350 University Avenue, Hillcrest
Making a sandwich from three ingredients takes a lot of brass. But mostly it takes three pretty terrific ingredients, and clearly one of them is going to be bread. So what do you get when the other two ingredients consist of ham and butter? I mean, aside from a lot of disinterest. You get the classic jambón-beurre. That's right, brought to by the French, the same people who convinced the world that garlic, butter and snails was another three-ingredient wonder.
Any backpacker who's ever looked for a remotely affordable lunch in Paris knows the deal. You stand in line at a boulangerie and ask the lady behind the counter for the cheapest premade sandwich they've got. You then watch as her hand passes over the rotisserie chicken, the roast beef, even the buffalo mozzarella, and lands on the jambón. I mean, not even cheese. Then you say merci and gobble it down on the sidewalk, considering it the most delicious thing you've eaten all day.
But here's the thing: it is delicious.
So when I heard Bread & Cie had one, I wanted to see how it stacked up. The Hillcrest bakery provides bread to an impossibly long list of local restaurants and shops, and there's little question their baked goods are good. You know, San Diego good. Hell, San Diego great. So that's one ingredient that should be taken care of right out the gate.
Naturally, you don't find the jambón-beurre on their overhead menu board. It's in the glass deli counter. You may never notice it thanks to all the cupcakes, éclairs and other pastries. I didn't, and I was looking for the damn thing. But my eyes kept drifting to the macarons, another French favorite. I got two: pistachio and — I dunno, who cares? They're all delicious.
With a little assistance, I got my simple sandwich and eagerly dug in.
It wasn't the most delicious thing I ate all day; that honor goes to the macarons. Now, comparing the bread to Parisian bread doesn't seem fair. I mean it held up pretty well, a little stiffer in the crust and maybe just not as earthy in flavor without that soupçon of pissy Parisian sidewalk to take it to the next level.
The butter. Oh, that salted European butter is a different beast. You can get reasonable versions of it out here, but it just struggles to attain the same aura of richness, the one that makes older men's wives force them to switch to margarine.
But what really did this sandwich in is the ham. It just wasn't great ham. It was adequate ham, but working in a three-ingredient milieu, you can't miss on one unless you knock the other two out of the park.
It's not a bad sandwich, but it's not that sandwich, even for a measly few bucks. Those macarons, though — they do it for me every time. That's where you should be throwing all your loose change.