insanely popular.  When I went, I had to wait about fifteen minutes in a very long line, and then another half hour or so for my burger to be ready.

I don’t know if my burger craving made it seem better than it was, but it was quite good.  The patty was beefy, juicy, and had a decent amount of crust from the griddle.  It certainly wasn’t perfect — the beefy flavour was a bit subdued, it could have been juicier, and it was a bit heavier on the condiments than I typically like — but if I were reviewing it for Tasty Burgers, I’d give it three-and-a-half out of four.  I quite enjoyed it.

Doner Kebab Perfection in Berlin

KebabPrepare yourself: this is going to be one of those posts where I rave about something that I ate, and where you think “jeez, this guy needs to get a grip.”

Because I just ate a kebab sandwich from Rüyam Gemüse Kebab, and holy frigging moly you guys. Holy frigging moly.

Doner kebab isn’t necessarily the first dish that comes to mind when you think about German cuisine, but kebab joints are everywhere here.

At Rüyam Gemüse Kebab, you can get either a wrap or a sandwich; the sandwich was named “gemüse kebab,” and since it’s typically a good idea to order a restaurant’s eponymous dish, that’s what I went with.

Kebab perfection

You can choose between three sauces — I think the first two were a parsley sauce and a garlic sauce, and honestly I’m not even sure what the third sauce was because I was pretty much immediately like “I’ll take all three!”  I’m not sure if that’s what people typically do, but if that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right.

Here’s the problem I have with a lot of shawarma, or gyro, or doner, or any number of similar rotating meat dishes that I’ve had back home: they frequently carve the meat before it’s fully brown and crispy, and you wind up with something that’s just soft and boring and bland.  That’s absolutely not the case here.  I mean, just take a look at this picture:

Doner

I took that about a minute before the guy carved off the top layer of crispy amazingness.  A lot of times you have a sandwich like this and you’re lucky to get one or two pieces with crispy bits.  Here, they’re all crispy bits.

They then mix up the freshly carved meat with little cubes of fried potatoes, which adds even more texture and flavour.  The sandwich is served with a bunch of veggies, the meat, and the sauces, and the ratio of sauce to meat to vegetable is dead on.  Every bite has just the right amount of everything and it’s a goddamned flavour explosion.  I’ve eaten a lot of great stuff since starting this trip — this was right up there among the best.

McDonald’s Around the World: Austria Edition

McDonald's AustriaI had some flat-out awful meals at McDonald’s in Spain and Italy — meals that were so bad, they made me look at my life and think “am I doing this right?”  Well, here comes the land of Arnold Schwarzenegger to hold out a hand and let me know I’m doing just fine.  Because McDonald’s in Austria knows how to do it.

I had a few things: a McCountry sandwich, waffle fries, and a beer.

McDonald's Austria

Yeah, that’s right, McDonald’s serves beer here.

The McCountry sandwich was kind of like a McRib, only with red onions instead of regular onions, and curry sauce and mustard instead of BBQ sauce.  So… not at all like a McRib, actually.  But it’s made out of pork!

This was surprisingly decent.  The pork patty was dried out and nothing particularly special, but the combination of the sweet curry sauce and the mustard was satisfying.  I’m not a fan of raw onions, but even those were fine — the sauces were strong enough that they really only added crunch.

McCountry sandwich

The waffle fries were pretty good as well.  They were nice and crispy, and whatever they seasoned them with worked fairly well.  I ordered the “Hot Devil” dipping sauce to go with these, and oh man — that sauce is not kidding around.  There’s no way in hell a fast food joint back home would serve something even close to that spicy.  Legit hot.

The beer (!) was good too.  It was a pretty run-of-the-mill lager, but still… beer at McDonald’s!

Fried!

The meal was such a pleasant surprise, I figured I may as well get a dessert.  I got the raspberry cream cheese pie, and first of all, it was fried, so it’s automatically amazing.  The day McDonald’s at home started baking instead of frying their pies was the day that joy died.  Fried is so much better, it’s ridiculous.  I mean, look at that crispy, crackly exterior!

Pie!

The inside was pretty good, too — satisfyingly tart and not too sweet.  A solid ending to a surprisingly decent meal.

 

The Porchetta Sandwich of my Dreams

BaccanaleThere’s a place back in Toronto called Porchetta and Co. that serves what was, up until now, the best porchetta that I’ve ever had. I had kind of assumed that it was porchetta perfection; I honestly didn’t think it could be topped.

It has been topped. Sorry, Porchetta and Co.: your porchetta sandwich is officially garbage.

I wasn’t even planning to eat at Baccanale; I was actually on my way to another restaurant, but then — wait, what’s this? Oh, that looks good.

Tasty lookin' porchetta

Andrew Zimmern signs off every episode of Bizarre Foods with “if it looks good, eat it.”

I try to live my life by those words.

