Sunday, September 20, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #38 - Avenue Club aka The Debutante Sandwich

Sandwich: B.E.L.T. Breakfast Sandwich
Location: Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar
Date: September 19, 2015
Cost: $10 served with choice of mixed greens or breakfast potatoes.

Everybody in Madison already knows the Avenue Bar was recently closed for remodeling and retooling and is now known as Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar. It almost sounds like the title of a Hardy Boys book or Scooby Doo episode - The Avenue Gang Solves The Case Of The Bubble Up Bar. Maybe not. Most likely everybody will still call it "The Avenue" and I would be skeptical of anybody that refers to it as the Avenue Club, or worse, the Bubble Up Bar.

They have reopened and Saturday was their first day serving brunch. This gave me the opportunity to get the very first breakfast sandwich served from the kitchen. I arrived exactly at 8:00 and there was already a group of four seated and at least one other person who had arrived just before me. As far as restaurants go it's a fairly large space and I ended up sitting in at the Bubble Up Bar, so I don't know if I actually was the first person to order the breakfast sandwich. I'm somewhat confident the four top didn't order the breakfast sandwich - they were older folks and that generation remembers a time when breakfast sandwiches didn't exist AND THEY LIKED IT THAT WAY.

Or did they? In Breakfast: A History, Heather Arndt Anderson references a cookbook from 1897 by Maud C. Cooke that contains a breakfast sandwich recipe. The book has the delightful title of Breakfast, Dinner And Supper, Or What To Eat And How To Prepare It: Containing All The Latest Approved Recipes ... Including Hygienic And Scientific Cooking, Rules For Dinner Giving... They sure knew how to name books back then. I have to admit I haven't read either of these books but after learning more about Maud I think I'd like to have a sandwich with her.

Maud also published a book titled Social Life, or, The Manners and Customs of Polite Society which contains this gem regarding courting - "The charming and fascinating power of serpents over birds is as nothing compared with that a woman can wield over a man, and he over her." Maud - your insight cuts to the bone!

In reference to musical entertainment at a soiree or lawn party, there is this advice which seems to reveal that there have always been blowhards who will ruin a concert with their yammering:

"When any one is playing or singing, let the company preserve silence, and if they should converse, let it be in the lowest tones. To interrupt a performer is the worst possible taste. Instrumental performers have as much right to expect the courtesy of silence as vocalists. The hostess has the privilege of indicating, to a noisy group, by a gesture, her desire for silence. Those who will talk should at least withdraw from the immediate vicinity of the instrument. If asked to play an accompaniment, do so, not to display your own accomplishments, but so as to afford the best possible support for the singer."

So, anyway, I don't think the old people ordered the breakfast sandwich. I'm going to assume that I was the first person to do so. When the debut breakfast sandwich came out of the kitchen there was no fanfare, the staff didn't crowd around and clap or sing a song about sandwiches. Its almost like they didn't realize the gravity of the situation. Perhaps they were indifferent, which would be sad.

The Avenue offers two breakfast sandwiches:

B.E.L.T. Breakfast Sandwich
Fried egg, crisp bacon, mixed greens, tomato, and Widmer's brick cheese spread on a grilled sourdough roll, served with your choice of mixed greens or breakfast potatoes.

Egg and Avocado
A toasted English muffin, chunky avocado, sunny side up egg, and grilled tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar-honey reduction.

It has one of those club sandwich decorative toothpick thingys! 

Layers, revealed.
The Sandwich - I went with the B.E.L.T. with the side of mixed greens. The avocado sandwich sounded good as well but that will have to wait until a later visit. The chicken egg is fried, as advertised, and I would have preferred it over-medium or runny in some capacity. The mixed greens listed in the description were replaced with romaine lettuce. I don't know if they did this because I ordered the mixed greens on the side but I was fine with the romaine - it gave the sandwich a whiff of a healthy crunch. Brick cheese isn't offered on many breakfast sandwiches and I found that to be refreshing. I felt like there was a little extra layer of something creamy on here, maybe some mayo? Maybe it was just the cheese. The tomato was fine, the bacon was fine, the roll was fine although it didn't really seem grilled. The best way to describe this sandwich may be to say that it was perfectly OK. Not bad. Not great. Just good. I think its biggest flaw is it is served on a hearty roll and yet the contents don't require it. This sandwich could be twice as sloppy as it already is and it wouldn't be too much to handle. 

