The Special – The Freshly Baked Eatery, N 3rd St, San Jose, CA

As I stood in The Freshly Baked Eatery and considered my options, an employee behind the counter held up a just-sliced length of sourdough bread. “Fresh and hot,” he told me, “ready to go!” I’m not usually one to rush to order, but bread so fresh as to literally be steaming waits for no man. I spied the words “The Special” and “Sausage” and told the man I’d have that. The Special turned out to be custom sausage (said to be a combination of German, Polish, and Yugoslav cooked in beer), and Swiss cheese, served on sourdough with a crispy crust and a wonderfully chewy interior. Naturally, I got “everything” on it, so it also included mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lettuce, tomato, and red onion. I know I’ve complained about iceberg in the past, but here it played as part of a larger ensemble and I would rank it at unobjectionable. The sausage was plenty tasty, with a unique peppery flavor reminiscent of any number of sausages you’ve had before. There was enough Swiss that you could tell it was there, but not so much as to overwhelm anything. Almost everything about this sandwich was done right, but there was one big issue that nearly derailed everything.

Having been poached in beer, the sausage had a tough casing that couldn’t be snapped by the pressure of an average bite. As a result, taking one bite often meant pulling the whole of the sausage with it. Then you have to try to grab on to it with your fingers and stuff it back in to the sandwich, or rotate the whole thing around and see if your eye teeth are up to the task of slicing through, or just give up, eat the sausage, and then deal with what is essentially a cheese sandwich. None of these options are satisfactory, and simply searing the sausages off in a pan before they’re poached eliminates this problem, as the outside becomes crispy and gives easily to the bite. I’m not quite certain what The Freshly Baked Eatery’s setup is, I know they bake their own bread and roast their own meats, but perhaps there are no actual burners involved. If that’s the case, I would advise them to can the subtle beer flavor and bake the sausage. In any case, equipment limitations and my advice and neither here nor there; ultimately this sandwich just wasn’t everything it could have been. The bread was really quite good, though, and given the fine flavors and balance displayed in the rest of the sandwich, it was still quite enjoyable. Perfect sandwiches are few and far between, and I suspect had I gone with the spicy salami or the garlic herb turkey I wouldn’t have had much about which to complain.

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