Bread is bread, right? WRONG! Oh my god. So fucking wrong. What planet do you live on? Some bread sucks, some bread rüles, and gott-dang it, one particular kind of bread being offered in this city is so amazing, that when Rebecca Hecht, co-owner of Lexington Corner Market dropped me a note letting me know she’s now using it for her grab-and-go sandwiches, I made a quick bee-line straight for the corner of N. Lexington Ave. and College street, where Reba, and counter-server Jaime hooked me up with some samps, and fuck yes, as expected, these were some fantastic sandwiches!
So, what IS this bread, Stu?!? Well, it’s called a “laminated baguette,” and I don’t know a whole lot about it, except that it’s awesome and it’s currently being made by Chef Kaley Laird, who is the in-house baker at The Rhu and Rhubarb.
This laminated baguette is like a regular baguette – AKA a long, narrow loaf of French bread with a crispy crust — only it is somehow combined with or made out of croissant dough, which is of course, buttery, flaky, and layered. When these two classic French-style bread items are magically mated into Chef Laird’s laminated baguette, holy fuck, it’s like, the best bread ever.
Using it for sandwiches is a no-brainer, of course, so I was super-happy to hear that Chef John Fleer (owner of The Rhu & Rhubarb) is wholesaling it to Lexington Corner Market. Now we can not only eat Chef Laird’s laminated baguette at The Rhu, but also during the much more extended hours at The LCM! As some of you know, hours of operation are my bugaboo, and I get a specific tick in my left eye when businesses are closed on Tuesdays… Rhu. •_< Well, now it’s like The Rhu is at least a little bit open on Tuesdays, because LCM is open on Tuesdays.
I sampled four different kinds of sandwiches at Lexington Corner Market: Apple & Brie, Italian, Nicoise, and Chicken Salad. The first three are on the menu permanently, the chicken salad is currently the rotating special. I asked for the apple & brie and Italian to be toasted, and for the other two to be untoasted… so to speak… because, there’s really no such thing as “untoasted,” when is comes to bread, which is either bread or toast, so that to say a piece of bread is untoasted is either redundant, or implies that the bread had at one time been toasted, and then somehow brought back to its original state of being not toasted ie: just bread, utilizing some sort of scientifically advanced “untoasting” process. Perhaps in the future, some day, humanity will develop the technology to truly untoast a piece of bread, but for now, please understand that when I say “untoasted” I actually mean not toasted, as in: It was never toasted in the first place, and remains simply bread. Furthermore… Just kidding. Here’s a picture…
Toasted or not, the crust on these sandwiches was crispy and flaky and really fucking good. Like, the best. No shit. The chicken salad was light, fresh, and flavorful, and went very well with the bread. It was perhaps a little heavy on the raw onion for my personal taste, but I’m a well known onion-eschewer from way back, so judge for yourselves. The nicois was straight-up great!
Just in case you didn’t know…
“Salade niçoise, is a salad that originated in the French city of Nice. It is traditionally made of tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, anchovies, and dressed with olive oil.” [ source ]
I love a good salade niciose, and to have it on this delicate, yet substantial, layered baguette was very Parisian in my opinion. Rebecca confirmed that when we had a brief conversation about her mission with Lexington Corner Marker — Asheville’s only independently-owned convenience store — and that mission does include re-capturing some of the sandwichy experiences that she enjoyed at cafés, shops, and bodegas in Europe.
There are two tables, with two chairs each in the large, sunny windows of the Lexington Corner market, and it is quite cozy and pleasant in fact to sit inside and watch the foot-traffic stroll by. Lots of attractive people. Lots of freaks. I love ’em all! I also watched the back of the BB&T building getting ripped down and destroyed by giant pieces of destruction equipment. Good holy Hell, I love watching that kind of thing. I could have stared at it in a trace-like state for hours on end. I might have done that. I dunno. Don’t… care… zzzzzzzz… rip and destroy…
Huh, what? Nothing. Never mind. Here’s another picture of the two toasted sandwiches that I tried at Lexington Corner Market, they tasted as good — even better — than they look…
The granny smith apple & double cream brie sandwich was great, with arugula and Lusty Monk mustard adding slight bitterness, and a little tang. If I was a vegetarian, I would be all over this sandwich… but I’m not, so, while I did enjoy it, I have to admit that I had my eye on that Italian sandwich the minute it hit the table. I had also ratcheted my expectations for this Italian down a bit, because I once lived very close to an amazing Italian deli in Chicago that spoiled me rotten… but… no kidding… the Italian sandwich at Lexington Corner Market might be the best I’ve ever had. That assessment is based in part on the fact that it is the first and only Italian I’ve ever had that is made with The Rhu’s laminated baguette, which elevated it above any Italian I ever ate in Chicago, or Boston for that matter. In addition to the bread, the contents of the sandwich — sopressata, capicollo, pepperoni, provolone, shaved parm, pepperoncinis, garlic-red pepper tepanade, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar — were excellent, and delicious, and super-duper satisfying! Yay bread. Yay contents. Yay sandwiches.
For downtown workers & denizens, as well as visitors, I totally recommend the grab-and-go sandwiches at Lexington Corner Market made with laminated baguette from The Rhu, because they are quick, affordable, delicious, and uniquely Asheville — as in: Not available anywhere else — and in my opinion, this bread is something very special that I plan on taking advantage of while I can!
One last thing about the Lexington Corner Market: It’s a convenience store first and foremost, and that means it’s here for you. I asked Reba a random hypothetical, “It’s Saturday night, 10pm, and I need condoms, coffee filters, cigarettes, a light bulb, and a mousetrap, does The Corner Market have me covered?”
“Ahhh… ya got me on the mousetrap,” she said, but assured me that all the other items were currently available, and when the Spring comes and the foot traffic builds, the stock will build too, and mousetraps might be added to the shelves, among other things. I will be looking forward to watching the Lexington Corner Market get better and better, and becoming a more and more vibrant part of our amazing local food scene!
Thanks Reba, Jaime, Sam, and Jean at LCM, and Kaley, John, and Ellie at The Rhu for a great sandwich experience!
THIS JUST IN: I wrote to Ellie at The Rhu to ask her a few questions, and she got right back to me with the answers.
Q: Are any other places using the laminated baguette besides The Rhu and the Lexington Corner Market?
A: The Montford Rooftop also uses our laminated baguettes for sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
Q: Should I direct other retailers to order (bread) from you?
A: Please spread the word to other retailers! We are growing our wholesale business.
Q: Is the laminated baguette on the menu at Rhubarb?
A: The laminated baguette is not currently on the menu at Rhubarb.
Q: Does Kaley bake the desserts for Rhubarb?
A: Yes, Kaley also does the desserts for Rhubarb.
Ellie added that, “We also do the laminated baguette as a ‘croixette‘ in croissant form at The Rhu.”
Alright, so I’m gonna have to hit the Rooftop again soon, and sample what Chef Bollhoeffer is doing with Chef Laird’s bread!
Lexington Corner market
“We are a very Asheville convenience store in the heart of downtown.”
58 College St, Asheville, NC
Phone: (828) 225-3256
“The Rhu, is a cafe, bakery and pantry that celebrates local foods and producers. Serving breakfast and lunch.”
10 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC
Phone: (828) 785-1799
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.
ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org
Thanks! I haven’t been this excited about a sandwich shop since Durham’s Toast.
Unbridled enthusiasm is all well and good, but circularity and jocularity are winners. I’m talking specifically about the toasted/untoasted debate(?) which is the funniest thing you’ve written in a long time, and now I have to go test it out. Well done (but not too, breadwise, that is).