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Gourmet sandwiches have extra bite

This isn't your basic sandwich.

It has sass and undeniable substance. A gourmet sandwich has character.

The maker evokes its magic, and you can't do that with your typical sandwich stuff.

That means Merita, Sunbeam and those other loaves of Southern tradition are not bread any dignified sandwich would be seen in.

No way. A gourmet sandwich requires a special touch. Homemade condiments, top quality meat, fresh vegetables and killer bread combine to make a meal turn into a special event.

Jessica Bell of Loris relishes a good gourmet sandwich in all its simple elegance.

"It has to have fresh cut meat, and it has to have fresh bread," Bell said.

Her statement is the credo by which owners of gourmet sandwich shops believe each sandwich maker should live.

Ask Gary Consalvi about what makes a gourmet sandwich, and he mimics a love song.

In his heart, gourmet sandwiches are poetry, and to put it bluntly, everybody isn't a poet.

"The freshness and the flavor is what distinguishes it from a typical sandwich," said Consalvi, who owns, along with his wife, Lisa, Consalvi's Italian Market & Deli, at 3852 U.S. 17 Bypass in Murrells Inlet. "My sandwiches are alive with flavor."

Gourmet sandwiches are sassy for good reason.

Self-respecting gourmet sandwich creators give their sandwiches the time master bakers give to their cakes. What can be made from scratch is made from scratch. If they can't do it, they find someone else who does. They prefer, however, to do as much of the work as they can with their own hands.

They roast their own vegetables. They make their own dressings. They use fresh herbs, often plucked from their gardens or those of their neighbors. Some even make their own bread, but most connect with bakeries that can guarantee them fresh bread daily.

"You have to bring in a twist on the everyday ingredients," said Karen Holck, owner of Broadway Cafe & Gourmet, at 509 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach.

Holck uses known spices in unusual ways to add twists to her gourmet sandwiches, which she trademarked with the moniker ``Big Samiches" on her menu.

She refused to tell what is used in her Shaved Turkey and Muenster Cheese Big Samich, which is accented not only by secret spices but her homemade cranberry relish and honey mustard on bakery-fresh pumpernickel bread.

Her only divulgence was about her Tuna Salad Samich, which she confessed is made with albacore tuna, capers and Old Bay seasoning before it is introduced to customers' mouths on marble rye.

Bona fide sandwich lovers, she contends, appreciate a gourmet sandwich without frills but with enough punch to tantalize the taste buds.

Greg Blanton gets such a sensation at Little River Deli. A sushi chef at Indo in Myrtle Beach, Blanton believes there is nothing fishy about what the eatery accomplishes when it comes making a savory sandwich.

"Everything is made to order," said Blanton as he sliced octopus, talking of his favorite sandwich shop at 2352 S.C. 9 in Longs. "Their meats are cut to order. The sandwiches are made to order. Everything is fresh. Everything for your sandwich is right there for you. Nothing is in a can or under a shelf."

Remember, though, a gourmet sandwich can't identify itself as such unless the bread is worth bold boasts.

"If the bread is good, everybody will remember the sandwich," Blanton said. ``The first bite has to be memorable."

The bread, Gary Consalvi reasons, makes or breaks the a gourmet sandwich.

If the bread is off, the sandwich is wrong. If the bread is great, the sandwich is awesome.

The bread is what makes a gourmet sandwich a treasure that tramples the sandwiches anyone can make by taking trips by supermarket aisles.

"The bread is key because it dominates the sandwich," said Consalvi, who uses a rustic baguette because of its crisp outer shell and soft, airy center, as well as his own Italian dressing. "You can put as much meat and flavor in your sandwich but if that bread isn't good, forget it."