A Mild Variant

My Good-Pal-Susan went to Amsterdam and brought me a tube of mustard. And a big chunk o’ gouda. Thank you, terrific friend, neighbor and hard-core mom-squad mate.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 7.38.18 AMA mild variant is the mom I would like to be. Am I? No. As the snake oil of a face cream salesman in Nassau chirped, “Ooh, spicy.” He was not laying a compliment on me. Have I done my son a giant disservice by reinforcing reactivity? Yes indeed I have. His gap year(s) could be seen as an opportunity to create a gap between then and now. A chance to dial it all back, become a milder variant of myself and hope for a little less friction and push back. Only time will tell, as it does always, the slow reveal that is child rearing.

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Photo by Mark Snead. I fried the pork belly and squeezed the mustard.

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My world has been widened by the Marne addition to the fridge door. The aluminum tube is, as claimed, handy.  And our world? The bigger, the better. The smaller we are in it, the better, too. An assist in parental perspective. We are mere specks in a giant universe. Mustard seeds perhaps, if we grow slowly and soundly.

 

 

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You Have a Friend in Cheeses

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Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg. Art direction by Jennifer Beeson Gregory. Hole styling by moi.

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“On earth I was a manufacturer of Imported Holes for American Swiss Cheese,” the braided man tells Dorothy, in her fourth adventure in Oz. “I will acknowledge that I supplied a superior article.”  Read on.

Look up the nose holes of the hoitiest toitiest food mag to date, Cook’s Illustrated, and be shamed for Reubens past:

“A pockmarked wedge of Swiss may be instantly recognizable as the icon of “cheese,” but it’s rarely celebrated for its flavor. Often rubbery and bland, most Swiss—stateside, at least—may be fine as a gooey layer in a Reuben but would never star on a cheese plate. In fact, there was only one sample that we enjoyed eating out of hand the last time we tasted Swiss cheese, in 2005.That genuine Emmentaler from Switzerland (Emmentaler is the real name for the cheese Americans call Swiss) boasted a nuanced, sweet hazelnut flavor.” Read on.

Swiss cheese is not bland. That is my claim because my child would not eat it when he was small. Due to his resistance, I tasted Swiss anew, taste buds and brain fresh, and found it odd and oddly pungent. But not in a good way. Had to give it to him – highly passable, as in, I’ll take a pass.

Emmentaler, eminently, is the goo and the glue of our fondue. Soon too, sandwichitaler.

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Mustard Plaster

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Mustard photos by Stacy Zarin Goldberg. Art direction by Jennifer Beeson Gregory. Styling my moi.

Plastering is an art, I am told, and I believe it. Plasterers are rare and their artworks are diminishing. Such a shame.

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Mustard is alive and well and has become an art as well. Did you know that we are breeding sommeliers of mustard?

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Yes, everything. Read about it here. When a school for braunschweigiers opens, I’m in.

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Stalking the Wild Cubano

Columbia

The Cuban sandwich is important. People fight for it and about it. Who created it and where? That is just the tip  of the loaf. My take? The Cuban sandwich is ubiquitous and no one will ever know its exact origin. Mystery is as beautiful as a slice of pink ham.

Were I a betting woman, and I am, for tiny bits of currency, my money would be, and is, on Tampa. Bet ya a nickel. Tampa is big though and pinpointing seems impossible.

The following are Cuban sandwich rantings, ravings, hurrahings and revelings. No answers and plenty of questions. 

“Miami was not even spit in the eye when Tampa was doing business with Havana,” Manteiga said. I believe it. Read and chose your conclusions here.

Meanwhile, if you are eating in Tampa and reaching for roots, the Cuban sandwich is the linchpin.

We sat at the Manteiga family’s private table, on ornately carved wooden chairs, in a corner of La Tropicana Cafe, which for decades has been a gathering place on Seventh Avenue for Ybor City’s immigrant community. Over a lunch of Spanish bean soup, Cuban sandwiches and deviled crab (a dish created by striking cigar factory workers in the 1920s), we chatted a bit about Tampa foodways and its ultimate fusion dish, crab chilau — blue-crab meat in a spicy enchilada sauce, often served over spaghetti — which perfectly represents Ybor City’s cultural mix. But mostly we talked history. More here.

Recently I had the good fortune to visit the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Florida. FullSizeRenderThe Columbia is legendary and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about – a venture into another world, through a rabbit hole or trick door indeed. Columbia5

Also, I wanted to eat a Cubano in the city that claims to be its originator. One of the cities, I should say.

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Talk of the Cubano elicits heated debate from all camps –  I have witnessed debates, and endless rabbit holes. The bread alone is google-maps-worthy. More on that later.

Columbia6Place of origin, salami or no salami, who bakes the proper bread, butter before pressing or not, exact ham, how manypic and…did I mention place of origin?Columbia3

I’ve been down this tunnel before and it’s no less twisty this time. Posts on Cubanos here and here and here and here and here, the first from ten years ago at the birth of The Lunch Encounter. Nevertheless, I am taking a stab at parsing the particulars, plain and simple. Here we go!

