Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Put it on bread and I'll probably eat it.

I've recently become obsessed with sandwiches.

I definitely go through phases with my food. Last year, I went through a big eggplant/red pepper phase (which will probably come back as soon as I get my GRILL). For I while, I was really into soup. Right now, my thing is sandwiches.

First, let me put in a plug for one of my favorite websites, Chowhound. It's a message board system where people will send in questions, comments and reviews on local eateries and food establishments. Go, quick, check it out and then finish reading this.


I know, isn't that cool?
I kept coming across discourse concerning what was the best sandwich in LA, the most frequently cited being The Godmother from Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica. Now, my personal favorite sandwich from the LA area is the Medianoche Preperada from Porto's Bakery in Burbank (or Glendale). Then I came across 2 other frequent entries: the Bahn Mi Special at Sandwich Express in Reseda and the Pastrami at Langer's Deli west of Downtown.

Well, shit. If people are saying that these are the best sandwiches in LA, I must have them! In my face! And subsequently, my stomach!

Before I launch into my 3 proposed acquisitions, I should tell you a bit about my beloved Medianoche Preperada.

The sandwich: served hot; roast pork, sliced ham, potato croquettes, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard, pickles on a sweet roll. A symphony of tastes and textures, from sweet to salty to tangy, mushy to meaty to crunchy, and of course, a bit greasy. My comfort food of choice.

So, my first target was The Godmother. I work in West LA, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to head out to Santa Monica. After perusing Chowhound, I had learned that the place is perpetually packed, so I thought ahead and emailed in my order. A lovely system and I encourage everyone to do it, because the deli counter is a frigging zoo.

The sandwich: served cold; a classic combination of top-notch ingredients. A lovely but not excessive amount of salty italian deli meats (mmmmm), their freshly-dressed hot peppers (available in "mild", but why bother?), veggies and... the bread. OH, the bread. Such bread. Such flavorful, chewy, wonderful bread. I could eat a loaf a day and not get sick of it.

Verdict: Awesome. Best italian sub I ever had. BUT... having had so many italian subs before, the Medianoche Preperada has a certain air of specialness that the Godmother can't compete with in my book.

Next came the Banh Mi Special. I had been reading about banh mi for a while and recently discovered that there is a treasure trove of banh mi shops in Reseda, just west of my locale. Last week, the opportunity presented itself to me in the form of my friend Cassie's piano recital. In Reseda. Guess I know where I'm going for dinner.

The sandwich: served cold, but not too cold; bbq pork, ham, pate (!!!), dressed carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapeno, and thin-sliced cucumber, mayo on a freshly baked baguette. The French influence in Vietnam really shines through in this sandwich.

The Verdict: I now understand why there seems to be almost a sub-culture of banh mi addicts on Chowhound. That's one damn good sandwich. In my head, my rating seems to be which sandwich I'd be willing to go out of my way for. I have gone out of my way for the Medianoche (although don't let myself too often), I'm already planning to make a special trip out to Reseda so that Matt can try the sandwiches, but The Godmother might be reserved for times I'm in the area or going to the shop itself (there's a nice specialty grocery shop in there). I'd rank the Banh Mi Special between the two.

Someday soon, I'll get out to Langer's for that pastrami I've heard so much about.
Until then, here's my newest at-home sandwich creation.
(I ate it before I could take a picture.)

- par-cooked baguette from Trader Joe's (I could live on these)
- avocado, sliced
- tomato, sliced
- jalepeno, seeded and sliced thin
- extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
- egg
- sea salt & freshly cracked pepper (I've gone highbrow)

Alright, finish cooking your baguette according to the instructions. Also, boil a pot of salted water. Not a rolling boil, just barely.

When the bread is done (LEAVE THE OVEN ON!), saw off a hunk the size of the sandwich you want and split it in half lengthwise. Take the bottom piece and lay out your sliced cheddar. Arrange your jalepeno slices on top of that and put it back in the oven to get melty. Pull it out when things look adequate. Lay the slices of tomato on top of the cheese and jalepeno.

Take your egg, crack it into a bowl and slide it into your (gently!) boiling pot of water. That's right, you're poaching an egg. Let it cook until the whites are nice and opaque and set. Lift it out using a utensil with slits (You don't want to pour water on your fancy sandwich, now do you? If you do, gross.) and place the egg on top of the tomato slices. At this point, I like to break the yolk to ensure equal distribution across the sandwich. Just smear it across. Lay your avocado slices on top of the egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top it off with your top bread and put it in your face hole! Preferably with some white wine. That's a damn good lunch, vegetarian even. You vegans can stop your whining. There's nothing here for you. Move along.

Aaaand now I'm hungry again. Awesome.

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