We call it the "anatomy of a sandwich," and this week, we're off to an Oak Park cheese market where even vegetarians can feel at home.
Unbeknownst to some in the neighborhood, the Marion Street Cheese Market near downtown Oak Park also has a cafe. Fewer probably realize that the lunch menu contains at least a half-dozen sandwiches, ranging from pork belly to veggie-friendly.
"I always try to get really interesting, esoteric, vegetarian combinations. We have a really large vegetarian audience and being that we have so many cheeses, it's really easy for me to have this great larder of ingredients and pull from that," said Leonard Hollander, the Chef of the Marion Street Cheese Market & Café.
One of Hollander's standouts is a goat cheese-cream cheese version, topped with a crunchy and vibrant celery root slaw, topped with roasted green grapes and chopped walnuts, all sandwiched between thick loaves of sour demi-baguette.
"I love Capriole Goat cheese, so that was a pretty obvious starter, and kind of a base for that sandwich because it is rich, it's nice, it's creamy," Hollander said.
That Southern Indiana chevre is combined with organic cream cheese and fresh lemon juice, then generously spread onto a crusty-yet-dense Labriola sour baguette. Gnarly celery root must be peeled then sliced and finally, julienned into thin strips.. it is eventually tossed with a homemade dressing, including creme fraiche, white wine vinegar, parsley, mayo and fresh lemon juice. Once fully incorporated, the slaw is placed onto the goat-cream cheese spread.
Finally, Hollander pulls out green grapes that he's roasted until concentrated and sweet; they add much needed contrast, as do chopped walnuts, which provide an additional layer of texture and crunch.
"I wanna get all the textural elements into, essentially, one bite. So you need the sweetness, you need a little bit of richness, a crunch for sure. So I think about a sandwich the same way I think about a dish," said Hollander.
Like all great sandwich places, the selections are seasonal. So you can expect that goat cheese version will only be available for a few more weeks. Incidentally, he also makes a terrific ham and cheese.
Marion Street Cheese Market
100 S. Marion St., Oak Park