Monday, July 8, 2013

Local Loaf - Uptown

Lobzilla taking over the tank at Meat & Fish Co.
On a recent Saturday morning, BFTB and I headed over to the 7th Street Public Market to get some breakfast at Local Loaf.  After snagging a parking spot on the street, we walked in but decided to walk around check out the entire market before grabbing our sandwiches. I’ve been on the hunt for a good butcher shop for a while, so I was especially excited to check out Meat & Fish Co. at the back of the market. The locally sourced meats seemed fresh and there were some interesting options (wild boar, anyone?) in addition to traditional beef, chicken, and pork products. The fish case also held some tasty-looking options. I don’t know if I could ever give up patronizing my beloved Clean Catch Fish Market, but I’m glad to have a less costly alternative available for the next time I decide to prepare a fishy feast. 

Bennett Lane's 2008 Maximus at The Sorting Table
The best find of the day, however, was at The Sorting Table. It was only 10 AM so I didn’t exactly have wine on the brain while I wandered through the market, but I caught a glimpse of a bottle of Bennett Lane Winery’s 2008 “Maximus” perched on an eye-level shelf and made a beeline into the shop.  I excitedly told Josh, the owner (I think?), that Maximus, while one of my favorite bottles of wine, has proved impossible to find in North Carolina. Bennett Lane describes Maximus as a robust “red feasting wine” comprised of a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 14% Syrah, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Josh sang the bottle’s praises, reminded me of the various awards it has won, and explained how he ended up with a stash of the impossible-to-find California wine. He dug around to find all the bottles that he had squirreled  away throughout the shop and I bought three –one to give away and two to save for special occasions. Then Josh helped me pick out a new, lower priced bottle of white to try. I can’t rave enough about the fabulous, friendly, and knowledgeable service we received at the Sorting Table. I should note that in addition to selling a carefully selected variety of wines from around the globe, The Sorting Table plays host to numerous private and public events, including wine flight nights every Tuesday from 5-7 PM. While I doubt I could spring for one of Josh’s private, in-home wine and food pairing dinner parties, I’m excited to make a return visit for a flight night sometime soon.

Customers placing orders at the Local Loaf counter.
With our four bottles of wine in tow, BFTB and I eventually wound our way back to Local Loaf. The sandwiches were listed under two sections of the menu: “Brunchwiches” and “Lunch.” Although we were both very intrigued by the “‘Not Just’ BLT” (house cured Pork Belly with fresh popcorn shoots, cornmeal dusted fired green tomato, melted pimento cheese, chive infused olive oil serve on a rustic ciabatta) and a few of the other lunch options, neither of us could pass on the Brunchwiches. BFTB ordered the Steak & Egg Baguette (marinated steak served with soft scrambled egg, honey roasted garlic and smoked jalapeno aioli, arugula served on rustic hand-rolled baguette) and I opted to go with the Croque Monsieur (sunkist-glazed ham with Emerald and Swiss, smothered with Béchamel sauce, and topped with a perfectly poached egg).  Unimportant side note- I was a little confused when I saw the menu board at Local Loaf… Isn’t a Croque Monsieur supposed to be a combo of ham, cheese, and béchamel on bread while a Croque Madame should be the same ingredients, but topped with an egg? Regardless of whether it’s Local Loaf or me that needs a French lesson, I ordered the sandwich, grabbed a number, and excitedly waited for my food at a little table near Cloud 9 Confections while BFTB grabbed a pour over coffee from Not Just Coffee.
Steak & Egg Baguette

BFTB’s Steak & Egg Baguette was exceptional (egg-ceptional?). The egg was creamy and well-seasoned but somehow also fluffy and light. The marinade on the steak was flavorful without being overly salty and made each piece of meat tender, but biteable (I didn't feel like a cow chewing its cud when I took a bite of the sandwich). The honey roasted garlic and smoked jalapeno aioli added interesting, spicy flavor without overwhelming either the egg or the steak. The baguette itself had a crispy, tan-colored crust and light, fluffy interior and the steak juices and aioli soaked into the bread without making it soggy. Topped with a sprinkle of salad greens, the combo made for a very tasty sandwich.

...and after popping the yolk.
Croque Monsieur before popping the yolk...
The Croque Monsieur, while also very good, was not quite as delicious as the Steak & Egg Baguette. Although the ciabatta bread was very tasty, it was so light and fluffy that I’m not sure it was the best choice to contain such rich, heavy ingredients. I wish I had ordered the Croque Monsieur on the same baguette as BFTB’s sandwich to add some much-needed texture to the sandwich. In addition, I was not super impressed by the béchamel sauce. It tasted like the flour hadn't been fully cooked. Despite the fact that it was super fatty, there wasn’t much flavor and the sauce just tasted like warm, wet, salty starch. The ham and cheese choices were exceptional, however. In addition, the whole sandwich was topped with one of the most beautifully poached eggs I have ever eaten. A while back, my dad taught me that the key to perfect poaching is adding a splash of white vinegar to the water in which the egg is cooked.  This technique, along with swirling the water and keeping it at a barely rolling boil, prevents the egg white from spreading out into rubbery wisps throughout the pan. In the end, you have a runny, ball-shaped yolk surrounded by a nearly perfect circle of solid egg white, rather than a messy spoonful of thin, wet, stringy egg pieces. Even when restaurants utilize the vinegar technique like my dad, or some other mysterious method, I still feel like it’s a pretty rare occurrence to be served a poached egg that both tastes and looks good. That said, whoever is poaching the eggs at Local Loaf is doing a great job. One quick jab from my fork deflated the egg and warm, runny yolk spilled out of its béchamel blanket and coated my sandwich. The egg really brought the whole thing together. If I decided to order the Croque Monsieur again, I’d maybe ask for an extra poached egg to add a little more flavor but either way, it’s a strong breakfast choice for a sandwich lover. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Local Loaf and am certain I will return soon to grab either a breakfast or lunch sandwich. I’m especially excited to check out the $15 Sunday brunch that includes omelets, bacon, eggs, fruit, breads, and other options. For now, I’ll give Local Loaf a 7.5/10.

Local Loaf on Urbanspoon

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