The mixed greens on the side were tossed with radish and red onion. It seems that all breakfast greens are served with a tangy dressing and these were no exception. They were slightly overdressed for my tastes, but not soggy, and they were delicious. 

The Result - 3.03 Maud C. Cooke's out of 5 Maud C. Cooke's? What rating is perfectly middle of the pack? Mathematically speaking, on a scale of 1-5, I suppose 2.5 would be perfectly average. That feels too low though and I'm not going to go back through the previous reviews to see how this should slot in, but 3.03 sounds about right.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #37 - Einstein Bagels aka It Doesn't Take A Genius

Sandwich: Applewood Bacon & Cheddar on a Green Chile Bagel
Location: Einstein Bros. Bagels (East Washington Ave.)
Date: September 11, 2015
Cost: $4.50*

Einstein Bros Bagels is another chain restaurant that's been around Madison for years. I have no idea how they came to be named Einstein but it doesn't appear to have anything to do with that smart fella Albert. Occasionally a coworker brings some of their bagels and coffee into the office but that's about the extent of my interaction with them. I have a vague recollection of stopping at one in Indiana and getting a breakfast sandwich to fuel a Sunday morning drive home, but that was several years ago.

The point is, I knew they had breakfast sandwiches but I wasn't sure I had tried one. With a busy weekend in front of me I stopped in on a Friday morning so I could keep up with the sandwich calendar. Back in May I was ahead of schedule on researching 52 breakfast sandwiches but it's tough to keep up during the summer and now I am exactly on track - if I skip a week I'll be behind schedule. You have no idea how stressful this is. (It really isn't but it does cause me to question my level of dedication.) At a time when science seems to be an afterthought, particularly in Wisconsin, I feel the least I can do is to stick with my research although grant money for the Sandwich Sciences has all but dried up. It's literally crumbs at this point.

I didn't take a photo of the menu but they have several options of egg sandwich available.

It was immediately apparent that ordering this sandwich on the Green Chile bagel was a mistake.

It looks even worse from this angle
The Sandwich - Applewood Bacon & Cheddar on a Green Chile Bagel. You get your choice of bagel and I saw the little sign for Green Chili and it sounded intriguing so I made the choice. The initial order was for an Onion bagel and then I changed it. I don't how the green chili bagels come to be, but I assumed they would have some chilis cooked into the dough and that would be it. When I unwrapped the sandwich at work it looked like they had dumped a can of roasted green chilis on the top. Or, maybe it had been dropped back behind the counter where nobody ever cleans. Or, maybe something worse.

You can see that it wasn't particularly brimming with bacon or cheese, but the egg looked alright. I don't know how much one can expect of a sandwich at a place like this. The whole thing seems to be cooked in microwaves. I should have paid closer attention but I didn't realize I was in a downward sandwich spiral. Speaking of downward spirals, there is a restaurant in Atlanta called The Vortex that looks promising.

Wait a second, I'm not done complaining about the bagel. The biggest problem with the green chili bagel is the texture. Not the bagel part, the chili part. If you've ever roasted chilis you know how they feel in your hands - slimy. That's how they feel in your mouth as well. Slimy is not a descriptor you want for your sandwich at 8:30 in the morning.

The Result - 2.95 Alberts out of 5 Alberts. Albert Einstein probably wouldn't have been as impulsive as myself and may have looked over the complete selection of bagels before making his choice. That would have been the smart thing to do. I have to accept some responsibility for ordering this sandwich the way that I did, but, I can only review the sandwich as it was presented. Sliminess aside, the chilis had a nice heat to them, not overly spicy, but a good kick. They really ended up being the only distinct flavor of the sandwich. Bites from the edges that didn't have chilis were rather bland - no salty bacon flavor, no sharp cheddar - although the texture was much better. I'm not sure if eating this on an onion bagel would have changed much other than the texture.

