We finally made it up to the Green Frog this week to see Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola play. Ten particularly awesome things from the evening:
1. The way Charlie Hunter does something kick ass and mind blowing on the 7 string guitar (he does lead guitar and bass at the same time), then looks around at the audience grinning like “damn, was that cool or what?”
A few weeks ago I went to visit some pigs out at Well Fed Farms. They were happy, handsome pigs, rooting up grasses on the fertile Skagit flats and being fed with apple pressings.
A couple of weeks later we got the call from Silvana Meats, and we picked up half a pig’s worth of fresh pork, neatly packed for the freezer. The smoked meats will be ready later (we’re very excited about bacon).
Ever have a restaurant experience that, while not at all bad, somehow wasn’t all that good either? There was absolutely nothing wrong with the lunch we got at the Fish Tale Brewpub in Everett, but we still don’t think it likely we’ll go back. This makes me sad, since I liked the one in Olympia so much.
It’s partly the decor, frankly. I saw this mentioned on nearly every Yelp review about the brewpub, and it’s true – the place is dark, uncomfortable and strange. The main dining space feels like the breakfast room in the basement of a cheap hotel, while the sunny window in the front hosts nary a table. Did these people never hear that a pub is supposed to be cozy?
Then the food, about which I’m not really sure what to think. I got an oyster po’boy and a Caesar salad. There were lots of oysters – too many, actually, I couldn’t close the bun enough to take a bite – and the bun was a pleasant enough sourdough. But the condiment was a mean smear of mayo (maybe it was aioli, I could hardly taste it) and a small handful of greens. The Caesar seemed fresh but the dressing had almost no flavor at all. I got bored before I got full.
Jon got the lamb burger, on the extremely enthusiastic recommendation of the waitperson. It was…meh. It mostly tasted of feta, and the meat was overcooked and rather dry, despite having a dollop of tzatziki on top. The fries were the soft kind, which I realize is a style but it’s not our favorite. Not the worst lamb burger we’ve tried, but not even in the top ten.
Oh, well. The beer was excellent.
I’ve been craving a cheese sandwich. Not a fancy one. A sandwich like the ones I used to get at the student union snack counter in college, on cheap white bread with cheap cheese and a few slices of tomato squashed in the middle, blazing hot from the grill. I didn’t eat white bread much when I was growing up, so cheese sandwiches of this sort had a real glamour for me (as did Lucky Charms cereal, I’m embarrassed to admit), and I only bought myself one once in a while, if I wanted a treat. Twenty years later, I’m finding myself craving that sandwich. Maybe I’m really just missing that experience, of being on my own for the first time and not having to ask anyone if I wanted to eat something bad for me. I certainly made up for a lot of childhood healthy eating in just a couple of years…maybe this is why I ended up in a Vegan-themed house my junior year. Anyway…
Unfortunately for my recent cravings, I couldn’t bring myself to actually buy a loaf of cheap white bread, as if the Junk Food Police would come by later that night. But I really wanted a cheese sandwich, so I circumvented my inhibitions by baking myself a loaf of suitable bread. It’s not bad for you if you made it from scratch, right?
One loaf, mostly white bread flour with just a little whole wheat, sweetened with honey and enriched with milk and egg. I baked it the evening before and let the loaf rest. It sliced easily, and the crust was tender and perfect. It toasted nicely in the pan without needing a vast amount of butter, and held onto the melted cheddar in just the right gooey way.
It was a perfect cheese sandwich, with nothing but bread, medium cheddar, and butter. I didn’t have tomato for it, so I heated up some Pacific boxed tomato-red pepper soup to dunk into. It made me happy.
What’s your ideal grilled cheese sandwich?
I realize I haven’t been around here much, so here’s a nice sandwich to keep things going. Last Sunday we celebrated the start of the wind-and-rain season with a milk-braised pork roast studded with garlic and herbs, serving it with buttermilk mashed potatoes and a fresh arugula salad. It was a big roast, so every day this week my lunch has involved some variation on the pork sandwich – oh, the hardship. Yesterday’s version (pictured) started with a sourdough hoagie roll from the Breadfarm, spread lightly with mayonnaise and dressed with chunks of rewarmed pork, dripping with garlicky milk sauce, and a few leaves of arugula for contrast. Today’s version was the same, but with a freshly home-baked sweet potato roll in place of the hoagie. Zowie.
Being a complete sucker for a good sandwich (as you can see by the photo selection above – gee, that’s a lot of sandwiches), I was thrilled to see the new Saveur arrive in the mail with “The Sandwich Issue” blazoned across the cover. Woohoo!
This issue made me hungry. Really hungry. It covers sandwiches from all over the world, including banh mi, croque madame, Philly cheesesteak, PB&J, bacon butty, shawarma, pimento cheese, fried squid rolls and all sorts of other good things. It makes you want to go out and put things on bread with lots of exciting condiments. I’m particularly excited about the sardine sandwich ideas, and a recipe for Yemenite chile relish called schug. I have plans…
After perusing it from cover to cover, though, I was shocked to see two of my favorites, the chicken salad and the egg salad sandwich, very underrepresented. I found two recipes for chicken salad, but both are the kind I loathe, with grapes and nuts and celery, or currants and curry powder. Ugh. Personally I find it hard to do better than chicken salad in its simplest form: cold roasted shredded chicken mixed with Best Foods mayo (neither Miracle Whip nor homemade mayonnaise will do). I roast chickens just so I can have this for lunch the next day.
