There’s this epic sandwich in London. A sandwich so epic, in fact, that according to professional-at-life Carolyn Matthews, “It’s the perfect hot sandwich. It has everything you’re looking for in a hot sandwich.” It’s the Duck Confit Brioche. Duck confit, goat cheese honey truffle, arugula, onion chutney, mustard, all on a homemade brioche. One thing that makes this sandwich especially epic is the fact that you don’t just go to the store and pick it up. You have to find the sandwich before you indulge. It’s for this particular reason that Carolyn and I set out one fateful Saturday afternoon.
We had a general idea of where we could find the Duck Confit Brioche, which is prepared by a mobile sandwich truck called the Frenchie. Carolyn had started following them on Facebook after stumbling upon the greatness initially by chance, and knew they were at some food festival on Southbank. However, there was a great deal of activity going on around Southbank that day, and we stumbled through massive crowds at the Christmas markets before reluctantly acknowledging that the Frenchie was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, Carolyn was struck by inspiration. “I have one more spot we can check.” Yes! My excitement spilled over. Indeed, it appeared as if there was actually a food festival happening in that very spot, and after walking through all booths, there, at the end of the line, was the Frenchie.
Honestly, I’ve visited a variety of food markets and festivals thus far in London, and from a distance the booth didn’t look like much. However, I know Carolyn enough to trust her insight, so we hopped in line. Inside the booth three French men were working, one handling the money and two handling the sandwich prep. One was obviously the boss, and he took his trade seriously. He looked over the other man’s shoulder through every step, correcting everything he did. He scolded his method of spreading the onion chutney on the brioche, threw the brioches back onto the grill until they were perfectly toasted, and demonstrated the procedure for properly grilling the goat’s cheese. Everything was calculated; everything had to be perfect. After all, this was his livelihood. If anyone could just mimic the process in their own kitchens, the motivation wouldn’t be there to seek them out. I must admit, Carolyn was right as usual, the finished product was absolutely sensational.
From a dietetics major’s standpoint, this demonstration offered some valuable insight into the serious nature of the food service industry. I don’t think most people realize how intense it really is behind the scenes of a restaurant. Here, however, it was on display. There was no room for error in any step of the process. And the result was a sandwich worth scouring London to track down.
The diligence demonstrated by these men resulted in a sandwich with flavor profiles that were out of this world. The duck was delicious: perfectly seasoned, savory and grilled to perfection, with just a slight hint of crunch. The sweet, dark tang of the chutney, combined with the bright flavors of the mustard and sweetness of honey, peeked through occasionally providing a nice contrast to the savory duck. The rich, earthy flavor of the toasted goat’s cheese persisted throughout, rounding out the whole experience for a perfectly balanced toasted sandwich-eating experience.
All-in-all, the effort was intense, but the result was rewarding. We found the sandwich. We ate the sandwich. And it was epic.
Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in London.