The BLT at Oaks Gourmet came highly recommended by a trusted associate, and I’m always very tempted by a sandwich that comes with a boast. Obviously with so many establishments making claims on the ultimate this or the best that in America they can’t all be correct, but it signals a certain amount of effort that has to be appreciated. Sometimes the claim is completely unwarranted, and other times you find something really special. Oaks Gourmet Market makes a strong bid, filling their offering with ingredients they want you to know are special. Black Forest Bacon, heirloom tomatoes, butterleaf hearts, Camembert cheese, avocado and roasted shallot ailoli all come together on toasted sourdough. And for all of that, you get…you get a BLT. It’s possible that this isn’t a tremendously popular opinion, but there isn’t really a tremendously high ceiling on the BLT. It’s good; crisp, moist lettuce, salty, smoky bacon, and a flavorful tomato all work well together. It’s just that the combination isn’t spectacular. Good, sure, but it’s more a well whistled tune than an impressive symphony.
There’s an implicit concession to my position in this sandwich. The addition of fine ingredients wasn’t enough to make the Ultimate BLT, that required both avocado and cheese. But that’s the thing: it’s hardly a BLT at that point, no? On the menu this evening is a Catch-22, a sandwich that can’t excel within its own category without stepping outside. It’s tragic, really.
But forget disparaging remarks about the BLT, set aside the boast being made, all of that. The question, as always, was whether or not this was a good sandwich. I know it’s well regarded, but I didn’t care for it. I think the Camembert does a disservice to the sandwich. It’s not a subtle flavor, the more reticent notes of the tomato are hard to come by and the roasted shallot aioli is completely lost. But I think this might be one of those not-for-me things. Maybe you’re wild about Camembert, who knows. It’s clear that Oaks Gourmet was aiming pretty high with this sandwich, and even when that falls short I’m likely to give a bit of polite applause.