RON SWARNER: CHAT WITH CHEF GORDON NACCARATO >>>
Yeah, we already know heâ€™s a culinary genius, but Tacoma's award-winning chef Gordon Naccarato knocked me off his Pacific Grill chair with his tuna melt. The open faced grilled ahi tuna sandwich off his Pacific Grill's lunch menu deserves to be bronzed. I know itâ€™s one of his favorites, too. He tried to take it off his lunch menu once, but people cried in the streets. Itâ€™s back on, thank goodness.
I caught up with Naccarato for the scoop behind this dish.
WEEKLY VOLCANO: Who came up with this creation?
GORDON NACCARATO: Many years ago when I had my restaurant in Aspen, I was looking for a modern update on the classic tuna melt for my lunch menu. I think back then I used a New York white cheddar and served it without the bread (back before there was any decent bread in the U.S.) and used an opal basil butter â€¦ but I loved the white cheddar with the fish. When we were kicking ideas around for another sandwich for PG I remembered the dish from Aspen and how delicious it was. I wanted the sandwich served open-face on top of grilled La Brea Bakery bread. I love grilled bread. Everything tastes better with grilled bread â€" just like everything tastes better with bacon!
VOLCANO: Why do you think it works well?
NACCARATO: The combination of the vintage cheddar cheese with the soft, rare flesh of the tuna is very satisfying. The charred warm exterior of the flesh contrasts with the cool rare center. It all plays well against the contrasting texture of the grilled rustic bread. The charred rosemary mayonnaise is another layer of lusciousness. Charring the rosemary provides a slight natural smokiness. The grilled onions provide a sweet note against the rich cheese, and the tomatoes provide an acidic note of punctuation. I love watching people take a first bite of this dish; it always elicits a satisfying smile.
VOLCANO: What kind of beverage goes best with it?
NACCARATO: I would think either a refreshing wine, or beer. A Washington Pinot Gris would be good. It has medium body, and hints of apple and pear that would taste great with the cheddar, and it has enough acidity to cleanly cut through the rich dish â€" or a Belgian golden ale called Duvel, that we have right now, would be nice â€" as it is light bodied and has notes of citrus that would be refreshing against the rich fish.
VOLCANO: What sandwich did your mom always put in your lunch box for school?
NACCARATO: A tuna fish sandwich on Wonder Bread, made with mayo (never miracle Whip â€" YUCK) and pickles and iceberg lettuce.
VOLCANO: Plain, super heroes, sports figures â€" what was your favorite lunch box?
NACCARATO: My favorite Lunch Box was a brown bag â€¦ except for the time I set it on the ground and ran back inside my house to get a book I forgot, and when I came back outside the neighbor s dog had peed all over my brown bag lunch!
Do you have anything in the works to grace your lunch menu soon?
NACCARATO: I am planning our spring menus right now, and I am always thinking about new sandwiches â€" like when I put our version of a sloppy joe on the menu with roast pork shoulder in tomato sauce over grilled bread with shaved reggiano. I love tweaking classic sandwiches. Maybe I should do a patty melt on grilled rye, gruyÃ¨re cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut â€" but a REALLY good version â€" or why bother?
[Pacific Grill, lunch served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1502 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.627.3535]