Hearthstone BakeryCafe in the Forum is one of those places that, well, has never been quite as good as it should be.
The fillings on its sandwiches are very good, whether you’re trying grilled portobello with feta and tzatziki sauce or meatballs with three cheeses melted on top. On a recent visit, the modified Cuban, known as “The Tony” Montino, featured pork and ham with Swiss cheese, pickle and plenty of mustard.
So, what could be so wrong?
The bread. Too many of the sandwiches are made on a flat, puffy white nothing, like a drab ciabatta, desperately in need of something — maybe salt to give it flavor and keep it from resembling cardboard. Perhaps the marbled rye is better.
There was only one item on the menu that was diabetic friendly (a Greek salad with feta, black olives and onions), but that wasn’t terribly surprising for a place that bills itself as a bakery. White flour is a given whether you’re talking bread, sweets or even pasta in the soups. Even the tomato-basil soup was advertised as having a hint of brown sugar, which made it sound suspiciously like warm ketchup and not at all attractive, diabetic or not.
I decided on the wedge salad, minus the candied pecans. It came with plenty of crisp bacon, tangy oven-dried tomatoes and red onions with a generous portion of blue cheese dressing on the side. I enjoyed the creamy dressing coating each bite of iceberg lettuce. (In case you don’t know, the point of a wedge salad is to showcase the toppings and dressings. The lettuce has to be superfresh, as this was, so it adds crunch without adding too much flavor. I couldn’t convince my friend of this; she simply turned her nose up at the notion of eating iceberg lettuce under any circumstances. Her loss.)
We shared an oatmeal-raisin cookie for dessert, which my friend enjoyed. I found it in need of more oats and less flour, though a rich brown sugar shone through. A cookie, not soup, is the right place for that.
A second Hearthstone is at 4212 McCullough Ave.
8096 Agora Parkway