Saturday, April 29, 2017

Union Street Bakery

I had made plans to go to the Market with our Artist In Resident T. Foley for her last croissant in Rochester, but I had to bail at the last minute to meet the furnace repair man; Apparently, 30 years is pushing it for a gas furnace. I got to work around 11 and as I walked up the stairs I was greeted by the warm and comforting smells of breakfast. A welcome change from my cold house this morning.

When I got to my office door I saw the plastic bag hanging from the handle. BREAKFAST WAS WAITING FOR ME! I quickly made my way to my desk and opened up the bag and styrofoam container and was greeted by a hearty looking egg sandwich. I dove in while it was still holding on to the heat of the grill and it was fantastic! The fried egg and American cheese were melded together, the plentiful bacon was thick, salty and flavorful, and the roll honest to goodness roll. Firm but supple, supportive but not unyielding. We should all have this in our lives. A few more frantic bites and it was gone.

I walked over to the studio and found Teresa (the aforementioned T.) to thank her for bringing back the sandwich after I cancelled on her. Our plan was to go to Flour City Bread Company to get her last croissant in town, but that's not where the sandwich came from. "Eh, they didn't have a sign and I didn't feel like asking so I went down to Union Street." She asked about the breakfast sandwich options which turned out to be either ham or bacon. "What's good today?"
"They're both good!"
"Chef's choice then!"
The guy behind the counter chose bacon and, as I mentioned, it was good.

I swear I tried the sandwich at Union Street early on in this venture and was sorely disappointed that the bread was a smushy hard roll so I've avoided it since, even though people have been suggesting I go there. I just assumed you were all nuts. My apologies. So, either my memory is confused or they decided to step up their egg sandwich game. Either way, I'd happily revisit this sandwich.

Thanks again, Teresa!

Union Street Bakery
4 Public Market, Rochester, 14609
Sandwich cost: $4.50 (we think)
Sandwich rating: That is a top-notch breakfast sandwich

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sonny's Landing

If you've been wondering if I've given up egg sandwiches we probably don't know each other in the real world. I certainly didn't give them up (though I may have been eating fewer in an effort not to get gigantic), but was too preoccupied with all the calamity of the past year to focus on much of anything else. With our new regime in place the need for comfort food is at an all time high. The search for the perfect egg sandwich resumes.

Past Mercy High School is a cute little neighborhood that I cut through to get to Penfield and other points east when I don't feel like getting on the highway. Last week I had to run to Home Depot and the breakfast pickings at home were slim. I've passed Sonny's many times thinking how curious it was placed in the middle of a residential block and figured this was the day I would try it.

I stepped in and stood beside and older man waiting for his food and chatting with a man at the grill. I looked up and scanned the massive menu board. It doesn't mention eggs anywhere - mostly burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and the usual sides and options that would follow. But it was just after 10 in the morning and I was pretty sure the other guy wasn't getting a cheeseburger. Noticing me, the man at the grill (presumably Sonny?) asked what I'd like. I inquired about getting a breakfast sandwich. "Sure, no problem. Want meat with that?" I did indeed and chose bacon. He went back to the grill to start mine and finish the other.

The man waiting for his sandwich and Sonny resumed their conversation about bees and plowing (separate topics) and I looked around. There were a handful of booths, a wall of beverage cases, but most notable the racks full of frisbee golf discs. Hundreds of them. Turns out, Sonny's has the largest supply of disc golf supplies in the country (according to their website). Who knew?! I drifted back towards the counter in time to hear the other customer say "It's amazing how people get their knickers in a twist!" With that he paid and headed out. A minute later my sandwich was done and Sonny brought it to the counter letting me know that egg sandwiches aren't on the menu but they serve them all day.

I got in my car and upon opening the foil bundle the air filled with the comforting smell of eggs and bacon. I snapped a photo and then dove in. I just expect the Rochester hard roll now so no disappointment to be had there, if anything, this seemed a little more firm than I remember them being. The filling was pure perfection; The egg wasn't cooked too hard and had a little run to it, but not messy, the white American cheese (there's a Trump joke in there somewhere) was very melty, creamy, and salty, and the bacon was crisp but not overdone. This was a solid sandwich but the generous shake of black pepper on the egg made it terrific.  This is exactly what I needed.

