Hot Spot From the Oven
With even Publix serving up subs using premium-brand cold cuts, it's clear there's no shortage these days of sources for sandwiches with pretty respectable interiors. What's almost always a disappointment is the exterior -- the bread. That's what makes year-old Taste Bakery Café's concept so appealing: Unlike umpteen other cafés, it's a "bakery café," emphasis on the baked goods. So you can buy just some house-made artisan bread (including sourdough, multigrain, marble-swirl rye, whole wheat, French country, and a more-crusty-than-usual challah, plus bagels, croissants, and baguettes). Or you can buy a sandwich made on one of those breads -- which are "baked fresh every morning and throughout the day," the menu claims. Good idea!
In theory. In practice get there early, meaning as close as possible to the reliable dawn bake session; on a recent visit several sandwich fillings and a number of breads and other baked goods were gone by 2:00 p.m., with no plans for replenishment until the next morning. And if you're getting food to go, check your order. About a quarter of mine didn't make it into the bag.
To start the day Taste offers, on bread or bagel (croissant 50 cents extra), breakfast sandwiches. All but one are egg-centered: egg and salmon for the health-minded, egg and turkey sausage for those pretending to be health-minded, old-fashioned egg and bacon for those who live dangerously. My vote's for the non-egg number: Norwegian smoked salmon and cream cheese with capers, onion, and tomatoes on an E.T. bagel -- because here the "everything" coating includes, as it always should but seldom does, crunchy grains of kosher salt.
Taste's plain croissants are fine lighter morning fare. But the chocolate versions would be much better with the messy chocolate tucked inside, like traditional pain au chocolat. Best lunch sandwich is a daily special featuring imported prosciutto di parma, mild domestic provolone, roasted red peppers, and pesto sauce on a mini-ciabatta -- a chewy, crunchy-crusted Italian roll which beautifully soaks up the pungent basil/garlic oil.
Since the chicken salad I craved was no more, I tried Thai chicken salad, a non-sandwich item that, upon unpacking at home, proved to be another non-chicken item as well; someone had forgotten to top the mountain of mixed greens, shredded carrot, broccoli florets, and crispy rice noodles with any poultry. Also absent were the advertised Asian vegetables, and "crusted peanuts" were two or three teensy crumbles. The sweet Thai dressing, however, was great. What makes salads bakery items is that each comes with a huge homemade "breadstick," really almost a small loaf of bread (but with a texture more like a soft pretzel or bagel). My favorite flavor was, again, "everything." But cheese is good, too, though the cheese flavor is mild since the grated strips are only on top, not throughout the bread.
All lunch sandwiches come with a terrific pickle strip and chips or a seasonal salad. Potato was good but -- attention, vegetarians -- full of surprise bacon. Fresh fruit salad makes dessert unnecessary for those obsessed with physical fitness, but I'd have felt mentally ill ignoring Taste's sinful sticky buns, huge pecan-studded pastries dripping white icing, chocolate fudge, and some gorgeous caramelized cinnamon/nut meld. Finally, though I know it will provoke protest from those who take food too seriously, I must say it: The homemade Rice Krispie bars are really good.
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