Sandwich Heaven with A Guilty Pleasure

October 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Some years ago HG had public relations offices on New York’s W. 57th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), a territory that remains embedded in HG’s food focused mind as “sandwich heaven.” A quick walk west brought HG to Carnegie Delicatessen for a pastrami sandwich on authentic rye with Russian dressing, sour pickles, French fries and a Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray beverage. It was a generous plate but nothing like the overstuffed, overpriced parody of a sandwich that Carnegie serves to gullible tourists today. A shorter walk west brought HG to a coffee shop (name not recalled) for a rare roast beef sandwich with raw sliced onion on good pumpernickel bread. Potato salad and an iced coffee completed the fast feast. Sometimes HG ventured east to a deli on Sixth Avenue for smoked Nova Scotia salmon with cream cheese on an onion roll. Hot coffee. When ambitious, HG could venture just a bit further to 58th Street east of Fifth Avenue for the ultimate in sandwich perfection: This was the Reuben sandwich prepared at Reuben’s Restaurant, one of HG’s all time favorite eateries. The sandwich was incomparable. Every element–corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, rye bread–was perfect and the grilling was impeccable. Closer than Reuben’s was Rumpelmayer’s and the Monte Cristo sandwich (described in a recent post). Of course, HG could have ignored sandwiches and simply walked across the street to the Russian Tea Room for borscht and pirozshki; blini with salmon caviar and sour cream or a simple plate of eggplant orientale. Unfortunately, these dishes cried out for an accompaniment of chilled vodka which HG would not been able to resist. So, disciplined HG saved the Russian Tea Room for dinners and weekend lunches. Every two weeks or so, HG’s pal Charles E., an important advertising copywriter, would lunch with HG. (An odd fact: Charles was Jack Kerouac’s teammate on a Columbia football team.) Charles and HG would indulge in a guilty treat: Combo platters (Shrimp chop suey, egg roll, pork fried rice) served with lots of duck sauce and chinese mustard at a dingy Chinese restaurant on Sixth just north of 58th. Preceded by egg drop soup, finished with an almond cookie. Like an illicit couple, HG and Charles would leave with furtive glances, hoping that no one would note how they had breached culinary values.


Sandwich Hall of Fame

October 28th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

The Vietnamese Bahn Mi (BBQ pork, a variety of pickled and fresh vegetables, Vietnamese pate. etc. on a baguette) has become a big winner among fanciers of sandwiches and Asian food. There are are many restaurants in New York specializing in this sandwich. Causes HG to sigh. With the demise of Jewish delicatessens the Banh Mi seems slated to replace the pastrami sandwich as the New York symbolic nosh. Sad. Best sandwich ever was the pastrami, chopped liver, cole slaw, Russian dressing sandwich on seeded rye served at the demised Gitlitz Deli on Broadway and 78th. This was closely followed by the Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, Russian dressing, rye bread — grilled to molten perfection) at Reuben’s Delicatessen (long closed) on East 58th. Runner up was the rare room temperature sliced roast beef with thinly sliced raw onion and coarse salt on rye bread liberally coated with chicken fat. HG liked this at a delicatessen on Beach 116th Street, Rockaway Park. HG also fancied the muenster cheese and lettuce sandwich on an onion roll served at long shuttered cafeterias like The Belmore and Dubrow’s. HG is not just a parochial adherent of old style Jewish sandwiches. He has always fancied Cubanos, those pork and cheese sandwiches pressed upon a hot grill served at Cuban restaurants. HG often had one (accompanied by black beans and rice) at many Washington Heights hole-in-the-wall eateries. Good stuff. Those joints also served the best steaming cups of espresso.

The Real Reuben

February 14th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s delightful pal, Lynn S., sent along a funny YouTube short film called A Reuben By Any Other Name. In the film, two contentious Jewish couples argue about the proper construction, history and etymology of the Reuben sandwich. Permit HG, a sage in such matters, to make the final decision. The Reuben sandwich is now ubiquitous, served virtually everywhere and, for the most part, very badly prepared. During HG’s days in New York the Reuben was only served at the classy Reuben’s Restaurant and Delicatessen (long departed) at 6 E. 58th Street in Manhattan. Arnold Reuben opened the first Reuben’s Restaurant in 1908 (there were a number of moves before the final landmark on E.58th). Legend has it that an actress working with Charlie Chaplin ordered the combination in 1914 and the Reuben was born. HG had it many times at that delightful eatery with crisp French fries and kosher dill pickles. It was the best.

Okay. What are the ingredients? Grilled Jewish rye bread coated with Russian dressing. Corned beef. Sliced swiss cheese. Sauerkraut. Like many great things, the ingredients are simple. But, in order to have that great sandwich — favored by significant figures like Charlie Chaplin, crime boss Arnold Rothstein and showman Billy Rose — all the elements have to be of top quality, the proportions need to be perfect and finally the bread needs proper grilling (not toasting!). Don’t cut corners and you’ll be rewarded with a classic taste of American regional cooking.

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