Food Review: Dirt Cowboys, Croque Madames, & Caprese Sammies

Food lies at the heart of our bodies and our culture; it is there for celebrations and sustenance. NOMaste features a local fierce foodie each month, in four weekly segments. First, an interview, then a top 10 list, followed by a recipe to share, and finally a food review. This food corner will not just feature local chefs but also restaurateurs, buyers, suppliers — any woman involved in any aspect of the food chain, from farm to food truck. Join us each week as we get to know another Foodie in the city. Part I of this month’s series can be found herepart II can be found here, and part III can be found here.

Every time I walk under the coffee cup-lined awning of Sweet_ness 7, I know I will enjoy some filling comfort food that’s on the healthy side, full of flavor, down to earth, and delicious. This trip was no exception.

Whenever I head to Sweetness, I always get the Dirt Cowboy. This is another moniker for the famous Turkish coffee: a thick, espresso-like drink, grinds and all. Another visual for you: think of a French press, but without the press, in the form of a triple espresso, served in an adorable carafe with a long handle. I order this every single visit since it’s the only place in Buffalo you can get this classic coffee creation. It is not for the casual coffee drinker. Mine was served this time with an accompanying tea strainer in case I wanted to filter out the grinds — something for the more faint of decaffeinated hearts.

One of my favorite aspects of the café is the coffee station on the counter. Clean spoons are displayed in mason jars to use, along with another jar for the used ones, so you can properly stir your coffee. They also have pretty containers with varieties of sugars, simple syrup and honey, all on a little tray. It’s visually appealing, efficient, and keeps from having to put mini coffee stations on all the tables.

To step out of my comfort zone — as I have decided to do for this column with every food review — I ordered a first: the Croque Madame. I am not someone who eats eggs regularly, but every now and then I have a wild moment and get something with an egg in or on it, just to test myself and see if I like it. Most of the time, it’s pretty good — but still, it’s not a staple in my diet. So, of course I had to get a breakfast sandwich with not just one, but two eggs on it. The sort of thing I would traditionally skip in favor of French toast or pancakes. However, this is an adventure — an adventure, by my standards, is a runny egg all over a pile of ham on an English muffin!

I cannot understate how refreshing it is to have a nice small pile of mixed greens with some very light dressing on the side of my carbs and meat, rather than a pile of home fries or hash browns. Not to say I don’t love a side of carbs with my carbs, but sometimes I want to be healthy and have something that will aid with my digestion. I do not get enough vegetables (as I am sure some of you do not, either) so knowing I at least had a serving of salad makes me feel a little better about my day, and my stomach thanks me as well. It does not need to be dressed up in something fancier than it is — it has the right amount and kind of dressing — sea salt and olive oil, and no unnecessary toppings.

My sandwich was perfect — a little overwhelming in size — but perfect. Definitely not something you can pick up and eat with your hands — at least, not my hands. I tackled this pile of deliciousness with a fork and knife. Nicely sized pieces of grilled ham with melted cheese (I chose Swiss) were sandwiched between thick slices of country white bread, along with two beautifully cooked over-easy eggs. When I see a runny yolk, I just cut right into it and let it drip over everything — like clarified butter. The egg was cooked expertly — not an easy feat (at least for me, who can ruin a scrambled egg). The food was hot but not scalding — I didn’t have to wait 10 minutes in order to eat it, and it wasn’t cold by the time I was done, either, and I ate leisurely. This is also a tricky thing to accomplish, as I am usually waiting to be able to eat my extremely hot food. The toast it was on was just right — not too hard and not too mushy. The bread was nice and thick, and it seemed a bit wider than most, making it the perfect plate for the food to sit on.  The combination of textures and flavors of the bread, ham, cheese, and runny eggs was marvelous — it made me feel like I got an all-in-one. It had crunch, creaminess, salt, and some starch to even it out; each bite was very well-balanced in terms of flavor. All told, I think this just might be my new usual when I come to the café. I would normally get a turkey sandwich, or something equally safe (by my standards), but this was an eye opener.

Next up was the caprese sandwich. I know I said I’d be risky, but I just love me some pesto, mozzarella, and tomatoes — so I couldn’t resist. This is a classic sandwich, and one that I simply had to try. The sandwich had generously thick slices of tomato, and a good abundance of cheese. The pesto was on both sides of the bread – something I was not expecting. I hate it when the best feature (condiments) is only spread on one half of the sandwich, leaving the other half sad and bland. Not here — the pesto was spread thick on both sides, generously, as it should be. The bread was a hearty white and grilled with some butter, leaving it crunchy and flavorful. The mozzarella was plentiful, too — there were thick slices melted in the sandwich, no flimsy deli slices of hard mozzarella on this sweet delicious lunch treat.

The end result was a decently sized manageable sandwich, thick but not unwieldy like a NY deli sandwich, that I honestly don’t understand how people get their mouth around to eat. This was a proper sandwich — big enough to actually be eaten by hand, take bites out of, but not anemic so you were left wanting more. The side for this lunch staple was a twist on the classic potato chip — tortilla chips. This was a refreshing change, and one I have never seen before. It gave the illusion of being healthier, but the satisfying crunch and salt of a deep fried chip. They left me feeling like my meal was well-rounded and unique.

I was so full by this point that even with the help of some friends I had a few bites left to take for lunch the next day. The portions are generous, and no human should eat two full-sized meals by themselves. So, after an hour with a couple of assistants, I wrapped up my half-sandwich and leftover tortilla chips, and brought my next-day’s lunch with me. For lunch, I enjoyed this sandwich cold, and I can honestly say, it was just as good as it was hot. The bread got a little soggy but that was just from being in the fridge overnight. The main part of the sandwich — the ‘meat’ if you will — was still perfect. The cold didn’t take away from anything, it was just a different mouth feel and temperature — unique and delicious by its own merits.

I cannot recommend Sweetn_ness 7 highly enough. It is the perfect place for a great meal that will leave you full and satisfied, and the freedom to sit with it for as long as you like while you work on that novel, or just catch up on some reading. I dare you to not spend so much time there that you end up getting two coffee drinks — one when you get there, and another when you realize you need more energy to finish whatever it is you are working on.

AlanAdetolArts, L.L.C. – Birdcage Studios – Buffalo, N.Y. 14213 –[email protected] 

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