Sonny's Landing
Sandwich cost: $3.50
Sandwich Rating: That's a solid secret sandwich

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mise en Place

I've never been quite sure what to make of Mise en Place; When I've stopped in over the past 8 years it never seemed to be the upscale market they were going for and like the South Wedge, where they are anchored, it always promised to be up-and-coming (which is especially ironic given their name) but never seems to have arrived. Admittedly, Mise en Place has certainly made it to a respectable, upscale corner store.

Last week I was taking a tour of "gourmet" Rochester establishments and after sampling many sweets on South Ave we made our way to Mise en Place for lunch. I noticed they had a $3.50 breakfast sandwich and proceeded to order a bacon, egg, and extra sharp cheddar. I stopped to ask the nature of the hard roll and was told they were out of them. The woman behind the counter offered to put it on a section of Italian bread which sounded more than fine to me.

I took a seat in the dining area with other folks on our tour as the owner and chef, Casey Holenbeck, gave a short talk about the tragically named seasonal greens: ramps. When my sandwich arrived it looked respectable with its gooey cheese and overflowing bacon. I took a bite. The bacon was thick and salty, and just what I was looking for to counter cheesecake and chocolate for breakfast. The egg was a little hard but I didn't specify how I wanted it fried so no big deal, but the cheddar, oh man, the cheddar. I usually avoid ordering cheddar on egg sandwiches as diners tend to have the most flavorless cheddar on hand, but this was not that. Salty, creamy and sharp made this sandwich a cut above many. And the bread was good, too. Not sure if it was baked there (the sign near the deli counter says that everything is made in house) or if it was from Baker Street (they sell their loaves in the market area). Either way, firm but not tough, soft enough to eat a sandwich on but not flatten to nothing. This was a good egg sandwich.

Mise en Place
Sandwich cost: $3.50
Sandwich rating: An upscale sandwich at a downtown price

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shmeg's Restaurant

Well, it took over a year to get out to Gates to try Shmeg's,  - a contraction of Shawn and Meg who opened it - but last Sunday Karen and I were headed to points west and stopped in for a late breakfast.

We arrived at the tiny strip mall and were pretty sure we found it, though the handwritten logo is tough to read when you're driving. Since there was just two of us we grabbed counter spots overlooking the kitchen so we wouldn't tie up a table. We had a clear view of the prep table, the grills and could look to the other side at the small front dining room.

I'll try to sum up Shmeg's as concisely as I can: more is more. More smell, more food, more noise, more carved Americana plaques, more grunge, more hard to read handwritten type. The menu, an 80th generation photocopy of what looks like the napkin they first drunkenly brainstormed their offerings, was difficult to read at best, but I gleaned that their basic breakfast sandwich was the 2 Egg Chubby (There were sandwiches with up to five eggs in them, you know, in case you wanted more). We ordered our Chubbies with bacon, eggs over medium, Karen added home fries to hers for $1 and then we watched the kitchen as we waited.

If you're a fastidious person I would recommend not sitting at the counter at Shmeg's, you will have an aneurism. Plates flying, clouds of powdered sugar, new pancake batter being made on top of old. I like a good dive but for some reason I was just finding everything about Shmeg's off-putting. It was just too easy to picture Guy Fieri daring us to eat the 12" pancakes that were being plated. And frankly, the name's not doing them any favors, either.

After a bit of a wait our sandwiches were ready and they looked pretty good. Generous amount of bacon (more!) and a healthy looking house baked roll. I took a bite. Whoever grabbed my roll had recently grabbed a sticky bun and my first bite was an extreme mix of sweet and salty. I took a second bite and was thankful that the sugar was just on the edge. Now, for the positives: the eggs were cooked perfectly, not too hard, the runny yolk filling up the gaps between the eggs and bacon. Speaking of, that was some delicious, thick cut bacon. Not too salty, not over or under cooked. In search of the perfect egg sandwich roll I was excited to finally get to Shmeg's (sadly, the more you say it doesn't make it better) who bake their own bread. The roll was definitely good but a little too sweet for my liking, more brioche than Kaiser. Karen thinks I'm nuts and thought it was the best thing about the sandwich. She would also like for me to mention that the coffee was great. We both agreed that the potatoes were lackluster: not a crisp edge in the bunch and although seasoned, a little too heavily with dried parsley.

