Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Stick it between some bread and call it a sandwich

I used to work with a woman who would, every day like clockwork, forlornly pull her lunch out of her bag, sigh loudly while exclaiming 'aren't sandwiches boring', and then ruefully start to munch on her homemade sarnie. 

Firstly, I never quite understood why she didn't just make herself something else; secondly, who could possible hate on the sandwich? I'd spend the whole morning clock-watching until I could unwrap mine. It's still feel the same.

I eat a lot of food, and the food I eat the most is the humble 'something between two slices of bread'*. On average I've eaten 6 a week (one a day at work and a bacon sarnie on a Sunday), since early childhood. Which, by my primitive calculations makes approx ten thousand of the things (wow, imagine that - TE).

I never get bored, even on holiday, and as a testament to my love I dragged the Ewing around some of the best on the West coast, starting with the Godmother at the Bay Cities Deli. The most famous woman in Santa Monica.

*rolls, baguettes and bagels all welcome

Boars Head genoa salami, prosciutto, mortadella, coppacola, ham and provolone cheese are layered up on crisp Italian bread with a perfectly blistered crust before being given "the works": mayo, mustard, Italian dressing, onions, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and chopped peppers. You can chose hot or mild, but there's really only one answer to that question; spice all the way.

It's always gonna be a pretty incredible sandwich, wherever you eat it, be it sitting on Santa Monica beach, fending off the seagulls and surreptitiously sipping a cream soda ale at 11 o'clock in the morning takes some beating (yeah baby - TE).

When it comes to iconic LA foods, there is little to beat the french dip sandwich and there is no where more iconic to try one than at Phillippe's, the "Home of the Original French Dip Sandwich". Established in 1908, it doesn't seem like much has changed, from the sawdust on the floors, to the 'carvers' who serve you at the counter, to the row of coin-operated phone booths by the door, this is a slice of the City of Angels set in aspic.

For their signature sandwich a crusty french roll is stuffed with beef (or lamb, turkey or pork) before being dunked in the hot roasting juices - chose single-dip, double-dip, or wet. A slice of cheese is optional, the special famous hot mustard on each table, is pretty much mandatory.

While the Ewing was reluctant to go for a sandwich (primarily because we had literally just eaten taquitos and tamales at Ceilto Lindo, across the street), I lured her in with the prospect of a beer; a schooner of Booming Rollers from San Diego-based Modern Times (I am such a push over - TE).

Even if the sandwich was a duff, it would have been worth it for the booze, with both of us agreeing it was possibly the best beer of the whole trip. And there were a few beers. Of course the french dip was excellent, with the Ewing bravely eating half of my roast beef and cheddar roll, although I had to eat the whole portion of macaroni salad to myself. Hardly a hardship, as I still think of it's mayo and pickle-spiked perfection even now.

If the Ewing thought we were done for the day after our french dip, she hadn't counted on the Dodger Dog at the Dodger Stadium, our next stop. While it might be a stretch to include this as a sandwich, it is meat (of a questionable providence, but animal-derived no less) between bread, so it's in.

Described as a 10 inch pork wiener - I added a couple of inches with the extra large - wrapped in a steamed bun and served either steamed or grilled. The grilled Dogs are considered the "classic" version. with more dogs sold here than at any other Major League ballpark.

I'm not completely sure what type I had, although it seemed a bit scorched, so I'm going with the latter. Was it a good dog? If spongy mechanically recovered meat clamped in soggy bread and smothered in sweet, vinegary mustard and ketchup, then yes. Was it a good experience? Absolutely, even if we left at the top of the 8th inning, with the Dodgers 3 -1 down, only to miss two homers. At least we heard the triumphant cheers as we walked back to Union Station. 

I couldn't possible write about a trip to California and not include at least one mention of In-n-Out, the burger chain established in 1958 that inspires a cult-like devotion. Known for it's secret menu, fair treatment of staff and resistance to franchising it's operations, it also makes a pretty decent burger.

If it was a stretch to include a Dodger Dog, its even more so to include a burger that eschews bread and is instead wrapped in a lettuce leaf, but this is Cali and this is a Double Double (two meat and two cheese) protein style. If the salad is still too carbalicious, you can order the flying dutchman, two slices of cheese melted between two burger patties. 

Of course, they also offer buns, and good thick shakes - above is the off-menu neapolitan, combining chocolate, vanilla and strawberry - and not very good fries that are marginally improved by being ordered animal style - covered in melted cheese, 'spread' (read thousand island) and grilled onions. Make sure they also chuck in some chilli peppers, but be careful; they are hotter than they look.

If burgers and hot dogs are in, then barbecue with parker rolls also qualifies (YEAH! we had such an amazing time on this trip - TE). While we were not strictly in 'cue country, most of the smoked meats in this corner of the country would still run smoke rings around anything you can find back here.

Case in point being Fox Smokehouse BBQ, our last stop on our drive to Vegas. An anonymous looking building in a strip mall in Boulder City, identifiable only by the smoker on the sidewalk outside and a small flashing neon sign in the window.

Inside smelt like the contents of my holdall after a week sitting around a bonfire at Reading Festival as a teenager. Not great for my Mum doing my washing, but a pretty enticing smell when you know it's the scent of slow-cooked ribs and brisket.

As predicted on arrival, the food was exceptional. Excellent deep fried nuggets of crispy okra with ranch dressing; barbecue pit beans; gooey mac and cheese; crunchy vinegar slaw and cold glasses of PBR for only just one buck. And of course the meat - tender ribs, with a proud, pink smoke ring and just the right amount of resistance when trying to prise them from the bone, and slices of soft and fatty brisket with it's crisp outer bark. Best of all were the pillowy rolls, perfect for DIY beef sandwiches. How can that ever be boring?

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