Saturday, March 9, 2013

Great Northwest Sandwiches: Simple and Sublime

What makes a great sandwich?  Of course the answer is entirely subjective, but some sandwiches stand out bread and shoulders above the rest.  I say it's the lucky combination of wonderful bread filled with fresh, quality ingredients that together create something even better.  And here in the Pacific Northwest we have plenty of both.

While I love local fresh raspberries and alder plank-roasted wild salmon, a good sandwich is near the top of my food craves.   So today's post is dedicated to sandwiches I have known and loved, along with a few contributors' fave sandwiches. 

The first sandwich I fell in love with was an Italian salami sub at a little indie sub shop downtown Portland.  That shop is long gone, but the memory lingers. The mixture of a fresh, chewy sub roll piled with savory thin wine salami, tangy oil and vinegar with herbs, provolone, shredded lettuce, and spicy pepperocini was exotic compared to the meat and potatoes fare at my home when I was a kid.
Here's my random list of memorable sandwiches.  Please add yours in the comments below! 

Simple Done Well Doesn't Need More
It's a safe bet that any good artisan bakery that offers sandwiches will do a stellar job because they clearly care about quality ingredients. The top of my list is the ham and butter baguette sandwich from the Anjou Bakery in Cashmere, Washington, right off Highway 2 between Leavenworth and Wenatchee. So simple, so exquisite. With one bite through the crusty-soft bread, I'm transported back to my college days wandering the streets of Paris. With top-notch ingredients (sweet cream butter, Niman Ranch ham, fresh onsite baked bread) in a classic combination, who needs more?

Anjou Bakery ham and butter baguette sandwich

Essential Bakery, Essential Sandwiches
Set in an old refurbished brick building above Lake Union near Gasworks Park, Essential Bakery was one of Seattle's first enduring artisan bakeries.  Some years ago they added a cafe to their bakery, where tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches are served with freshly baked bread.  My favorites are their classic tuna salad sandwich (pictured above) and the sophisticated roasted fennel and shitake mushroom sandwich generously heaped with fresh arugula, herbed goat cheese, and caramelized onions on rosemary bread. (Now Essential has cafes in Madison Valley and Georgetown.)

Essential Bakery's roasted mushroom and fennel sandwich

Vietnam meets Ballard
A classic East-West fusion is the bahn mi sandwich popular in Vietnamese restaurants.  I prefer Monkey Bridge's vegetarian baguette, a light baguette stuffed with an in-house mayo and marinated tofu then topped with pickled carrots and daikon and sprigs of fresh cilantro. It's always served warm on the crispy soft bread.  I find the blend of textures (soft, crisp) and flavors (savory, tart, tangy) irresistible.  The photo below taken on my phone in low light doesn't do this splendid sandwich justice. Head to Ballard in Seattle for this treat.

Monkey Tree's vegetarian baguette sandwich
Bainbridge Bests
When visitors to Seattle ask me about ideas for things to see and do here, I always recommend hopping the ferry to Bainbridge Island. In the last decade a multitude of excellent places to eat have opened in the former downtown Winslow (now encompassed  as just Bainbridge).  I've had several outstanding lunches at the informal but charming Fork & Spoon, opened a few years ago by the owners of beloved Blackbird Bakery a few doors away.  Since I've loved tuna sandwiches since I was a wee girl, I always enjoy their tuna on whole wheat laced with thinly sliced red onions and organically grown lettuce.

Fork & Spoon tuna salad sandwich

My sister Vic, who lives on Bainbridge and works at Eagle Harbor Books, loves the deli sandwiches at Hitchcock just a few doors down.  Hitchcock is all about island-sourced, hand-crafted foods, meats, and charcuterie cured on the island. They even make their own mustard! One of my sis's favorites there is Zee German (braunschweiger, Swiss cheese, and mustard on rye).

Zee German sandwich from Hitchcock deli

Nordy's Finest
My friends Dan and Suezy rave about the roasted portobello and artichoke ciabiatta sandwich at the Southcenter Nordstrom's Cafe (right off I-5 in Tukwila near Sea-Tac Airport). Says Dan, "One of our favorite sandwiches is a crusty artisan ciabatta bread with roasted portobello mushroom, baby artichokes, spinach, a little gruyère cheese. You may want to split this hearty sandwich with a friend to save room for kettle chips or a salad, and a chocolate chip/coconut/macadamia nut cookie. Wash it all down with a Blue Moon Belgian White Ale and you are refreshed and ready to continue shopping."

