Today’s sandwich is the “Grace Potter Panini” from the Barn Door Cafe and Bakery in Topsham. It combines apple slices, pepper jelly, pepper jack, cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, pressed between two slices of country bread.
Location: 4 Bowdoin Mill Island (at the Frank Mill Bridge)
Notes: The Grace Potter was one of four special sandwich offering on today’s menu at The Barn Door.
The Grace Potter is griddled autumn, if a little soggy after transport home. You have to love onions, because they are fragrant and profuse, nicely softened and caramelized, a gooey base note. Cutting the sweetness is tart apple, thinly sliced but not disappearing. The presence of the apple is there distinctly, neither mushy nor grainy, as apples can be. Apples go steady with cheddar, which is not my favorite cheese, but here it became richly melty and is unassailably the right choice. Every three bits, a hint of mild spice from the pepper asserted itself, to my delight. Not any one component overwhelmed its companions and it was as good as, or slightly greater than the sum of its parts. A little messy, yes, and a bit ripe; perhaps not the best choice for a lunch date with a new acquaintance. But super tasty and slightly outside the expected confines of sandwichdom.
The ordering counter and corner lined with cases of baked goods is cozy, but not crowded, at least not at a little before noon when I was there. I didn’t feel rushed and was glad to have the ample time to peruse the board. A few items stood out and tempted my taste buds before I made up my mind. The Sicilian – boneless chicken breast, basil pesto, and tomato on a baguette, and The Venician – fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and tomato on a baguette, both represent my sort of go-to ingredients , and I was thinking of asking for a hybrid – A Venilian, if you will. Then, my eye lit on The Pilgrim Wrap – roasted turkey, herb stuffing, cranberry sauce, mayonnaise, and lettuce on a wrap. Pros: Stuffing is my homeboy. Cons: Wraps, not so much. It seems destined to be a fall classic and I bet I will go back for it, perhaps amending the dreaded faux tortilla (which tastes like Eucharist Gone Wild to me) for hearty bread.
As you know, I went with the special panini, but I had to get something for my sandwich-loving companion. For him I chose The Roma – salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and Gardinier relish on a baguette – they call this their version of a classic Italian. I found it to be immensely more satisfying than a lot of the slimy, overly acidic iterations that have been thrust upon me since I moved to Maine. The amount of deli meat is definitely daunting, but less dense than it seems when paired with the pickle-y tang of the crisp, fresh vegetable relish. It’s an antipasto platter on a roll and that reminds me of late-night, standing-in-front-of-the-open-fridge-snack, post holiday feasting – a thing that I love. So, high marks from me.
Speaking of Malcolm, he just walked, whistling through the living room, where I am sitting, toiling, and on his way, disparaged the lunch. He felt like it didn’t have staying power and as we speak is heating up a bowl of beans. I thought it was terrific, an 8.5. Not a plain and ordinary, bare bones, working man’s sandwich, but not so fussy and precious as to become a ridiculous example of what simple food it ought to be. With the included snack-sized bag of Lay’s potato chips and the 1/4 sour pickle spear, I am quite sated. Next time, I will save room for a piece of pumpkin cheese cake or a red velvet cupcake, as all The Barn Door Cafe and Bakery sweets looked plump and dazzling.
N.B. I know that panini is plural.