Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sandwiches Galore!

OK, new month, new update. :)

I've actually had eight sandwiches since I last posted, but three of them were very out of order from the list, so I won't write about them....yet.  

We begin with the Croque M at The Mark, the fancy schmancy restaurant in the Mark Hotel.  Beautiful room with high glass ceilings and we had a sweet waiter.  I had a group of people with me, and two of us got this sandwich while one of us had a forgettable appetizer with some fancy seafood in it and the other had an apparently tasteless and inedible omelette.  Whoops.  Well, at least this sandwich was awesome.  It was extremely rich, the gruyere and ham were delicious, and the quail eggs on top were cooked to utter perfection.  It gets points off for being an open-faced sandwich that you could only eat with a fork, but it was definitely one of the tastier sandwiches I've had, and the quail eggs were one of the best prepared ingredients I've had so far.  3.8.

Next up, we have a sandwich that was quite an adventure to get.  This is the PMB from Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell's Kitchen, one of the great bakeries in NYC.  Sandwiches aren't exactly their main thing (indeed, they're very much an afterthought even in their retail store), and I knew that going in.  I showed up very early (10:45), since I had heard that they often run out of ingredients for the sandwiches by mid-afternoon, and wanted to make sure I got this, but found out that they weren't even going to start making sandwiches until 11:30.  When I came back at 11:30, I found out that they don't make sandwiches by what people order; they just make them first come first serve.  I was lucky in that this was the first sandwich being made that day, but the guy behind me ordered a different sandwich and was told to wait 20 minutes.  Man.

Anyhow, after all that, the sandwich turned out to be incredibly good.  PMB stands for pancetta, mango, and basil, and all three ingredients, along with the bread, were terrific.  The mango was fresh and not overpowering, the pancetta was thin and tasty, and the basil added a nice refreshing taste to the whole thing.  Just simple and excellent, and certainly in the upper echelon of sandwiches I've had on this quest.  4.4.

Now we come to one of the casualties on the list.  The BBQ Rib Sandwich from Momofuku Ssam Bar no longer exists; it must have been a one time thing when the list came out.  However, that did mean I got to try the duck sandwich at Ssam, which I'd never had before (I work three and a half avenues away from Momofuku Ssam and Milk Bar, and Milk Bar is always one of my absolute favorite places to go for desert).  I had a feeling it would be great thanks to the recommendation of a co-worker who has never steered me wrong (she's the one who recommended Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sandwich in Oakland, which is one of the greatest sandwiches I've had in the entire country), and as usual, she was right.  The duck was extremely tasty, and the spicy mayo added a great kick.  Also, one of the most filling sandwiches I've had so far.  4.1.

Next we have one of the great surprises on this list.  I had never even heard of the whole Blue Ribbon line of stores in NYC, but found out that the one I wanted to go to, the Blue Ribbon Bakery Market, was pretty close to me in the Village, so off I went for lunch, not having any expectations.  And you know what?  I was completely blown away by this.  It's called an "egg toast" sandwich, and it has hard-boiled eggs (that they hard boil fresh while you wait), jalapenos and delicious pickled peppers, a really tasty light olive oil and I think mayo spread, and wonderful bread.  It was spicy, extremely fragrant and tasty, and just so satisfying.  And it was five bucks.  This is the one time I'm going to make an exception for an open-faced sandwich, since a) you could actually eat it with your hands, and b) this worked as an open-faced sandwich unlike all the other ones I've had so far; bread over the ingredients would have overwhelmed the sandwich.  I can't wait to go back and try their other sandwiches; this was one of my absolute favorites so far.  4.7.

And the last sandwich to cover today is another terrific one, the Super Heebster from Russ and Daughters.  This is definitely unlike any sandwich/bagel I've ever had.  The ingredients are whitefish and baked salmon salad, horseradish cream cheese, and wasabi-infused flying fish roe!  My friend Travis and I got it on an everything bagel.  The ingredients were so fresh and the combination was unbelievably delicious and rich.  Amazingly, despite having wasabi and horseradish, it wasn't overly spicy, just extremely tasty and unique.  I wish I could describe this one better.  The one important thing to add here: Travis' bagel wasn't very good apparently; he described it as chewy in the wrong way, and others in the office agreed with him.  Mine was fine, but it was a bit chewy, but the people who tried my sandwich didn't have the same bagel issue as those who tried his did.  So the bagels are apparently inconsistent; when you try this one out, hope for a good bagel!  Overall though, one of the most original and tasty sandwiches I've had.  4.3.