I might put lettuce on, or green chutney, or a slice of piquillo pepper if I have one, but more often than not I’ll eat it plain, preferably on a toasted whole wheat English muffin. Despite my love for more elaborate concoctions, this is really my perfect sandwich. The proper accompaniments are beer or iced tea, and a good helping of pickled okra, or perhaps dilly beans. Lunch just doesn’t get much better than this. What’s wrong with simplicity?
We drive over Stevens Pass with some frequency, a trip that usually takes us 2 ½ or 3 hours and often requires a stop for sustenance along the way. Often that means the School Bus for barbecue, cornbread and hot pinto beans, or on the way home we may push on for Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, but other times it means the Sultan Bakery. It’s not fancy, the service is slow, there’s not much to drink except coffee and water, and they have a definite tendency to run out of the very thing I was craving, but they make the best old-fashioned sour cream doughnuts I’ve had anywhere, and their sandwiches are as big as your head. Maybe bigger.
The menu here is flexible, with separate items written on a variety of white boards and set out or taken down as necessary. You can pretty much always count on there being tuna or plain deli meat sandwiches, with tomato soup or chili or maybe split pea to go on the side. They usually have French Dip or open-face turkey sandwiches, although not always, and depending on time of day there may be both breakfast sandwiches and a prime rib plate with mashed potatoes. We have tried some of their hot food, but every time we stop here I secretly hope they’ll have either the egg salad or the BLT.
Here’s what we got last weekend. I normally prefer my BLTs on thin toasted sourdough bread, but the Sultan Bakery’s country white bread is an exception. It’s like ultra-Wonder bread, cut so thick you think you’ll never fit it in your mouth, but squishing down to almost nothing. It’s exceptional for egg salad, as it molds around the filling without coming apart, but it’s also excellent with tuna or bacon. And as you can see, a single sandwich can easily feed two people. I saw a turkey sandwich across the room that looked nearly twice as big as this one – I believe a to-go carton was required for that.
The tomato-basil soup is deceptively heavy, being so laden with cheese you can almost stand a spoon up in it, and as I recall the chili is equally solid. The sandwiches here used to come with a really good goopy macaroni salad, but unfortunately that’s been discontinued. However, getting sufficient calories is not going to be a problem. And if you are still hungry after lunch, there are always doughnuts. Or cookies, or brownies, or turnovers, or bearclaws, or…
I haven’t been doing a good job of documenting our meals lately – I blame it on our garage remodel – so here’s a sandwich from a few weeks back, to give you something new to look at. It was a collection of leftovers that worked splendidly together: steak, grilled eggplant, sauteed chard, yogurt-garlic sauce, and a puree of seasoned chickpeas, all piled onto fresh baguette. When we bit into our sandwiches, the filling squirted out into a pile on our plates and down our fronts, but it was worth it.
Only twelve hours ago, we didn’t know this place existed.
We had decided to run down to Seattle for the afternoon and pick up some necessary framing materials. I had recently received an email from Seattle Metropolitan featuring good lunch spots, so I pulled that up to look over while we were getting our stuff together. The Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Porcine Love immediately made itself known as the place we needed to have lunch. Today.
As it turns out, this place is a recent adjunct to the quite fabulous little butcher/charcuterie shop The Swinery. It’s rather like the old Pok Pok in Portland, back when it was just a takeout stand in someone’s driveway. You order your sandwich, eat it on a bench in the narrow courtyard, and pay for it in the shop (where, if you’re like us, you will instantly succumb to the lure of gorgeous charcuterie as well). They’re doing it as a bit of a trial run, to see how it goes.
How was the food, you ask? Hmmm. Jon got the Swinery Burger with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese, cooked medium rare. I got the Carolina pulled pork sandwich, which was so rich and smoky it didn’t need sauce (except for mayo, which I can’t live without). Both were fabulous. I was especially impressed with the bun, which was soft enough to squish down over the meat but didn’t dissolve into mush, and had been nicely toasted. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to try the BLT or the tallow fries.
West Seattle isn’t on our usual route, so I’d just like to put a call out to anyone in the area – check this place out! Give them enough business to consider making it permanent. The world needs more really great burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. Not to mention duck chorizo.
I’m beginning to think I should just call this blog “Sandwiches on the Brain.” I seem to get a lot more excited about making sandwiches out of the leftovers of something than I do the original dish. I made a beautiful roast beef last weekend, complete with Yorkshire pudding (I made the mistake of looking through The River Cottage Meat Book), and it was delightful…but it’s the roast beef sandwiches that are really rocking my boat this week.
The beef was a rolled and tied cross-rib roast from our grassfed freezer cow, rubbed with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden, and roasted just until perfectly rare. Sliced, a lot of the nice herb rub came off, so the largest pieces didn’t actually have any seasoning, but they still had a good beefy flavor. I made a special trip down to the co-op for a loaf of Samish Potato Bread, one of my favorite Breadfarm products – it has a nice sourdough tang, and the potato makes it spongy enough to soak up a lot of juices without falling apart. The first few days I stuck to a formula of mayo, horseradish, beef, lettuce, and jarred piquillo peppers, but the very last of the beef was consumed with a good dollop of sauerkraut instead. Mmmm.