Roast Beef Baguette (Camden Deli)
Location: 37 Main Street, Rockland
Notes: After a long winter’s hibernation, Camden is showing signs of life. On a gorgeous spring day, the sidewalks start to fill up again, with well-dressed families eager to interact once again with other human beings. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Camden Deli, where every single customer that walks through the door is greeted by name by owner Tom Rothwell.
One of the biggest draws at the Camden Deli is the location. There’s a small dining room at the back of the cafe (as well as seating upstairs) set atop a man-made waterfall that flows into the harbor, where diners can sit and look through the huge glass windows at the antique wooden schooners sitting at their moorings, still wrapped (at least at this time of year) in their white winterized plastic. It’s a spectacular dining room in which to have lunch, or even to stop in during the summer months to soak up some of the air conditioning and tilt back a cold beer, which the Camden Deli also sells.
Today, I tried the “Roast Beef Baguette,” one of the tamer offerings from the portion of the menu labeled “Whatever Floats Your Boat.” It wasn’t immediately clear to me what this designation meant, but I liked the elegantly simple sound of the sandwich: Boar’s Head roast beef, tomato, red onion, and Boursin (a French cheese similar in flavor and texture to cream cheese) on a baguette, for $7.99 including a bag of chips and a pickle.
I was immediately smitten with the baguette. It’s not a bread I go to often for a sandwich (unless I’m topping it with just a little butter and thinly sliced ham) mostly because the chew of a baguette is often problematic, your teeth pulling the bread right out from around your sandwich, leaving you with a mouth full of bread and a handful of wet cold cuts. Not so, with this baguette, which perfectly balanced a crusty, lightly chewy exterior, strong enough to stand up to the thick application of Boursin, with a softer middle that suited the sandwich beautifully.
The tomatoes added little to the experience, but that’s not surprising given the time of year. The roast beef was high quality stuff, though kind of weirdly distributed on the bread; there was a big lump of meat in the very middle of the sandwich, and very little at the ends of each half.
Though the combination of ingredients was good, I couldn’t help but feel like “roast beef” wasn’t quite the right choice of meats. The Earthy, grassy flavor of the beef was too similar to the mostly neutral creaminess of the Boursin, and I wanted there to be another element, like a chopped gardinera, or a spicy relish, something to bring a little pizazz to the whole affair. Barring that, ham or salami would have been a better choice of meats, the salty spiciness of those options enough to cut through all that creamy cheese.
Overall, it’s probably not a sandwich I would order again, but not because it wasn’t well-made. The bread was a real winner, and the creative array of ingredients were proportioned perfectly, if distributed a little unevenly. I just wasn’t crazy about this particular combination. It doesn’t matter: I’ve already spotted a few other sandwiches on the menu that I’m anxious to try, and I’m sure I’ll be back again to soak up some more of the Camden Deli’s spectacular view.