Looking for summer in a sandwich? We’ve got you covered!

Caprese

In the dog days of summer, the humble Caprese turns up the flavor  without weighing you down.

The Caprese sandwich originates, of course, from Italy’s azure isle of Capri, epicenter of sunbaked la dolce vita lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Representing the patriotic colors of the Italian flag, the name literally means “Capri sandwich.” The masterpiece is created with cheesy pesto, zesty Roma tomatoes, sharp basil, tangy balsamic, and the freshest mozzarella to be found, all drizzled with the nectar of the gods: extra virgin olive oil.

While also evident in salads and even pizza, the Caprese’s key ingredients are the epitome of a light, refreshing summer meal. Pleasing to vegetarians, yet substantial enough to satisfy the most savory of carnivores, the flavors meld and bind together into a mouthwatering flavor explosion featuring the best of high summer’s produce.

There are a few places in Seattle to get your Caprese on: my favorites are Homegrown (several locations, including Fremont, Capitol Hill and Redmond), and Ballard Market’s grilled version.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the Caprese, and la dolce vita, is by having it like the Italians, alfresco. You can’t really go wrong by DIY’ing this one, the earlier you make it, the better it will taste, as all the flavors have a chance to mix and mingle.

Pack one for a picnic, and slice according to everyone’s appetite. Your guests will be wowed when it’s time to chow down, and you can reply with your best world-weary shrug  a′ la Marcello Mastroianni with, “Caprese? So easy.” Mangia!

Picnic Caprese (Recipe)

Ingredients

1 extra large loaf of bread or baguette (semi-soft bread like focaccia works well)
Pesto sauce (preferably freshly made)
10 fresh small tomatoes (preferably San Marzanos), sliced
10-12 fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and torn
1 10 ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Split the baguette lengthwise, spread pesto on bottom half of loaf, top with tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Press baguette firmly and wrap in plastic. Let sandwich sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour and up to 24 hours. When ready to consume, slice and serve.

What’s your favorite sandwich of the summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Five Hidden Spots That Will Have You Saying “Save Me, Cheesus!” This Winter

The Valentina
The Dane’s Valentina is a comforting treat on a cold day. Photo: Teddie McCormick

In one of the universe’s cruel jokes, right up there with getting drenched by a passing car or sitting in gum, it was decreed that I kick off 2018 by being denied some of my favorite vices: sugar, gluten, and yes, I’m afraid so, dairy.

I’m blaming the universe, but, if I’m being completely honest, it’s my poor choices that made this move a necessity, But never fear, dear readers, because I vow to not punish you for my bad decisions. Instead, I’m bringing you a round-up of one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods, even if I can’t partake at the moment, relying on sense memory and some good friends to deliver the goods.

Winter in Seattle: when the skies are gray and spitting endless buckets of water, and your poor solar porch light is so starved it can’t even light your walkway. When this inevitibility happens every year, Seattleites turn inward, seeking comfort.

There are good reasons why we’re considered one of the most nation’s most literate cities, and also the most suicidal, and my personal favorite, the place with one of the highest number of serial killers. It’s called THIS EFFING WEATHER.

In a season that’s so bleak that local magazines print survival guides for just getting through it, is it any wonder that we tend to self-prescribe a little love in the form of comfort food?

What could be more comforting than a meltingly warm grilled cheese sammy on a cold, wet day? It’s no surprise that Seattle has several well-known standouts to choose from, from nationally famous places like Beecher’s to local heroes like the Cheese Wizards and The Grilled Cheese Experience.

This round-up focuses on the hidden gems; grilled cheeses that might be a bit off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. So if you find yourself needing some love this winter, check out a few of my faves:

The Dane
Opened in 2017, this Scandinavian-style cafe has several sandwiches on the menu, including the traditional Scandi smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill combo. My favorite, however, is the Valentina, a mix of blue and cheddar cheese, with tomato. The toothsome and sublime Sea Wolf sourdough combined with the sharp tang of the blue cheese will simply melt your heart. Sorry folks, it had to be pun, I mean, done. Skål!

