The dawn of a sandwich renaissance

The much-maligned tuna melt may have finally found its place among the upper crust

Why do people mock me? Apparently, because it’s easy.

Who knew a tuna sandwich would turn me into a target? I love a sandwich. But not just any sandwich — a great sandwich.

There are tons of criteria for what makes a sandwich great but it all starts with the bread, which at my house is also known as a meat and cheese delivery vessel.  It doesn’t always have to be delivering meat and cheese but the bread is what can make or break a sandwich. It is, after all, what brings the whole thing together.

Too crusty, it can damage the roof of your mouth, too soft and it just turns into mush when it comes in contact with the mayo/mustard.  Too thin and it won’t support the contents, too thick and it detracts from the contents.

Then there’s the question of white, wheat, multigrain, sourdough or rye? It is a very complicated process choosing the appropriate bread. The bread-to-filling ratio is also a key component in the success of any good sandwich.  A sandwich truly is one of those things that is only as good as the sum of its parts.

It seems to me that I am seeing more “gourmet”  (read — fancy and expensive) sandwiches popping up on restaurant menus everywhere and there are actually even a few sandwich-centric restaurants opening and just focusing on creating really great sandwiches.

Is it possible there is a sandwich renaissance underway?  If there is, I say bring it. Long live the sandwich.

Recently at lunch with a friend, one of the offerings was a tuna melt and my level of interest in the lunch menu went from two to 10 in about 2.3 seconds.

Ahhhh, a tuna melt, the food of my youth.

Growing up, it was tinned tuna mixed with Miracle Whip and green relish slathered on soft, non-consequential white bread topped with a slice of processed cheese that was then nuked and served as a tuna melt. There are so many things wrong with that specific combination, I can’t even begin to describe my relief that I can still look at a tuna sandwich and actually want to eat it.

Thankfully, the tuna melt on this particular restaurant menu bore no resemblance to the sandwiches I remember making for myself all those years ago — a sandwich artist I was not.

This particular $10 sandwich was made with white albacore, line-caught tuna (no less), house made mayonnaise, celery, dill pickle, fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper with aged white cheddar and thickly sliced ripe tomatoes and it was served on crusty artisan bread.

Yowza!  This, for me, is the true definition of kicked-up comfort food. I placed my order and wiped the drool from my chin in anticipation of greatness, just as my friend leaned over and whispered to me, “1977 called, they want their sandwich back”.

Little did he know that this sandwich was nothing like the sandwiches I had eaten in 1977 and he, like my sister the tuna hater from way back, was going to miss out on sandwich greatness because, unlike me, he couldn’t get past the tuna trauma of his youth.

I am happy to report that the sandwich was everything I ever hoped for and more, I even went back the next day for another one just to be sure.

Angie Quaale is a local foodie and owner of Well Seasoned gourmet food store.

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