I was in Della Fattoria yesterday, one of those lovely overpriced Italian-inflected cafes of which we have so many in Northern California. The bread is chewy, the eggs all "farm," everyone sits at harvest tables reading the New York Times, quietly smiling whenever they see an allusion to president-elect Obama. I was famished and ordered the pressato of salami and fontina. I think it was fontina. Anyway, the whole ordering decision was based on a blur of treat-like images: salami, cheese, baguette, pressato.
I should have known better. I did know better! But I was in starving, go-for-all-the-delicacies mode. Here's what was wrong with that $12 (yes) sandwich.
1. Certain cheeses, particularly "good" ones, shouldn't be melted. Something terrible happens in the minute it takes for expensive cheese to go from solid to semi-solid, something that makes it too powerful, too rich. Is it related to the way the fat beads on the surface? I don't understand this phenomenon, but repeated disappointments making grilled cheese with sharp white cheddar have taught me that the better the cheese, the worse the melting experience.
2. Strong cheese and salami are too much of an exciting thing. Salami -- especially thick-cut Fra Mani salami which this was -- needs a sweet, unctuous foil like mayonnaise to set off the garlicky meat. Salami can handle Swiss cheese, which is kind of thin and sarcastic, but basically mild. It was sadly overpowered by the fontina or havarti or whatever they melted on this fancy sandwich.
Upshot: wrong sandwich made with right ingredients. I blame both the person who put it on the menu and the greedy one who ordered it.
Okay, now the happier story of the chocolate gingerbread magnificence pictured above.
After resounding success with chocolate pumpkin bread I started looking for chocolate-spice recipes with the idea that my chocolate problem might be solved by giving the ingredient something lively to play with, something that can aggressively push back. A few years ago I made Nigella Lawson's awesome chocolate gingerbread and decided to try the chocolate gingerbread in Dorie Greenspan's Baking.
I would need to taste Nigella's and Dorie's cakes side-by-side for a scientific analysis of which is more delicious (party concept?!) but have meanwhile decided that, generally speaking, chocolate gingerbread is better than either chocolate cake or gingerbread. Chocolate and ginger and dark sugars belong together, unlike salami and fancy cheese. I am groping blindly towards some larger culinary theory here and maybe in a few decades you can read about it.
Meanwhile, gratuitous picture of my beautiful niece pensively eating chocolate gingerbread: