Tag Archives: sandwich

Roast Beast (Brookline, MA)

One of my annual traditions is volunteering at one of the local FIRST Robotics competitions, usually as a Robot Inspector or a Judge. This year’s volunteer assignment was for the New England District Championship at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, and that gave me another opportunity to check out some of the Brookline area dining options.

One particular place had caught my eye since I had walked by it several times on last year’s “Death March” (my annual tradition of walking ~20 miles through an urban area, exploring neighborhoods and eateries that I normally wouldn’t visit). That place is right in central Brookline in the basement of a building: Roast Beast.

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Guild Fine Meats (Burlington, VT)

Coming back from my quick trip to Canada, my return itinerary also brought me back through Burlington, so I decided to check out another newcomer to the Burlington scene: Guild Fine Meats. Guild Fine Meats is the latest storefront operation from the folks that brought you Farm House Tap and Grill and El Cortijo. Back about a year ago, their opened their fine dining steakhouse, Guild and Company, on Williston Road in South Burlington. More importantly, they also took over the Winooski warehouse that was being run by SamosaMan (who seems to have disappeared from the Vermont dining scene), and turned that into their meat commissary, where they do their own butchering, aging, and other charcuterie supporting their several businesses. Well, earlier this summer they decided to open up a retail operation selling their meats, as well as sandwiches made from them.

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Pane Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

The summer of crazy travel continues… One of my projects at work had a requirement to test it in a severe desert environment, during the summer. So I found myself packing up and heading out with two crazy coworkers to…. Gold Canyon, Arizona (actually, to a private ranch east of there) to bask in the daytime highs of 116°F highs and 93°F lows. But it’s also where I grew up (and my parents still live there), so I decided to head out a day early to do a few errands for the project and have dinner with my parents before heading out into the desert. However, I ended up having a few hours free, so I met up with my friend Allyson for lunch.

Most anyone that has ever discussed pizza with me knows that I’m a fanatic about quality pizza, and very few places make the cut for what I consider “good pizza”. And the Phoenix area is blessed with one of them, Pizzeria Bianco, which I’ve reviewed here before (twice, in fact). And while I adore Pizzeria Bianco, it’s not the only Phoenix endeavor of owner Chris Bianco… he also runs an Italian sandwich shop in the midtown section of Phoenix called Pane Bianco (as well as an Italian restaurants named “Italian Restaurant”, which I still haven’t gotten to). And since it’s right off of the Central Avenue light rail line, it made for a handy place to meet up with Allyson. And it’s been on my to-be-reviewed list for a while, since my last visit here circa 2010 was without my trusty camera…

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Al’s #1 Italian Beef (Chicago, IL)

You know, we all have those food items we crave, that we always look forward to being able to have again. They aren’t always fancy. I particularly crave, amongst other things, Waffle House hashbrowns, Pepe’s Pizza, and Chicago-style Hot Italian Beef sandwiches. Alas, none of these can be had around my corner of rural New Hampshire. In the case of some items, I’ve learned to cook them myself, but for some items that’s not really possible. The Hot Italian Beef, that Chicago delight of shaved beef on a crusty Italian loaf, swimming in juice and giardinera, is one of these; the local economy even lacks the ingredients for making these. Sure, we’ve got beef. But we don’t have the right sort of crusty Italian loaves. And we certainly don’t have condiments like hot giardinera available here (although I have a healthy supply in my own cupboard, sent by a friend in Illinois). I have tried my hand at it, with reasonable results, but this was mostly like methadone; it softened the withdrawal. But, mostly, I satisfy my cravings with a stop at Gold Coast Hot Dogs on one of my many, many connecting flights through Midway, since they have a reasonably serviceable sandwich.

So when the Chicago Death March was in planning, a key stop for me was one of the iconic Italian Beef stands. And, helpfully, the route that Kevin came up with delivered very nicely. Stop #3 on the Death March was on Taylor Street, at Chicago’s oldest Italian Beef stand: Al’s #1 Italian Beef.

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Cafecito (Chicago, IL)

There are those times when you’re in a bit of a hurry. You’ve got only a limited amount of time to eat lunch before heading off to your next destination, and you can’t be spending a lot of time with an elaborate meal. This is exactly where the sandwich comes in. Sandwiches are quick. They are generally self-contained and not too messy (although I can think of some particular exceptions, like the French dip and the Italian beef). And the the world of sandwiches has a lot of options. To me, two of the best options for a quick sandwich on the fly are the Cuban sandwich (or simply, a “Cubano”), and the Vietnamese Banh Mi. In this case, I was in the mood for a Cubano. Roasted pork and ham served on a Cuban-style French roll (slightly more airy and less crusty than a traditional French baquette), with cheese and pickle, all pressed and toasted to perfection.

I always like a good Cuban sandwich, although my travels don’t often take me to a place where I can indulge (a quick check of the blog shows my last review on a place featuring Cuban sandwiches was Puerto Sagua back in 2008…). But on this particular trip to Chicago, my hotel was kitty corner from one of the better-rated Cuban sandwich joints in downtown Chicago: Cafecito.