Nordstrom's Cafe roasted portobello and artichoke ciabiatta with Blue Moon beer
And Many More
Because I live in the northern fringe of Ballard in Seattle and spend a lot of time there, I must plug three more great Ballard sandwiches. Any sandwich at Savour on Market Street in downtown Ballard is outstanding, made fresh with high-quality ingredients, locally sourced meats and excellent cheeses, and breads from Ballard bakeries.  Over at Miro Tea, they serve several tasty sandwiches, including the ham and swiss with roasted red onions and the light matcha chicken wrap stuffed with fresh greens and a light minty, matcha green tea-infused mayo. (Go early, their sandwiches often sell out by  early afternoon.)

Continue west on Market Street past the Ballard Locks to Paseo in the old pink shack on Shilshole Avenue facing Puget Sound. (They also have a shop on Fremont Avenue.)  I haven't eaten there in several years, but people still rave about their Caribbean-style marinated chicken sandwich. Go with a good appetite and a bib.

My friend John recommends the Bayview Star Store in Bayview on Whidbey Island (on the main highway up the island from the Clinton ferry terminal). Says John, "It's a perfect stop for picking up lunch on the way to Ebey's Landing or Fort Casey for a hike. They use really good ingredients and make all sandwiches to order. My favorite is the half molinari salami on multigrain, with a small bag of kettle salt and pepper chips."

I love half sandwich and salad combos, Essential Bakery

The topic of good sandwiches elicited an excited response from Suezy, "OH...Oh...Oh! I love Rebar Modern Food Restaurant in Victoria, B.C. They have some fantastic sandwiches. Favorites: Tempeh Reuben with Swiss Cheese, Beets and Sauerkraut, or The Rebar Club with Lox, Shrimp, Chipotle Mayonnaise and Avocado....but my #1 Fav from there is the Cheddar Chutney Grilled Cheese with Green Apple and Watercress....OH I'm really hungry."

My niece Lindsey, a Ballardite, loves the huge, freshly made sandwiches at the Other Coast Cafe East Coast-style deli on Ballard Avenue (my favorite there is the turkey) and the meatball subs at Olympic Pizza

I've got to give a shout-out for the made-to-order sandwiches at the Homegrown Market & Deli in Eastsound on Orcas Island. When I was there for a weekend this winter, I let go of restraint and got three of their sandwiches over four days. My choice was wonderful fresh whole grain bread, natural Applegate turkey, organically grown carrots, spinach, pickles slathered with organic mustard and light mayo. These sandwiches are so big that I ordered a half each time.

I know there are many more great sandwiches here in the Northwest (and elsewhere).  Absent from my list is anything in Oregon.  Sorry, haven't spent enough time down there recently and didn't get any feedback from my Portland peeps.  So you Oregonians need to chime in with a comment below about where to get your favorite sammies!

Where and what are your favorites?


Anne said...

You will have to board the "way back machine" for this one but here is one from Oregon. Sadly the place is no longer there. When driving to California when we were children, as most people did not fly then, we would go down Highay 99 before the days of I-5. Just across the bridge over the Columbia there was a huge sign on the left for "Waddells" with a duck. We HAD to stop for the most delectable Peanut Butter and Oregon sandwich. The Oregon was of course Oregon blackberries. Today's sandwiches have become fancier and sooo delicious but I will remember clamoring to stop at Waddell's forever.

mab said...

My favorite sandwich place is Specialty Bakery at U Village. Try the turkey and swiss with a hot latte to go...

Misha Henshaw said...

This post was so much fun to read as so many of the places took me back to a bike ride or a ski trip. This past February 16th was my birthday and the search for sun and snow led us to Anjoy Bakery...for a sandwich on their patio...and so worth every layer of down I wore. Thanks for this.

Denise said...

When I have a very physical sessions with clients- a go to sandwich is the “Medina” at the QFC deli. There is both Boarshead ham and turkey, avocado, tomato, on a rustic bread. There is more to it and it is all so tasty. They are premade in the deli and I just have them slice it and I am on my way. Hold together well if I need to eat it in the car travelling between clients.

Jill said...

I remember Waddell's, but not that sandwich.

jill said...

Happy belated birthday Misha!

jill said...

I used to get their cookies in San Francisco. Will have to try the sandwiches but no latte for me!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jilli:
Good post on the sandwiches. I agree with several of the ones noted above, but would add the 3 Girls Bakery at the Pike Place Market. A classic sandwich venue.

Katy said...

I would add the BLT at the Buffalo Deli on 1st Avenue in Seattle just north of Lenora.

Ed said...

Wow so many great little time. Seattle is such a great place for eats!