Philly Chef Tom McDonough Has Taken His Sandwich Talents To Florida With Soon-to-Open Flavor Palette

The craft beer scene down here is really big and I’m going to work a few awesome local craft beers into the mix. Special food and beer pairings is one thing I’m developing. The local food scene in general is really good. I’m checking out as much as I can right now. As for breweries, there are AardWolf and Intuition [Ale Works]which are both pretty good.

designcrowd_543574_7463488_1475778_vector (2)-2You mentioned your core sandwiches.
Yeah, I’ll start out with ten and see how it goes from there. And with the specials and of course, adjusting along the way according to what sells the most.

The core sandwiches will be in their own category. In another will be a list of things to where you can take the protein—say, a short rib—and have a few hot items added to it and from there, pay for the sandwich, and then take it to an international condiments bar. The name of my concept is Flavor Palette. It’s a play on words—an artists palette and the palate we develop as we eat and as we mature. It’s encouraging the customers to play and be a little artistic themselves.

How much are they selecting for their sandwich in addition to the protein?
I’m going to keep that aspect minimal and more on the basic side. To make the kitchen easier. It will be bread, meat, hot vegetables (say hot peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.) and then cheese. The thing about my sandwiches is that they’re going to be more ethnic based. I’ll have a Moroccan chicken sandwich marinated in preserved lemon and Ras el Hanut. It’s going to have an almonds, olives, tomato salad, and a harissa yogurt sauce, all on pita.

Can you run through a couple more of the sandwiches?
Some need to be nailed down. One, I’m calling The Boss Hog. It’s going to be pastor marinated pork with a cucumber avocado salsa, salsa verde, black bean hummus, and pickled onions. Another one is gonna be a miso marinated market fresh fish with a grilled scallion, cucumber, and cabbage slaw, with sesame, pickled ginger aioli on a wrap. I’m gonna do a play on a Tony Luke’s roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.

They don’t have anything like that down here, but mine is gonna be slightly different. I have something called the Fat Daddy with shredded short rib, frizzled onions, garlic confit tomatoes, and chipotle mayo. A falallfel burger with olive tapenade made with bruschetta, sautéed spinach, and tzatziki sauce. My signature burger is gonna be called The Snappy Mac. Some of these names are an homage to people. Snappy Mac was my father’s nickname. It was my favorite dog’s name. It’s a 7oz in-house ground burger topped with sun dried cherry relish, bacon, blue cheese, arugula.

Sounds good.
That’s the basic feel of what will be going on. I’ll be running specials like Tandoori chicken, some plays on banh mi’s—the menu will be versatile.

What’s the variation that you’re going to do with the classic Philly roast pork sandwich?
I still need to play with it. I’ll take the basic flavor profile—that hasn’t come to me yet. Paesano’s does something similar [to Tony Luke’s] but it’s just slightly off. Like them, I’m just going to tweak it my own way.

As far as rolls. A Philly guy going down to Florida….
Oh, I’m banging my head against the wall. That’s my main issue so far. I’ve only been here two weeks and I’ve been to six bakeries and they’re definitely not up to par for a Philly guy. So far, I found one place that has a phenomenal sourdough bread. It’s called Common Loaves. I’m set to meet with another local bakery to test their product. I might end of baking my own breads or subcontracting out my recipes to one of these vendors.

[UPDATE] McDonough informed me today, 11/13, that he has found his quality bread source at French Pantry in Jacksonville. As far as the breads “they had beautifully crusty Italian rolls, focaccia (both in roll and sheet form) with one variety topped with carmelized onions; another variety had roasted tomatoes and goat cheese; marble rye, brioche, multigrain wheat, Kaiser, and ciabatta (I made a promise to my neighbor in my shopping center I wouldn’t use ciabatta). Pretty sure I saw a baguette and a roll that had melted cheese on top. I grabbed a croissant on my way out that was on point. Flakey and buttery. I’m psyched to pick up my samples on Monday and start playing!”

You mentioned Paesano’s. Once you started describing your sandwiches, I was reminded a bit of them. How would you say what you’re doing compares and contrasts to them?
I mention them because, being from Philadelphia, we’re a sandwich culture and there are other ones out there but they’re one of my favorites. Basically, a similar heartbeat, but a little more international, ethnic is what I’m going for. They’re Italian but they’re not your grandma’s traditional Italian. So, that’s basically what I’m going for—going beyond what you’re used to.

I’m guessing the recipes come from your diverse experiences, not one particular place.
You know, working in the city, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Indian chefs, Chinese chefs, Korean chefs, German, French. Each place you work at, you kind of pick up a flavor palate from them, you get a technique from them. It’s an accumulation of—I’m almost going on twenty years believe it or not—many different peoples’ influence on me. It’s a combination of the cuisine they’re cooking and whatever they’re bringing from their own background.

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