"What kind of cheese comes on the turkey and harissa sandwich?" Those were the first words out of my mouth as I labored over the options of the impressive menu at the newly opened St. Paul Cheese Shop located near Grand and Snelling. A staff member quickly offered that they could put just about anything on it (nice) but that they had been using a crucolo today (also nice). I knew nothing of the variety as I am still building my cheese IQ, but a quick and generous sample had me sold on the buttery and tangy cow's milk cheese form Northern Italy.
Now, back to the menu, there are several tantalizing sandwich creations including a house-smoked pastrami, house-smoked corned beef and the "cheesemonger" featuring sopressata (deadly), provolone and a pepper-onion relish. Every sandwich is served on the neighboring Breadsmith's ciabatta and all looked good, but the creamy cheese and harissa combo sold me early in the decision-making process.
I surveyed the shop's other wares and was offered another sample - this time a spanish chorizo while I waited for my sandwich. The chorizo was a knock-out and had me eagerly waiting to get to my lunch. A generous sandwich arrived a few moments later and I headed out into the sunshine to enjoy.
The sandwich was a bit bread-heavy for my liking, but the red-orange harissa was smokey and spicy enough to cut through it. I wouldn't say it was outrageously vibrant, but it provided a nice contrast to the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the buttery-soft cheese. The turkey was the real thing offering texture and tenderness, but I would be lying if I told you the thick slices of the creamy crucolo did not reign supreme over the entire thing. The portions were beyond generous, and the soft, dense cheese was present in nearly every bite. I would hope that a cheese shop could deliver in this realm, and they definitely did, although I would have loved a dusting of fresh ground pepper and some salt as I found the sandwich a little lacking in seasoning.
Sandwich Rating: Tasty. The cheese was outrageous and really made the sandwich special. The other high-quality ingredients were nice, but not on the level of the crucolo. The over-abundance of bread (becoming more common IMHO) and lack of seasoning held this one back, but I'll know to ask next time - and there will be a next time very soon!
Epic Sandwich copyright 2009 by Teddy Hobbins