food writing

3 (More) Crazy Big Sandwiches I Ate When My Wife Was Out of Town

My wife left town again, and I scurried back to the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville to finish working my way down their seven-sandwich menu.

My gustatory adventures had apparently become legend there in a short period of time. On my first visit back, when one of the bartenders spotted me walk into the Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen, she said, “How many more do you have left to try?” On subsequent visits, I heard basically the same question from two or three other servers.

The answer, Dear Reader, was three. Three sandwiches left. Let’s see how they “stack” up, shall we?

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The Knuckle Sandwich, at Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $26. This is their take on the classic lobster roll. They dress the Maine lobster in a tarragon emulsion (think vinaigrette), place it aboard thick-cut toast with bibb lettuce and shaved fennel. I’ve enjoyed lobster rolls in the past, so I was prepared for sticker shock. Lobster rolls are always expensive, and you always end up feeling like you paid more than it was worth. This sandwich was very large, but—notice!—it’s not so much a lobster roll as it is a lobster stack. The open-faced nature of the sandwich made it impossible to fold and eat, but you end up with more meat than you do with those New England hot dog buns that they usually serve lobster rolls in. There was no mayo in sight, so you don’t get the creaminess typically associated with lobster rolls. But it was still freaking tasty.

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Grilled Cheese, at Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $15. Probably my favorite of the three, the grilled cheese was cut into three hefty slices and pressed with three different cheeses, and each wedge of the sandwich came stuffed with a slice of local bacon. It also came with a cup of tomato soup and a side salad (or fries). What can I say? The cheese was very cheesy, almost to the point that it was oozing out of the sandwich. I’d tried this sandwich years ago, and last time the tomato soup was weirdly thick. Not anymore. I’m told the chefs changed it up. Now it’s perfect for dipping. I did notice that was a little hard to bite the sandwich without pulling each bacon slice completely out. Maybe if they didn’t cook the bacon so crispy?

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Veggie “Burger,” at Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $15. This was the surprise out of all the sandwiches I tried. I tried it last because I don’t usually like veggie burgers. Too often they end up tasting like a big muddy ball of black beans. This sandwich corrects for that by packing in as many different distinct flavors as possible. You get smoked almond spread on the hamburger bun, the peppery crunch of arugula, the spiciness of an orange-red peppadew sauce, and the pungency of a classic chermoula herb sauce. The patty itself is bright red—thanks to the beets that infuse the cumin-tinged beans.

I’ll mention just one more interesting thing. In the course of these three visits, many of the servers asked which of these sandwiches was my favorite. I held off responding until they told me their fave. Every single person praised the club sandwich, which I discussed last time. In fact, without knowing what my favorite was, one manager told me, “If you ever hate what we’ve brought you, just send it back and order the club sandwich. You can't go wrong."

So that’s it. Three disturbingly large and tasty sandwiches in the course of five days. Denise is out of town for a few more days. I’ve got a line on some panini at another place in town. I’ll be there, if I can get out of my chair.

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Related Post: 5 Crazy Big Sandwiches I Ate When My Wife Was Out of Town

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The Hoboken Sandwich

Yesterday I reviewed some of the best sandwiches in Asheville. But once upon a time, I did a post on what is still my favorite sandwich. A sandwich I’m extremely sentimental about. I’m reposting it here in an effort to collect all of my old blog posts in one place. This piece first ran May 29, 2012.

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Prosciutto and mozzarella in a Hoboken bread. Photo by Silby.

Prosciutto and mozzarella in a Hoboken bread. Photo by Silby.

You were probably comatose last week if you didn’t come across Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech. Every website under the sun linked to it.

One part that caught my ear was this bit where Gaiman revealed himself to be—at least to my mind—a sandwicheer:

“We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.”

Buying sandwiches, Neil?

His reference reminded me of the late Warren Zevon’s last-ever appearance on David Letterman’s show in 2002. Zevon was dying of cancer when he  suggested that the key to a good life is remembering to enjoy every sandwich. When he died, his friends did a tribute album with that very name.

Sandwicheers are guys who love themselves a good sandwich and figure out ways to work discussion of said sandwiches into commencement speeches and poignant TV appearances.