Homegrown
With approximately 12 years of eating experience within the topic at hand, I’d say my daughter Lily is an excellent judge of what makes a great “grilled cheeser” (as we call it). For one thing, she abhors too much globby cheese, and she finds Homegrown’s kid-size classic pretty close to a perfect cheese/bread ratio. It’s just the right amount of grilled white cheddar, and it’s available in half and whole sizes if you want to maybe get a little comforting cup of soup also. Talk about just right!

Smartypants
I’ve been a fan of this Georgetown sammy spot forever, because you can’t really go wrong with anything on their extensive menu, and I’ve sampled quite a few of the offerings (research is so crucial, people). The Deluxe Grilled Cheese stands out though. The avocado spread, along with a tasteful mix jack and cheddar, makes it uniquely yummy.

Valhalla
Classic grilled cheese in Phinney Ridge that hits all the high marks: slightly crunchy Como bread and quality cheese, again, two kinds (provolone and cheddar) add up to a delightful lightness. Word to the wise, if you’re not insatiably hungry, get one and split it. Two thumbs up!

Husky Deli
I love this old-school West Seattle deli for their classics, but their take on the grilled cheese is almost subversive. House-made pesto, three, count ’em, THREE kinds of cheese: cheddar, swiss, havarti, tomatoes and fresh basil for that touch o’ green all combine into a perfect panini style grilled cheese explosion. Delish!

What’s your favorite hidden place to grab a grilled cheese when the weather sucks? I promise I’ll keep it to myself. Scout’s honor!

Halloween Sammies for DIY Challenged Ghouls & Guys

When the spookiest of holiday seasons calls for crafting, I feel the need to take the nearest glue gun and put myself out of my own misery. The truth is, I lack the patience (and the aptitude) for most DIY projects, so I content myself with admiring the crafty bug in those far more talented. By that, I mean everyone.

While researching Halloween sandwich themes for this post, I stumbled upon some true artists, some pretty crafty DIY’ers, and, my favorite people, the genuinely lazy.  With that in mind, I hope you’ll find something here for whatever creative sandwich level you currently inhabit, or aspire to.

Next-Level Edible Monster Art 

Nuts 'Feratu
Nuts ‘Feratu, created with almond butter, among other things. Photo courtesy of Sandwich Monsters.

So much for grilled cheese jack o’ lanterns! Kasia Haupt Canning creates insane sandwich “monsters” out of anything edible, and somehow makes her painstakingly detailed creations look both achievable (maybe??) and delicious.

Check out the Sandwich Monsters blog and behold her monster gallery, including scary characters like Pickle Rick, Nuts’Feratu (pictured above), Shark ‘A ‘Snack and many more.

While you probably won’t take the time to burn baguettes to create your own monster “hair,” you’ll be sure to find some serious #sammyinspo for Halloween and beyond.

A Snake Sammy to Charm a Crowd

The Snakewich from Taste of Home
The Snakewich recipe will get your Halloween party moving. Photo and recipe courtesy of Taste of Home.

Who doesn’t love a Halloween party? Whether your Monster Mash is at the office or just in the ‘hood, it can be fun to see everyone’s devilish side. Who knew Deb from Accounting was a dead ringer for Elvira?

If you need help feeding a crowd of ravenous zombies, this slithery snake sammy and the accompanying kicky (but not too spicy) “Dragon Sauce” from the blog Taste of Home is sure to please your party animals. Check out the recipe here.

Mummy Likey

Photo and recipe courtesy of Eats Amazing.
These cute Mummy Kebabs are versatile and easy. Photo and recipe courtesy of Eats Amazing.

This idea is fun, relatively easy, and provides so many options with different filling and bread combos. Simply chop, slice and assemble sammy fixins’, thread everything together with a toothpick, attach mummy eyes, and you’re good to go.

For my fellow craft-challenged friends, Eats Amazing even provides an idiot-proof Youtube tutorial. Just make sure you don’t choose fillings that are too droopy or messy or that don’t take well to being poked.

