The joke about the End of Summer sandwich at The Larder at Maple Drive is that in temperate Los Angeles, this sandwich could probably be served nine months out of the year. Here, in the land where summer extends from early July to late October, bracketed by months of mild, sunny afternoons and random heat waves, ripe produce is always in-season. Still, everything Suzanne Goin touches seems to turn to gold, even a simple sandwich of tomato, eggplant, cheese and basil.
The Larder at Maple Drive is the sort of high-end sandwich shop that's better than most office buildings deserve. It's far better than most office buildings ever get. This is Beverly Hills, and this building, once home to the benighted Mani's reboot, sits in the sort of mixed-use neighborhood -- office buildings on one side of the street, residences on the other -- that makes Beverly Hills look almost relatable to the 99%. The cafe, which has a small indoor area for ordering but only outdoor seating, is in the building's inner courtyard, approachable from either Alden or Maple Drive.
The Larder's menu boasts a handful of soups; protein mainstays like salmon, grilled hangar steak and herb-roasted chicken; grains and roasted vegetable bsides; and half-a-dozen signature sandwiches. (You can also build your own sandwich in classic deli fashion.) The New Yorker (a.k.a. warm brisket slathered in horseradish sauce that's more creamy than kicky) is tender but without punch, and the End of Summer certainly doesn't sound striking or even memorable.That's what makes it all the more impressive.
There's nothing in the End of Summer sandwich that isn't in a thousand other sandwiches served at a thousand Los Angeles cafes, but this isn't some barely considered sandwich tacked onto the menu to appease the vegetarian clientele. This is a slab of exceptionally ripe, sweet heirloom tomato. This is eggplant, normally a seedy unappealing mush, perfectly roasted. This is no rubbery mozarella; this is burrata, soft and ultra-creamy, just barely denser than butter. It's topped with basil and a pile of greens, then tucked between a ciabatta roll brushed with pesto. In its simplicity lies perfection.
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Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.