I know these guys. I had one for a roommate once. And I’d like to think that I’m at least an associate member of their club.

Years ago, when I was living in Hoboken, New Jersey, I wrote an article about my favorite sandwich, which appeared in The New York Times. I was a freelancer for the newspaper back then, writing each week about fun, weird, quaint things to do in New Jersey for the now-defunct New Jersey section of the Times. 

According to the newspaper’s search engine, I probably wrote about 120 articles for the paper during this period of my life. (Unless I wrote 60 and the paper ran 60 letters of complaint.) 

But one of my most personal pieces was this essay about the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich that is so popular in the delis there in town. My family and I had a long history with that sandwich stretching back to my childhood.

The article begins:

There was a bitter, if forlorn yet stubborn beauty everywhere you looked in Hoboken.'' So wrote Edward Abbey, the naturalist and writer, who lived in the Mile Square City for a single year in the 60's, or maybe the 70's (he was not clear on the point).

A year is not a long time, but he stayed long enough to sing the praises of the town's 25 bars, only two of which—the Clam Broth House and the Cafe Elysian—survive. In one passage, he says Hoboken is ''too sweet, too pure, too romantic'' to be lumped in with the rest of New Jersey. Sometimes I think he has a point.

For me, the town's magic comes wrapped in wax paper.

I’d reprint the essay in its entirety here, but those stories were all work-for-hire and the Times owns the rights. Boo-hoo-hoo.

As God is my witness, I’ll link to them all one of these days.

If you want to read it, though, you can go here.

Thanks to sandwicheer Jack Silbert for providing the photo.


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5 Crazy Big Sandwiches I Ate When My Wife Was Out of Town

I’m always on the lookout for the best sandwiches in our little town of Asheville. Recently when Denise was out of town, I indulged in and reviewed several lunch offerings at a restaurant called Edison, in a fancy resort near us called The Omni Grove Park Inn. Everything’s pricy here, so I wanted to find out if an $16 to $18 sandwich was worth it. The upshot: Yes, all of these are pretty good—and incredibly filling. I suspect that when you’re a high-end resort, the way you make your high price points palatable is by giving people a lot for their money. Which is typical for how things rolls in these United States. I also ate one sandwich at Tupelo Honey, one of the longstanding favorites in Asheville.

Here we go, counting up from my least favorite to most favorite…

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The Poor Boy Sandwich at The Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn. This is basically a hot roast beef sandwich with shredded cabbage, pickled carrot, mayo and some melted Swiss cheese. Massive sandwich. I liked the size and the warmth and even the taste of the sandwich. But I felt that most of the roast beef was cooked to medium by the time it reached me. It might have been a juicier sandwich if it were medium rare. At $18, you want it the way you want it.

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Crunchy Yard Bird Sandwich, at the Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $15. A beautiful, surprising sandwich made of chicken thighs that have been pickle-brined, then served with hot sauce, pickle and ranch dressing. I appreciated them using thigh meat in this since breast meat is so much drier. This was both juicy and crispy, but the sauce was just not to my taste. I would have it again, and just specify that they go easy on the sauce or serve it on the side, to be self-applied.

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Southern Fried Chicken BLT, at Tupelo Honey downtown Asheville, $14.50 (if I’m remembering correctly.) Nice sandwich that hits all the notes you want. Juicy and crispy. I liked the added bacon, could have done without the dull, huge tomato slice. Dijonnaise spread very good.

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Smashed Burger, Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $16. I know the photo doesn’t really do this justice, but I did love the melty cheese on two thin patties, plus all the usual toppings, plus pickles and a special sauce, which gave this a taste very reminiscent of a certain fast-food burger we all grew up eating. It’s nice to recreate that flavor with better ingredients.

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Edison Club Sandwich, at the Edison, Omni Grove Park Inn, $18. I did not expect this to be my favorite of all the sandwiches I ate that week, but it blew me away. Three-and-a-half inches high at its tallest point, it was crammed with smoked turkey, two types of cheese (Colby and marble blue), a thinly sliced smoked ham that reminded me of prosciutto but which the server insisted was not, and a local bacon. Great heft, great crunch, great flavor. I should have eaten one half and saved the other for dinner but who are we kidding?

