Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Toasted Mushroom-Avocado Sandwich aka "The Gandalf"

So there's this place in Houston called The Hobbit Cafe.  [It was The Hobbit Hole when it was located in an appropriately hobbit-like old house, but it moved well before my time.]

It's quaint. There are Lord of the Rings drawings and posters and figurines, most of which are at least 40-years old, and the food is great and mostly healthy-ish... and named after LOTR characters.  Back when JG and I lived in Houston, we'd go there fairly often and split a "Gandalf"... a toasted sandwich of sliced avocado, mushrooms, and swiss cheese on whole-grain bread, served with a side of shredded carrots [though this was before I was particularly interested in healthy eating and we usually subbed potato chips for the carrots.]
There was a certain magical flavor in the sandwich not attributable to any of the stated components which elevated the whole thing to the sublime, and one day JG asked what it was.  The server went back to the kitchen and reemerged with a spice bottle labeled "Spike."  We'd never seen it before but promptly went to the grocery store and found it with the rest of the spice blends.  [It turns out it's like the MSG of hippie food, created by a natural foods advocate circa 1925 named Gayelord Hauser, whose dislike of white bread might have been greater than mine.]  It was indeed the key ingredient to recreating the perfect Gandalf at home.
JG and I had kind of forgotten about that lovely sandwich [It's getting close to 10 years since we lived in H-Town] but we made blue cheese turkey burgers with avocado -- on homemade buns -- the other day, and as the slices popped out the sides it brought back memories... so I picked up another avocado on my way home from work yesterday [there's one grocery store on the way that always has acceptable if not great avocados] and we made paninis for dinner on leftover buns.  In tribute to the Hobbit Cafe, I also made my spicy carrot slaw to go on the side [it's so easy and surprisingly good]... and it really was a much better meal than with chips.
It was a slightly odd dinner for a 30-degree evening, but it felt like spring in the kitchen.

Recipe: Mushroom-Avocado Sandwich: The Gandalf
The restaurant doesn't [or didn't] press them panini-style, so feel free to do it in a pan, grilled cheese-style, or stick it in a toaster oven or under the broiler.  You need the cheese to melt to keep the mushrooms on the sandwich during consumption.

Per Sandwich:
2 slices whole grain bread
1/2 avocado, sliced thin [or mashed]
~4 oz mushrooms, sliced thin [I used baby bellas]
1 slice Swiss cheese [one with more assertive flavor is best]
Spike seasoning

Layer bread with mushrooms and cheese, sprinkle Spike over the avocados, then layer those on top of the cheese.  Top with bread and heat using your desired method. [See header]

Serve immediately with Spicy Carrot Slaw. [I added a minced shallot this time, it was well received.]


  1. Well, I must say Gandalf looks delicious.


  2. AnonymousMay 06, 2013

    I just concocted this sandwich, with a few variations. Then ate it, and decided to google it and see if there were any other wierdo experimental chefs... Turns out yes! I used mozzarella, cause its my favorite, and spicy peppercorn ranch because something about mushrooms and ranch its just so good. Haven't seen spike in the stores around here!

  3. AnonymousJune 25, 2017

    grew up in Houston and ate at the Hobbit often and this was one of my favorites!I could have sworn there were also bean sprouts on the sanswich,but I was such a hippie I could have imagined because we put them on everything!Thanks for the memories.

  4. AnonymousJune 25, 2017

    I grew up eating at the Hobbit Hole and as a hippie,this was the favorite fare. The only other thing...I thought it also had bean sprouts,but that could be because at that time sprouts were on everything!Thak you for the memories.pattra