Pierce’s is a Rightful Mecca

but couldn’t the bread be better?

A couple days ago, on the drive home from North Carolina, I made my regular stop off  US Route 64 for lunch at Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que.

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Pierce’s was first introduced to me in the mid-80’s when it was still just a shack. You ordered your food at the window and ate it in the car.

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Now Pierce’s is a full-on restaurant with seating for what looks like a couple hundred, a giant parking lot, lots of souvenir merchandise and a fancy awning.

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The smokehouse still pumps out clouds of fragrant grey clouds, the bbq is still delicious and the sides continue to sing righteous back-up.

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I like this place. I like the food. A lot. Pierce’s is popular, understandable.

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The staff seem to take pride in their work.

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They seem happy and well-fed.

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Outside seating is my preference, particularly on such a pretty day as it was.

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High praise for the meat, accolades for the greens, but why oh why is the bread so bad? Believe me, I ate every bite and licked my fingers. That said and done,  I cannot be the only bbq lover who prays for the current era of artisanal-local-heritage to tap its wand on the sad rolls that carry the pulled pork. Tap, tap, tap, fairy godmother of meat, make the bread better.

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Thank you.

That and $9 Canadian Will Get You Two Reputable Sandwiches

Mr. Fix-It is becoming a regular around this joint. He does love a joint.  The Lunch Encounter is just worn around the edges enough to suit him.

Here he is again, set down at the counter, opining on Montreal smoked meat. Any man worth his weight in meat ought to familiarize himself with the stuff.

What makes a sandwich?

Is it anything you put between two slices of bread? A creative combination of fillings? Or is it something that’s both more and less than ingredients, like a connection to a particular place?

Last week I visited Montreal with my daughter and our dog Ruby. We booked a place on Air B&B that was advertised as “pet friendly.” After the booking was final I realized that meant there would be cats in the apartment.

But Ruby doesn’t mind cats, and the location, in the Mont Royal Plateau neighborhood, was fantastic. As we explored the surrounding blocks we noticed a number of businesses with Hebrew signage, including what appeared to be a small shul. In the dim quarters of my memory I recalled that Ms. Midnight Snack had tried to steer me to a great deli in Montreal. That place turned out to be Schwartz’s, and it was right in the neighborhood.

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I checked out the menu – nothing but meat sandwiches, which wouldn’t please my vegetarian daughter. Plus no outdoor seating for Ruby. So I went the next morning as soon as they opened, thinking I might get a sandwich to go. They weren’t ready for lunch, though, and the only thing available was smoked meat. So I got some.

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Montreal smoked meat is somewhere between pastrami and roast beef, only better (at least the way they make it at Schwartz’s .) For $9 Canadian I got enough for two reputable sandwiches. But since I had already eaten a croissant that morning I decided to forego the bread. Our Montreal smoked meat was eaten straight from the butcher paper. The cats loved it, not to mention Ruby. And despite the absence of bread I felt like I had tasted a sandwich with a long, rich and tasty history, and a strong connection to the Jewish community in Montreal.

So take it from Ms. Midnight Snack, from Ruby, and from the cats. If you go to Montreal, do not miss Schwartz’s.

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That’s right, Ruby doesn’t mind cats. In fact, I heard her human declare, “Ruby, you have a boyfriend. He’s a cat.” Tis true and his name is Oliver.

Broccoli Is Having a Moment

Witness Tyler Kord’s No. 7 Sub Broccoli Sandwich.  Lincoln Station Broccoli and Ricotta Sandwich testifying loud and proud right here at the Lunch Encounter. Did somebody say Grilled Goat Cheese and Broccoli Sandwich? Oh yeah! You know you’re on to something, or perhaps way behind the curve, when a search turns up Ten Best Broccoli Sandwiches. Huh? Yup. Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 4.53.16 PM No. 7 Sub turns up at every turn for the NYC sandwich sleuth. When there is that much chatter, one must investigate.IMG_5059We joined the masses who sing the praises and eat their greens. Hall-lay-lew-yuh and pass the broccoli.IMG_5064IMG_5070
It was a beautiful day for sandwiches in a pocket park. Crystal clear and appetite awakening.

No. 7 Broccoli Sub Recipe
from Tyler Kord in “Broccoli” by Shortstack Editions

Makes 2 huge subs

1 can pitted lychees (available at Asian markets), drained and quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
One 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
A few drops of sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 small dried chiles, chopped (I prefer tien tsin chiles, available at Asian markets, or chiles
de arbol, available at Mexican markets, but a teaspoon of red chile flakes will work)
1 cup white vinegar
2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
2 soft Italian sub rolls, split lengthwise
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pound broccoli, cooked
4 ounces ricotta salata, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup fried shallots (the Vietnamese ones found at Asian markets, but any fried onions, store-bought or homemade, will do)

In a mixing bowl, combine the lychees, garlic, ginger, shallot, sesame oil, sugar, chiles, vinegar and scallions. Let sit for at least an hour.

In an oven preheated to 375 degrees, toast the sub rolls and reheat the broccoli if necessary.

Spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on each of the sub rolls, then use tongs to stuff the rolls with broccoli. Top each sandwich with a little bit of the lychee muchin, followed by the ricotta salata, pine nuts, and fried shallots. Serve.

From Tyler Kord’s forthcoming cookbook, Broccoli, available from Short Stack Editions.

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ABOUT THE BOOK:

“Eat your broccoli.” No other chef has taken this childhood prescription to heart as much as Tyler Kord, one of New York’s most innovative chefs and a professed broccoli enthusiast. Tyler’s edition will teach you many new innovative ways to enjoy this flavorful and nutrient-rich vegetable, and show you just what a flavor chameleon it can be.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tyler Kord is a chef and restaurateur in New York City. He is the owner of No. 7 in Brooklyn’s Ft. Greene neighborhood and the No. 7 Sub sandwich shops at the Ace Hotel, The Plaza, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He has worked for chef Alain Sailhac at the French Culinary Institute and chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Perry St. Tyler also has a B.A. in English from Oberlin College and his parents can’t believe that his education might have actually been a useful part of his life as he tries to write a cookbook that is not embarrassing.

The Best Thing Outta New Jersey, They Say

 

LRoy Goldberg made a trek to his homeland. While there he hadda have a Joe, a New Jersey Sloppy Joe, at the Milburn Delicatessen.

The Joe. You know, you love it. Do it again.

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Ooh, ooh, here it comes. Can’t wait, can’t wait. Best thing to come out of New Jersey, and I’m including Bruce and Jon Stewart.

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Outer wrap is off. I may eat the wax paper. I already want a second one.

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Naked. Oozing. A threesome like no other.

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No, you can’t have any. It’s perfect, in every way. It’s Joe love. Knows no bounds.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Orange apron alert!

One need never leave home. Grilled cheese – a kit, that is, and for a toasted cheese sandwich, if one is going to be frank – will soon be deliverable to your door. Customized. By subscription.

Think Gouda and Tigernut Relish, Balsamic Blueberry and Cream Cheese, Mascarpone and Biscuit Butter. How will we clean out our fridges, what will we eat when soused, if this outfit fills those essential roles in our quotidian march?

Do we owe kickstarter a kick in the pants or a clap on the shoulder? If the latter, please wipe your greasy fingers first.

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Cheese Posties

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Two Borough Sandwich Safari

Striding into the Lunch Encounter, none other than that handsome devil, Charles Walston, with sandwich tales to tell. Sat himself down, spun once on the vinyl-topped stool and unspooled the following:

The gnawing in my stomach wasn’t hunger.

During a visit to New York last weekend, my daughter and I had arranged to meet our niece/cousin on Saturday afternoon. She suggested Astoria, Queens, because she was considering an apartment there, and she had heard good things about the diversity and increasing options in the area.

I had a foreboding that the experience would churn up déjà vu moments, and not the good kind – remembrances of places past where the tide of trendiness had washed over old spots that felt authentic, and where I would wind up feeling like a rube at the county fair.

And yes, there was some of that. A furnishings/gift store offered unimaginative and mostly overpriced stock, nothing we hadn’t seen before. It felt a little sad, a reminder that life itself sometimes doesn’t seem like enough so we have to pretend our tiny orbit is the center of everything, and all of it just winds up seeming the same.

But then we wandered into Broadway Silk, piled high with bolts of colorful cotton, rayon and yes silk too, old radios and sewing machines, and two longtime proprietors (and their cat) who assured me “we aren’t going anywhere.”

After a while we started thinking about food. We passed a barbeque place that smelled pretty good, but could have been in any gentrifying zip code in the country. Astoria has long had a strong Greek and Cypriot presence so we peeked into a couple of those places, but couldn’t tell if they were local treasures or clip joints.

Ms. niece/cousin noticed that a place with good notices on Yelp was just a few blocks away. So we walked there, and the painted sign in the window – Il Bambino – looked reassuring. When we saw the outdoor seating area in back, we sat down.

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Comforting signage in Astoria
Photo by Charles Walston

The menu was mostly paninis, well-executed with some interesting combinations (mine was speck and asiago and a red pepper puree.) A salad was fresh and generous and daring enough, even if the beets had probably come out of a jar. We polished off a large bowl of olives. Most of the other diners seemed to be from the neighborhood, although don’t ask me what gave me that idea.

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Panini at Il Bambino
Photo by Charles Walston

So we got what we were looking for – a meal that wasn’t life-changing but satisfying and fairly priced, in a place that felt like part of a real neighborhood.

The next day in Brooklyn we were under the wing of a long-time resident, and she steered us to Crown Heights where we found Lincoln Station.

IMG_5135The menu was more ambitious and varied than Il Bambino, but nothing about the place felt fleeting or too trendy.

IMG_5113 The lovely young man behind the counter took our order cheerfullyIMG_5115 Lincoln Station bustles comfortably on a Sunday morning

IMG_5116 Floorspace to spare and a good viewIMG_5120 Crown Heights on a sunny summer SundayIMG_5121 Egg Sandwich with BaconIMG_5123 Avocado and Egg Sandwich

A comforting space for a nice meal before an uneventful ride home.

IMG_5127 Broccoli and Ricotta Sandwich with super crispy friesIMG_5130Side of kale

Lincoln Station seemed like a restaurant that has endured growing pains along with the neighborhood and come out the better for it.

Toast Poast Number 3 Pounds

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We may have 100 billion neurons in our brains, weighing in at a measly three pounds, but none of them can truly imagine time. We think there is such a thing as the present – don’t we? – but there is not. Time is constantly moving, yes? And as my son pointed out at the ripe old age of three, “It is never any time exactly, mom, it is always becoming that time.” Or that time has already come and gone, I am adding. There is future, there is past, but there is no present. We stand between our befores and afters.

Oh, the thought of that makes my head feel  heavy, as though  loaded down by an industrial toaster.
Thank you, Anna St John for the thought provoking ToasTerheAD.