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Perfect panini’s from “Hot Table”

Over winter break, we ventured into the wilderness that is Western Massachusetts to visit Editor-at-Large, Thomas. On our adventure, he introduced us to one of his favorite comfort foods: paninis from Hot Table. “Hot Table was founded in 2007 by brothers John and Chris DeVoie and restauranteur Don Watroba in their hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts,” according to its website. The chain was inspired by “small eateries in Italy called Tavola Calda.” Currently, there are eight locations, with two more opening soon. Unfortunately, the closest one to Brandeis is in Framingham, so it can’t become your newest midnight snack, but it is still worth reviewing. The paninis come in three sizes: small, medium and large, costing $8.29, $10.49 and $12.69 plus tax respectively. 

 

Thomas:

At Hot Table, there is one sandwich I constantly find myself going back for—the southwest chicken panini. As labeled on the menu, it contains roasted chicken, salami, chipotle mayo, American cheese, roasted onions, tomatoes and pickles. But, of course, when I am offered more toppings, I will certainly indulge, as the only thing this sandwich is missing in my opinion are the bacon bites I add on. The sandwich does a fantastic job of melding all of the flavors together and not letting one become the dominant feature of the sandwich. The cheese, a largely overlooked part of the sandwich, comes through with striking fashion—even a cheese as simple as the American cheese. It greatly complements the flavor profile of the sandwich while remaining subdued. However, the cheese also holds one important part of the sandwich together and that is the sandwich itself. The panini can be a little sloppy, I mean look at all of the food stuffed inside of it, but the cheese acts as a wonderful binder. In my opinion, the most bland part of the whole sandwich was the chicken, which is a nice surprise considering other restaurants tend to over-marinate their chicken. I do wish that the chipotle mayo was a little stronger, as the panini does not offer the spice I sometimes crave, but even then it is a small thing to note considering how well the panini is made. The butter bread, which is made on sight, the crisp pickles, juicy tomatoes and caramelized onions all complement the tastes of salami and chicken by adding more savory factors. To me, this panini is a clear nine out of 10, only losing points for the small mess and not-so-spicy mayo. Should Brandeis get this on campus? Of course! Can we? Well, we can keep dreaming, can’t we?

 

John:

Now, I’d be lying if I said that I had paninis very often. In fact, I think the last time that I had a panini it was from Sodexo in some form, so needless to say I had been in desperate need of a panini for a very long time. Walking into Hot Table gives off very “Chipotle-esque” vibes in the sense that you first choose the foundations of the sandwich that you want. In my case, I chose the steak and cheese, a basic sandwich that comes with shaved steak, mayonnaise, American cheese, roasted onions and red peppers. Then, going down the line in a Chipotle-esque fashion, you get to custom-choose any extra vegetables and sauces that you want to add! For the sake of the authenticity of the sandwich, I did not choose to put any additional vegetables or sauces on the first iteration of the steak and cheese panini. Afterward, they put the sandwich in the panini press and then you pay and eat. Y’ALL. This sandwich is absolutely fire. The cheese was perfectly melty but not to the point of being too greasy, the shaved steak was delicious and the red peppers and mayo complemented the foundations of the sandwich perfectly. I would give this sandwich a nine out of 10, totally recommend it to anybody who’s in the area and looking for a delicious lunch (or dinner!). However, I could not help but think how the sandwich would taste with pickles and extra mayo. So you know what I did? I got a second one with exactly those custom-ordered toppings on there. While the extra mayo was delicious (I absolutely love any form of sauce), I think I may have made a mistake with the pickles: Though I usually love pickles, it did not blend as well into the sandwich as I thought it would. As it turns out, the people making the sandwiches really know what they’re doing! Who am I, a broke college student with no taste, to question their authority? Anyway, as Thomas said, if these paninis were at Brandeis then the university could reasonably add an additional ten thousand dollars on to room and board costs just to account for the sheer happiness that students throughout the campus would feel.

 

Sasha:

I love a good panini, I lived off of them in high school, since those were the only edible hot food available. And honestly, most sandwiches taste better warm and toasted. And build your own? Sign me up. However, my toxic trait is adding way too many toppings to my food. My Chipotle order? Everything except the sour cream. My chicken sandwiches? Add all the veggies! And although this makes for delicious food, it also makes it a pain to eat. Of course, I did not leave my vices outside the door when we went to Hot Table. Usually, I make my own sandwiches, but they had so many toppings that I decided to base my sandwich on one that was already on the menu. I chose the Chicken Pesto Panini, which comes with “roasted chicken, pesto mayo, provolone cheese, salami, roasted onions, roasted red peppers,” according to the menu. I did not add the salami, because ew. But then I went crazy and added all the greens they had, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. My sandwich was STUFFED. Overall, the sandwich was delicious, the pesto mayo was great (although it definitely sounds like an odd pairing), and all the vegetables made the sandwich very fresh. The bread was delicious and having it toasted really pulled it all together. Although, I have to say that I really do wish the chicken was grilled rather than roasted, as it really was kind of bland; it tasted like plain boiled chicken. But that was not too big of a deal since it was well hidden by the rest of the things in the sandwich. Overall, I would rate it an eight, and if we are ever back in the wild, would definitely go back. 

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