My Great San Franciscan Gluten-Free Sandwich Bender
New York may be the gluten-free pizza capital of the world, but San Francisco wins my vote for the gluten-free sandwich mecca. I’ve been here for almost a week, and I’m delighted to report that I’ve had more delicious, gluten-free sandwiches than I’ve had in the three years since I went gluten-free.
Great Sandwiches Start with Great Bread
San Fran’s secret weapon in the gluten-free sandwich wars is Oakland-based, gluten-free Mariposa Baking Company, which turns out exceptionally soft, squishy sandwich breads and crusty-outsided-chewy-insided baguettes. While I didn’t get the chance to visit their
large, Oakland retail bakery, I did stumble upon the company’s kiosk in San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building, where fresh-baked muffins, coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls and cookies were flanked by a display of just-made breads, rolls, bagels and focaccia… all 100% gluten-free. While they did sell a pre-made GF sandwich to grab-and-go, I opted instead to buy a baguette and bring it to a local lunch spot to see if the friendly Left Coasters would make me one of their signature, environmentally-pedigreed sandwiches on the GF bread I brought myself. They obliged, and I had the distinct pleasure of being able to order something fancy off the sandwich section of a menu for the first time in years. The Mariposa baguette did not disappoint… and the sandwich itself was rapturous.
Mission: Great Gluten Free Sandwich
The next great GF sandwich that passed my lips was from the exclusively GF restaurant Pica Pica in the Mission district. The shtick at Pica Pica, a Venezuelan-inspired place, is that all breads and doughs are exclusively corn-based. All sandwiches can be made on a choice of 3 corn-based breads: Arepa, Cachapa or “Maize’wich,” a sort-of fusion of the first two. I opted for the “Pabellon”: an impossibly delicious combination of shredded skirt steak, sweet plantains, black beans and cheese, sandwiched in between 2 pieces of sweet Maize’wich bread in a tight little package of South American bliss. (This sandwich was the perfect example of why I choose to follow a “flexitarian” diet rather than a strictly vegetarian one: every once in awhile, when shredded skirt steak and black beans show up in a sandwich alongside *plantains* for God’s sake, one needs to rise to the occasion.) Of course, for stricter vegetarians than myself, Pica Pica also offers two very appealing sandwich options, as well as two GF empanada options, and a handful of salads, soups and sides that are meat-free.
The Future of Gluten-Free Sandwichdom
As I dust the crumbs off of my t-shirt, there’s lots of very cool gluten-free bread research going on–mostly out of Italy– that promises to transform the world of gluten free sandwich-making for the better. Italian researchers have discovered a clever method of fermenting wheat flour with sourdough bacteria for long periods of time that detoxifies the gluten in the wheat without ruining its desirable texture-enhancing properties during baking. These researchers have tested such breads with significant wheat flour content on the intestinal cells of people with celiac disease in test tubes and observed no inflammatory response. Next stop: “in vivo” human subject tests. If this process can be perfected and shown to be safe in people with celiac disease, the gluten-free bread landscape may explode with palatable new options. Wheat-bread based sandwiches may once again become part of our collective foodscape, and we won’t need to visit San Francisco every time we have the hankering for a stellar sammy. For me, however, this past week has been a sneak preview of the gluten-free sandwich future. And I can tell you one thing, friends: the future is *very* high carb. Hope you’ve got a gym membership.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.