That sandwich you see towering above you is called the Stella Hero from Stella Barra Pizza, where Craig and I went for lunch before seeing Gone Girl this past Sunday. The question isn’t “what’s in that thing?”, the question is: “What isn’t in that thing?” It’s got smoked ham, turkey, capicola (cured pork shoulder), tomato, Caciocavallo cheese, Giardiniera (a spicy pickled condiment), and lettuce. It’s a sandwich for the ages, served on warm crusty bread that’s a perfect foil for all the soft meats and cheese inside. There really isn’t a bad thing to say about it, except this: it took 30 minutes to get to our table.
Not long ago, I made a trip to the Orange County Fair–about an hour from where I live in Atwater Village–to partake of the food trucks that gather there right near the farmer’s market. My first stop was the Lime Truck, a well-known L.A. enterprise (they won Season 2 of the Great Food Truck Race on Food Network), where Alex–one of the truck’s long-time employees–walked me through one of their most popular items, the lamb sandwich. My mission: to recreate it at home.
Turkey and cheese is a sandwich staple for many people in this universe except I’m not one of those people. That’s because the idea of biting into soft turkey while also biting down on soft cheese totally skeeves me out. Soft on soft is absolutely the worst offense a sandwich maker can commit next to using mayonnaise but that’s a totally different conversation so let’s not get sidetracked. Let’s talk about the sandwich you see above.
Even though I shipped my cooking gear here to New York before arriving in September, things have been so busy and crazy it’s been difficult to find time behind the stove. When I get back from the west coast leg of my book tour (I leave tomorrow!) I have a lot of cooking I want to do; in the meantime, I’ve been checking many places off my New York “must eat” list. Here’s one of the best.
Sometimes going away from a city gives you permission, upon your return, to do things that you wouldn’t normally do when you lived there.
Case in point: eating alone at the bar at Maialino on a Friday night. There are a million reasons I would never have done that as a New York City resident: what if someone I know sees me? What about all the people jammed in there waiting for their tables looking at this guy, alone, reading Salman Rushdie’s article in The New Yorker? Somehow, though, my time away has made me feel like a tourist in the city I once called home…which is how I worked up the courage to walk in and ask for a seat at the bar.
I remember reading the New Yorker in 2002 when Nora Ephron declared the pastrami sandwich at Langer’s in Los Angeles “the finest hot pastrami sandwich in the world.”
As a New Yorker who grew up on the east coast (both in New York and Florida, major pastrami territories) I found this hard to believe. When I shared this tidbit with others, they’d be offended. “The best pastrami’s in L.A.? No way,” would be a typical response. On Saturday I brought Craig, Mark and Diana to Langer’s to experience this blasphemy firsthand. All three of us moved to L.A. from New York in the past year; would Langer’s really hold a candle to Katz’s? Was Nora Ephron just being provocative? Did we really want to eat pastrami on a hot summer’s day? These were important questions and after a short drive on the 101 (exit: Alvarado) we were ready to answer them.
Of all the shameful things a home cook can do, the most shameful is letting leftovers go to waste.
I’ve been guilty of this; maybe I’m craving sushi instead of yesterday’s lentil soup, and the lentil soup sits, gathering mold over the weeks, and getting tossed when it might’ve provided a perfectly satisfying second night dinner. But lentil soup is one thing, meat is another. And when you have leftover meat, you have absolutely no excuse not to make a sandwich.
You may recall a post from April 2009 (see here) in which Craig and I sampled the food at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida while Craig was attending the Florida Film Festival. If you don’t want to click, I’ll sum it up for you: the food sucked. We ate corn dogs and bad Mexican food at the Mexican pavilion. It was fine theme park food but nothing that deserved attention on a food blog; though many passionate Disney fans chided me in the comments, pointing out our terrible decisions and defending Disney as a decent dining destination, if you know where to go.