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.