Sandwiches: Not Only Damn Good but the Possible Key to Better Understanding the Generation Gap

More and more, the news is filled with stories of millennial opinion and influence. I recently read an article in Forbes magazine outlining the pending transfer of wealth from the boomers to the youngest generation and the disaster which may ensue. The #okboomer movement has been plastered all over social media and I even had to watch a news story about millennial preference for mayonnaise versus cranberries as an accompaniment for Christmas turkey. Things were further fueled by a recent discussion/argument I had with my son about the definition of a generation. I adhere to more of a biological definition whereas he looks at it more in a social context. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a generation is “a body of living beings constituting a single step in the line of descent from an ancestor” or “a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously” so by definition we are both correct. However, I find it hard to define a generation by an arbitrary range of years endorsed by Wikipedia. For example, I have a daughter born in 1995 and my aforementioned son was born in 1997. Depending on the day of the week, both exhibit varied levels of millennial qualities such as entitlement, cluelessness and a hands-off but highly opinionated concept of social justice. However, despite having the same parents and being born 2 years apart, the are supposedly of a different generation since the most agreed upon cut-off for Generation Y (aka. millennial, echo boomers) and Generation Z (who avidly insist they are NOT millennial) is 1996.

So instead of using the letters XYZ or trending hashtags to categorize generations and since this is a food blog, maybe I can explain my thoughts using an analogy more in my wheelhouse…the sandwich.

Boomers– Boomers are the upper part of the sandwich. Historically, they have protected the rest of the sandwich from things like aggressive cling wrap, flies and other sandwich predators and generally are seen as crusty. These days, many see the upper crust as unnecessary as indicated by preferences for open faced concepts like avocado toast or tuna melts.

Generation X- Gen Xs are the sandwich filling. They touch both the upper and lower parts of the sandwich and are the most necessary for the total functionality of the sandwich. Although sometimes feeling a bit smothered by the upper crust, there is a general appreciation of the role they play (and played). Tuna is tuna and turkey is turkey…there is much less of a need to acutely define themselves.

Millenials/Gen Y, YZ etc. aka Echo Boomers. The base of the sandwiches. Feel as if they are burdened by bearing the weight of anything above them. As a result, they probably eat Big Macs upside down (after ordering on Skip the Dishes) to feel a sense of entitlement. Unlike the boomers who admit they are simply bread, it is important for millennials to sub divide themselves into categories like gluten/dairy free, organic, thin, texas toast, spelt, 12 grain, brioche, rustic, artisan, olive, vegan, panetonne or sourdough.

Speaking of sandwiches, I’m a huge fan of sandwiches and figured this would be a good time to review some of the better ones I’ve had this year. First, a few observations:

  1. I sadly did not eat enough sandwiches last year. Lunch is a meal I’m often likely to skip so it usually means the chance at a good sandwich is sacrificed.
  2. In some situations, a sandwich can be enhanced with a good side, vibe or concept so I also take this into consideration.
  3. Tacos and burgers are not sandwiches….they are…well…tacos and burgers.

Charlie the Butcher– Buffalo

I love regional foods and Western New York’s Beef on Weck in one of the best. Charlie the Butcher in Buffalo offers one of the best. The combination of the salted bun, tender beef and quick dip in the au jus makes for a near perfect sandwich. In addition, the sides are incredible (try the slaw) and if you are lucky enough you might even see Charlie himself slaving away in the kitchen..hard hat and all.

Good Friend Sandwich Company-Brantford

I stumbled across this place after a quick google search and have been back a few times since. It is a house converted into a homey sandwich shop owned and operated by aboriginals. While waiting you can peruse the shelves and look at language books or have a fun conversation with the woman behind the counter who is super friendly. There are a dozen or so choices including an apple and brie cheese panini with an addictive caramel dipping sauce (pictured below), the bacon butty (bacon on buttered buttermilk bread) and classics like pulled pork and beef dips. A small handful of chips is mandatory with every sandwich based on the simple logic that you can’t have a sandwich without a simple side…works for me.

Good Friends Sandwich Company- Apple and Brie Cheese Panini

Larder– Cleveland

Larder comes with great fanfare as it was a James Beard semi-finalist for best new restaurant in 2019. Set up in an old firehall, the space is adorned with old stoves, shelves of pickles and elixirs. The pork shoulder Reuben was a solid sandwich and is available with plenty of deli sides and served by very pleasant staff.

Larder’s Pork Shoulder Reuben

Deli Board-San Francisco

San Francisco is a haven for overpriced but great food and Deli Board is no exception. You’ll pay close to $20 US for a sandwich but it’s well worth it. There is a core menu plus daily specials so there is no shortage of choice. I went with a special called the Bubba (roast beef, bacon, cheddar, provolone, cherry pepper, slaw and 1000 island) served on their garlic dutch crunch bread. The space is clean and the service is efficient but this sandwich was so good you could have served it out of a Coleman cooler on a street corner and I’d still be happy.

The Bubba

Loops-Columbus

The Italian beef sandwich at Loops in Columbus was memorable. One of Guy’s DDD choices, the star of this Chicago-style sandwich was the giardiniera which provided a tangy and spicy punch to otherwise normal roast beef.

Loops’ Italian Beef Sandwich

Mermaid Avenue Sandwich Factory– Kingston

Any place that hinges its entire concept around a music group is cool with me. In the case of Mermaid Avenue sandwich company it’s Wilco, the Chicago based alternative band. They have a nice variety of offerings and while you wait you can get your fill of all things Wilco. My choice was the “How to Fight Loneliness ( Deli chicken, honey mustard, apple slices, cheddar cheese & bacon). I’ll admit, the protein was a little scarce but overall it’s a fun place to pop into for a quick bite.

Cake and Loaf-Hamilton

This bakery usually puts out 1-2 sandwiches a day on rotation and it’s first come first serve. However, I did call in advance and they were able to hold me a couple for pick up. In particular, the chicken jalapeno in incredible as is the tuna melt. While there, the bakery itself is amazing as well. You can score everything from scones to a take home pulled pork and mac and cheese pie.

My Take

First, I think I need to eat a few more sandwiches because there is no shortage out there. Second, I think I will start to refer to generations in the context of foodstuffs especially since I’m convinced my generation is the exciting stuff. Soon enough things will change and the next generation can take over the filling and stress the keto, oceanwise, free range or whatever makes a good hashtag or social cause. In the meantime, wait for your #okboomer inheritance, #stayinyourlane and remember #cranberriesarebetterthanmayo.

Review:Toronto:The Junction:Humble Beginnings

The Junction has recently taken on the theme “If we build it they will come”, the most famous line from Field of Dreams.   A bit off the beaten path, this area has been overshadowed by others in Toronto which have more established destinations, better parking and more convenient transit access.  Most vendors along Dundas West will state that the local community keeps business alive but they would more than welcome a larger crowd moving forward.  This optimism has resulted in an explosion of new eateries, from small sandwich shops and coffee shops to hipster destinations such as the Farmhouse Tavern and the Indie Alehouse Brewing Co.

Humble beginnings is a modest joint which focuses on quick meals and catering in addition to coffee and baked goods.  Although the lion share of the menu is dedicated to dishes with a focus from local meat, poultry and fish suppliers, special attention is given to vegan and gluten free options as well.  I popped in around lunch, so I leaned more toward the soup and sandwich menu as opposed to the larger entrees.

The soup of the day was pumpkin served with apple croutons (which were essentially dried apple rings).    It was absolutely delicious. Small bits of fragrant ginger were like pop rocks within a smooth slurry of wonderfully seasoned pumpkin.  The apple added a morsel of sweetness and chewiness which was a pleasant contrast.  For around $5, it was a large portion.  I also appreciated the fact that it was heated to order on a gas stove as opposed to drawn out of a luke warm cauldron with an unknown start time.

Pumpkin soup with Apple Croutons
Pumpkin soup with Apple Croutons

As for the sandwich (or as they put it… got to run, but it on a bun), I opted for the grilled chicken with a cherry chili aioli.  It was a simple concoction  of nicely cooked although  a flimsy amount of chicken.  What it lacked in content  it made up for in flavour, dressed with a tornado of sweet and heat  matched with a blanket of peppery arugula.   Although the bun was a bit mediocre,  in the end it was a decent sandwich. I found $11 a bit steep but not asinine.

Grilled Chicken with Cheery Chili Aioli $11
Grilled Chicken with Cheery Chili Aioli $11

My Take

Humble beginnings is exactly that…humble.  It attempts to serve fresh and locally sourced foods without a lot of noise.  In addition for those looking for fresh food options, consideration is given to vegans and those with gluten sensitivity.  There aren’t  animal heads hanging on the wall or  house music blaring in the background.   All the dishes are under 15 bucks, the sandwiches under $11  and include a pleasant array of all things that grow. swim or walk. The soup was delicious and the sandwich was satisfying.  By itself, it isn’t Field of Dreams in the sense that it won’t bring bleachers of patrons into the Junction, but it’s certainly a building block in this growing community’s attempt to attract the otherwise trend centric foodies looking for the newest place to swing a bat.

Humble Beginnings on Urbanspoon

Review:Toronto:Queen West:Nadege

The diversity of Toronto coffee shops range from socketed snack bars to pristine patisseries.  Nadege is certainly the latter.  Positioned beside Trinty-Bellwoods park, Nadege sits a bit out of place.  It’s bright white exterior clashes with the surrounding landscape along Queen West.   Upon entry, you are transformed in to a small, bright cafe adorned with small tables.    Large glass counters house articulate creations ranging from traditional French macarons  to Japanese inspired green tea cake.  A large window stretching across the back wall allows patrons to witness the pastry chefs  begetting delicacies while dressed with European eclat.

Green Tea Cake
Green Tea Cake

Perks

Nadege has some of the best counter (premade) sandwiches in Toronto.   There’s an array of choices including  ham and brie, roasted vegetables, french ham and brie and fig and sandwiches of the day on either croissants or baguettes.  In particular, I’m a fan of the cucumber, mature cheddar and green leaves on a croissant.  It’s simple, fresh and tasty. In general, you’re going to pay $6-8 for each of these creations.

Nadege Sandwiches
Nadege Sandwiches

The quality of the desserts and pastries are top notch.  A cute gimmick are the chocolate bars, showcasing a different flavour for each letter of the alphabet.  I’m not sure what’s more impressive; the variety of offerings or the keen use of english and french lexicography to cover off each letter. In my case I was drawn to “Y” for Yuzu and Cashew over the  “B” for Banana or “Q” for Quatre Noix (mixed nuts).  “Y” was true to its name, containing  healthy chunks of cashews within silky milk chocolate with mild citrus undertones.  A decent confection but a bit steep at over $10 per bar.

Yuzu et Noix de Cajou Chocolate

Chocolate Bar Display
Chocolate Bar Display

Sludge

Nadege adheres to the philosophy that the age old art of brewing coffee has evolved to an espresso machine and a cup of hot water. More so is the infusion of arrogance synonymous, stereotypical or otherwise, with the french culture evident in the response to my barbaric suggestion of a dripped cup of joe.  In other words, not only is there no brewed coffee, but I get attitude in suggesting that there should be.  The interior is a bit sterile and unfriendly despite  the attractive creations sitting within the glass and the previously mentioned display of brightly packaged chocolate bars on the opposite wall.  Nadege has the ambiance of an operating room.

Americano with Mature Cheddar Croissant
Americano with Mature Cheddar Croissant

The Final Sip

Nadege’s strength lies in high quality baked goods, chocolate and delicate pastries  with some of the best counter sandwiches in Toronto. The lack of brewed coffee and a sterile, unfriendly environment means I’ll do take out and get my coffee elsewhere.

Nadege Patisserie on Urbanspoon