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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: The Best Blog since Sliced Bread
13 March 2011

Last week in school we were learning all about sandwiches in my Garde Manger class.  Garde Manger translates into "to keep to eat" and refers to the preservation of foods through various means such as salting, brining, pickling, smoking, and more, though the common denominator is that these foods are all cold.  One sector of foods in the cold food kitchen is the sandwich.  My chef educator shared with my class the history behind the sandwich and told us the tale of John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich.  So for this week's Sunday Brunch we'll be talking about which most can agree is Disney's most popular quick service restaurant, the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney.


Earl of Sandwich cartoon from Unbreaded.com

Most people know that the Earl of Sandwich "invented" the sandwich, but how exactly did he do it?  The story begins with a game.  The Earl of Sandwich was playing a rousing game of cards, but he was getting hungry.  He was worried someone may look at his hand if he put it down to eat something, so he ordered his cook to make him a meal that he could hold in his other hand and not need to use utensils.  To please his master, the cook took parts of the meal and put them together as one: the bread was cut in slices and then spread with a sauce or spread to keep it from getting soggy by the filling of cuts of the evening's meat and cheese.  As we know it, the sandwich was born.  Surely the Earl of Sandwich and his cook were not the very first people to put a filling between two pieces of bread, but they were recorded to be the first to make it and give it a name; after all, a lot of history is just a collection of facts that people have agreed upon to write down.

The Earl of Sandwich restaurant in Downtown Disney and its few other locations in the USA and England serve both hot and cold sandwiches with hot and cold sides to go with it.  Their menu includes traditional favorites like the Original 1762 (the one Earl ate while playing cards!) and the Earl's Club to more exotic flavors like the Caribbean Jerk, the Hawaiian BBQ,  not to mention fun kid friendly sandwiches like the Pizza Sandwich and the American classic of PB & J. 

Today, we have with us the biggest fan of Earl of Sandwich in the Northeast: Albert Gutierrez, the writer of FSTT.com's Saturday Matinee.  He fell in love with the sandwich in 2004 when he first visited the famous Earl, which opened in Downtown Disney that same year.  I was lucky enough to sit down with Albert last week and ask him a few questions about his favorite restaurant.


The Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney, image from MickeyXtreme.com

Albert, what can you tell us about your favorite restaurant in all of Walt Disney World?

It's the one and only Earl of Sandwich.  It's a quick-service restaurant that's located in the Downtown Disney Marketplace, having opened in 2004.  It's a growing franchise, having originated in England and slowly-but-surely making its way through America.  Because there are so few locations, the only one I've ever come across was the one in Walt Disney World.  So even though it's not a Disney restaurant per se, it's one that's associated with them thanks to being in Downtown Disney.


Last year, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Earl location in Disney Village, the Downtown Disney of Disneyland Paris.  Image from Laughingplace.com.

I agree.  Why don't you describe the interior of Earl of Sandwich for us?

The inside is rather dark, almost like the lights are only at half-power.  It helps set up the restaurant as a relaxed and casual place to hang out, and the dark wood paneling and shelves with old books add nicely to the atmosphere.  But one thing to remember is the place is ALWAYS loud.  But I mean "loud" in a good way.  The noise makes you aware how busy the place is, and how everyone's always doing something.  The line never stops, the cast members never whisper, and the wrappers always crinkle.  It's a symphony of sound that complements your meal.

Tell us about your first experience at Earl of Sandwich.

It was the summer of 2004, and Mariel, our sister, was finishing her Walt Disney World College Program.  We had driven down from New Jersey to pick her up and stick around for vacation as well.  During our stay, she told us there was a new restaurant we could eat at called Earl of Sandwich.  When we asked what they served, she told us "Sandwiches, but they're really good!" 


Here is Albert Gutierrez, actually sitting inside the rather dark Earl of Sandwich dining room.

At first I was skeptical, because to me, the only sandwich worth its salt was the good old peanut butter sandwich.  I would have preferred Wolfgang Puck's, where we had eaten earlier in the week.  Since I was outnumbered on that decision, we went to Downtown Disney and checked out the menu.  There were a great deal of sandwiches that sounded delicious, but my eyes were locked onto the "Caribbean Jerk Chicken."  Grilled chicken, jerk sauce, and red peppers?  Match made in heaven.

At the time, I wasn't keen on red peppers, so I took them out.  However, they still left a hint of the sweet pepper taste within the sandwich, which I always enjoyed.  Eventually I'd start eating the peppers in the sandwich, either with the sandwich, or just by themselves. 

We came back to Earl of Sandwich later, didn't we?

Yes.  On our last day before we were going to start driving back to New Jersey, we decided to get a quick lunch at Earl before getting on the road.  Surprisingly, when we went back to Downtown Disney, we ran into our cousins and family.  It was completely unexpected, neither of us knew the other were there (that's a fun story for another time).  So both families went to Earl of Sandwich together, making the lunch feel like a nice mini-party.  We even got to sit at the big table that is in the restaurant.

