The popularity of the sandwich shows no signs of stopping, as operators move beyond old standbys and present consumers with ethnic flavorings, gourmet ingredients and toppings, and new carrier options—everything from flavored wraps to waffles.
Au Bon Pain
The sandwich is much more than a quick snack, says Stefano Cordova, senior vice president of food and beverage innovation at Au Bon Pain in Boston. “Think of a sandwich like a fine dining entrée with protein that’s dressed with starch, vegetable and sauce. The layering of ingredients is key. We take care not to overly press the build—air between ingredients leads to a clean mouth feel.”
“People like to be entertained with flavor. That’s the extra role for the condiment,” says Cordova. Chipotle aioli is the top substitute for mayonnaise at Au Bon Pain. Cordova is working on a kimchee spread and looking to increase fresh herbs and seeds in recipes. The chef adds a touch of sweetness to his spreads along with acid and fat, which, he adds, help break down the protein molecules.
Au Bon Pain takes its proprietary bread seriously, using a culture starter and slow fermentation to add deep-layered flavors. While a multigrain baguette and ancient grain (quinoa) ciabatta are newer additions to the options, croissants, bagels and wraps round out the carrier offerings.
Another new item is a Tuscan tomato spread, created to accompany the Tuscan grilled cheese sandwich. Cordova makes the spread from freshly cooked tomatoes and onions puréed with fresh mozzarella. The spread mirrors the flavors of the suggested soup pairing of tomato basil bisque.
Au Bon Pain rolled out five new hot oven sandwiches in 2012; the Black Angus Roast Beef and Cheese evolved into the top seller.
Menu Samplers, Au Bon Pain
- Black Angus Roast Beef and Cheese: Sliced Black Angus steak, horseradish aioli, caramelized onions, fire-roasted red and yellow bell peppers, three cheddar blend and roasted tomatoes served on ancient grain ciabatta
- Moroccan Lemon Chicken Wrap: All natural chicken breast, caramelized onions, Moroccan aioli and spinach folded in a tortilla wrap
- Turkey Cubano on Baguette: Turkey, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese and sweet relish served on freshly baked baguette