Tomato sandwich season: Birdie G’s in Santa Monica ups the ante on the summer classic

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This is the second summer that chef Matthew Schaler has featured his conceptual tomato sandwich at Birdie G’s in Santa Monica. Photo by Elise Freimuth.

“I like focusing on one ingredient and distilling it,” says chef Matthew Schaler of Birdie G’s in Santa Monica. At the farmer’s market, he shops for benevento tomatoes for an icon sandwich. Growing up in the South, tomatoes, mayo, and white bread hits every summer, and this is the second year that Schaler has put the dish on the menu. The open-faced sandwich is composed of focaccia made in-house with tomato water, thick slices of benevento tomatoes, a mayo made with the tomato trim, and a powder made by dehydrating the fruit used in water. 

The benevento tomatoes at the Weiser Family Farm stand come courtesy of breeder Fred Hempel of Artisan Seeds. Photo by Gillian Ferguson/KCRW

Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms grows the benevento tomato that chefs are loving. Weiser enjoys working with breeders who have an interest in exploring new flavors. Fred Hempel of Artisan Seeds is a tomato breeder in Northern California who conducts trials of new varieties in the field. The interior of the benevento tomato is what Hempel would call “slabby,” with seeds spread out — perfect for a sandwich. It holds its shape and doesn’t spoil too quickly. A cooler spring means a later season for tomatoes, so be on the lookout at the market well into October.