And I've made it through 51 of the sandwiches (more if you count the ones I haven't written about yet)!  More than halfway there!  See you next time! :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sandwiches 56 (sort of) and 55

I'm not going to go into why there was such a long break.  Let's just dig in!

The first sandwich after my long hiatus, the Bacon and Marmalade on Pumpernickel at Prune....doesn't exist anymore.  At least, it doesn't on the menu, and when I asked if they could make it, I was told with an annoyed sigh that "it's only available in the book," which I assume means a Prune cookbook I've never heard of.  Indeed, going to Prune was about what I was expecting: packed with pretentious yuppies sipping on three different glasses of wine for lunch, overworked waitresses who had a haughty attitude, and a cramped space not at all designed for comfortable dining.  Thank goodness the food was actually very good; not good enough to make me have any desire to go back (and there's a cookbook apparently; why would I when I can make all the food myself?), but still, at least it can sort of back up the attitude.

A rule I'm implementing starting now is that if the sandwich isn't available anymore (and I know that #2 on the list isn't, for example), I plan on going to the restaurant and ordering a different sandwich.  Not perfect, but I really wanted to do this challenge to discover new restaurants as much as anything, so this works.  At Prune, they had the sandwich you see above on the menu, an Avocado Sandwich on french bread with ricotta cheese, tomato and lemon; there were also onions as you can see from the picture. was excellent.  The avocado was some of the best I've had in New York, and the combo of the ricotta cheese and the onion, tomato, lemon, and olive oil was terrific.  One thing to note is that the sandwich did actually fold into a normal sandwich and wasn't just a long piece of bread you nibbled on like it looks in the picture.  One of the better sandwiches I've had.  If only it hadn't taken 45 minutes to get, despite the waitress knowing I was in a hurry.  4.2 for the sandwich, 2 for the restaurant.  Seriously, buy the book.

The next sandwich was at Despana, which is a cool gourmet Spanish wine seller/market and deli.  I really enjoyed the market itself, and wish I had more time to check it out.  When my girlfriend asked what sandwich the deli counter guy would recommend, he said this one, the Picante sandwich, which contains chorizo, peppers, tomatoes, and Spanish cheese.  I did my best to get a flattering picture, but it was tough; not the most attractive sandwich.  And it wasn't very good either.  I think the concept here was that the chorizo, which was very spicy but not that tasty, would mask the other parts of the sandwich, which just weren't good at all.  The cheese and tomatoes were bland, and the peppers were practically non-existent.  Overall, one of the biggest disappointments I've had on this adventure, considering how good the whole place looked and some reviews I've read online.  2.9.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brace yourself....

The sandwich quest?  It's back on.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sandwich Round-up: The Catching Up Edition

Well well well.  Look who's back!  Yeah, it's only been what, two-plus months?  Well, that's what extensive travel for work'll do to ya.  Anyhow, I've actually eaten five sandwiches on the list in the interim between this post and the last, and one BONUS sandwich from the same website's list of the best San Francisco sandwiches.  Let's get right to them:

We begin with the Cemita Al Pastor from Tulcingo del Valle.  This was a far trek for me, and the establishment was a tiny Mexican deli  on Tenth Avenue that I was in for all of two minutes, as I had to rush back to the office before my lunch break was over.  The actual sandwich, which consisted of pork, avocado, pineapple, cheese and beans, was really delicious; the avocados in particular were fresh, and what I remember the most was the pineapple, which added a really surprising and delicious sweetness to the sandwich.  I'd love to go back there when I have more time and try more food.  3.8.

