Season of the 'wich: Cold weather calls for toasty-hot sandwiches.
In 18th-century England, the Earl of Sandwich liked to eat thin cuts of meat cushioned between slices of bread. The idea was to keep grease off His Excellency's fingers while he played cards. If only the earl's chefs had slathered the bread with a spicy sauce and slapped the sandwich on a fiery grill. His card game might have gotten a little messy, but his taste buds would have celebrated a culinary royal flush.
Hot sandwiches are an expression of the world's regional cuisines, whether toasted, grilled or fried. They are also one the perks of living in the 21st century: Hungry aristocrats and commoners alike can get a taste of these influences pretty much any time.
For example, at Sonny's Diner in west Fort Worth, there's a delectable concoction known as a banh mi, a hot sandwich with Asian flavors that pays tribute to the French-colonial culinary influence in Vietnam.
Want to try what many consider the best Cuban press sandwich this side of Miami? Take a quick drive to North Richland Hills, where inside a bright-pink building, the daughter of a Cuban refugee carries on her family's culinary tradition.
Ah, and then there's Lili's Bistro on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth, where the grilled Italian sandwich is slathered with marinara and bedecked with sliced pepperoncini that'll slap your sinuses silly -- and leave you begging for more.
As the weather cooled down in Tarrant County, my mission was to eat my way through panini, croque-monsieurs, Monte Cristos and other such creations (no tacos or pitas, please), to find some of the best examples of hot sandwiches of the world. And what I found would make the Earl of Sandwich proud -- and hungry.