Skip to content

Sandwich Prejudice: The Bread

August 17, 2015

Saturday was the Tour de Italian Deli. Thanks to everyone who came out and joined me on the excursion. There will be a full report on the tour soon. But with three teams and five places that’s going to be one long post just covering the basics.

One thing that’s fun about the tours is not just what I learn about the places we visit, but what I learn about a foodstuff in general.

For example, it came out in the very first Tour de Donut that there are really two schools of thought on cider donuts. Some people prefer them crusty and others prefer them with a soft, cakey exterior. That was the ideological divide between Altamont Orchard and Indian Ladder Farm (with Indian Ladder winning by a nose).

There was a lot of talk leading up to this tour about whether or not these sandwiches could be taken to a central location to be divvied up, or if they were best eaten on the spot. In my mind, that formed two camps: the dry sandwich lovers, and the soggy sandwich fans.

Well, guess what? Now I get it.

People will say that prejudice is an ugly thing. But prejudice really has to do with one’s life experiences. I’m prejudiced against flavored coffees, espresso drinks from Starbucks, and well done meat.

Which isn’t to say that excellent versions of these things don’t exist. I haven’t tried one of the coffee cocktails at Stacks, but I’m sure they are excellent. The well-done (but juicy) hamburgers at Five Guys blew me away when I tried my first bite. And surely, somewhere in the world there’s an amazing barista at a Starbucks who could pull a shot that would change my life.

Although I’m not going to hold my breath on that last one.

Naturally, then, I hold some prejudices when it comes to sandwiches. So let’s look at the arc of my life. As a small kid I grew up with excellent bagels in Brooklyn and Long Island. Moving to Miami I learned all about pressed Cuban sandwiches (and to a lesser extent falafel). In Philadelphia I came full circle in my thoughts on cheesesteaks. And in San Francisco I had easy access to bread rivaled only by some of the best bakeries in Paris.

For me, a great sandwich starts with great bread, like a great pizza starts with a great crust.

I suppose that is why I found myself on team dry. Because in my mind, the ideal bread for a sandwich is crusty on the outside with a tender and elastic crumb. The baguette sandwiches of Paris are a high water mark for me.

But what I forgot is that great sandwiches can also be made on crappy bread. How could I forget? The Cuban is in my wheelhouse. It’s a loaf with a dry crumb and a papery crust. The only way to enjoy that bread is either slathered with butter and “toasted” on a griddle, or compressed around a deeply savory filling of roast pork, ham, and swiss (with a few pickles providing a much needed burst of balancing acidity).

Somehow, when it came to the Italian deli sandwiches of the Capital Region I was holding on to my fantasy that somewhere there would be a shop that used a great European style bread. None of the five did. The vast majority of bread that we tried had a dry stiff crumb.

You know what those sandwiches could have clearly used?
Some time to sit and meld with their fillings.

Yes. I’m saying I was wrong.

To be fair, not all the sandwiches we tried would have improved from a soak in their dressings. But there were enough that would to make me realize the error in my thinking. And my narrow mindedness was really from a lack of experience. One of the reasons I wanted to take on this tour was because I’ve had precious few sandwiches from the area’s Italian delis.

I’m glad to have a few more sandwiches under my belt. It’s going to help moving forward. But before we get on to the results of the tour, I have one other major lesson to discuss tomorrow, and that’s on sandwich construction. It’s critical, and it’s important that I’m clear on those prejudices before presenting the findings from this last weekend’s outing.

As always, thanks for indulging me with your patience.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 17, 2015 10:08 am

    They say you don’t discover any new music after age 32, and for most folks that may be true of food as well. So it is satisfying to see the scales fall from your eyes regarding the glories of the moist Italian Mix sub. Look forward to the sandwich construction analysis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: