Back in December, I traveled to San Franciso and visited Tartine Bakery, source of the bread (and technique) that captured much of my baking attention in 2011. It was great to sample the “real thing” after eating so many of my own Tartine-inspired loaves (see some of them here and here), and it was even better to discover that my home baked loaves are credible examples of their type.
At Tartine Bakery, thick slices of the namesake bread are used in open face and pressed sandwiches, like the croque monsieur pictured at left. Substantial slices of bread topped with gruyere, Niman Ranch ham, thyme, bechamel, and oven-roasted tomatoes result in a knife-and-fork sandwich; every part of the composition was superb, right down to the pickled carrot garnish.
One small problem with the croque monsieur of my dreams: it is a 2,200 mile drive from my house to San Francisco’s Mission District, where Tartine holds down a corner in an especially food-rich neighborhood. Not exactly convenient when the sandwich mood strikes!
A week after my return, a sandwich craving sent me to my “local” Tartine–a cafe more properly known as Tartine New Orleans (7217 Perrier Street), and no relation to the San Francisco emporium–where I found a croque monsieur on the specials board. Hooray! My usual order, the tuna nicoise sandwich, would have to wait for another day.
This Tartine’s croque monsieur was assembled on fine-crumbed bread (pan de mie? square brioche? I can’t recall), with a thick layer of ham and lighter swaths of bubbly, browned gruyere. It was every bit as delicious as the San Francisco version, though slightly richer and definitely meatier.
Eating two fine croque monsieurs on two different ends of the continent within a week: what a great way to close out 2011.