Friday, September 20, 2013

Broodjes & Bier

Broodjes & Bier is a Dutch-inspired sandwich start-up based in Capitol Hill, currently offered prepackaged sandwiches on the shelves at The Silver Spork. On September 20, 2013, Broodjes & Bier held an inaugural sandwich and bier extravaganza: Prost! A Sandwich & Bier Pop-Up! in order to "bring the canal side cafes of Amsterdam to the sun-drenched patios of Capitol Hill."  Closest Metro is Eastern Market.

Born out of a college study abroad stint in Amsterdam, and an obsession with tasty, stacked sandwiches, the team works hard to bring high-quality, fresh broodjes (Dutch for "sandwiches") to DC.

4 tickets worth of broodjes samples
The initial vision of the pop-up was to bring the Broodjes & Bier brick and mortar to life via friendly table service and a long list of specialty Belgian beers. However, the idea soon morphed into a more casual event with a greater selection of the menu available tapas style in order to gain more feedback from customers.  Frankly, the event started out as a cluster - the Broodjes & Bier team were clearly disorganized and ill-prepared.  Advertised as starting at 8pm, the team were still setting up as ticket holders arrived.  Everyone was asked to wait outside and crowd around the sidewalk and patio as the B&B team scurried to set up inside the Silver Spork store.  Having sold tickets ahead of time online, most everyone still had to turn in their prepaid vouchers for the actual paper tickets to "purchase" sandwiches and beer.  There was so much confusion in the beginning that it turned a lot of people off.  We didn't understand how they were not ready, being that the sandwiches are all cold and could easily have been prepped beforehand and should be ready to go.

After 30 minutes, the B&B team finally allowed people in the store to get their tickets and at least get beer, while the sandwiches were still being cut.  The Belgian beer featured was a farmhouse seasonal from Ommegang Hennepin.  It tasted like a fruity hefeweizen akin to Blue Moon.  A Strawberry Rosemary Borrel punch was also available for those who wanted something else.

The line to get sandwiches was incredibly long and caused the Silver Spork staff to become cranky and snap at customers for holding the doors open.  Once you got to the front of the line, many of the sandwiches were no longer available.  Again, why didn't they have multiple sandwiches premade and precut?  They should have known how many tickets they sold and thus could easily calculate how much food to have on hand.

Vondel Park
Funen park
While we didn't get to try all the offerings, we did sample some of their classic sandwiches as well as new experiments.  First, I tried the Vondel Park - made with prosciutto, 4 month aged-Goat Gouda, fig jam, balsamic reduction and arugula.  The striatta bread was excellent, but I thought the meat and cheese fillings were a little skimpy.  I liked the hint of sweetness from the fig jam, but found the arugula to be very overpowering.  Keith first bite was of the Funen Park - a Guyanese braised beef short rib broodje and the Texel with deli-style roast lamb.  The beef sandwich looked dry to me and came with a meat jus for dipping.  He said the flavor was nice but much more preferred the lamb sandwich.  The lamb came with a chimichurri mayonnaise that added lots of flavor.

De Pijp
Next, I tried the De Pijp - with smoked salmon, avocado, honey ginger yogurt dressing, red onion, and arugula on pumpernickel bread.  Like the other breads used, the pumpernickel was fresh with just the right amount of bite.  The delicate salmon, however, was overpowered by the red onions.  In the dark light outside, I thought it was tomatoes.  Regardless, I enjoyed the fresh chunky slices of avocado and would think this sandwich to be a favorite for pescatarians.

As most of the options were no longer available I used my last ticket up on a "breakfasty" option.  The Goudemorgen came with vlaaskaas cheese, slices of granny smith apple, and European butter on walnut raisin bread.  It was very simple and reminiscent of what one might prepare for oneself at a continental breakfast.  I could see myself easily making this at home for a quick snack.

Finally, a popular sandwich of the night was a dessert variation called Paradiso with salted bacon nutella and fresh strawberry slices. It was a simple combination that brought back childhood memories.  I like the bits of bacon, but Keith had a hard time getting any bacon flavor through the nutella.

Despite the hiccups, the sandwiches featured during the pop-up event were decent with fresh ingredients, yet could use some improvement.  The bread was the clear star and the flavor combinations were very European.  I am not convinced the Broodjes & Bier team are ready for a full blown store of their own just yet.  Perhaps they should start out with a food truck to gain the ropes a bit more.   It would have been nice if they took a minute to address the crowd, explain their concept, or get first hand feedback but they were clearly overwhelmed by the response, and swamped trying to keep up with demand.  If you missed this event, you can still try your own broodjes available on the Silver Spork shelves.  Look out for future events - I am sure the B&B team learned a lot and know where to improve next time.

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