A French friend of mine returned from extensive travel in the US and remarked: “Those people eat nothing but sandwiches!” She might as well have said “dog food” for all of her contempt for the sloppy, soulless excuses-for-a-meal. I appreciate her point. Often sandwiches are nothing more than a vehicle — the fastest way to ingest a random assortment of representatives from several food groups and get on with your day.
It doesn’t happen often, but every once and a while I come across a sandwich that reminds me that a well-crafted one can be pretty sublime. Such is the deceptively simple grilled cheese and tomato sandwich at Town.
The Place: Town has quickly become one of the hottest dinner reservations in (ahem) town, so if you haven’t booked ahead and devouring meatballs at 10:30 pm isn’t your thing, it’s good to know that some of the same menu can be experienced at lunchtime on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. In addition to a choice of four different fresh sandwiches, the lunch menu offers all of the evening menu’s appetizers (chicken liver crostini, gnudi etc.), plus a pair of daily pasta specials and those magnificent desserts in Mason jars (you have tried the chocolate budino, no?) as well as the popular chicken under a brick.
The Dish: The heart and soul of this sandwich is lovely thick slices of spongy fresh Fior di latte, a soft, moist, and milky tasting type of mozzarella. In this case, it happens to come from Toronto’s International Cheese (and it’s available by the ball at La Bottega, by the way). Next are the Roma tomatoes that have been rubbed with salt, pepper, and sugar and roasted for 3-4 hours with thyme and shallots until meltingly tender, sweet, and juicy without being wet or sloppy. Its fresh flavours have been transformed into luscious umami flavour. Add to that the beautiful sweet herbaceous perfume of basil purée and the chewiness and crunch of Art-Is-In’s 12-grain & fennel bread, all of it warmed gently on the panini press. And the side dishes are no afterthought: delicate citrusy arugula salad and whole fingerling potatoes that have been boiled and slightly crushed, dusted with crumbled pecorino and a touch of chili oil and rosemary, then fried to crisp golden perfection.
Ultimately, this sandwich is even greater than the sum of its parts. I think even my French friend would love it.
Town, 296 Elgin St., 613-695-8696, http://townlovesyou.ca/
Lunch: Wednesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.