This is probably the worst picture of a sandwich I've taken, but the actual sandwich in appearance was totally non-descript.  However, it was anything but that in taste.  Let me back up here.  This is the Fried Whiting Sandwich from the Famous Fish Market in Harlem, which is officially the tiniest restaurant I've ever been in in NYC; you walk down three steps, stand in an extremely cramped space at a counter, order your food, and then when you get your food, you have to somehow get past the gigantic line of people on the stairs, out the door, and around the block.  What you're not getting from the awful picture; there were a TON of whiting pieces (at least eight or nine), there was delicious tartar sauce, and the sandwich itself, while very minimalist (we're talking some bread and some fish; the tartar sauce was optional), was utterly satisfying, with the fish being fried to perfection and the bread actually providing a nice moist counter to the dryness of the fish.  Definitely recommended.  3.9.

This is the Saltimbocca from Keste, a great pizza place in the East Village.  This has prosciutto, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil.  Now this sandwich is pushing what I'd call a sandwich; it's really pizza dough blown up and stuffed with toppings.  I guess you could call it a post-modern sandwich or something, but who cares when it's this good.  This was very simple as you can tell from the description, but every element was scrumptious, and it all blended together beautifully.  There was also virtually no grease; what you're seeing in the picture is actually olive oil.  Highly recommended.  4.0.

Next up we have the Marinated Anchovies sandwich from 'Wichcraft.  Again, not the greatest picture of the sandwich.  This had anchovies, egg, salsa of some kind, and onion, all on toasted white bread.  And guess what?  In a continuing trend from this batch of sandwiches, it was utterly delicious.  The anchovies were very high quality, and the other ingredients, especially the onion, came together wonderfully.  I should note that I decided to try some other sandwiches from 'Wichcraft, including the breakfast sandwich, and none were close to being as good as this one.  Again, highly recommended sandwich.  4.0.

Did I say there was a trend of the sandwiches being delicious in this post?  Well, here's where that trend ends.  This was the Kentucky Hot Brown from Bar Americain, Bobby Flay's restaurant.  I had a bad feeling about this sandwich going in, as it was outrageously priced ($18), which is almost never a good sign, and it was Bobby Flay, who I've always disliked as a chef and TV personality.  Also, as you can tell from this picture, it wasn't really a sandwich; it was bacon, tomato, and turkey on top of some French toast and COVERED in some fancy sauce (the website calls it Mornay sauce).  You had to eat it with a fork, which almost automatically disqualifies it as a sandwich.  Also, it just wasn't very good; the bacon was overcooked, the tomato was nondescript, and the turkey was overpowered by the sauce.  The toast and the sauce were both fine, but not that exciting.  Honestly, this is a rip-off, and not something I can recommend in any way.  2.0.

And now time for my bonus sandwich...

This is the Fried Chicken Sandwich from Bakesale Betty in Oakland, California.  I happened to have some time to kill in Oakland while I was in the Bay Area for work, and thanks to a recommendation from a friend and this being on the best sandwiches of San Francisco list, I had to try it.  And boy, was I not disappointed.  This was phenomenal, and unlike any other fried chicken sandwich I've had.  For one thing, the chicken was cooked PERFECTLY (moist fried chicken is not an easy thing to accomplish).  And as you can see, there was a kind of salad/coleslaw on the sandwich; it was fresh-tasting, vinegary, and very refreshing.  But what struck me about this sandwich was the complete lack of sauce, and even more impressive, I didn't notice it until I was halfway through the sandwich!  This is easily one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, and shoots to the top echelon of the sandwiches on these lists.  If this was in New York, I'd eat it at least once a week.  4.8.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sandwich Roundup

Honestly, I don't know why I don't update the day I eat these sandwiches, especially right now during a brief break from graduate school when I have more time.  Anyhow, here are a bunch more sandwiches, including the elusive in NYC Chick-Fil-A.  I will say that the sandwiches are getting much better the farther I go down the list, suggesting that the order actually does matter a bit.  Let us begin...