So yes, I ate the porchetta sandwich, and its deliciousness shot through me like a lightning bolt.

So good

The porchetta was everything. Every element of it was almost upsettingly good. It was porky, salty, herby, fatty, crispy, tender goodness.

Here’s another picture, closer to the middle of the sandwich that gives you a better idea of what the porchetta distribution looked like. The pork was an amazingly well-balanced mix of thinly-sliced lean pieces and thickly-cut fatty pieces. It was tender and amazing, with just enough fat to keep things interesting, but not enough to overwhelm.

THE BEST

And the crackling. Oh, the crackling. There was enough of it that every bite had some, and it was so intensely flavoured and perfectly crispy — but not overly crunchy — that it defied logic and reason.

The flavour almost bordered on too intense — too herby and salty — but it never was. It was perfect.

I mean, the whole damn thing was perfect. I’m being ridiculously effusive here, but how could I not? It was all so good.

The bread was pretty great too: hot and crispy on the outside (they put it in a panini press to order) and fluffy on the inside, with just enough heft to hold up to all that amazing pork.

The only downside? I used to love Porchetta and Co., but it’s ruined now. Absolutely ruined.

Saved by a Random Food Festival (or: The Greatest Pork Sandwich I’ve Ever Had)

Food in the parkSo here’s a thing that happens a bunch in Portugal. You’ll head to a restaurant, all excited to try whatever dish they’re known for; you’ve walked a few kilometres to get there, and oh, what’s this?  Yeah, they’re closed for the next three weeks.  Apparently Portuguese chefs love to shut down for the month of August.

This recently happened to me (for the third or fourth time), and so I was wandering around looking for something to eat.  I very quickly (and fortuitously) stumbled on a park that just happened to be hosting the Porto Food Festival.

Look at all that pork

The most compelling booth featured an older guy expertly dismantling a suckling pig and turning it into tasty-looking sandwiches; I can’t say no to a delicious pork sandwich, so I ordered one.

I’m not 100% certain about this, but I’m pretty sure that this sandwich can grant wishes.  That’s how magical it was.

This is the stuff dreams are made of

It was so good.  The pork was amazingly tender, with the perfect amount of unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth fat.  It was perfectly seasoned with just a little bit of salt to bring out the rich, porky flavour; sometimes pork can be a little bland, or if it hasn’t been freshly prepared, can taste a little gamy.  This was neither of those things.  It just had a really clean, immensely satisfying pork flavour.

They were also ridiculously generous with the crispy bits of skin; usually in a sandwich like this you’ll get a few pieces, but here the crackling was abundant enough that it was practically in every mouthful.

Apparently this booth is run by a restaurant that’s been roasting pork since 1983 called O Zé Pacheco.  All it takes is one bite to tell they’ve been at this for many years.  It was phenomenal.

A Cheesy, Saucy (and Delicious) Mess

So goodIf you were under the impression that over-the-top gut-busting meals are the sole domain of the United States, prepare to be proven wrong, sir.  Because here in Porto, there’s an insane sandwich that’s just as artery-clogging as anything you’ll find at the carnival.

This magnificent creation is called the francesinha; I ate it at the Cafe Santiago, which is (rightfully) famous for its version of this particular sandwich.

It’s a ham, bologna, sausage, and steak sandwich — that alone sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  But they’re not done yet.  The whole thing is topped with a fried egg and draped with melty cheese (that’s strategically placed to cover the egg white, but leave the runny yolk exposed).  Oh, and then they douse the whole thing in gravy and surround it with a ring of fries.  Why?  Why the hell not, that’s why.

Yes

It’s pretty magnificent.  I mean, how could it not be?  It’s an indulgent pile of meat, melty cheese, and gravy-soaked bread.  All of the meats are quite tasty, particularly the zingy sausage, though the steak is a little bit tough (which is probably my only real complaint about this thing).

The gravy — which kind of reminded me of a spicy version of Swiss Chalet sauce — really brings it all together.  And the fries are handy to help soak up all that gravy, because there’s a lot of it.

McDonald’s Around the World: Portugal Edition

McDonald'sMaybe it’s because I’ve been going to the place since I was a kid, and thus have fuzzy childhood memories, but I like McDonald’s.  I don’t eat there a whole lot, but every time they add something new to the menu, I feel compelled to check it out.

Here in Portugal they have the usual assortment of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads — the most interesting thing is their take on the bifana, called McBifana (natch).

McBifana

It’s alright, I guess.  They replace the sliced pork of the original with two pork burger patties; most of the flavour comes from the surprisingly garlicky sauce that they slather all over it.

There’s definitely nothing wrong with it, though at around four Euros it’s almost double what an actual bifana costs.  Considering that the real deal is more substantial, tastier, and cheaper, it’s hard to justify ordering this thing.

A couple more thoughts after the jump.