*I think the sandwich was $4.50. It may have been $4.75. By the time I got home from work I had lost the receipt.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Breakfast Sandwich #36 - La Brioche aka In Search Of...

Sandwich: Croissant Sandwich
Location: La Brioche
Date: September 7, 2015
Cost: $10.75

I was up early on Labor Day and went In Search Of...Places That Serve Breakfast Sandwiches On Labor Day. My initial searches weren't turning up any conclusive answers.  It was just like the TV show but with far less conjecture and poorly done dramatic reenactment. Also without the Leonard Nimoy voiceover. Web sites aren't always updated to list holiday hours and some places only serve breakfast sandwiches on the weekend and Monday doesn't count even if it is a holiday weekend. It was soon apparent that the evidence available online at 6 am could only be deemed inconclusive and I would need to start making some phone calls when places opened.

La Brioche was open and I had been excited about trying the breakfast sandwich they list online - Pancetta, Organic Over-Easy Egg, Arugula, Tomato Aioli, Herb Aioli, Toasted Sourdough. Sourdough isn't offered with enough breakfast sandwiches and they're doubling up on the aioli! It sounds amazing - but it wasn't to be. That sandwich is on the Breakfast menu and they were only serving the Brunch menu on this day, which still has a breakfast sandwich, just not THAT breakfast sandwich.

I have to admit I was disappointed but I wasn't going to let it color my review.

The Croissant Sandwich features zero aiolis. 

Put some googly eyes on it and it might look like a croissant trying to eat an omelet in a single bite.

Bacon and cheddar wrapped up tight!
The Sandwich - Croissant, Scrambled Eggs, Cheddar, Nitrate-Free Bacon with Organic Spring Mix Salad. It may be hard to tell from the photos but when this sandwich comes out of the kitchen it's roughly the shape of and definitely the size of a child's football. Not a toddlers football, but a football that a Dad would buy an eight year old that is too big now but he hopes the kid will grow into. Which is to say, it's huge. They serve it with a serrated knife so you can portion it into manageable fractions.

This croissant isn't anything like the Madison Sourdough version - its bigger, a bit denser and less flaky. I didn't think it was as good, but the Madison Sourdough croissant wouldn't have held up to the innards of this sandwich, which are ample indeed. It is kind of like an omelet somewhat tucked in there. The chicken eggs were cooked well, and there was a copious amount of cheddar, although I wanted it meltier. The bacon is the real star of this sandwich. It's nitrate-free, so it's missing that succulent nitrate flavor, but its still fantastic. I'm joking about the nitrate flavor. The bacon was great - salty and crisp and everything you expect from excellent bacon. With strategically placed chomps it was possible to get all the flavors in a single bite.

The spring mix salad was refreshing and is always welcome. Several places offer this as a side and it's pretty much the same at all of them - crisp greens with a light coating of tangy dressing. 

The Result - 4.00 Leonard Nimoys out of 5.00 Leonard Nimoys. This is a really good sandwich. When I looked at the menu I thought it was a little pricey, but I didn't know how huge it was. I feel like I'm giving it bonus points for quantity, and I don't want to do that, but I think it's happening. I like the cheddar and bacon combo here, that counts for something too. Part of this rating is the whole experience as well - it was a quiet morning, I was the only person dining there and the setting was right for day three of a holiday weekend. I'm definitely going back to try the other breakfast sandwich but that might not happen until 2016.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Diversions - Pop-Tarts Breakfast Sandwich

I'd love to try this but I plan to never step foot in Disney World. I believe 4&20 Bakery (web site currently under renovation) makes a homemade Pop-Tart, and I know they make a righteous breakfast sandwich. Maybe they could be cajoled into making something like the Pop-Tarts Breakfast Sandwich

I don't get that blog - it appears to be Disney reviewing its own food offerings.

