The Hippo


May 28, 2020








The Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Emelia Attridge photo.

The Hungry, Hungry Hippo

The Bridge Café, 1117 Elm St., Manchester
Assignment: The sweet sandwich. This sandwich is the most unique. The options are limitless, but this must be a dessert sandwich. Perhaps it’s your gourmet take on the PB&J or inspiration from a chocolate crêpe. It should resemble a sandwich (two layers of bread, sandwiching a core). You may use any ingredients, including spreads and fruit. Cheese is allowed as long as it pairs with your other ingredients, but savory ingredients (meat, mustard spread, mayonnaise, etc.) are not allowed.
Recipe: Peanut butter, chocolate and banana sandwich toasted on whole wheat bread. Made with peanut butter, crushed peanuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips and grilled to melt ingredients and toast the bread.

The hungry, hungry hippo
The Bridge Café, 1117 Elm St., Manchester


 When chef and sandwich master George Bezanson first found out about his sandwich challenge parameters, he was mildly disappointed.

“I definitely wish that I got the savory panini, because that’s what we specialize in here,” Bezanson said. “Sweet sandwich, it’s tough. When you think of a sandwich, you don’t think of chocolate, you don’t think of sweet. It is tough to come up with something that someone’s actually going to want to eat more than once, or not just for dessert. You’re taking something that’s mainly savory-based and you’re completely changing it. It’s definitely a challenge, but I like a challenge.”
The result is the Hungry, Hungry Hippo, a sweet peanut butter, chocolate and banana grilled sandwich. The toasted sandwich balances the savory flavor of peanut butter with the sweetness of the melted chocolate. It’s the type of sandwich that can be eaten for a lunchtime treat or for breakfast, like a banana and chocolate chip pancake.
“When I was growing up in Boston, I used to work at this diner and we used to do this sandwich called the Velvet Elvis,” Bezanson said. “It’s a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich, so I thought it would be cool to kind of bring that back and do our take on it with chocolate chips. And actually, we do crushed peanuts as well to give it a little bit of crunch.”
To make the Hungry, Hungry Hippo, Bezanson spreads peanut butter on both slices of whole-grain wheat bread. He then layers the slices with sprinkles of semi-sweet chocolate chips, slices of banana and crushed peanuts so that they stick into the peanut butter spread. He butters both sides of the sandwich and grills it to melt the chocolate, peanut butter and banana together and to give the bread a crisp, buttery crunch.
“This is a sandwich that my kids can eat, and that I would love to eat. It’s nice … having something that’s not too off the wall,” he said.
The desire for simplicity might trace back to Bezanson’s favorite childhood sandwich, the PB&J. Today, Bezanson’s experience as a chef allows him to craft more grown-up sandwiches. 
“It helps to have a good palate to know what you’re doing,” he said. “Definitely experience comes in handy. I’ve been pairing food for over 20 years. I was a fine dining chef before I opened this café. So, I took that fine dining experience that I had and I turned it into a café with paninis and breakfast.”
Probably the most simple sandwich on the menu at The Bridge Café is the BLT or the tuna salad sandwich. Most of the sandwiches feature ingredients like chipotle mayo, avocado or gorgonzola crumbles. Bezanson said that his favorite is the Bella Rose — prosciutto, pesto, balsamic mayo, tomato and fresh mozzarella served on toasted focaccia. It’s named after his daughter.
“Every dish has certain elements that make it a complete dish. There needs to be something savory in a sandwich. ... In a panini you definitely want a crispy texture. It can’t be overcooked, it can’t be burnt. It has to be grilled the right way,” Bezanson said. “Spreads are huge. What we use for aiolis and our spreads is like the base of that sandwich.”
Out of all the sandwiches, the house favorite is “The Bridge,” a grilled chicken panini on focaccia bread made with fresh mozzarella, pesto and balsamic reduction.
“I created that sandwich because I did go out to eat one night and I was disappointed with this pesto at this restaurant I went to,” he said. “I took what I didn’t like at the restaurant and I went to work the next day and I came up with ‘The Bridge,’ and it became one of our best sellers.”
What makes a gourmet sandwich?
George Bezanson, The Bridge Café, Manchester: Ingredients is number one. If you don’t start with good ingredients, you can’t have a good product. Anybody can take a recipe. If you give 10 different people the same recipe, you’re going to come out with 10 different sandwiches. When we opened about nine years ago, the most important thing I didn’t ever want to stray away from was that everything was basically homemade and fresh. So, we take really good care and pride in the vegetables we get, the meat, and everything we order and put on our sandwiches. That way when you make a sandwich, even if it only has four ingredients, the ingredients are taken care of. They’re well done, and they’re fresh, and you can’t lose. 
As seen in the March 20, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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