This latest instalment in a recurring series in which professional foodies opine on what they think makes a good sandwich great is by a sassy lady I spotted across a crowded Toronto International Film Festival party. We basically have the same glasses, so it was only a matter of time before we met.
Jessica Allen has been eating sandwiches for nearly her whole life. She also has a food blog called Foodie and the Beast. Jessica, who plays soccer and watches TV and movies in her spare time, has enjoyed all kinds of employment; she has been a dishwasher, janitor, strawberry picker, art history teaching assistant (in Italy), restaurant manager and, most recently, an assistant editor at Maclean’s, where she writes and edits arts and culture pieces. They also let her make videos. Given the choice between butter and mayo, she’d take both.
I insist you follow her on Twitter @jessieraeallen, and that you read her blog. Seriously.
What makes a great sandwich?
A situation in which to eat the sandwich. I am a firm believer in the idea that there are particular sandwiches that compliment specific moments in our lives — from the mundane (Wonder bread and Kraft cheese slice grilled cheese accompanied by ketchup, and maybe a dill pickle) and the profane (Marc Thuet sour dough, avocado, hummus, grilled peppers, caramelized onions, arugula) to the sacred (brie de Meaux smeared on warm baguette, or tomato, bocconcini and basil on plain focaccia) and the sensual (porchetta on ciabatta, or pulled pork with barbecue sauce and coleslaw on a really good bun or Montreal smoked meat on rye, with Dijon mustard, and maybe another dill pickle). Sandwiches accompany us on family picnics, on train rides, in lunch boxes, at weddings, in — oh God, wait; I forgot about my Aunt Sandy’s egg salad on white bread. It’s nothing fancy, just some chopped onion and celery, I think. And tuna salad on whole wheat, with maybe just a leaf or two of iceberg lettuce. What I mean to say is, in order to have a great sandwich, you need to live a little, let your hair down and maybe even stop to eat the sandwich.
There’s a simplicity to a fish sandwich from the aptly named The Fish Store on College Street in our very own Toronto. It’s just a tiny shop with a bright blue façade that looks like it belongs on a Caribbean boardwalk rather than in Little Italy, but they deliver remarkable made-to-order sandwiches. You get to choose the fresh fish — from salmon and wild sock-eye to shrimp, scallops and tilapia — from a display case. I always default to a firm, white fish, like cod, halibut or haddock. And then they grill it to order, dousing it with some sort of tangy vinaigrette and shaking some sort of salty spice concoction over it. The morsels, generous in size, are placed on a crusty white bun (baked across the street at The Golden Wheat Bakery), and topped with that green leaf lettuce I always see in the grocery store but never buy, a few slices of tomato and thin bits of red onion. And oh snap, the sensation of the piping hot, always moist and tender fish with the crunch of the lettuce and the chewy bread, is simply sublime. And it’s consistently good. In the temperate months, you can eat your sandwich on their modest patio and watch the College Street types go by. Mind you, it is difficult to consume the fish sandwich slowly, and civilly. Such are the tribulations of a sandwich eater.
The Fish Store, 657 College St., $5.99-$11.90