So that’s it. Five disturbingly large sandwiches over the course of seven days. My wife leaves town against next week. We’ll see if I can hit a few others on various places around town. Until then, I have an appointment with a cardiologist.

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My co-authored book, The Underground Culinary Tour, was on CBS This Morning!

One of the books I ghostwrote was mentioned Saturday (February 9, 2019) on CBS This Morning. The producers invited my co-author, Damian Mogavero, to share his insights on a segment on Las Vegas restaurants. This marks the third time Damian has been on the program.

The video’s here. The Underground Culinary Tour and Damian make their appearance at the 3:18 mark.

Damian Mogavero, left.

Damian Mogavero, left.

If you’re into restaurants and care about how these businesses are run—you owe it to yourself to check out the book.

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The Underground Culinary Tour is out today!

A book I recently co-authored is out today in all bookstores. It's a book about the numbers and cutting-edge trends in the restaurant industry. Think Moneyball—only for foodies. 

It’s a book that pulls together some topics I’ve covered in the past in my journalistic work such as math, science, and statistics—combined with a delicious helping of food writing.

Entrepreneur Damian Mogavero created the software that makes restaurants tick. He counts among his clients some of the world's greatest chefs. People like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, Wolfgang Puck, Tom Clicchio, Giada DeLaurentiis, and countless others. In this book, we take readers inside the kitchens and dining palaces to show us how data and statistics are helping restaurants stay profitable and are changing the way we eat.

From our publisher, Crown/Random House:

In the bestselling vein of Moneyball comes an entertaining, behind-the-scenes narrative about how the restaurant business is being transformed by the use of data, in an industry historically run by gut and intuition. From celebrity-run restaurants to today’s cutting-edge culinary trendsetters, The Underground Culinary Tour looks at how the use of data is revolutionizing how restaurants are run, from hiring chefs and training staff to pioneering new recipes, reengineering menus, and transforming the dining experience from the inside out, so that no restaurant is out of anything you want, ever.

If you know anyone who works in the restaurant industry, they need to read this book to catch a glimpse of the future. And if you love food, cook at home, dine out often, can't resist snapping photos of the food on your plate, and enjoy game-changing books by Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, you maybe ought to check it out.

The Underground Culinary Tour is available at all the usual book venues—online or otherwise. If you want a copy signed by me, order via Malaprops, my local bookstore. Link below. 

ORDER THE UNDERGROUND CULINARY TOUR

Pre-order my next book, The Underground Culinary Tour

I recently co-authored a book about the numbers and cutting-edge trends in the restaurant industry. Think Moneyball—only for foodies. 

It’s a book that pulls together some topics I’ve covered in the past in my journalistic work such as math, science, and statistics—combined with a delicious helping of food writing.

Entrepreneur Damian Mogavero created the software that makes restaurants tick. He counts among his clients some of the world's greatest chefs. People like Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, Wolfgang Puck, Tom Clicchio, Giada DeLaurentiis, and countless others. In this book, we take readers inside the kitchens and dining palaces to show us how data and statistics are helping restaurants stay profitable and are changing the way we eat.

From our publisher, Crown/Random House:

In the bestselling vein of Moneyball comes an entertaining, behind-the-scenes narrative about how the restaurant business is being transformed by the use of data, in an industry historically run by gut and intuition. From celebrity-run restaurants to today’s cutting-edge culinary trendsetters, The Underground Culinary Tour looks at how the use of data is revolutionizing how restaurants are run, from hiring chefs and training staff to pioneering new recipes, reengineering menus, and transforming the dining experience from the inside out, so that no restaurant is out of anything you want, ever.

If you know anyone who works in the restaurant industry, they need to read this book to catch a glimpse of the future. And if you love food, cook at home, dine out often, can't resist snapping photos of the food on your plate, and enjoy game-changing books by Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis, you maybe ought to check it out.

The Underground Culinary Tour pubs January 24, 2017, but a few stores are accepting pre-orders now. My local bookstore put up a special link, which you'll find below. 

PRE-ORDER THE UNDERGROUND CULINARY TOUR


Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here.