When it comes to picnics, it's best to think small. Especially since the idea of a picnic is more chill out than cook-out, ready-made, easy to handle and highly shareable provisions are a must. Small snacks like cheeses, olives and nuts, are typical and on their own can make up quite a feast. This is why, when selecting a main dish for the picnic, keep it on the same small scale and go with the mini sandwich.
Why go mini instead of deli? While deli sandwiches like Bay Cities' legendary Godmother are great for game day, for picnics, not so much. Aside from being a meal on its own, the Godmother is notoriously napkin intensive. Eating one requires focus. Meanwhile, picnics are meant to be leisurely social affairs, the food and company should be enjoyed without ever having to worry about half a sandwich falling on one's lap.
The best mini sandwiches avoid the messiness issue by striking a balance of minimal yet flavorful fillings paired with great bread to hold it all together. Or as in the case of café and market Froma on Melrose, great pastry. Not found on their regular café menu, but among their glass domed selection of baked goods, Froma's mini sandwich is a split mini croissant stuffed with silky serrano ham and crisp arugula.
Froma on Melrose uses croissants that are buttery with a crisp crust, but are not so delicate that they fall apart around the generous filling. At first the inclusion of the serrano ham seems to be gilding the lily, but the considerate portion of arugula adds a peppery bite that tones down the richness and compliments the flavors of both bread and meat.
While some sandwiches have been described as sensual, mini sandwiches fall into the spectrum of adorable. None are more so than the sandwiches made at Korean bakery chain Tous Les Jours. They come packaged in threes, colorful filings facing upwards and each nestled in a cupcake liner. Their artfully arranged fillings are slight; a thin piece of cheese with two slices of ham folded just so atop a perch of tomato and lettuce in a glossy bun.
However, Tous Les Jours' mini sandwiches are more than just a pretty face. The ham and cheese combo recalls a time when ingredients didn't have to be elusive or cave aged to taste sumptuous. The tomatoes are at a stage of ripeness that unites the flavors while the iceburg lettuce adds an element of crunch. The ultra plush white bread bun grips to the fillings tightly, holding the sandwich together through each bite so that no napkin is needed.
Picnic season is also warm weather season, which is what first brought mini sandwiches to our attention When things heat up, the craving for cold sandwiches begins and no sandwich filling is at its best completely chilled more than tuna salad. And it just so happens that one of the best already comes in mini sandwich form: the tuna salad sandwich from Röckenwagner Bakery.
Röckenwagner's tuna salad is prepared in a way that it looks completely unadorned. Simply flaky tuna with just enough mayonnaise to hold it all together. However, deep within is the sharp essence of lemon and capers, both ideal compliments to the flavor of the tuna. Instead of being added to the tuna salad where it might overwhelm, thin slices of sweet red onion are suspended above slivers of buttery avocado.
Once again, it is the bun that brings the sandwich together. It's an airy brioche with a glazed crust sprinkled with sesame seeds. It coddles each bite filled with the crispness of the onion, creaminess of avocado and meatiness of tuna with the pop of sesame seeds. It is a lot going on for a little sandwich. And when the last bite is reached, it leaves plenty of room to enjoy more of the rest of the picnic spread -- or another mini sandwich.