Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery in Columbia
By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Around town, tutorials from master baker Mark Furstenberg are a sign of distinction. Gerald Koh credits the guru with teaching him how to make artisanal breads - although the 58-year-old Columbia baker and owner of Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery says he had a good handle on several varieties even before that.
From 2004 to 2005, Koh managed Furstenberg's former sandwich shop, Breadline, and he has owned five eateries in the Washington area since he got into the restaurant business in 1990. With the nearly three-year-old Bon Fresco, he seems to have hit on a concept that will stick. The name is half French and half Italian, just as Bon Fresco's Korean-born Koh was inspired by his favorite loaves, baguette and ciabatta, which can be purchased at the shop for $2 each.
"I'm trying to make almost everything from scratch," says Koh, adding that he uses local produce in his soups and buys free-range turkeys from nearby Maple Lawn Turkey Farm to roast for sandwiches. "We don't have a huge selection, but everything we do, I try to do it in-house."
The small space (it seats about 30) is a pleasant place to wait for the quick takeout, during which time you can assay the case of desserts, such as the enticing-looking cinnamon rolls ($1.88) and chocolate croissants ($2.83) that Koh makes each day.
Popular sandwich choices - for good reason - are the London broil ($6.95) smeared with a Dijon mayonnaise and topped with arugula, finely diced red onion and melted provolone on ciabatta, and the brie with caramelized onion and sun-dried tomato pesto on baguette ($6.50).
We fell hard for the picante pork-loin sandwich ($6.50) on ciabatta, with its still-crunchy slices of grilled zucchini, roasted tomato and a slather of Koh's poblano-spiked, garlicky sauce. All sandwiches come with a choice of lentils with feta cheese; couscous dressed up with carrots, black olives and apricots; a simple potato salad with a yogurt-based dressing; or a bag of chips.
The soup-and-salad combo ($7.95) includes a large ciabatta roll, as well as mixed greens customized with one of seven toppings that rotate daily. We opted for the curried chicken salad, a creamy dressing covering the abundant chicken chunks, huge raisins and chopped green and red bell peppers. The spicy peanut soup lacked heat and the flavor punch that its aroma promised, but it was still good.
Koh says plans are in the works to open a second Bon Fresco location in Annapolis Junction this year.