Tag Archives: best sandwich

Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 21

A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.
A small, 6-inch chocolate silk pie from Manresa Bread.

Manresa Bread, Campbell, Los Altos, and Los Gatos

Manresa Bread is a must-stop any day of the week. But come holidays, it shines even more.

That’s what I discovered when I dropped by last week to pick up Valentine’s Day treats. It pays to heed the window for early pre-ordering, too, as popular items will sell out fast.

Pastry Chef-Founder Avery Ruzicka built a reputation for her outstanding breads, made with organic flour milled on site. Those are a must-purchase, especially the profoundly crusty baguette, which quite frankly is a steal for $4, and the oblong levain ($9) with such depth of flavor from a combination of organic whole wheat, organic white, and organic rye flours in concert with a sourdough starter.

Manresa Bread's version of a Basque cheesecake.
Manresa Bread’s Basque cheesecake.

Admittedly, I was there for two holiday items in particular: the 6-inch chocolate silk pie ($22), and the Basque cheesecake ($35).

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A Grilled Cheese That’s The Boom

A sticky, jammy center of caramelized shiitakes and onions takes this grilled cheese to another level.

A sticky, jammy center of caramelized shiitakes and onions takes this grilled cheese to another level.


Got cheese?

Got bread?

Then you know you have the makings for a simple yet sensational meal.

Especially if the cheese gets all melty and oozy all over that bread.

“The Great Grilled Cheese Book: Grown-Up Recipes for a Childhood Classic” (Ten Speed, 2018), of which I received a review copy, will show you just how special that combination can be.

The cookbook is by Eric Greenspan, a graduate of both the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris. He also trained under such celebrated chefs as Alain Ducasse, David Bouley, and Joachim Splichal.

The Los Angeles chef made a name for himself with his grilled cheese when he opened the Foundry on Melrose in 2007. He was also the owner of The Roof on Wilshire, where a grilled cheese is indeed still on the menu morning, noon and night.


With 50 takes on grilled cheese, this book offers up both simple and fully loaded versions of this iconic sandwich, from the “Monterey Melt” (poached sush-grade tuna and sharp Cheddar), and “Frenchie” (crumbled blue cheese and date marmalade), to “Prime Time” (brie with roast beef and beet-horseradish mayo), and “Redberry Crunch” (Gouda with raspberry chutney and pecan brittle).

“The Boom” is a vegetarian grilled cheese that tastes downright meaty, thanks to caramelized shiitakes and onions that get coated with home-made Worcestershire sauce. That sauce is a breeze to make, too. Not only that, unlike store-bought Worcestershire sauce that uses anchovies, this one is vegetarian, even vegan.

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Build A Better Banh Mi

Banh mi fixiings: Sri Lankan Black Curry Chicken (foreground) and Citrusy Red Cabbage Pickles (back).

Banh mi fixiings: Sri Lankan Black Curry Chicken (foreground) and Citrusy Red Cabbage Pickles (back).


Banh Mi has been a touchstone in my life.

It all started years ago when I was part of a team of reporters at the San Jose Mercury News covering race and demographics. As part of our — ahem — research of various cultures and communities, we naturally tried to hit up as many ethnic restaurants at lunch time as possible. After all, what better way to learn about a culture than to immerse one’s self in its cuisine?

The first time I encountered the ubiquitous Vietnamese sandwich otherwise known as banh mi, I admit I was dubious. A fresh, satisfying sandwich for under $4? How could that be?

My low expectations matched the low price.

Of course, one bite was all it took to prove me wrong.

The sandwich was miraculous. A fresh baguette filled with lemongrass chicken, smooth pate, hot chiles, fresh herbs and the most deliriously wonderful slivers of pickled carrots and daikon. It was savory, fragrant, tangy and bright. It wasn’t a ginormous sandwich by American standards, but it was full of so much flavor and texture that it left you completely satiated.

What a bargain, too. In fact, my colleagues and I were so amazed at the bang for the buck that we jokingly started using the banh mi as our own personal form of currency.

The cost for the city of San Jose to add resources to its gang prevention efforts? That would be $3 million. Or as we liked to think of it: nearly 1 million Viet sandwiches.

Building the BART extension to San Jose? Politicians might call it $3.2 billion. We likened it to about 1 billion Viet shredded pork sammies.

Yeah, that’s how we rolled.


My friend Andrea Nguyen’s newest cookbook, “The Banh Mi Handbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a copy, brought back all those zany and delicious memories.

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