again this one happened a couple of weeks ago. since the inception of this project wedged between two slices of bread, ive had a 'cousin' who has been quietly recommending a sandwich shop thats no more than half a mile from my door step. he would come over for dinner (i live with his brother; another 'cousin') and matter of factly ask, 'have you checked out rosina gourmet yet?' we would run into each other on thames street, he diligently walking his dog and me smoking a cigarette and 3 magners deep at half time of a surely to be disappointing arsenal game, 'read your last blog. good stuff. been to rosina yet?' or i would post a link of facebook or twitter and then have the audacity to ask folks 'where should i go next?' his persistence would float to the surface again with a simple post/reply 'rosina gourmet'.
well i am happy to let you know that my 'cousin' finally achieved his goal of ultimate temptation/persuasion when he very simply sent a picture text of a magazine cover (see photo). as a semi pro sandwich super fan/aficionado/explorer i could not resist it anymore, so i made a lunch appointment with my 'cousin' and set out to place another stake in the rolling sandwich landscape of baltimore.
we went to the canton location of rosina, which sits opposite of a den of ill spoken about actions that most people simply refer to as portside. upon walking into rosina i instantly realized that just because there is only an alley entrance way separating these two places, there couldnt of be a bigger gap between these two neighbors. the portside tavern reminds me of crowded spaces, playlists from 104.3fm, soco and limes, and possessing an equal to or greater amount of bud light bottles than number of hands. rosina on the other hand is outlined with quaint tables for parties of 2-4. the walls a littered with local art and pictures of delicious foods, including a gigantic picture of the baltimore magazine cover that pushed me over the edge. the smell of toast/meats/spreads/veggies tickle the nostrils instantly. and a small battalion of women behind the counter greet you as you enter and make you feel like you just walked into a room full of moms, sisters, aunts, nieces, grandmothers (note: if any of you ladies from rosina read this i dont mean you look like grandmas, just that that maternal spirit was seriously permeating through the air) who wanted nothing more than to satisfy any sandwich hunger you might have.
on that sun splashed afternoon in canton i did in fact have a serious case of sandwich hunger and instantly began to wage my internal sandwich decision war with rosina gourmet's menu. i could tell this was going to be a drawn out war of attrition. there were/are 21 sammies on their menu and 3 specials. 24 sandwich options?!? how can you pick just one when you have choices like 'basil pesto chicken salad', 'parma ham & fresh mozz', 'over roast beef', 'grilled veggie', and the special 'roasted red pepper chicken'?!?! quickly realizing that in this overwhelming initial skirmish with the menu could easily turn into brutal trench like warfare i quickly enlisted the help on my 'cousin' and we formed an alliance, also known as going half-sies. after much back and forth the special 'roasted red pepper chicken' and the 'rustic italian' were selected.
rosina is an order at the counter, take your seat, and the staff will bring it to your table. i like this approach best when it comes to a sandwich store. no congestions. no paper wrapping at the table. these are all positives for a superior sandwich experience. and my experience this time was highlighted by the clerk who took or order, delivered it to our table, and without prompting had placed a 1/2 of each sandwich on our respective plates (a woman after my heart!) the sandwiches were not jumbo, over stuffed, or piled high like i had imagined (the baltimore mag cover probably had something to do with this preconceived notion). they were simple and understated. the roasted red pepper chicken was on a diagonally sliced ciabatta roll (note ... well actually more of a rant. people who know me know that i have a couple of unconventional culinary quirks. like my disdain for pickles or my love of pizza in bed. but one of these quirks that not many people know is that i dont believe in slicing any sandwiches on a diagonal axis unless its a grilled cheese and in that case a grilled cheese is always supposed to be cut on a diagonal axis. the club sandwich is a double diagonal cut, but thats a whole 'nother bag of chips in and of itself) and the rustic italian was served on a crunchy baguette.
the chicken was first because it was a warm sandwich. the ciabatta was lightly crunchy with a soft pull to it. the chicken was skinless breast meat that (i think) had been lightly seasoned, roasted off in the oven, and then chopped for serving on the ciabatta. the chicken was then topped with paper thin slices of red onion (thats how they are supposed to be on all sandwiches people!) and thin sliced tomato. i mention all of these ingredients first because for me these were all pretty standard, but of me the real star of the sandwich was the roasted red pepper sauce. i love roasted red peppers right off the grill, but will also settle for a high quality canned or jarred pepper. i feel like the base of the sauce was the latter, but it was light, very red pepper-ie, and a perfect viscosity. if they sold it by the jar, id buy a jar. the sandwich as a whole was pretty pleasant, very fresh, the sauce had flavor to spare, but fell short of being a perfect sandwich. however, the italian stepped in and made a pretty persuading argument for perfection.
the baguette for our rustic italian was the perfect medium for this sandwich. it 100% encapsulated the feel of a rustic italian/peasant sandwich. it was firm with some pull, but also with a significant amount of crunch. it had the strength to hoist up the layers of dried salami, provolone, tomato, and paper thin slices of red onion (yes!). the theme of rustic simplicity continued in this easy bust sophisticated sandwich with the light drizzle of a tasy olive oil over the dried meat. but again there was one aspect of the sandwich that stood tall on the shoulders of all the other ingredients, and on this sandwich it was the olive tapenade that was the buffer zone between the meat & cheese and the bottom of the baguette. its saltiness was the perfect seasoning to the mild cheese and the dried meat. its smooth texture provided a good balance to the hard crunch of the baguette. and please lets just face it, a good tapenade is really really hard to beat. and this tapenade helped to seal the deal on this rustic italian being a top notch sandwich.
as a little bonus the role of side kick/companion to our sandwiches was played by a small scoop of fresh pasta salad with a dab of cheese, diced onions, peppers, and some olives. this was a nice touch not because it was 'the worlds best' or 'grandmas secret recipe' pasta salad, but rather because it wasnt fries or chips. it was fresh, no frills, not too much, and just the right thing to balance a plate of tasty sandwiches that were understated, but overstuffed with flavor.