On a bright 100-degree afternoon, I stopped by Café Eclectic for a brie and fresh pear sandwich. After the first bite, I felt as if the temperature dropped 25 degrees and it was early spring again. The sandwich, which also includes local honey from Quinley & Whitworth as well as arugula, is refreshing and delicious. It's served on a homemade ciabatta bun.
If brie is served at a party, I'm usually standing somewhere near it. I particularly love it served with something sweet, which is what makes this sandwich perfect as far as I'm concerned.
"I think the simplest things are usually the best," said Café Eclectic owner Cathy Boulden.
Mary O'Brien, their chef when they opened in 2008, came up with the sandwich, which has been on the menu from the beginning, Boulden said. The sandwich is one of their top sellers.
"As a pairing, I love it ...," said Clay Lichterman, a longtime fan of the sandwich. "First and foremost, homemade ciabatta," said Lichterman, a former executive chef of the old Grill 83 restaurant in the Madison Hotel.
"You can't overlook the fact that you're going to a place for a sandwich that makes fresh bread every day. Nowadays, they put so much trash into commercially bought bread. ...
"The brie and pear classic combination has been on cheese plates for centuries," said Lichterman, who now lives in Atlanta. "The brie is kind of buttery and sort of nutty, and you have that pear, that crisp kind of balance. Then you have it drizzled with local honey. Local bread and local honey — that's pretty hard to beat."
"I kind of see the arugula as the herbaceous version of a salt or vinegar," Lichterman said. "It doesn't bring a ton of flavor, but it just excites and accentuates the other ingredients. You need that tiny bit of bitter. It just kind of puts a cap on it."
The cheese (and you get a lot of it) on my sandwich was firm. "I love it more melty, but then you sacrifice the cold pear," said Cathy's daughter, Rachel Boulden, who is the restaurant manager. "In winter, smash it up and melt it down."
Café Eclectic is at 603 N. McLean, (901) 725-1718.