So, a good sandwich (which it should be for $6), mediocre home fries, and an environment that left us smelling like a deep fryer. Shmeg's.

Shmeg's Restuarant
3027 Buffalo Road, Gates, NY
Sandwich cost: $5.99
Rating: A solid breakfast sandwich

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mangia Mangia

I had to run an errand to Spencerport last Sunday and as I was leaving town I realized I was hungry. "Siri, nearest diner." She then told me that the Lighthouse Diner was just three quarters of a mile down the road on the left. So I drove, and then I drove, and then I was in Ogden, so then I had her give me directions. After doing a large circle to see new homes in former fields, I got to the intersection of 31 and S. Union. I drove into the plaza and saw what might have been a diner but what was now Rancho Viejo. I turned the corner to check out the south side of the plaza and continued to see no breakfast. As I reached the end of the storefronts I started to turn around but leaning next to the building was a sandwich board with a breakfast special on it; I looked up to see Mangia Mangia. The front door was open so I figured I'd go investigate.

Right at the front door was a pastry case with loaves of fresh baked Italian bread sitting on top. This was a good sign. I took a seat at a small table in the back and looked over the menu. With Italian bread French toast, frittatas, and six varieties of eggs Benedict, Mangia Mangia is not for the light eater. I found their breakfast sandwich which is two scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice of bacon, ham, Italian sausage or steak on either a giant English muffin or an Italian roll and after seeing the loaves at the front door, I went for the roll and my usual bacon and American cheese. The sandwich comes with home fries and they charge $6.99 for the combo.

This is a curious place: An Italian restaurant in the back of a suburban plaza open for breakfast with both Red Hot and Sriracha on every table. The kitchen is separated from the dining area by a free standing wall so the smells and noises from the kitchen mingle with the classic rock playing throughout the restaurant. Casual, suburban, pleasant enough.

A few moments later my breakfast arrived. I wish I had put a fork or a quarter in the photo for scale just to impress how large it all was: The sandwich wasn't on a roll but a mini loaf of bread and there was probably a pound of home fries on the plate! I wasn't quite prepared to bite into the loaf of sandwich so I scooped up some potatoes and was greeted with a couple of unexpected flavors. The Yukon Gold potatoes were much sweeter and creamier than most diner home fries and that first bite had a distinct taste of margarine. I did not care for these at all. I tried them with Red Hot and then Sriracha, and then with ketchup, and then with ketchup and the two hot sauces. None of these variations made me like them any better. I moved onto the sandwich. I'll spare you the details of how big my bites were and how many it took to finish this blimp, but I will tell you that the roll had a nice crunch to the crust and good resistance when bitten. However, this may have been too much of a good thing. Did I mention how big this roll was? Unfortunately, the scrambled eggs, cheese, and strips of bacon down the center, got lost amongst all the bread. Honestly, I barely remember the bacon and cheese, only the amount of chewing I had to do. If they could do some proportion control and ditch the margarine, this would be a worthwhile breakfast.

Mangia Mangia
Sandwich Rating: Thatsa alotta bread
Sandwich cost: $6.99

Sunday, August 23, 2015

KB's Bagels and Java - Road Trip Entry

My expectations for finding a decent bagel in New Hampshire were reasonably low - well, let's be frank, I didn't have any expectations of finding a decent bagel in New Hampshire at all - but when I found KB's online before heading out on vacation I got a little excited, especially when I saw the opportunity for an egg sandwich excursion.

On an overcast morning I headed south from our rental to try a sandwich and bring some bagels back for the kids. A quick few turns off Ocean Boulevard and I spotted the building I saw online and found a spot down the street a bit. As I started walking towards breakfast the damp air held the smell of toast and fresh brewed coffee. I was sure I stumbled onto something good. If New Hampshire's 13 miles of Atlantic coastline can adopt an island vibe - with an active surfer culture (wet suits, naturally) and tiki bar decor for any non-seafood dedicated food/drink establishment - why couldn't they throw a little New York in there, too?

