Today’s Sandwich: “Old Port” (Fit to Eat)
Location: 65 Market Street
Notes: “Fit to Eat” began its life in the Old Port as a sort of “healthy” sandwich shop and salad bar, with, I can only imagine, a heavy emphasis on wraps and alfalfa sprouts. Because it’s not the 1980′s, things changed when current owner Mike Mastronardi took over in 2009, with a slightly different focus. The former Five Fifty-Five cook revamped the menu, keeping what worked from the existing menu, but focusing much more on using strictly upscale, fresh, homemade ingredients (right down to the mayonnaise), combined in new ways, on bread baked fresh in-house each and every single day.
Today, I tried the “Old Port” sandwich, a combination of shaved roast beef (from Fresh Approach in the West End), sliced avocado, cheddar, and cucumber-wasabi mayonnaise. The bread had come out of the oven only moments before, a scratch-made Tuscan roll, made with chunks of sea salt and olive oil. The loaf was still warm, enough to heat the whole sandwich through, which was nice in some respects (warm roast beef) and not in others (warm shredded Romaine). It’s a small price to pay for the freshest bread on the first sandwich of the day, and that bread was spectacular. It had a beautifully shiny, crackly crunch on the outside, which gave way to a perfectly chewy inside. The roast beef was outstanding, piled high but not grossly out of proportion with the rest of the sandwich; the bread still got to take a starring role. The tomato didn’t lend much flavor to the sandwich, I am assuming because of the time of year, and I would have appreciated a second slice of cheddar; the first one got a bit lost, and I forgot all about it until I actually saw it.
I was relieved to find that the cucumber-wasabi mayo actually tasted very strongly of cucumber, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise. It’s turning into a popular ingredient on sandwiches in town, and can often end up tasting like little more than “pickled mayonnaise.” Combined with the buttery, fatty creaminess of the avocado, there was a smoothness to the sandwich that was unexpected and perfectly balanced. The only thing that could have been added, for me, was a touch of either spice or tartness. A banana pepper might have done some good (and is a favorite ingredient on other sandwiches in the shop), or a bit more wasabi in the mayonnaise. The wasabi wasn’t at all noticible, and might have brought a bit of the horseradish ruckus that the sandwich needed to make it truly amazing.
We’ll definitely be visiting “Fit to Eat” again to sample some of their other offerings, particularly their homemade soups and their breakfast sandwiches, available until 11:00 AM. We like the space, we like the reasonably-priced local art on the walls, and, to use a term that makes me gag, we liked the “vibe.” Owner Mike Mastronardi is a soft-spoken guy who bakes his own bread, mixes his own sauces, uses local ingredients, and spends more time thinking about sandwiches than we do, and there’s a lot to respect in that.