Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bewitching Sandwiches - Restaurants:Quoc Huong (Atlanta), La Bombonera (San Juan), Carousel Bakery (Toronto)

Looking through my photos from the last few months, I noticed a collection of breakfast sammies very much deserving of their own post. These sandwiches hailed from both near and far, but all shared a common theme - every one of them deviated from the egg McMuffin norm.

Near, there was a fat banh mi from Quoc Huong on Buford highway. It accompanied me to the traffic court on a recent morning and I turned out to be the happiest wrongfully-accused civilian there. How could I not be, munching on a Vietnamese baguette that was cottony soft in the middle but shattered with a delightful noise upon every bite (something wonderful happened when rice flour was mixed into the dough). The whole package was made even better by the stuffing of "an everything" mix of pork, pate, head cheese and a pickled veggie mix. In the meat department, the pate provided the most silky mouth feel and the head cheese the most interesting texture. Had the pickled veggie mix of carrots, daikon, onions, and cilantro not being by the meats' side, the sammy would have suffered from over the top richness after the first few very good bites. The presence of the pickled veggies effectively cut through the richness of their meat companions and kept the flavors well balanced. It was a sammy worth eating even when one is not wanted in court.

To the south, there was a sinful mallorca sandwich at La Bombonera, the old San Juan breakfast institution. Behind the shelves of enticing pastries, we found a bustling dinning room, full of activity at 8 am on a rainy February morning. Locals and tourists alike ordered up the same breakfast staple, the mallorca. A sweet roll texturally somewhere between a yeast doughnut and Parker House roll, the mallorca heading my way was buttered with a heavy hand and pressed with a filling of ham and cheese between a large flat press. Hot off the press, the crunchy creation received a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar. For the duration of consuming this sandwich, I alternated between licking hot cheese dripping down my arms and powdered sugar stuck to my fingers. So very finger-licking good!

Up north, there was a peameal bacon sammy at the famous St. Lawrence market in Toronto. As you can see, peameal bacon is not what we call bacon this side of the border. The awesome lead actor in this sammy was actually salt and sugar cured extra lean ham rolled in corneal. So deceivingly simple, the country roll was appropriately soft and distracted not at all from the pealmeal bacon, which was surprising in its tenderness. I could have gotten some mustard in my sandwich, but it was completely unnecessary as the peameal bacon provided all the seasoning I needed. More salty than sweet, the ham had just enough brine to provide savoriness to the bun, but not too much to send me running for water, which often happens when I eat corned beef sandwiches. This one wins hands down for its super tasty simplicity. Go Canada!

Quoc Huong
5150 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 936-0605

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