I stepped inside and immediately felt at home with the smell of toasted onion and sesame seeds amongst the surfboards and old couches. I got in line and started to think about what selection of bagels to bring back to the house but my brain froze when I looked behind the counter. The wall of bins for different varieties was there, and there were bagels in the bins, but they were already in bags. Stacked 6 high in a plastic bag like Lender's. The girl behind the counter snapped me out of it, "Sir?"
"I...  I'm confused. The bagels are in bags." She stared at me so I continued, "Soooooo, they must come from somewhere else?"
"Uh huh!" she cheerfully replied. I quickly ditched my mixed order and got a bag of sesame for the house and an egg, bacon, cheese on an everything for now.

A few minutes later I got a large bun of aluminum foil, had a seat, and opened it up. This was a big sandwich: The bagel was New York sized and the scrambled egg was at least an inch tall, it smelled good so I cocked my jaw and took a bite. The bagel was soft and the egg was hotter than Beelzabub! I took a moment to let the egg cool down and to assess things. The heat of the eggs suggested microwave, and the sheer size of them skewed the bacon and cheese ratios which made the inside of the sandwich kind of a bust. The other sad realization is that this was a breadel - more bread than bagel, but at least they got the everything toppings right. Same held true for the bag of sesame bagels I brought back to the house: looked good, smelled good, but ultimately just a big ring of dough. These are gourmet in the same way a tricked out Civic is a Formula 1 race car. Hey, at least I tried.

KB's Bagels and Java
Hampton, NH
Sandwich cost: $4.50
Rating: All bluster, no muster.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hart's Local Grocers

You may recall me trying a Hart's Signature Breakfast Sandwich the weekend they opened last August (No? Look here), as it was breakfast time and I was hungry I figured it was time to retest it.

I've been in Hart's a few times since they opened last summer and each time it seems a little more fleshed out which is the good news. The bad news is the breakfast menu from a year ago looks a little different. When they opened they offered five different sandwiches and their signature was $4.95. Now they just offer their signature sandwich (2 Happy Hen eggs, sliced avocado, arugula, and pancetta with Sriracha mayonaise) or a create-your-own-from-our-ingredients-list and both of these options are $5.95. If you haven't caught on by now, I think breakfast should cost five bucks or less, unless you're really dealing with something fancy. So, a six dollar sandwich sets my expectations pretty high.

As I was waiting for my sandwich I noticed the bakery rack of rolls and bread by the prep station. I asked where the rolls were from and the woman deep frying cutlets for the lunch crowd was happy to tell me they came from Ace Bakery in Toronto. I must have made a face (because I was thinking that Toronto seemed far away for a daily bread delivery) and she explained that the dough came frozen and they baked them in the store. She went on to tell me about the goodness and wholesomeness of the rolls and I swear I was paying attention, even though I couldn't stop thinking what the possible punchline would be to "How do you make a Canadian roll?"

A few minutes later I got my sandwich and sat down by the windows on Winthrop. Sandwich looked good, yolk still had a little bit of deep yellow in it and the roll appeared crusty and hearty. I took a bite. On the upside, I was not overwhelmed by the Sriracha mayo like last time, there was a healthy dose of fresh arugula, and as I mentioned, the egg wasn't overcooked. The downsides were that the pancetta (although very good and crispy) was skimpy and the avocado (which I appreciated being sliced in front of me as the sandwich was being made) was also scarce. Lastly, the roll which came so highly recommended and looked pretty good lacked a rustic crust and did not feel freshly baked. It didn't condense as I made my way through the sandwich which I always appreciate, but was otherwise unremarkable. The sandwich had an overall peppery profile but none of the premium ingredients stood out, perhaps victims of having too many signatures on one sandwich? Perhaps Hart's could do more with less (and take a buck off).

To save me from starting the You Can't F**k Up an Iced Tea blog I'll just add that $2.75 seemed a bit steep (har har) for a large tea with no lemon (Note to coffee counter - go to produce section and grab a lemon, it's going to be 80 degrees today).

Hart's Local Grocers
Sandwich cost: $5.95
Rating: Better ingredients don't necessarily make a better sandwich