And you still came back, didn't you?

Of course.  On the very first day of my college program, I went to Downtown Disney with my roommate Steven and introduced him to Earl of Sandwich.  After that, it became something of a tradition for me.  The first day I'm in the Walt Disney World area, I have to eat at Earl of Sandwich.  I did it again in 2006 and 2007, and during the family trips in 2008 and 2009, I somehow convinced everyone to go to Downtown Disney the first day and get some Earl.  The next time I'm in WDW, you can bet I'll go to Earl of Sandwich before the first day ends.

How often did you go to Earl of Sandwich during your college program?

During my college programs in 2005 and 2006, I must have been at Earl at least once or twice a week.  It was a great place to get a reasonably priced lunch on days off, and on club nights we could meet up with friends for a quick dinner before walking to Pleasure Island.  I was practically a regular at both Earl of Sandwich and Ghirardelli's. 

Have you ever asked for a custom-made sandwich?

I've never asked for a custom-made sandwich, but a cast member once offered to make me a custom-made sandwich.  He wanted to experiment with making a Philly Cheesesteak using Earl of Sandwich's ingredients.  He took roast beef and American Cheese and put it on the artisan bread, expecting it to at least look something like a Philly Cheesesteak.  Since he recognized me as a regular, he asked if I'd like one too.  Obviously, it wouldn't be as good as a real Philly Cheesesteak, but I decided to see how the Earl equivalent would turn out, so I told him yes.  It was quite good, actually.

What do you like most about Earl of Sandwich?

I like the variety of the sandwiches.  They also do seasonal sandwiches, which I've tried when I could.  The Hawaiian BBQ sandwich actually started out as a seasonal sandwich, I remember seeing it advertised only in the summer.  I think that it was successful enough that they added it to the regular menu later on. 

In addition, they have great tomato soup, tossed salads, and side salads that you can get with the sandwich.  They personally mix the salad right in front of you, and their tomato soup always comes with big crunch croutons that are cut from their toasted artisan bread.  Sometimes I'd ask for extra croutons and just have a lunch of tomato soup and croutons because they were both very filling.  The side salads are delicious-macaroni salad, potato salad-and they are the perfect portion size.

Do you have a favorite sandwich?

My favorite is always the Caribbean Jerk Chicken sandwich, probably because it was the first one I tried.  I did go through a month long phase when the Scudetto (now called the Italian) was my favorite.  But nothing beats the Caribbean Jerk.  Not even the Earl's Club or the Full Montague.

What was your favorite experience there?

This story is actually my second favorite experience, as it takes longer to tell.  It was during my 2006 college program when I went with my friends on a day off.  By some crazy serendipitous scheduling, four of my friends (Emily, Tristan, Renee, and Jason) all had the same day off as me, with another friend (Kelcey) having a morning shift that would finish in the early afternoon.  Once Kelcey finished her shift, the group of us would meet at Chatham Square, our apartment complex, and have a barbecue and pool party.  In the meantime, the rest of us decided for lunch that we'd go to Earl of Sandwich.  It was a lot of fun just sitting in the restaurant having Earl with my fellow CP's, and we spent some time just sitting at the table talking and having fun, long after our sandwiches were finished.  I don't think we ever would have left our table, except when we realized that we were behind our "schedule" of the day as we still had some mini-golf to play, a pool to jump in, and burgers and hot dogs to grill. 

So what was your favorite experience?

It was the day that you came back from your trip to WDW last year.  Dad just picked you up from the airport and you were home for about ten minutes when you said to me, "Oh, I forgot!  We have your birthday present!" 

I said, "No, I'll wait until it's my birthday, I can wait."  But you insisted that I receive my present now, and so I relented.  My first present was "From Screen to Theme" by Brent Dodge.  Needless to say, that was a great gift, especially with the little poem that Brent wrote inside for me.

Then I received my second present, which would definitely have gone bad if I waited until my birthday.  You guys bought me a Caribbean Jerk Chicken Sandwich at Downtown Disney, and you stowed it away in your luggage on the plane, hoping it'd keep until you reached home a few hours later.  After a quick nuke in the microwave, I had Earl of Sandwich for dinner.  And that was quite an exciting experience, eating my very own Earl of Sandwich in New Jersey. 

 

Hahaha!  I knew you would enjoy it.  Do you remember, Brent even autographed the wrapper! 

Haha, I did remember, it is the bookmark I use in Brent's book. (What's this book you ask?  You can check it out here! http://www.fromscreentotheme.com/store.aspx)

Also, for all our friends in the Northeast, you can soon enjoy an Earl of Sandwich sandwich in New Jersey, though you"ll need a plane ticket as it is in the terminal of the Newark Airport.  But more on that another time! Thanks for telling us about Earl of Sandwich, Albert.

You're welcome, Reuben.  It was great reliving my EoS days.

 

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