Sandwiches: It’s not just what’s in them


Ottawa XpressJuly 1, 2004

Globe’s got taste, but needs help with the presentation

It’s been said that legendary food essayist M.F.K. Fisher had an unusual sandwich-making technique. The author of The Art of Eating, layered smoked ham and cheese with a smear of coarse Dijon and mayo on French bread and wrapped it in plastic wrap. She then sat on the sandwich for an hour before eating it. Fisher’s approach to the quintessential midday meal reminds us that the sandwich is more than the sum of its ingredients. It is as distinctive as its maker.

I had sandwiches on the brain while peering through the window of Globe, the most recent restaurant addition to the Glebe. The previous tenant, the Avenue Grill, with its dark, dreary interior and orange curly fries left me longing for someone to raise the bar on fresh, casual fare in the neighbourhood. One look at the exposed brick, contemporary wood furniture and a sunny faux-antique finish set my heart aflutter.

On that balmy afternoon, the dozen or so tables were filled with chattering business types, working their way through enormous plates of spring rolls, grilled pita triangles and most importantly … sandwiches.

When our cheerful waitress arrived with menus and water in wine glasses I thought I was in forhaute sandwicherie. The long list of candidates, each named for a global city, included Cairo, Rio and, of course, Ottawa (a club sandwich). An equally dazzling list of salads with enticing ingredients like pancetta and pear, curried chicken, mandarin oranges and toasted pecans, ensured the decision wouldn’t be easy.

We settled on two salads and two sandwiches and still had to choose between soup, salad or curly fries on the side. Wait, curly fries? The tide had begun to turn. I was disappointed to discover that the soup of the day was a watery cream of cauliflower, rather than something remotely seasonal, or tasting of vegetables.

The first sandwich, the Tokyo, was a nicely grilled citrus sesame marinated chicken breast, but overpowered by loads of wasabi mayo. The ciabatta bread was spongy and begged to be grilled or toasted. The Berlin, a smoked turkey, grilled pear and brie sandwich fared better in flavour until a few bites in, when the rosemary fig confit (which quickly became too sweet) created a lubricant so slippery as to force the rest of the ingredients to slide right out from between two soggy slices of multigrain bread. Try sitting on that one, Ms. Fisher.

On the up side, I can say that Globe is consistent. An equally heavy hand ruins two perfectly good salads. The almond encrusted goat cheese comes perched on greens in a bath of painfully sour balsamic vinegar and is missing the promised endives. Rather than the traditional baked or pan-fried medallion, the goat cheese was a cold unappetizing patty. A few inedible, wilted leaves made their way into my companion’s spinach salad with bacon and whole roasted almonds. The honey-mustard dressing and chunks of gorgonzola failed to impress.

The only culinary subtlety came during desert. A homemade key lime cheesecake boasted a proper balance of flavours and textures from its smooth sour cream topping to its crumbly graham cracker crust.

It just goes to show, it’s one thing to have the right ingredients, its another to know how to use them.


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