The Good, the Bad, and the Sandwich (‘Wichcraft)

Okay, maybe Top Design is growing on me. Todd Oldham’s voice is sounding a little less like a grade school drag queen’s, and Kelly Wearstler’s one line smackdowns bear the mark of some serious evil genius.

But even if the show received a stay of execution on my Tivo To-Do List, it’s still no replacement for Top Chef. Yesterday found me hankering for a fix.

Enter ‘Wichcraft, Tom Colicchio’s sandwich shop at the bottom of the Westfield San Francisco Center. We were headed to see Pan’s Labyrinth anyway, so the stop made perfect sense.

The space itself has all the charm of a Microsoft campus cafeteria. Which is a loaded comment, because I mean it quite literally. If you’ve ever had the, uh, pleasure of working with our friends in Redmond, you’ll know what I mean. Their giant cafeterias are actually pretty nice, with a sort of Pacific Northwest modern thing happening. But they still manage to feel hollow and cold. Hmmm…I wonder why? (Dear Bill, if your spies are reading this now, I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me.)

It was grey and fizzy in the city yesterday, so I really wanted a warm sandwich. Instead, I opted for the chopped chickpeas with roasted peppers, black olives, lemon and parsley, in solidarity with my vegan brothers and sisters out there, who are out there keepin’ it real for the rest of us vegetarian slackers. I got a half sandwich with a cup of lentil soup on the side for $8.50. My partner, aka “Slave to Truffles,” went for the grilled fontina with black trumpet mushrooms and truffle fondue. Both came with a bag of Tim’s lightly salted chips.

Our sandwiches were decent, but nothing rocked my world. Mine had a really nice flavor, but a singular consistency. Mush. It was crying out for lettuce or something to give it a bit of crunch. The mushroom sandwich was ooey-gooey-good, but I suspect you could melt some decent fontina over dog food and make yourself a nice meal. The black trumpet mushrooms needed to be chopped up a bit more—they sort of slithered out of the bread at inopportune moments, a little too long to be manageable in a sandwich.

I kept thinking of what Big Daddy Tom would have said if one of the Top Chef-ers had served him the same lunch. He’d have been every bit as hypercritical as me. Because he’d expect more out of a Top Chef, right? (Oh, the irony.)

I’ve got to give the man a break, though. He’s doing the right thing in a hard business. Or at least he claims to be. They say they work with small producers and use local market vegetables whenever possible. (Why they only sell Fiji water, though, remains to be seen. The mileage on that stuff is ridiculous. Honestly, I stopped drinking it.) I’d rather eat at ‘Wichcraft than a host of other “fast” food establishments. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit to losing my foodie virginity over a vegetarian tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern years ago. (My first mushroom cappuccino, but certainly not my last.) So keep it up, Tommy Boy. You get points in my book for trying, but you didn’t earn immunity in the next challenge.

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1 Comment

Filed under On the Cheap, Reviews

One response to “The Good, the Bad, and the Sandwich (‘Wichcraft)

  1. NS

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. The concept behind ‘Wichcraft — from the flavor combinations in the sandwiches to the devotion to small producers and local ingredients — is actually quite good. It’s in the execution that the place falls short, often to the point that it’s hard to take Colicchio seriously when he skewers Top Chef contestants for failing on the basics.

    By the way, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. For some time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting each of my favorite restaurants and ordering the vegetarian tasting menu — just to see how these chefs fare when faced with this key restriction. Reading your perspective on local restaurants has therefore been very illuminating, and it has given me newfound inspiration to pursue my project!

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