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Capriotti’s (Rehoboth Beach, DE)

I always enjoyed sub sandwiches growing up. Some meat, veggies, and cheese on a good Italian sub roll, and I’m ready to go. It’s really not a difficult concept, but as I’ve learned in my many years living in different states, and traveling around, there’s actually an art form to making a decent sub. It’s an art hasn’t been discovered everywhere, since several places I’ve lived (Michigan, Tennessee, and Minnesota, in particular) had items called subs, that while often decent, weren’t really in the same category as a proper Italian sub. The meat wouldn’t be right (Oscar Meyer ham does not a good sub make). And most importantly, a good sub also requires the right bread (and half of my challenge of making my own subs has been finding decent bread!).

For a good sub, however, the best action is the middle eastern seaboard. New Jersey is well-recognized as having good shops, as are Pennsylvania (see my recent review on Tony Luke’s; one thing the Italian-American bakers of Philly can do is a good roll) and Maryland. But the real gem is Delaware, and the home of truly good subs, IMHO, is actually Wilmington, Delaware. Wilmington is choc-a-bloc little Italian-run sub shops, and it’s really hard to get a bad sub in that city.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stop in Wilmington this trip. But luckily, Capriotti’s, one of Wilmington’s best-regarded sub shops, has an outpost in Rehoboth Beach…

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The Raven Cafe (Port Huron, MI)

After a pleasant morning touring the various tourism sites of Port Huron, MI (the Edison Depot Museum, the Lightship Huron, and the Gratiot Lighthouse park, amongst others) we decided it was time for a late lunch. Luckily, just south of the Black River on Huron Street, the Raven Cafe sits in a rather old building (dating from approximately the time of the Civil War). Billing itself as the “cultural, musical and culinary Mecca in the heart of Port Huron”, it’s actually a very nicely appointed bar, one of those places where the people decorating it seem to have turned the “eclectic” knob to 11. But it’s got a very nice old wooden bar downstairs, some very nice loft seating upstairs, a small outdoor balcony, and an odd little indoor balcony only accessible via ladder from the entryway for band performances. It’s certainly got a little bit of charm. We grabbed a nice table outside where we could look over at the old lift bridge over the Black River as well as some of the boats docked on Quay Street…

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Schwartz’s Charcuterie Hebraique de Montreal (Montreal, Quebec)

Quebec isn’t just another province in Canada: it has it’s own language (Quebecois French, which, as my French colleagues like to point out, resembles Continental French, but has a distinct vocabulary and accent), it’s own culture, and, particularly, it’s own cuisine. In particular, it’s rather hard to drive through Quebec without noticing all the businesses advertising poutine (I’ll get back to the topic of poutine in my next article), Montreal-style bagels, and Montreal-style Smoked Meat (aka “viande fumée”, or even, if being a string Quebecois French constructions, “boeuf mariné”).

Which brings up the question of “What is Smoked Meat?” It’s really a specific style of prepare beef. Several references claim it’s basically “pastrami”, which is closer, but isn’t quite right, either. However, it shares the basic preparation style with pastrami: the meat is spiced, cured in a brine, “smoked” (which is really more of a roasting step than a proper smoking) and, finally, steamed it until the connecting tissues within the meat break down into gelatin. Where it differs from pastrami is in the spicing and smoke, the result being something approximately halfway between corned beef and pastrami, leaving a bit more of the natural beef flavor. The best description I’ve heard is “the flavor of pastrami but the mouthfeel of corned beef”. If you like a good pastrami, you’ll like smoked meat, although it’ll be a matter of taste which one you really prefer. As far as getting smoked meat, Montreal is full of delis that specialize in it. And one of the classic places to get it Schwartz’s Deli…

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Farmstead Lunch (Providence, RI)

Providence is always surprising me. Anyone that has followed the Providence food scene has been aware of Farmstead (the Wayland cheese shop) and their good reputation for supplying excellent cheeses. Well, this spring the folks at Farmstead opened a small deli and sandwich shop in Downcity, one that several people were recommended that I try. So, this week, while passing through town to visit my grandpa down in Wickford, we stopped by for sandwiches…

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Tuckerbox (White River Junction, VT)

You know something’s going on when you get several recommendations for not just a place, but a particular menu item, all in a short period. It usually means something’s going pretty well indeed. In this case, in the last week, two different people both recommended Tuckerbox in White River Junction. And, more specifically, they recommended the BLT, since it was the “Best BLT Ever!”
The Tuckerbox, for those that don’t know of it, inhabits one of those restaurant spaces that I consider mildly cursed, since, in my 7 years of living here, it’s the third restaurant that has inhabited the space (the first two were Karibu Tule, an oustanding African place; and Como Va, an Italian place). It has been reinvented yet again, this time as a coffee and sandwich shop. The coffee drinks are already well respected around the area (indeed, it’s one of those places that will still serve you drinks in actual cups and glassware), and I’ve heard several good rumors about the salads and sandwiches. So, Carol and I decided that today we’d go to Tuckerbox and try the BLTs.

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