Each week, Justin Bitner goes hunting for DFW's most interesting sandwiches. Have a sandwich suggestion? Leave it in the comments, and he'll check it out.
Venue: Bolsa Mercado Sandwich: Smoked Turkey Ciabatta ($7)
Bread: Fresh ciabatta from the very familiar Village Baking Co.
Toppings: House-smoked turkey, even smokier bacon, arugula, Swiss, pepper relish, avocado spread
The Case: This week's 'Wich Trials takes us to the fairly new Bolsa Mercado, another Davis Street jam from the Chrises Jeffers and Zielke, owners of Bolsa. They've teamed up with esteemed chefs Jeff Harris and Matt Balke to create a market that splits time as purveyor of finer grocery goods and house-everything deli. The Mercado offshoot sits a Yu Darvish long-toss down the street from the original restaurant, offering the same rehabbed charm that Bolsa provides. Walking inside, the vibe reminds me of a more spread-out Jimmy's Food Store, minus the drive-thru.
To the left of the entrance, a large deli counter beckons, offering up various wares ranging from high-end deli meats to house-baked pastries and kolaches. Scribbled on a chalkboard behind the vast case, a list of five sandwiches stands amidst other offerings. Taking a quick look through the lineup, I land on the turkey ciabatta, which seemed to have quite a few unique elements going for it, with a pepper relish and avocado spread. Plus, bacon.
Once the sandwich was ready, I took the hand-off across the counter, shooting a glance at a pile of fresh wild boar sausage kolaches sitting behind a thin sheet of glasses, demanding to be my salty dessert. I shook off the temptation for the moment to refocus on the task at hand. Grabbing a seat on the small patio, I peeled the butcher paper away from my parcel to reveal a tightly constructed ciabatta baby.
The first bite reveals a great crunch on the exterior of the bread, with a soft interior and brilliant stratum of toppings. The deep flavors of the turkey and bacon hit right away, as each imparts a unique brand on the sandwich. The bacon, an applewood variety that isn't currently smoked in-house, lends an incredible saltiness to each bite that goes beyond the role of your typical swine side.
House-smoked turkey, as a slight contrast, gives a diminished flavor of smokiness, instead hinting at it coyly while the bacon is more aggressive. I spoke with Harris, the mind behind the dish, and found the preparation for the fowl to be quite thorough. The turkey is first brined to maintain its juiciness, then it's smoked, slung through the cryovac and then slowly steamed to finish it off. The result that hits the bread has all the right elements, balancing great smokiness without being dried out, a feat not often achieved by most deli turkeys.
There's an interesting play of flavors at work throughout the sandwich. While the turkey brings a nice base flavor, it's quickly swept up by the vinegar flavors of the relish. This particular relish concoction is a light mix of red peppers, red onions and vinegar. It adds the perfect amount of zip to a sandwich that leans more to the mild, smoky profile. The avocado spread, lathered onto the top and bottom layers, gives the silky flavor of the verdant vegetable in a more compact form. Harris whips the avocado into an aioli using lemon juice to complement the mayonnaise base and add another lifting element to the dish.
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The sandwich is great to pair with a busy day. It's not a plan-cancelling gut-buster, but it's got enough girth to keep you going. Plus, the sturdy ciabatta and smart construction (wet ingredients in the middle layer, take note everyone) allow for tearing off bites here and there without the sandwich disintegrating into a soggy mess.
The Verdict: Le Bag Market steps out of the shadow of its big brother and proves itself as the smoked turkey ciabatta excels.
More 'Wich Trials: The Brough Ham Fleetwood at Off-Site Kitchen Tha Nooner at Jonathon's Oak Cliff The Fried Oyster Po' Boy at Po' Melvin's The Sizzling Steak at Captain Nemo's The Falafel Pita at Milk and Honey