Curtis and crew are at it again. If you’re unfamiliar with Sandwich Lab, background is here and here. Essentially, each month, chef Curtis Shaver and his team at Hamiltons’ dream up and prepare an over-the-top sandwich. The sandwiches usually sell out a week in advance, within seconds of the Facebook post announcing they are on sale.
This month, they may have outdone themselves. They started with green hickory smoked porchetta from none other than Craig Hartman of The BBQ Exchange. Then, they added bread & butter fennel pickles, melted McLure cheese, balsamic grilled onions, and watercress creme fraiche. They piled it all atop a Kimmelweck Roll from Richmond’s acclaimed Billy Bread. With a side of Asian pear-beet slaw. Wow. Pretty soon there is going to be an eBay market for these things.
Thanks to talented photographer Justin Ide, here’s a behind the scenes look:
Charlottesville is upping its sandwich game. Sure, we’ve long had counter-service stalwarts like Feast!, Revolutionary Soup, and Bashir’s. But, a crop of young, talented chefs seem determined to take Charlottesville sandwiches to another level. At Brookville, chef Harrison Keevil, who calls sandwiches his desert island food, offers a lunch menu of serious sandwiches. JM Stock Provisions makes a new sandwich every Saturday, and we often plan our day around it.
And, chef Curtis Shaver and his team at Hamiltons’ have dreamt up Sandwich Lab. “Sandwich Lab promotes better living through better sandwiches,” says their Facebook Page. One Wednesday each month, the chefs offer a new concoction, available for pick-up at the Hamiltons’ bar. Utilizing the talents and resources of a high-end restaurant kitchen, their aim is “to share the kind of sandwiches that you can’t buy at the corner deli.” “Sandwich Lab is all about taking an idea for a sandwich and thinking out of the box, “said Shaver. “It’s fun trying to marry different flavors and ideas while balancing spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and the texture of soft and crunchy as well.”
That all sounds good. But, how do they taste?
Extraordinary. Last month’s was duck confit with a poblano-citrus sauce, local beet relish, fresh arugula, Caromont Plank Road Round, and crispy wasabi onions on a kaiser roll, all served with truffle popcorn. Delicious.
This month’s, available next Wednesday August 6, is a creative riff on chicken and waffles, Middle Eastern Inspired Chicken and Waffles: harissa marinated fried chicken breast, dill pickled cucumbers, brown shugga bacon, pomegranate syrup, hot pepper raita, on a falafel waffle. It sounds great, but you have to reserve yours in advance by calling (434) 295-6649. Here’s how Shaver describes it:
It all started with wanting to do a chicken and waffles sandwich, but we wanted it to be different while staying true to what chicken and waffles is, which is a waffle with fried chicken, maple syrup, and hot sauce. So we thought Middle Eastern would be a fun realm to play in.
The place we started was the waffle. Somehow we came up with falafel being the main flavoring of the waffle and it just sounds fun “Falafel-waffle!” Then we wanted to do a traditional Middle Eastern flavored chicken but fry it so I thought we’d play with the idea of a spicy fried chicken breast like a Hotlanta or Nashville’s Hot chicken sandwiches, and that’s where the harissa marinade comes in.
All great Southern fried chicken sandwiches come with pickles, in my opinion, and dill plays well with Middle Eastern cuisine. Bacon had to be a part of the equation too, so we are just gonna add a little more sweetness to some local, Double H Farm’s bacon for balance. My Sous Chef, Hannah Moster, came up with the idea of the pomegranate syrup, again balancing the Middle East and Southern comfort.
Lastly I felt it needed some sort of savory creaminess to tie it all together. So raita came to mind. It’s a traditional Indian condiment made with yogurt, herbs, lemon juice, and for a little more of that “hot sauce” feel I added some local hot peppers.