For a fleeting moment, I thought I’d found the perfect sandwich in a chance encounter. We went to dinner at La Moule, the new French mussels joint on SE Clinton. I arrived looking forward to a steaming bowl of shellfish goodness, but then I saw the menu. They had a sandwich special on: a Ribeye and Frites sandwich, with smoked ribeye, frites, caramelized onions, aged cheddar, Dijon, and horseradish on a baguette. I ordered it, of course. I’m a sucker for fries on a sandwich. Throw in ribeye steak and aged cheddar, and I was sure this would be something special. But the finished product was a big disappointment. To melt the cheese, they wrapped the sandwich in foil and put it in the oven. That meant that both the bread and the fries were soggy. On a crispy baguette, with fresh fries, this baby could have been the perfect sandwich. Instead, it barely rated 6 out of 10.
Then there was a missed opportunity of a different kind. I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions on where to find the perfect sandwich, and about half of them have said the same thing: try the porchetta sandwich at Peoples’ Pig. It’s close to work, so I headed over there recently for lunch. Unfortunately, there was a small problem: they didn’t have porchetta on that week. So I had to settle for the pork shoulder sandwich instead. Fortunately, it was excellent. Pork shoulder, greens, and spicy vinegar on a perfectly-toasted sourdough roll. It’s a solid 8 out of 10, and I’ll be back for the porchetta. And there’s a bonus. People’s Pig is a small, poorly-ventilated place with the smoker in the back. That means it’s always full of a low cloud of meat smoke. When I left I smelled of smoked pork the same way you used to smell of cigarettes after a night in a bar back in the day. I spent the afternoon in a food coma, occasionally waking up to sniff my shirt.
On a final note, remember that there can be beauty in simplicity. We just got back from a great vacation in Europe. At a sunny outdoor market in Berlin, I followed my nose to a local sausage-maker’s stall, where I bought a grilled bratwurst on a toasted bun. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect sandwich, but on that day, in that place, it was damn close.
The search goes on. I’ve still got a good list of places to check out,so I’d better get back to it. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.