If your lunch usually consists of a turkey sandwich or a microwaved meal, then maybe it's time to branch out a little and try new things, or in this case branch out into unconquered lunch territory. Scardello (3511 Oak Lawn Ave.) sent word yesterday that the Empire Baking Co. pumpernickel and country bread will replace the baguettes used in many of the current sandwiches on the menu and three new sandwiches have been added. The new Pickled Reuben seemed intriguing, but we raised an eyebrow when we saw the description of the Decadent Chevre: A melted concoction of Askinosie chocolate, Mozzarella Company goat cheese and Taste No. 5 umami paste (the cheese shop sells tubes of the paste). Say what? We had to taste the sandwich for ourselves, so owner Rich Rogers prepared the sandwich when we stopped in for a late lunch.
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Rogers conceived the dish after making chocolate and goat cheese fondue at home. "I was inspired by the umami paste," Rogers says. Known as the fifth taste, umami refers to the savory flavor that was first proposed to be one of the basic tastes in the 1800s. The paste is a savory puree of tomato, garlic, anchovy paste, black olives, porcini mushrooms, olive oil, Parmesan and a touch of sugar and salt. Phew, that's a lot of ingredients blended together to capture one of the "basic" tastes, but we found the paste very appealing after tasting it alone. It would be a nice addition to a pasta, fish or poultry dish, but would it be a good pairing with chocolate and cheese? The blend of melted chevre and rich, dark chocolate hit the palate first, followed by lingering notes of olive, mushroom and tomato. It's like sensory overload for your taste buds, but in a good way, not like that bad acid trip at Burning Man.