On Sandwiches
By Lydia on March 21, 2009 2:58 PM| | Comments (11)
Egad, can I just say how disappointed I am with my usual grocery stores? I made my second trip in two weeks yesterday out to the one of the Asian markets on S.Division, and I came back loaded.

For those of you familiar with the phenomenon that is a good ethnic market this may seem like well beaten ground, unworthy of repeated celebration, but I can't seem to get over it. The variety and freshness at many of these stores can be overwhelming if you are unused to seeing bags of shallots at $1.75, cilantro at a quarter, and whole shrimp at $3.99 a lb. Tofu, in a startlingly array of brands (or fresh from a bucket,) is half its normal price, as are sesame oil, sambal, and soy sauce. Fresh greens I have never seen before are perky and vibrant, and whole fresh duck may or may not be $10 each, depending on your Vietnamese literacy. Yesterday I filled a basket with produce, seafood, hot sauce, chili flakes, spring roll wraps, herbs, and more, and when I was done I got to step 3 yards out the door for one of the best deals on lunch in town.

I've written before of my love of pho, the Vietnamese beef noodle soup which sometimes includes such organ-meat delicacies as tripe and tendon, but have I told you about bahn mi??? Bahn mi is quite simply a wonderful sandwich, but so different from anything I've seen in restaurants and delis. To be honest it reminds me a bit of muffaletta. More on that later

Bahn mi is a sort of Asian/French lovechild that starts with a crusty kind of roll (baguette-ish) which gets smeared with pate and piled with marinated julienned vegetables like daikon and carrot, meats like roast chicken or meatball, and lovely fresh cilantro. It is a surprising mix of flavors and textures and it only costs $3!!!! 3 dollars out the door. This is insane and delicious news. They have, like 15 different kinds, and though I couldn't read the names as such, I think one of them was tofu.

Muffaletta, a New Orleans native, is similar in its double-meat/unconventional vegetable pairing, though it runs clearly less exotic and less variatous. The original muffaletta was born at Central Grocery in 1906 according to the Grocery and also Food Lover's Companion. Ted and I went there last month when we were in NOLA, and the damn sandwich was so good we had to go back about 4 times. The thing is kind of a behemoth too, made on a split roll a foot in diameter. The bread gets thick piles of ham, salami, and a house-made "olive salad" comprised of big chunks of green olives, pickled carrot and cauliflower, and good good olive oil. This oil makes other condiments, namely the mayonaisse that Creole cooking so loves, an unnecessary and unwelcome addition. Cut into quarters the 12 dollar sandwich serves 4. Or 2...

On a side note, I was really bored at work yesterday and started a loose opinion poll: What is your favorite sandwich? The answers were pretty interesting, and I got a few multiple times, which leads me to belive that the most popular sandwiches are French Dips, Reubens, and Grilled Cheeses. The thing is, this is completely contrary to everything I know as a waitress at a glorified sandwich joint. What  am I missing here? I hope its a large enough sample size, so I will ask again: What is your favorite sandwich?

restaurant sandwich: Club Sandwich.
home sandwich: avocado, ham, and tomato on shitty white bread with a little mayo

Restaurant: Reuben; 1000 Island on the side.
Home: Whatever bread I have lying around, pieces of every vegetable I have, whatever cheese I have to hold it together, spicy mustard. I call it "The Sandwich of Circumstance."

Does this mean you melt the cheese? Is this a grilled cheese with extra stuff?

I think I have to go with the Club... it's a good, classic stand-by.

This is making lots of sense to me. I like the club too, and its impractical to make at home. Who has all the necessary ingredients without shopping specially? I think this makes it special, even in its (somewhat routine) classic-ness.

Restaurant: Excellent pulled pork or maybe brisket. I like the breakfast pulled pork with a fried egg at San Chez, especially when you suggest that the cook make it 'really good!'

Home (or in a tent): bag of roast beef. No questions asked. I think that lack of other categories qualifies that as a sandwich...

Sourdough or other good bread, toasted, with a very thin scrim of mayo, then small but multiple chunks of french feta, slices of cucumber (small pickle-type cuke from the garden not the waxy one from the grocery store), and slices of summer tomato, open-faced.
good bread= homemade or bakery bread, the best in town being, to my mind, Nantucket Bakery sourdough or 6-grain sourdough
hmm...eating out? Honey Creek whitefish sandwich, or barbeque from a small town in Missouri, probably any small town but I can think of a certain place with everyone in town eating out after church on a pretty spring Sunday.

Yea! Roast Beef In a Bag!!!! Lunch Meat Party!!! Maybe for your housewarming, Courtney, we could do Sandwiches Of The World!!!???

Mama-Judy, we are completely on the same page, regarding "good bread" and the judicious use of vegetables. My only complaint is the mayo... It is always the mayo...

Wow, Lydia! You are a champion (or champignon?).
I love muffaletta and have made eaten several on both of my far too few trips to New Orleans. I like Founders' attempt to replicate it in their Big Easy, but it's not quite the same (though the addition of a pint of IPA goes a long way to recover ground).
Despite making a point of eating bahn mi on our trip, Courtney, Beek, and I never got to eat one, despite doing justice to dozens of bowls of pho. A definite bummer...
In general, I love sandwiches and eat them daily.
So, to get to your survey, favorites...
Summer:
Home: Anything with home-grown tomato. I like plain tomato sandwiches with a little mayo, salt and pepper on lightly toasted rye from American Bakery on Bridge St. Crispy bacon or a very thin hamburger patty fried crispy on the outside are both welcome additions to this tomato heaven.
Restaurant: Curry chicken salad with dried cherries or raisins. There is a market in Hawaii (http://www.kalapawaimarket.com/) that has fantastic curry chicken salad. Great with fresh cukes and sprouts. Maybe a little bitter green thrown in...
Winter:
Home: Hamburger, fried egg, sharp cheddar, Polish deli mustard from 20th Century Meat Market, sriracha, and Tony Packo's pickle/pepper relish (or my mom's homemade zuchini relish, a pint of which last approximately 2 days in my house) on toast.
Restaurant: Reuben. Hands down. Zingerman's pretty much sent me into convulsions when I ate their reuben.

How about delicious torta from a little restaurant in the pouring rain somewhere on the east side of Guadalahara?

with 40s???? excellent!!

--what is this "American Bakery?" what sort of bread to they bake? The biggest reason I started writing this blog was that I felt out of the loop when it came to food in GR, and I have to say, though maybe I have informed others, I am still not hearing enough tips from you all. I am needing to know vital info like where to get good bread on the westside!!!