Eric MacLaren (Clan MacLaren)
Location: 395 Main Street, Rockland
Notes: Before we get going, the briefest confession: In the four days since I have discovered Clan MacLaren (and by “discovered,” I mean, “finally tried after walking on by for years”), I have returned there for a sandwich exactly three times. In fact, I am so smitten with the sandwiches at Clan MacLaren, that I originally envisioned writing a much more thorough post. The title of this hypothetical post placed it not in the “Today’s Sandwich” category, but was to be the start of a new series, very tentatively titled “Watch Me Eat a Restaurant’s Entire Menu in One Sitting.” After giving it some careful consideration, though, I realized that I just don’t have that kind of stamina, and that I would have to pick just one sandwich to talk about right away.
That sandwich is the “Eric MacLaren,” an eight dollar beauty that combines salami, smoky provolone cheese, sliced green pepper, tomato, onion, black olives, pickles, and olive oil on a freshly baked sub roll from Borealis Breads. You can almost think of it as an upgrade of the venerable Maine “Italian” sandwich, that mysteriously addictive wonder of the processed food world which combines a thin layer of boiled ham, American cheese, and fresh vegetables on a super squishy, soft bun. The cheese on a Maine “Italian” liquefies as soon as it gets hit with the moisture from the oil, fresh vegetables and sliced sour pickles on top, resulting in a powerful combination of flavors and textures that I have waxed rhapsodic about on these very pages for probably much too long.
Taking a cue from this classic Maine junk food, the “Eric MacLaren” dares to ask: What would happen if you replaced all of the elements of a traditional Maine Italian sandwich with actual, honest-to-goodness, quality real ingredients? Not just real ingredients, but some of the best ingredients available at this price point? Here, the flavorless bulk boiled ham that serves as a mere gesture in a traditional Italian is replaced with sliced Boar’s Head salami and a layer of provolone cheese. The vegetables are all sliced fresh, and piled high not on a gigantic glorified hot dog bun, but on a satisfyingly chewy sub roll with a golden brown blistered exterior from Borealis Breads in Waldoboro. Even the oil, which in lesser versions of a Maine-style Italian sandwich is nothing more than a flavorless slick that acts more as a lubricant than a flavoring agent, is here replaced by a hot pepper infused olive oil from Fiore Artisan Olive Oils & Vinegars, located right down the street. It’s as though every ingredient in the venerable Maine classic has received a massive upgrade, every ingredient treated with a level of care and concern unusual in a neighborhood sandwich shop.
The resulting sandwich is exquisite. I got mine finished with diced jalapenos, which lends extra spice to the salami and offsets the pleasant funk of the provolone. The spicy olive oil finishing move is not to be missed, either, staining the chewy freshly-baked bread (and the paper it’s wrapped in, and your fingers) a satisfying orange. At over eight bucks, it may not be the cheapest sandwich in town, but that’s hardly the point. Throw in the included bag of chips and pickle spear, and you’ve got a well-rounded lunch that should be included in every serious sandwich eater’s noontime rotation.
Clan MacLaren: 395 Main Street, Rockland, Maine 04841; (207) 593-7778; www.ClanMacLaren.net