Ghoul-Proof

Spider Sammies
These creepy crawlers can be modified for whatever you’re into! Photo and recipe courtesy of Parents.

This one is for my homies, the people who can’t be bothered with anything elaborate. These scary spiders can be easily modified using ingredients from deli meats to spreads like almond butter and jelly. There’s a reason it’s a classic! You can get this ham ‘n cheese example from Parents here.

What about you, ghouls and guys? Do you have a go-to Halloween sammy that I haven’t covered? Share it with me in the comments below.

Have a safe and spooky Halloween, sandwich lovers!

Sources: Sandwich Monsters, Eats Amazing, Taste of Home, Parents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches”, by Tyler Kord

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 11.40.12 AM

First of all, let me apologize profusely for ever letting this blog lapse. Was my last post really November, 2014? ACK! What was I thinking?

Life has taken some interesting turns lately, and though I’ve personally been through some ‘stuff’, it doesn’t compare to what the great citizens of these United States are going through. Every. Single. Day.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the upside of going through ‘stuff’ is that it usually provides some much-needed clarity.  That’s why one thing is now crystal clear:

Now, more than ever, we need sandwiches. Many, many, many sandwiches.

With that in mind, I wanted to kick off the new and hopefully improved blog with something a little different: a book review. Yay, reading! It never lets me down.

A few months ago, I devoured (guys, see what I did there?) Tyler Kord’s , A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches. Although the book does include many painstakingly detailed recipes, it offers way more than a traditional cookbook. It’s also hilarious and thought-provoking.

Kord’s witty, insightful, and strong opinions about what constitutes a quality sandwich, among other things, is fascinating reading. His obsession with adventurous flavor and texture combinations, as well as over-the-top, quirky sandwich ingredients (homemade Canadian Bacon, lychees), are mouth-watering and sometimes, just a little out there. I can’t see myself ordering a sandwich with pickled blueberries or Fritos, but I’m really happy that they exist.

The artistic, next-level creations are as unique as their names. When did you last enjoy a Chutzpah Express (roast beef, pickled mushroom, Chinese mustard), or my favorite, Famous Rap Battles of History? You don’t even need to know what’s on that one to enjoy it.

While the author’s writing style is charming and a maybe even a bit neurotic, the book also gives a rare glimpse into some of the joys and challenges of running and owning a restaurant for a modern day chef.

Kord is the co-owner and chef of No. 7 Sub sandwich shops in New York, which makes him more than qualified to share his thoughts on things like pricing, sustainable practices, and why some things–in particular, the realities of shrimp production–are indeed, pretty upsetting.

The recipes in the book piqued my interest, but since I’m far too lazy to make my own grape jelly or smoke my own mayonnaise, I probably won’t even attempt them, but I’m pretty sure I will consult the helpful graphic: “Sandwich Construction: Theory & A Chart” the next time I’m in the kitchen.

I’d also be thrilled to visit the source of these creations the next time I’m in NYC.

Available from amazing independent bookstores like Elliott Bay Books and Amazon

 

Eulogy For a Sandwich. RIP Paseo.

Paseo Sammy
From the Paseo website.

Editor’s Update: Un Bien, open in Ballard June, 2015, is the love child of Julian and Lucas Lorenzo, sons of the former owner of Paseo, Lorenzo Lorenzo. Check it out and decide for yourself if they capture that old Paseo magic. It works for me!

Un Bien, 7302 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117, (206) 588-2040
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 – 8 for lunch and dinner

The Seattle sandwich world was rocked yesterday by news that Paseo, a veritable institution of Caribbean delicacies and a permanent fixture for foodies for the last 21 years, had suddenly shuttered both their Fremont and Ballard locations.

The news first broke on local website Seattle Eater. As it quickly went viral, stunned wails of “Why, God. WHY?” could be heard throughout the I-5 corridor. The story was front-page news in the Seattle Times, and reported heavily by other local media.

