A Sandwich a Day: Willie Brown Bird at Cheese Plus in San Francisco
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.
One visit and I was hooked on Cheese Plus. This little store in Russian Hill has a quality cheese selection and a staff of friendly, knowledgeable cheesemongers. Best of all, Cheese Plus is never packed like Cowgirl Creamery, so you can stand there all day trying cheeses without feeling a tourist's hot breath steaming down your neck.
It did take me a while to try a sandwich, not because they didn't sound amazing (I mean, with the cheese counter so close, and a Grilled Cheese of the Day, how can you go wrong?), but because I was already spending way, way too much money on cheese.
The day I caved and bought a sandwich was a good day. The Willie Brown Bird ($9) starts with a spread of Scottish fig chutney topped with slices of smoked duck breast. The duck is delicious—tender with a slightly gamy, smoky flavor on top of its natural sweetness. The fig chutney is powerful, with a spicy-sweetness that comes from the ginger hiding in the spread.
At first I was afraid the rich, almost plummy flavors of the duck and fig would make the sandwich overly sweet, but a second bite—where I could taste all the elements—proved that this sandwich is all about a sweet-sour balance.
What exactly balances out the sweet? Six thin slices of provolone cheese, which have a mild tang. Also pickled onions, which provide acid and a thick layer of arugula, adding peppery bitterness. As a final nod to the indulgence of a duck breast sandwich, there's a layer of butter on one side of the Dutch Crunch roll. A smear of butter is that je ne sais quoi that makes Parisian sandwiches so amazing, and it works its magic here. The overall effect is a deliciously decadent sandwich, and one that's worth forgoing some cheese for.
About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar.