Location: Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar
Sandwich: Persian Breakfast
There is very little that sandwiches have in common with a Persian breakfast. The intentions are dichotomic; the sandwich will scratch an itch for mid-day sustenance on the go while the Persian breakfast is for quality time with a cup of tea at the start of a day. When my morning began at Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar, I had no intention of writing about, eating, and (for probably the first time in my life) thinking about a sandwich. The cafe doesn’t even have a sandwich on the menu. But when the meal was finished, I had eaten one of the most delicious sandwiches I’ve had since starting the blog.
There is a lot of energy at Bartavelle on a Saturday morning coming from both the customers and staff. Regulars are talking to the baristas they know, updating each other on construction progress on home renovations or how school is going for their kids. The staff is humming in the tight space behind the counter, shuffling along the prep station and building the dishes that customers order. Everyone inside is in very close quarters which allows you to feel all parts of the restaurant at once. It’s being able to hear at the same time the dozens of ‘excuse me’s’ as people brush past each other and the cooks telling the front of house that the porridge needs to be 86ed that creates a feeling of being connected to every part of the restaurant from where you stand to order. I decided to try the Persian breakfast and quickly found a seat before the few remaining were taken up.
Much like a sandwich, the individual components of the Persian breakfast would not be anything worth writing home about if eaten alone. The order came out as a mountain of mint leaves, fresh dill, and other herbs covering a huge scoop of lebneh (fresh yogurt) and sheep’s milk feta. The plate was also drizzled with olive oil, pocked with pomegranate seeds, and complete with sliced cucumber and pickled veggies. Add to all of this the insanely tasty fig jam, tiny dish of za’atar for pinching, and the pizza bianca from Acme Bread next door.
When presented with a meal like this, the logical move is to try and build bites that combine every piece into one. I fumbled with trying to do this on the fork, learning quickly that feta cheese and jam do not stick to fork tines half as well as you, the intelligent person that didn’t have to try it to know, would expect. My other option was the diminutive latte spoon which would have been able to hold a single pomegranate seed and half a mint leaf. That wouldn’t do. Then answer was right in my face: make a sandwich, you dolt.
The result was spectacular. The three pieces of soft bread became three Persian breakfast sandwiches, stuffed full to bursting with cheese and mint leaves, elevated by a tiny pinch or quick dunk in the za’atar, and rounded out by the duo of fig jam and creamy lebneh. I was lost in what could have been fifteen minutes or several hours of improvised sandwich bliss. The foam rings on the edge of my latte mug slowly crept down to empty, letting me know my meal was coming to an end. If Bartavelle intended for their creation to be a sandwich, I think they would have done it themselves. As I got up to leave, I considered the intention of breakfast: being a fuss-free meal to bring a bright start to the day, and one important intention of a sandwich: being able to get all the goods in every bite. Bartavelle’s Persian Breakfast delivers on both of these points in deeply satisfying way.