According to Clarissa Buch of Thrillist

In the mid-1800s, the Cuban tobacco industry emerged in Florida, where it first emerged in Key West. Later, tobacco moved north to Tampa, with thousands relocating to Ybor City — a historic neighborhood founded by cigar manufacturers with Cuban, Spanish, and Italian descent. Because of the influx of immigrants who mainly worked in factories, a quick, affordable lunch was yearned for. This marked the rise of the Cuban sandwich.

“Above all, you need a moist palmetto leaf on top of the dough before it’s baked,” says David Leon of La Segunda Central Bakery, the largest producer of Cuban bread in Tampa. “The dough rises and wraps around the leaf, giving the bread flavor.”

Family-owned La Segunda Central Bakery, which has been around for more than 100 years, chops nearly 60,000 leaves by hand each day, making about 18,000 loaves which are used in Tampa and shipped across the country, including Miami. “Ninety percent of the work is done by hand,” says Leon. “It’s a very old-school process. Using the leaf is what creates those peaks and valleys that Cuban bread is known for.”

After the bread is made, the ingredients are placed inside. The roast pork, says Astorquiza, must be marinated in mojo, which blends spices like bitter orange, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion, vinegar, and salt. The best way to do it, he says, is to marinate the pork overnight. The cheese must be Swiss, and if salami is used, it should be Genoa. If you’re extremely particular, make sure to use exactly three pickles. And, whatever you do, only use sweet cured ham (or something similar to it) because it’s crucial to not overpower the other ingredients’ flavors. Don’t forget mustard… and sometimes butter depending on where you’re eating.

Read more here.

Bread – crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, wider and flatter than a baguette, not nearly as hard a crust, the bread at Versailles in Miami has a little lard in its recipe and is “basically a pan de agua” – Puerto Rican water bread

Ham – mojo marinated, “sweet ham”

Pickles – dills sliced thinly lengthwise

Pork – loin or shoulder

Cheese – imported Swiss – why imported?

Salami – Genoa, peppercorn-studded preferred (Columbia Restaurant)

Mustard – yellow

Butter – butter the outside of the bread generously before pressing

Mauricio Faedo’s Bakery

The Columbia Restaurant’s recipe here. It does include salami and bread from La Segunda Central Bakery. The recipe headnote includes mention of a “smashed Cuban”, which is what you might expect, a heavily pressed sandwich.

The Columbia’s Pork Loin

Roast Cuban Pork:
1 each Fresh Pork shoulder (about 5 lbs.)
1 cup Sour Orange Juice (if not available, ½ cup lime juice and ½ cup orange juice)
8 each Large garlic cloves
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 each bay leaves

The Cuban Sandwich at Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana recipe here on Eater Elements.

Next time I am in Tampa I want to try La Teresita, but that will have to be after another visit to La Columbia. The place is huge, man, and I want to trip up and down every staircase, gaze into each mirror, wish on the individual tiles.

UPDATE! I have been to the Columbia again and to Segundo Bakery. So exciting! Posts to come. PTK. Hurrah! Hooray! Booyah!

 

The Dog Debate That Will Not Die

“It’s not a sandwich,” said the Atlantic Monthly.

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No, it is not, says The Takeout.

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RBG WEIGHS IN

“So then, a hot dog is also a sandwich?” Colbert asks Bader Ginsburg again. And here, the Notorious RBG lays down her decision: “On your definition, yes it is,” she says.

There you have it: a hot dog is, in fact, a sandwich—at least according to one of the most nimble and intelligent minds in our nation. So perhaps now we can all move on and start enjoying these sandwiches once again.

I am on the yes side. A hotdog is a sandwich. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a sandwich as “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.” A wienie is a filling.

Were I writing a menu, the hotdog would be under sandwiches. Weak argument.

Old news. My two cents. Case closed. For now.

If You Give a Girl a Steak

She will want to steep some rosemary in olive oil. And is she makes a little rosemary oil, a charred lemon or two will follow.

Voraciously sub food brand 02/2019Photo by Tom McCorkle for the Washington Post (styling by moi!)

If she goes to the trouble to make rosemary oil and charred lemons she will certainly pull out the nice salt. And if she pulls out the nice salt she will want a good piece of bread.

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Photo by Helen Norman for Bakery de France  (styling by moi!)

And on that bread, she will stack slices of steak, drizzles of rosemary oil, squirts of warm lemon juice and a shower of salt. Any girl with a good steak will want to make a sandwich. Indeed she will, any girl worth her weight in salt. Mais oui, sir! Mais oui!

Annnnd, as promised, the Slow Roasted Steak recipe from Becky Krystal at Voraciously. This preparation is a wonder.

 

Chew This Book

Do you have this book? You must!

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National Museum for Women in the Arts Shop

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Sammys is a project that exists at the intersection of food and identity. We have been investigating and documenting the sandwich consumption of many people from diverse backgrounds, careers, and identities. The purpose of this project is to show a parallel representation of who we are by what we eat.

Food is—and has always been—a vehicle to unite people, to overcome differences, and to share cultures and customs. We hope to intersect identities that may have nothing in common if not for a favorite sandwich.

Adriana Monsalve, co-founder of Homie House Press and co-creator of Sammys