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Order of Operations

June 28, 2011

If you have ever had a good sandwich, there is no way you could ever vote for Subway as The Best Sandwich in the Capital Region. And part of my mission over the next several months is to remind everyone of great sandwiches they may have had in the past.

These may have been in the vicinity of Albany or perhaps anywhere else around the country. It really doesn’t matter. My feeling is that in the drudgery of everyday life, people forget what is truly great and have learned to be happy with the substandard.

So today I’m going to talk about a great Philadelphia sandwich, and it’s not the cheesesteak. But while you’ve got that on the mind, I need to clear something up once and for all.

You don’t say, “Wit Whiz.”
You say, “Whiz wit.”

The form is [type of cheese], [presence of fried onions]. For the latter, your choices are “wit” or “witout.” Sure, if you say “Wit Whiz” the person behind the counter will understand you. But you are doing it wrong. Depending on where you are in Philly you may just want to skip the cheesesteak entirely and head straight for the Italian pork sandwich.

I say this because I’ve long been a fan of the newest great sandwich in the City of Brotherly Love. Except there was a gaping hole in my culinary experience of the form. I had never eaten an Italian pork sandwich from Tony Luke’s. And Mr. Luke is a pretty big deal in Philly sandwich circles.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Italian pork is a sandwich that consists of thinly sliced roasted pork, served with sharp provolone and your choice of sautéed greens. But you would be a fool to choose anything but the broccoli rabe.

Well, that last part is clearly just my overly strong opinion. But I would love to hear from anyone who prefers the preparation with spinach. I wonder if such people even exist.

To date, my favorite version of the sandwich is made in Reading Terminal Market at DiNic’s. They slice a hoagie roll down the center and lay sharp aged provolone shards down in the crevice. Then comes the hot sliced pork and the whole thing is topped with the garlicky bitter greens.

Tony Luke makes a mighty fine cheesesteak, but I can’t speak as highly of their Italian pork. Why?

They put the greens on the bottom.

Even with a protective layer of sharp provolone, the juices from the greens weaken the structural integrity of the roll’s seam. And before long, you’ve got a soggy mess on your hands.

Not too long ago, I discussed this phenomenon with another food-obsessed individual, and it was his position that the Tony Luke arrangement made good sense. His argument was that Italians really enjoy the flavor and texture of bread sodden with super tasty things.

It’s an interesting argument, especially given the magnificence of the panzanella salad.

But it brings up a broader point about the order of ingredients in a layered food experience. Because the same individual insists on eating Big Macs upside down. And by that, I don’t mean standing on his head, but rather with the sandwich itself inverted.

They taste better to him that way.

I can’t vouch for the Big Mac, but I can vouch for the phenomenon. Food that is assembled in layers tastes different depending on how it enters your mouth. If the mustard is on the top of a sandwich, it will taste different than if it was on the bottom of a sandwich.

There are burger places that insist on putting the patty on top of the cold vegetables, and I can see the logic in that. And I don’t have a problem with those iconoclasts who want to do things differently, as long as they produce better results.

I’m unconvinced by “Cheese on Bottompizza.

But one thing that really gets me riled up about Chipotle is that their cheese is all the way down at the end of the line. And no matter how hot your burrito, the cheese never melts and always stays cool. What a shame. Even if they just put on the cheese in between the rice and the beans, it would melt instantly and the burrito would automatically be 15% better than it is already.

Surely you too have some specific preferences when it comes to the order of layered ingredients on certain foods. I can’t be the only one.

Right?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. RealFoodMom permalink
    June 28, 2011 9:23 am

    Reading, not Redding. Ahhh, Philadelphia….

  2. June 28, 2011 10:10 am

    I exist and I prefer spinach on my roast pork, I detest broccoli, broccoli rabe and anything else that has florets, but that is my issue apparently. I had my first DiNic’s over New Years this year and it was fantastic even with spinach.

  3. June 28, 2011 10:35 am

    When I worked at Dean & Deluca, I created a sandwich called “The Heart Attack Special”: spicy aoli, pastrami, caramelized onions, cheese, bacon on one side; mustard, roasted red peppers thinly-sliced turkey, cheese on the other – assembled the 2 sides carefully and used a pannini press. I would sometimes melt the cheese layers first openfaced, then add bacon & press. The order of ingredients were cruicial, otherwise it would just fall apart. Best sandwich I ever had. I am so appreciative of a well-put-together sandwich! We’re pretty serious in our shop concerning sandwich construction. Nick used to laugh at how slow I was making sandwiches at D&D, a great one is all in the details of tasty & creative ingredients, equal bites and exceptional bread that doesn’t fall apart when you eat.

  4. June 28, 2011 11:59 am

    My Chipotle cheese always melts. Then again, it’s usually covered for the minute-or-so car ride home first.

    Speaking of sandwiches, where can you get a really, truly great sandwich around here? I could use some ideas for places to try.

  5. June 28, 2011 12:46 pm

    If I may promote ourselves, my husband and I are All Good Bakers – we’re at 160 Quail St. We prepare vegan & vegetarian sandwiches, panzanella salad and specialty focaccia pizzas for lunch, all made with sustainable, fresh ingredients from our nearby farmer friends. Menus are formulated each weekend depending on what we receive from them. All sandwiches are made to order, some grilled (including a grilled cheese special), on our artisan breads (organic flour only, 60% from NY state). Please see our menu at http://www.allgoodbakers.weebly.com (click “Visit Our Shop”). We share the kitchen with another small food producer, so we are only currently open Fridays (11-6), Saturdays (10-4) & Sundays (10-2). We are Albany’s only dedicated Farm to Bakery and we only use ingredients free from GMO, hormones, antibiotics, dyes, preservatives, trans-fat, chemicals, etc. Specialty & Sandwich loaves, from-scratch baked goods, too. We hope you’ll stop by to see us!

  6. Jenny on the Block permalink
    June 28, 2011 3:03 pm

    Mmmm. Makes me (1) put pork. And provolone on the shopping list and (2) hope there is broccoli rabe in my CSA allotment this afternoon. Since you mention “sliced” pork, I assume it is a leaner loin type roast and not a fattier cut? Not sure I can wait until “Ask the Profusser” for an answer, so I will wing it!

  7. June 28, 2011 4:51 pm

    Layering, especially in a sandwich, is so insanely important. My mother is really good at it. Her sandwiches are artful, arranged just so, and with so much thought into how the layers are placed.

    I am now town between a sandwich or Chipotle for dinner.

  8. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    June 28, 2011 5:31 pm

    Try “Sangwych,” Ron Farber’s new Brooklyn-style sandwich hole-in-the-wall in Saratoga. He has a one sandwich specifically with broccoli rabe but it’s just with roasted reds and mozz. But he also has pork sandwiches. I’m sure you could ask to combine the two!

  9. Dino permalink
    June 29, 2011 2:24 am

    Thanks for the mention. My OCD only started with the Big Mac but I now eat pretty much every sandwich upside-down. It makes sense to me- you view the sandwich from the top down, but your tongue hits it from the bottom up. With the Big Mac you see sesame seeds but a completely seedless bottom bun hits your tongue. It always left me feeling unfulfilled. Sandwiches with melted cheese on top are a totally different beast when eaten upside down. I highly recommend it.

  10. Jersey Guy permalink
    June 29, 2011 1:34 pm

    Now I have to try “bottoms up” sandwich eating, it makes perfect sense. Makes me think of the Pringles chip. The salt (or seasoning) is only on one side.. Try it both ways..

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