Monday, November 01, 2010

Artisan Cheese Gallery, Studio City

Don’t you find it difficult to answer when people ask you what your ONE favorite food in the world is?  I mean, there are so many delicious options that I’m not sure one can truly name just ONE thing that is their absolute favorite.  It depends on my mood, where I am, even the weather- I love a bowl of rich, deeply-flavored boeuf bourguignon, but it’d be the last thing I’d want to eat in August when stuff like ceviche is more what I’m craving.  Unless you’re an extremely picky eater and are happy eating the same thing every day (how one can live like that is beyond me!), I doubt you could narrow your food love to just one. 

That said, “sandwiches” could be a working answer for the often-asked question, only because there is such a variety and there are also many loose interpretations out there.  Almost all sandwiches include bread, which is a Top Five Favorite Food of mine, and many contain cheese, another Top Five, so naturally a marriage of those plus some other nice ingredients would elevate the sandwich near the top.  However, as with most things, there are plenty of bad representations of The Sandwich - I can’t tell you how many times I’d had the entire contents of one fall into my plate (or lap!) after one bite and I find few things as disgusting as soaking wet bread on a badly constructed sandy.  Talk about an appetite suppressant! 

Luckily for every Subway there is a baker, chef, cook or plain old food-loving soul that gives The Sandwich the respect it deserves, and in using top quality ingredients creates a masterpiece.  Take, for instance, the folks at the Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City.  J and I found ourselves in that neighborhood last weekend and decided to check it out after several tweeters (Twitterers?) suggested it as a good place to eat lunch.  The place was small and quaint, with a cheese counter on one side and some gourmet jams and other goodies lining the shelves next to some tables where people were eating. 

J bemoaned missing out on a crab salad sandwich from the specials menu that was sold out, but there were plenty of other delicious-sounding options to choose from, so he ordered the Lentil Soup and the Rosemary Chicken Panini (Grilled Chicken Breast, Provolone, Pancetta, Smoked Paprika Aioli, and Arugula on Ciabattina).  I, on the other hand, had my mind set on a turkey on multigrain bread which they didn’t seem to have, so I asked the man at the counter if they offered a “build your own” option to which he quickly answered, “NO.”  Then he added, “but you can order a sandwich off the menu and make changes.”  Good enough.  I decided to get the Turkey Sandwich (Turkey Breast, French Brie, Sliced Granny Smith Apple, Pickled Red Onion, and Arugula on Baguette) but changed out the brie for cheddar and the baguette to multigrain.  I was also going to hold the apple, but the two changes I’d made took the man about 4 minutes each to punch into the register (I’m not even over exaggerating and J was giving me the "MUST you always tweak?" evil eye) so I just figured I’d take them out myself.  I’m sure some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me, like “why don’t you just trust the chef?!” and I know, you’re probably right, but I spied the multigrain bread on someone else’s order and felt I made the right choice, and I’ve never been a big brie fan.  After what seemed like an eternity, we sat down and waited for our food.

Any doubts I had about making all those changes were erased when I saw my beautiful sandwich.  I decided to try a bite before taking out the paper-thin slices of granny smith apple, and am I glad I did!  The tartness of the apple cut the richness of the white cheddar, and the peppery arugula brought it all together with the turkey.  It Was Perfect.  I liked it so much I vowed to start putting apples in my sandwiches at home.  For a girl who doesn’t like fruit in savory dishes, it was quite a revelation. 

J’s lentil soup was outstanding, with a nice smoky flavor from the bacon.  His sandwich (first photo of this post) was also very good- the smoked paprika aioli really stood out and of course the provolone cheese was top quality.  Not only were both sandwiches delicious, but very well-constructed with no part of the filling escaping during the noshing process.  Win-win!

The staff at Artisan Cheese Gallery weren’t the, um, warmest people…we tried to interact with three separate people working there and they weren’t rude exactly, but there were no smiles to be had.  I wonder if they were peeved by my sandwich tweaks?  They probably didn’t like me messing with the menu, which I do understand, but what if I’d had some allergies and am making the necessary adjustments?  Just a thought.  Regardless, the food was excellent, and nothing can come between me and an amazing sandwich, not even a few grumpy counter people.  

Artisan Cheese Gallery
12023 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 505-0207 tel.

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