A Sandwich a Day: Fried Green Tomato BLT at Slice of Life Café in Oak Bluffs, MA
In this great country of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year--so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around the country. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. --The Mgmt.
The concept of a BLT is dead simple and perfect: Strips of smoky, chewy bacon; clean, crisp lettuce (preferably iceberg); bright, tangy tomato slices; a smear of creamy mayo; and toasted white sandwich bread. Purists like me will tell you that the carefully calibrated formula shouldn't be riffed upon, gussied up, or messed with in any way. The gods who invented classic sandwiches like this one got it right the first time.
And yet, I totally dig the Fried Green Tomato BLT ($9.50) at Slice of Life Café on Martha's Vineyard. It's a boutique version for sure, but one that has been fine-tuned to work at least as well as any standard-issue BLT.
Bacon: Thick—but not too thick—cut and applewood-smoked. Bacon never strikes me as something that's difficult to cook well, but this kitchen gets it just right. The strips are well-rendered and firm, but don't shatter; I like my bacon to have a little chew.
Lettuce: Not lettuce. Baby arugula. I've got nothing against iceberg—or, for that matter, romaine, bibb, or red leaf—but peppery arugula seems like a natural pairing with bacon and mayo. (Oh, my. The heretical tendencies are really showing now.)
Tomato: The most obvious departure from regular BLTs, and the element that makes this sandwich. The tart green fruits are sliced pretty thick, coated in fine breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until golden-brown. If there's a practical argument for this form of tomato, it might be that the fruit's jelly doesn't seep out and render the bread soggy. More to the point: Hot, crunchy, batter-fried tomatoes taste awesome.
Mayo: Mayo + basil. The sandwich would be fine without the basil too, but a little bit of that sweet, fragrant freshness works really nicely against the richness of the fried tomato's coating.
Bread: Toasted, tight-crumbed, and scented with rosemary. The texture is perfect: not dense or chewy, but just sturdy and substantial enough to keep from turning soggy—and to keep the contents from shooting out the sides when you squeeze the sandwich. As for the rosemary, its pine-y (albeit subtle) flavor would overwhelm mild-mannered iceberg and any regular tomato that wasn't absolutely ripe. Here, it's just right.
Bonus: The ramekin of coleslaw is really, really good. Crisp, not dripping mayonnaise, sharpened with red onion, and flecked with poppy seeds.
So much for my purist sensibilities.