Still, I like the concept of the Pop-Tarts Breakfast Sandwich.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Breakfast (Not) Sandwich #35 - Bradbury's aka What In The Hell Is This Crepe?

Sandwich: Sausage + Kale + Sungold tomatoes + Corn + Muenster + a Fried Egg
Location: Bradbury's Coffee
Date: August 29, 2015
Cost: $8

A crepe is not a sandwich. There is no way to stretch the definition to pretend that a crepe is a sandwich. Over the past several weeks many have asked me what counts as a breakfast sandwich. Does a breakfast taco count? Yes, but I don't know if I'll get around to reviewing any. It occurred to me while I was writing this that some communities, such as Austin, Texas, probably have enough taco places that one could write a blog about tacos only. Sure enough, this Taco Journalism link looks pretty bad-ass, and Corpus Christie apparently has enough taco joints to spawn the Tacotopia blog. Check out that sweet Tacotopia logo. Finally, there is The Taco Trail, which also looks amazing. I don't have time right now to really check those blogs out, but I like what I've seen so far.

If a breakfast taco counts I suppose that means a breakfast burrito counts, but I'm not inclined to review one. It feels like one more step away from a "sandwich" because burritos are not usually eaten with your hands. Crepes aren't either. Side note - the A.M. Crunchwrap can be eaten with your hands.

I don't care, my publisher said I could review a crepe so I'm counting this towards the goal of 52 sandwiches. On a few occasions I've passed over more enticing menu items in order to stay focused on my research and this week I decided to go to one of my favorite breakfast spots, SANDWICHES BE DAMNED!

Bradbury's has been open since 2008 and it's been a favorite breakfast spot of mine for much of that time. Early on weekend mornings the vibe there is very quiet and relaxed. This day they had Fleetwood Mac playing which transitioned into ELO before my crepe arrived.

The menu changes depending on what's in season but I think the general rule is to have sweet and savory options on the menu at any given time. Currently, the menu features three items (and this description will have to do as I didn't take a photo of the menu board).

Ham + Smoked Gouda + Cracked Egg + Whole Grain Mustard
Sausage + Kale + Sungold tomatoes + Corn + Muenster + a Fried Egg
Heirloom Tomatoes + House Made Ricotta + Dill + Scrambled Eggs

Enticing equations.

Worthy of being painted on a chapel ceiling.
The (Non) Sandwich - Sausage + Kale + Sungold tomatoes + Corn + Muenster + a Fried Egg. I probably would have been happy with any of the options but the sausage sounded the most breakfasty of the choices and I've been into kale lately. Muenster and I go way back and corn sealed the deal. It's late August in Wisconsin, corn is always a good idea this time of year. Also, sungold tomatoes, another lock in late summer. The salty sausage mixed with the bitter kale and the crunchy, sweet corn, oooooh baby, that's tasty! All that is left to talk about are the chicken egg and the crepe-cake. Knowing the egg was fried was another bonus as I correctly surmised that it would be over easy or runny in some capacity. Bingo. I don't have anything smart to say about crepe pancakes (collective response - "No shit"), but it held everything together which is to say it did its job.

I'm not sure there is any value in my going on and on about how delicious this was, but it was excellent. All the pieces came together to create something more than the sum of their parts, and that's really saying something.

Still, it wasn't a sandwich.

The Result - 4.90 Blasphemies out of 5 Blasphemies. It's not a sandwich, it can't possibly score a 5.00. Not on my watch. Essentially this was docked .10  points because I couldn't pick it up and eat it with my hands. Under certain circumstances I probably would eat one of these with my hands.

This whole thing is about the sandwich and the experience. Are you in the correct place to receive the sandwich? Have you had a "Come To Cheesus" moment with your sandwich? This was one of those days. I found what I wanted at the Farmer's Market in less than 10 minutes and went straight down the hill to Bradbury's for (non) sandwich enlightenment. By 8:00 am my day was a complete success. 

The Kenyan pour over coffee was also amazing.

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