This is the Non Ti Scordar Di Me from Via Quadronno.  Via Quadronno is a small Italian panini bar on the Upper East Side that was far enough from a subway that I ended up ordering the sandwich ahead and quickly picking it up so I could make it back to work in an hour.  As a result, the sandwich had cooled off quite a bit when I ate it, and I therefore don't think I quite had the full experience of this sandwich.  As you can see, this was a very simple sandwich, with the main ingredients being bacon and brie.  Yeah, I know, hard to argue.  It was very tasty, but way too ordinary for a fifteen dollar sandwich. I have a feeling that if Via Quadronno wasn't in such a ritzy area that its prices would be much lower.  Overall, good sandwich, but definitely not worth the price.  3.8.  

This is a great example of a plain picture and a tremendous sandwich.  This was at a place in the village called This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, and oh man, was this outstanding.  This was a mutz, roast beef and gravy sandwich (which I tried and seriously disliked at John's Deli) and it was out of this world delicious; the beef was tender, the mutz, while nowhere near Lioni's mozzarella, was still very good and well balanced with the beef, and the gravy was actually somewhat subtle and like the mutz complemented the beef well.  The whole sandwich was also gigantic, and I had foolishly ordered "cheese fries" on the side, which turned out to be potato wedges drenched in Cheez Whiz.  In other words, fantastic but way too much food and grease for one meal.  Let's just say dinner was a light salad that night.  This though was a great find, and apparently some of my office mates have fallen in love with the place.  Perfect if you're in the mood for grease and roast beef.  4.6.

Sorry for the picture quality.  Tebaya is a Japanese chicken wing place in Chelsea, and I had a bizarre sense of deja vu going in, as I had been here years ago, before I worked in the general area, and thought it was fantastic.  When I walked in, that memory flooded back, as I immediately recognized the place and the owners.  And guess what?  Everything was as great as I remembered it.  This sandwich is basically tons of fried chicken stuffed into a burger bun and slathered with katsu sauce and...mayo.  Yeah, you heard me right.  It was absolutely lip-smackingly great, and the chicken wings you can see in the foreground were excellent as well.  This gets my highest recommendation.  4.7.

So I don't know what happened with the camera here, but blurry pickles!  Anyways, this is the Rueben Crusher from R.U.B. (Righteous Urban Barbecue), which is basically a reuben sandwich with smoked pastrami and grilled onions.  In other words, awesome.  There's  not a lot to write up here, but the sandwich was absolutely delicious, mainly because of the quality of the meat.  There were also two dipping sauces that were good enough to eat on their own.  Definitely recommended, although a bit too expensive (12 bucks).  4.4.


And last but not at all least, the elusive Chick-Fil-A sandwich!  There is only one Chick-Fil-A in New York, and it is located in of all places an NYU food court.  Four of us from the office went to try it out, prepared to do some elaborate fibbing and sneaking around to get in.  Much to our surprise and honestly delight, no fibbing or sneaking was necessary as we just waltzed right in.  The place is actually a "Chick-Fil-A Express," meaning that everything was just out there ready for the taking, including nuggets, waffle fries and the sandwich (my favorite thing was that you did have to request dipping sauce from the guy making the sandwiches, and there was a two sauces per person max).  

And the sandwich?  It was great.  I mean, it was clearly fast food (and the bun was a bit soggy from sitting under heat lamps too long), but the chicken was perfectly cooked and high quality, although very greasy.  My favorite food there was actually the chicken nuggets, but the fries were good as well.  Overall, not in the same tier as the best sandwiches I've had on the list, but close, and if I hadn't experienced the wonder that is Roll N Roaster it would be by far the best fast food I've ever had in New York.  4.0.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

LOST: A Reflection (Spoiler-Free)

So as I mentioned earlier, I finished Lost the other night.  Can I say I loved every minute of it?  No, I doubt anyone could.  Can I say I loved the show overall?  Yes, emphatically.  It is one of the most original, daring, provocative, and epic shows ever produced for television.  Sure, there were a couple of missteps along the way (the meandering beginning of the third season is the most obvious), but the way it all wrapped up was extraordinary, and again, extremely daring.  Lost is a show that lets you sit back and take in the story and the characters (all of which were brilliantly acted throughout, by the way) but also makes you think about extraordinarily heavy, philosophical subject matter, especially for network television.

