Monday, January 14, 2013

Good Gracious

Soppresata and coppa (left) and rosemary-crusted roast beef (right) from Gracious Bakery + Cafe.
If someone asked me what is the most boring lunch imaginable, my answer would be the turkey sandwich. Whether it's a $5 foot long or a brown bag version from home, the turkey sandwich lunch makes a statement, usually something like: "I am consuming this food purely for caloric intake. Much like the man in the desert who drinks his own urine in order to stay alive, this turkey sandwich is simply the fuel necessary to keep me productive at my desk for the rest of the day. Taste is the least of my concerns, and the inexpensive cost is further proof of my priorities. I would have preferred ham, except that I am trying to watch my girlish figure."

But after picking up lunch at Gracious Bakery + Café a few days ago, my view on the turkey sandwich has begun to change. How so? Start construction with fresh ciabatta baked in house. Next, moist turkey breast cut oh so thin such that it straddles the line between shredded and sliced. Then add fontina (triple stacked), baby spinach leaves and a slather of housemade mostarda which brings a touch of fruity sweetness, a little heat, some acid and just overall deliciousness.

It's easy to get me excited about pork cheeks, oxtails, salted caramel, and grand cru burgundy. Knocking my socks off with a turkey sandwich? Now that is a Herculean task worth writing about.

Megan Forman - former pastry chef at Bayona and most recently the right hand to Tariq Hanna at Sucre - opened Gracious with her husband Jay (of New Orleans Magazine fame) in early September. Located in the ground floor of the new headquarters of Woodward Design + Build on South Jeff Davis, Gracious combines three of France's most endeared eateries in one location: boulangerié, patisserié, and café. So whether you are in search of simple croissant to start your morning, a light lunch around noon, or something to satisfy your sweet tooth, Gracious is a one stop shop for all three.

Before I discovered the turkey sandwich, I would have happily returned for Gracious' twist on the muffuletta, which features coppa, soppresata, and provolone with arugula on ciabatta smeared with green onion relish. (Hint: it's better than a muffuletta.) Pecan-cheddar spread will give better cheddar a run for its money, especially when it's matched with smoked ham, apple slices, and pepper jelly inside a crackly baguette. I had high hopes for the rosemary-crusted roast beef, but it was cooked a little too long for my liking, and the horseradish cream cheese could have been applied doubly so. Make sure to check the display case for the pretzel croissants - yeah, I had never seen one before either - filled with ham and sharp mustard.

All sandwiches are served with your choice of chips or mixed green salad tossed (which is key) in a simple balsamic vinaigrette or creamy herb dressing. I usually opt for the salad so that I don't feel guilty ordering dessert, which is a must. It's hard to pass up the peanut butter milk chocolate opera cake with its thin alternative layers of my two favorite sweet flavors, but the chocolate brownie brioche also beckons. To make matters more difficult, Gracious bakes its own king cakes filled with a core of chocolate and topped with a light white glaze.

So many delicious pastries to explore, so little time to do so before Lent. And only a quick drive down Earhart from the CBD.

Gracious Bakery + Café - Birdie
1000 South Jefferson Davis Parkway
(504) 301-3709
Mon – Fri: 6:30am – 3pm
Sat: 8am – 2pm


Celeste said...

I LOVE turkey sandwiches. Try the smoked turkey w/avocado, gruyere, and aioli on honey wheat at Tartine. Or the Hooks cheddar & turkey on ciabatta from St. James. Or the turkey w/pesto & goat cheese at Satsuma. Hell, you could do a whole damn series on excellent turkey sandwiches.

Rohan2Reed said...

Precisely, Celeste. Turkey sandwiches can be very tasty when made well and accompanied by other good ingredients. Just look at the Christmas In July from Milk Bar. It's delicious. How dare the author relegate the turkey sandwich to something one forces down one's throat because they're lazy or bored or preoccupied. And likening it to drinking one's own urine? Come come now. The opening paragraph is an unfortunate misstep in an otherwise interesting article. I will certainly give this place a try.