Elegant dish more than an open-faced sandwich

May 19, 2012 (CHICAGO)

More than a few restaurants in Chicago are serving up these elegant, creative sandwiches.

We're not talking any tuna salad. The French-influenced menu at Bistronomic, on the Near North Side, demands something a bit more. So in addition to the poached tuna, fennel, capers and sun-dried tomatoes, there is an endgame: a prominent place on top of a tartine.

"It's like an open-faced sandwich. And what we do at Bistronomic, you know, we use different breads for different tartines. Every dinner, but not for lunch, we have a tartine of the day," said Martial Noguier, chef-owner of Bistronomic.

As if the French-influenced tuna salad wasn't enough on its own, Noguier adds arugula, shaved parmesan and balsamic vinegar to the top, turning this open-faced sandwich into a hearty snack that can easily be shared.

"We use a large tartine... large slice of bread and when we do the tartine we cut in three piece. Because the idea is also for the people to share," he said.

In the heart of Logan Square, the tartines take a little bit of a different approach at Telegraph, which is known as much for its wines as its food.

"Initially it was more of a price point. We can do them fairly inexpensive," said chef John Anderes.

So it could be as simple as slow-cooked onions on rosemary bread with Spanish anchovies and fresh chervil. Or, you could go the cheesy route.

"Lot of cheese obviously, we've done a couple cheese ones, couple ham ones," he said.

With grilled sourdough as a base, roasted cauliflower and Swiss chard are heated in a skillet, along with creamy cauliflower puree. Once that mixture is assembled on top of the grilled bread, a small handful of cheese adds a bit more oomph, and the entire tartine is placed under a broiler to get everything melted. While his tartines will try to be seasonal, sometimes, they can't be messed with.

"I'd like to change them more, but people really like them. So, we kind of tend to keep it, keep them on for a fair amount of time," he said.

So not all tartines are created equally. Some are knife-and-fork affairs others are strictly hands on. They're only limited by the chef's creativity.

Now that the season is turning warmer, you'll see tartines featuring asparagus, ramps, morel mushrooms and spring peas.

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