One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had is the Captain’s Daughter at Saltie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s described minimally on the menu: “sardines, pickled egg, salsa verde” and yet tastes like so much more. The bread, focaccia, is fluffy and rich with olive oil. The flavors are as bold as flavors can be: fishy, bright, acidic, briny. The texture, unlike the criminally soft-on-soft sandwich I wrote about last week, is chewy (from the bread), soft (from the sardines) and crunchy (from all the vegetables). Let’s lift up the hood and see what else we can discover so maybe, just maybe, we can recreate this sandwich back in L.A.
Pull up a chair, I’m going to tell you a funny, though slightly depressing, story.
See, on Valentine’s Day, I was alone in New York. Craig would be coming a few days later and, in the meantime, I decided to spend the night seeing a play I’d always wanted to see: David Ives’ “All In The Timing” at 59E59. (A terrific production, by the way.) I figured seeing a play by myself on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a big deal; once the lights go down, who cares that you’re alone? The real issue was getting food before the show started. Eating out alone on Valentine’s Day, now that’s a different story.
When I lived in New York, I swore off brunch. “Brunch is for idiots!” I declared. “You wait forever, you spend a fortune, and for what? Food you can make just as good at home for way less money.”
That’s why there are so many entries on my Breakfast Recipes page: I mostly make brunch at home. But while in New York, this last time around, I ate two brunches so good, they put me in my place. I couldn’t make food THAT good at home.
One of the most ridiculous things about my old West Village existence–living there, as I did, from 2009 through 2011–is that I never really noticed The Meadow.
I think I thought it was a sandwich place. Or maybe a boutique shop for expensive olive oil. Had I known what lay in store behind its doors, I would’ve gone there all the time. Thankfully, I made a point to visit it last week before meeting my publisher for lunch at The Little Owl. When you see what I found inside, you’ll understand why I’m already planning my next trip back.
I want to tell you about a sandwich. It’s a very special sandwich. You get it at a place famous for another special sandwich, but we’re not going to talk about that other special sandwich. We’re going to talk about the original sandwich I was trying to talk to you about earlier. Seriously, will you stop changing the subject?
Before I returned to New York this fall, I started a little folder in my browser called NYFood. I read my EaterNY, my Grub Street, and then bookmarked in my special folder any place I felt like I had to visit. Most prominent among my selections were Mission Chinese Food and Pok Pok NY.
Both restaurants are transplants from other cities: Mission Chinese from San Francisco, Pok Pok from Portland. Both are phenomenons. Both have enormous lines. Yet I told myself these were places I had to visit before returning back to L.A. or I’d be forced to hang my head in shame. Now I can go back to L.A. with pride because I Mission Chinesed, I Pok Poked and lived to tell the tale.
The journey to the best bagel of my life was a journey of precisely three miles. It started on the Upper East Side, near 2nd Avenue in the 70s, and ended close to Columbia University, on Broadway near 108th Street. I told myself that I could treat myself to a decked-out bagel if I walked all the way to Absolute Bagels, home of what Ed Levine once called “the best bagel in New York.”
As far as good deeds go, they don’t come any easier than the one we did on Saturday night.
The East Village had just gotten its power back after Hurricane Sandy which, as I’m sure you’re aware, has left the east coast devastated, thousands homeless, others still without power and heat. The restaurant community had been hit especially hard, not only losing business for themselves and their employees, but losing thousands of dollars worth of perishable foods that spoiled after several days without power. On Twitter, everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Pete Wells implored people to eat out downtown on Saturday night, to help these restaurants get back on their feet. Kat Kinsman of CNN’s Eatocracy Tweeted that she was headed to Marco Canora’s Hearth and the second she Tweeted that, I realized that of course I would want to be at Hearth too. Marco Canora is one of the most generous, selfless people I’ve met in the food world–he cooked with me twice for my cookbook, both for the proposal and the book itself–and the idea of helping him by patronizing his restaurant hours after he got power back was an absolute no-brainer.