The reason I think Lost feels so epic, and at times unwieldy, is that it attempts to be three completely different things at the same time.  It is a mystery show, where there are always as many if not more questions than answers regarding the plot, the characters, and the whole universe it takes place in.  It is also a character-driven show, where we get to witness many flawed and complex characters undergo tremendous change and make difficult and costly decisions.  And finally, it is a philosophical show, one that asks viewers to consider a fundamental philosophical debate and even ponder a concept as amorphous and heady as the meaning of life.  Let's go over each of these ideas.

The mystery aspect of Lost is one that I experienced much less than normal viewers of the show (whom I would guess are the vast majority of viewers), as I started from the origin story (which is the third to last episode in the entire series) and weaved my way through the episode order.  Therefore, motivations and even some characters that didn't get discussed or introduced until the final season were with me from the very beginning.  Therefore, I was for the most part able to avoid this, although once the show got to the island itself, there were plenty of cliffhangers and mysteries to be had.  This to me is by far the weakest aspect of the show, although it is certainly fun to get wrapped up in.  But with virtually every episode introducing a new mystery, and with many of them never being answered or revealed, the show was inevitably going to be a bit of a letdown in the end.  One could argue that part of the effectiveness of the show was how by taking the perspective of the survivors, and starting in the middle of the story, the viewer would feel just as confused and, sigh, lost as the characters they were watching.  This is true, but going through the show chronologically, there were still many mysteries that the survivors encountered that had never been introduced before, and I felt completely immersed and engaged with the characters the entire time.  Ultimately, the mystery part of the show was fun but ultimately didn't really pan out to having much relevance to the overall story.

The characters on Lost are rather incredible.  To have so many memorable and complex characters in one show is impressive, and the actors were all up to the challenge of making these characters come to life.  This to me is the strongest part of Lost; how rich the character development is, and how many wonderful stories there are.  I was uniformly impressed by all of the main characters, especially Locke, Desmond, and Ben, and even though there were extraordinary and unrealistic events that happened to all the characters, in the end they all felt remarkably human.  Going through the show chronologically allowed me to experience the character development in a more straightforward way than for normal viewers, and I loved it.

Finally, the philosophical debate of Lost.  This to me is the biggest reason that Lost was such a daring show.  The fundamental debate comes down to science vs. faith, and whether there is such a thing as fate or destiny, and whether we really have free will.  While these are cliched topics by now, Lost approaches them in a more serious and thoughtful way than I've ever seen a TV show do.  Ultimately, the show is remarkably religious, but in the least proselytizing way possible.  By couching the debate in actions and decisions that the characters make rather than through lengthy and heady discussions, Lost is able to make us consider these ideas through example rather than through theory.  While the show makes a conclusion as to which side it's on, the way it gets to that conclusion is beautiful and thoughtful, and since the universe Lost operates in is similar to but clearly not our own, the conclusion it comes to makes perfect sense within its own universe.  In our universe, the debate does and should rage on, and has been added to by Lost.

Lost is easily one of my favorite shows on television.  While it has some flaws, as an overall experience it is unlike anything else I can think of.  I highly recommend, if you've never seen it before, to watch the show chronologically like I did, as the strongest parts of the show, the character development and plot, become much more central than they would in the normal viewing experience.  The whole flashback gimmick on the show, while original and neat, ultimately doesn't end up having a real point beyond adding to the mystery, so watching it chronologically won't spoil some big surprise the show has waiting for you or anything like that.  In the end, Lost is a truly unique and astonishing artistic accomplishment, and one I can't recommend enough, flaws and all.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Checking in

Hey everybody.  I promise I'll post more soon, likely this weekend.  Believe it or not, I actually finished all of Lost, so instead of doing season roundups, I'll just post my overall thoughts on the series.  In a nutshell: Brilliant and extremely daring, and I'm not sure I would have thought so if I hadn't watched it in chronological order.

I also think I'm going to try and start posting multiple sandwiches at once, like I did in the last post.  I've eaten a couple since the last post, and I plan on eating a couple more this week, so stay tuned. :)