reviews

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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Yes, I am trying to post here more often, and not just about food. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here.

Letter From Home

A quick update on a couple of things:

* Big Weed, the marijuana book I ghosted, landed two sweet reviews this week, one from Publishers Weekly, the other from Kirkus. The PW review is a starred review, which is quite nice. The author is happy, so are the publishers. The book is out in April.

* I'm driving home Friday to interview mystery writer Jamie Mason this Friday at our local bookstore, Malaprop's, for the launch of Mason’s second book, Monday’s Lie. I liked her first book, Three Graves Full, but Monday’s Lie is something special. The main character was raised by a mom who was a covert ops asset, and who taught her a variety of cool skills. Years later, Mom’s long gone, and our protag must call upon those skills to confront something terrible that’s cropped up in her life. Mason has a beautiful way with the language. A true stylist. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll come check out our “In Conversation With.”

* I just put up a new website. I hope you’ll stop by to look it over, and more importantly, shoot me a note if you spot any embarrassing bugs. From now on, my blog posts will originate at the new site, and be pushed out to Tumblr and Twitter. If you’re already following me on Tumblr, there’s no need to migrate over. The pushes are nearly instantaneous.

* * *  

Thanks for the kind response to my last post. Yes, our family is still hunkered down in Denise’s mom’s condo, acting as her daily caregivers. I don’t think this little apartment was made for five adults and a dog, but we’re determined to wait out this disease to its inevitable, sad conclusion. We are grateful for the friends who’ve stopped by to cheer us (and mom) up. We’ve left up the Christmas tree, thinking it makes nice touch to see those lights from time to time. But since the the holiday season is long gone, it’s a little hard to use that annual break as an excuse for procrastinating on our work. So we’ve staked out the corners of the condo that feel quiet enough to work, and started plugging away again. The nearby university has a great library; we escaped there for a few hours this week and it was awesome. Hope to go again if we can manage it.

As this horror progresses, I’ve been reminded of one of the doctors I once profiled. His story is told in the The Scientist and the Sociopath, but you can read it free here. The doc became closer with his mom following the death of his father and other family members, all in a single year, when he was a child. I was touched that the doc trusted me enough to report how he felt back then:

The mother did not know, and the boy did not tell her, that at night in his bed he bargained with God. He had attended five funerals in little more than a year, and they had terrified him. Over the graves of his loved ones he learned the words of the Lord’s Prayer for the first time. At night, he prayed: Please, God, don’t let my mom die. Please don’t take her from me.

His prayers were answered. She lived long and prospered. When she died four years ago at the age of sixty-nine, she was a wealthy woman. When she took sick with lung cancer, he gave her the greatest gift he could. He shut down his practice and cared for her 24/7 for the last seven months of her life. “It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” he says.

Why I Love "From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"

E.L. Konigsburg (1930-2013)    I’ve been meaning to write something about the authors we lost this year who’ve meant something to me. Before the year winds up, I thought I’d better get that done.   This picture shows the cover of one of my favorite books from childhood:  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  This is the actual book. I’ve kept it all these years. I was saddened to hear that that author,  E.L. Konigsburg, died earlier this year, in April, at age 83 . The funny thing is, I’ve never read any other books by her except this one.  Mixed-Up Files  was enough to carry with me all these years. Only recently have I realized the debt my writing owes to this book.  The story of the book doesn’t sound terribly remarkable. Feeling unappreciated in her white-bread Connecticut household, a young girl named Claudia decides to run away from home. She knows herself well enough to know that she requires money and comfort to pull off this caper. So she enlists the help of her brother Jamie, a master card cheat, who has the princely sum of $24 to his name. The two run away to New York City and move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By day, they educate themselves by tagging along with school groups. By night, they swipe pocket change out of the fountain and sleep in Marie Antoinette’s bed.  While living in their magnificent digs, Claudia becomes obsessed with nailing down the provenance of a mysterious statue of an angel, which the museum has recently acquired. Rumors identify the statue as the work of Michelangelo, but the experts beg to differ. Claudia and Jamie spend the remainder of their money to travel to the home of the statue’s last known owner of record, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who just might know the truth. Frankweiler offers the children a challenge: The truth is hidden somewhere inside her Mixed-Up Files. If they are clever enough, they can find the answer. The children accept, and what they discover in their search makes me want to cry forty years later.  I like two things about this book. It just took me until adulthood to figure them out.  One is that the book is supposedly written in the first person by Frankweiler herself, who doesn’t appear until the last quarter of the tale. Despite the fact that she won’t be present for most of the book, she tells us early on that since she’s interviewed the children extensively, she feels qualified to present this unbiased account. This narrative framework seems dodgy, but I’m currently using it with a book I’m writing. It seems to be working.  I think you should read  Mixed-Up Files  if you haven’t already, so I won’t give any spoilers. Suffice to say that the children solve the mystery, and Frankweiler—who by now you’ve realized is a proxy for Konigsburg herself—manages to save one last secret for the book’s final pages.  The second reason the book charmed me is that it’s remarkably wise. The author understands that all children—young and old—want to feel special, and solving a mystery is one of the best ways to arrive at that specialness.  Here’s the quote that sells it. Frankweiler, in a conversation with Jamie, says:   Claudia doesn’t want ad­ven­ture. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thing. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside, where it counts.   Yes. Yes. Absolutely true. Konigsburg, throughout her long career, became known for spouting similarly profound gems in her writing. I sometimes like reading quotes people have pulled from her books. She was that good. Here’s another:   Some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up and touch everything. If you never let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you.   When I was still working at Scholastic, one of my office mates was lucky enough to interview Konigsburg about one of her new books. Like me, my friend loved  Mixed-Up Files  and so she asked one too many questions about that book. Konigsburg bristled at this, saying  Mixed-Up Files  was one of her first books, it was  old , and puh-leeze, she was trying to promote the  new  book.  These days I know in my heart how she must have felt. But  Mixed-Up Files  won the Newbery Award in 1967 and has touched millions of readers since. E.L. Konigsburg wrote a lot of great books, and I’m sure that in time I’ll read them all. But if I never do, all I need is this one.

E.L. Konigsburg (1930-2013)

I’ve been meaning to write something about the authors we lost this year who’ve meant something to me. Before the year winds up, I thought I’d better get that done.

This picture shows the cover of one of my favorite books from childhood: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This is the actual book. I’ve kept it all these years. I was saddened to hear that that author, E.L. Konigsburg, died earlier this year, in April, at age 83. The funny thing is, I’ve never read any other books by her except this one. Mixed-Up Files was enough to carry with me all these years. Only recently have I realized the debt my writing owes to this book.

The story of the book doesn’t sound terribly remarkable. Feeling unappreciated in her white-bread Connecticut household, a young girl named Claudia decides to run away from home. She knows herself well enough to know that she requires money and comfort to pull off this caper. So she enlists the help of her brother Jamie, a master card cheat, who has the princely sum of $24 to his name. The two run away to New York City and move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. By day, they educate themselves by tagging along with school groups. By night, they swipe pocket change out of the fountain and sleep in Marie Antoinette’s bed.

While living in their magnificent digs, Claudia becomes obsessed with nailing down the provenance of a mysterious statue of an angel, which the museum has recently acquired. Rumors identify the statue as the work of Michelangelo, but the experts beg to differ. Claudia and Jamie spend the remainder of their money to travel to the home of the statue’s last known owner of record, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who just might know the truth. Frankweiler offers the children a challenge: The truth is hidden somewhere inside her Mixed-Up Files. If they are clever enough, they can find the answer. The children accept, and what they discover in their search makes me want to cry forty years later.

I like two things about this book. It just took me until adulthood to figure them out.

One is that the book is supposedly written in the first person by Frankweiler herself, who doesn’t appear until the last quarter of the tale. Despite the fact that she won’t be present for most of the book, she tells us early on that since she’s interviewed the children extensively, she feels qualified to present this unbiased account. This narrative framework seems dodgy, but I’m currently using it with a book I’m writing. It seems to be working.

I think you should read Mixed-Up Files if you haven’t already, so I won’t give any spoilers. Suffice to say that the children solve the mystery, and Frankweiler—who by now you’ve realized is a proxy for Konigsburg herself—manages to save one last secret for the book’s final pages.

The second reason the book charmed me is that it’s remarkably wise. The author understands that all children—young and old—want to feel special, and solving a mystery is one of the best ways to arrive at that specialness.

Here’s the quote that sells it. Frankweiler, in a conversation with Jamie, says:

Claudia doesn’t want ad­ven­ture. She likes baths and feeling comfortable too much for that kind of thing. Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside, where it counts.

Yes. Yes. Absolutely true. Konigsburg, throughout her long career, became known for spouting similarly profound gems in her writing. I sometimes like reading quotes people have pulled from her books. She was that good. Here’s another:

Some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up and touch everything. If you never let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you.

When I was still working at Scholastic, one of my office mates was lucky enough to interview Konigsburg about one of her new books. Like me, my friend loved Mixed-Up Files and so she asked one too many questions about that book. Konigsburg bristled at this, saying Mixed-Up Files was one of her first books, it was old, and puh-leeze, she was trying to promote the new book.

These days I know in my heart how she must have felt. But Mixed-Up Files won the Newbery Award in 1967 and has touched millions of readers since. E.L. Konigsburg wrote a lot of great books, and I’m sure that in time I’ll read them all. But if I never do, all I need is this one.