Friday, April 6, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

I'm one of those kids who got branded with their parents' faith through the name they gave me. I am named after my mother's two favorite saints - Saint Mary and Saint Teresa. While not Catholic, my religious upbringing in a very formal Episcopal church was not too far away. I grew up with confession on Saturdays, incense and sermons on Sundays, potlucks on Wednesdays, and all the religious holy days and observances. And, of course, the privations and purification of Lent, including meatless Fridays.

I left the Episcopal church, and eventually Christianity altogether, some 20 years ago in favor of a faith that felt closer to my northern European heritage than that desert faith. And, I take an almost perverse pleasure in marking Good Friday with a cheeseburger. While in my current life it is no longer taboo, there is a lingering memory of my childhood religious experience that still makes it feel daring and forbidden.

I was perusing the online menu for TenTen Bistro, trying to decide between the Bistro Burger (a grilled Angus burger with white cheddar, applewood bacon, and crispy onions on a brioche roll) and the Lamb Patty Melt (a grilled Creekstone Farms lamb burger and otherwise identical to the Bistro Burger) when I saw the Vegetarian Powerhouse Wrap. The disobedient thrill of my Good Friday cheeseburger is petty and immature next to the genuine enjoyment I get from a good Powerhouse. After the disappointment of the Harbor East Deli Powerhouse (how can you omit the hummus?), I was thrilled to find another option available. And, because TenTen changes their menu regularly, I figured I had to act now.

A traditional Powerhouse consists of hummus, avocado, tomato, sprouts, spinach, onions, and (if you're very lucky) cucumber and grated carrots, with Muenster cheese on sunflower bread. While the sunflower bread is a highly pleasing feature of the classic Powerhouse, I'm hard pressed to find it in Baltimore. I'm not a stickler on this point and will gladly take it on just about any other type of bread. The endurance of the wrap trend in sandwich-making presents a nice alternative that has the added benefit of being easy to handle. And a good Powerhouse can sometimes be a messy affair.

Aside from the wrap, TenTen follows the classic formula fairly closely. I got a soft wrap filled with a hummus that was thick and creamy and very lightly seasoned, allowing the flavor of the chickpeas and tahini to dominate.  The sprouts were not the usual grassy alfalfa kind. They had the look and taste of the more exotic (and more satisfying) broccoli sprouts that tasted good with the baby spinach. The tomato was fairly sparse and unremarkable, but it is just barely spring, and I'd rather have a scant serving of the things this time of year than have my sandwich be overpowered by the pathetic, cardboard-y flavor and texture of tomatoes picked before they are ripe. Besides, they found a perfectly ripe avocado in Baltimore in April. Which means the TenTen kitchen crew know a thing or two about produce.

They used a very nice white cheddar in place of the Muenster, and grated it rather than trying to use a slice in a wrap. This almost never works as the cheese is less flexible than the flour wrap, and disaster almost always ensues. Regular wrap consumers know this, and so does the staff at TenTen.

A light pesto completed the Powerhouse and was a welcome replacement for the usual red onion I get most of the time. The earthiness of the basil worked well with the rest of the vegetables while the garlic gave the sandwich a nice zip that was more subtle that the aforementioned onion.

TenTen is still my favorite lunch spot, and their Powerhouse is one of the nicest I've had in Baltimore City. They deviate in the right places and in the right direction. Served with their signature Old Bay potato chips that are made on site, this was one of the best take out lunches I've had in some time.

The TenTen Powerhouse Wrap, in a
photo that doesn't nearly do it justice

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