In fact, the public outcry was so great, a memorial of sorts has sprung up in front of the Fremont outpost, with diners coming to pay their last respects to arguably the best Cuban sandwiches available this side of Miami.

Paseo even had a national following. It was voted Number Two in Yelp’s 2014 national poll of 100 must-try foods in the U.S., and was written up in Esquire,  and Bon Appetit, among others.

Although reasons for the sudden closure are somewhat murky, it’s become apparent that the restaurant’s owners had several issues managing their business, including a labor dispute over payment of its employees.

Due to their already huge following and consistently long lines, I never even bothered to review Paseo for Seatown. Everyone already loves (sob, loved) it. In truth, I’d like to think I was saving it up, not feeling like sharing the ecstasy that is the Caribbean Roast with the world at large, but wanting to keep a bit of it for myself.

So let this be yet another sandwich-related life lesson for you. Don’t put off the sandwiches you could be enjoying today. Make it a priority to grab life by the baguette and dig in. Herewith, I give you my posthumous review of the best damn sandwich you’ll never get to enjoy again:

Let’s start with what Paseo did best: meat. And by meat, I mean pork. Whether it was the tenderly roasted shoulder or the succulent cubed loin, that stuff was decadently juicy from Paseo’s secret-recipe  marinade, and mouth-watering enough to be a delicious meal in itself.

Both the Grilled Pork and the Caribbean Roast “signature” sandwich came piled high with protein. These sandwiches were definitely knife-and-fork worthy, but somehow I was always able to break my “no sandwiches bigger than my head” rule. I like to tell myself that they were simply too messy to share, but that would be a lie. I wanted that sandwich all to myself.

Much like no man is an island, no sandwich is worth anything unless it’s served on amazing bread. Paseo piled their meat on perfectly toasted baguettes. I’m not sure where the bread came from (did they make it in-house? I guess we’ll never know…) but it was always fresh, and perfectly, consistently toasted. Crunchy on the outside with a luscious interior perfect for soaking up the sauce within, it was never soggy.

Adding what could almost be considered insult to injury, these mile-high sammies were topped off with lettuce (satisfying crunchy romaine that could on occasion become soggy and maybe a little superfluous), pickled jalapenos (critical to the overall flavor profile and in no way overly hot), gorgeously caramelized onions, and the coup de grace, a slathering of garlic aioli so delicious, people would stand in line for upwards of an hour just for a taste. Paseo didn’t offer extra sauce to go. Believe me, I tried.

Now that I have clarity, I realize that there were other, somewhat lesser, sandwiches on the Paseo menu. Chicken. Fish. Scallops. Even one with tofu. My vegetarian friends were huge fans of the Shrimp. Me, I never tried anything but the pork. Why? When perfection is (sorry, was) already right there, one doesn’t need to look elsewhere. Until today.

Vaya con dios, Paseo, you’ll be sorely missed.

Sammies Squared

Where the magic happens.
Where the magic happens.

Itching for a new sandwich venue, I suggested Rain Shadow Meats Squared, a butcher-shop-cum-sandwich-eatery in Pioneer Square.

This latest foray by the owners of the original Rain Shadow Meats, located in that trendy foodie mecca known as Melrose Market in Capitol Hill (home to cheese shoppe The Calf and Kid, oyster outlet Taylor Shellfish Farms, and Matt Dillon’s amazing farm-to-table restaurant, Sitka & Spruce, among others) has been a bright spot in the burgeoning food scene happening in Pioneer Square, and a relief to the folks who work nearby who enjoy good food but might not have time for an elaborate lunch.

When Rain Shadow opened, I worked near the Pioneer Square location, but my job never allowed for the time to head down there, so I decided to save it up. The hubs, who is finally enjoying working Square adjacent now that so many interesting food and drink places have made the neighborhood their new home, had of course already been, and declared it “meh,” but, giving in to my love of the sandwich arts, he acquiesced.

Rain Shadow Meats Counter
Score a spot and watch the sandwich makers in action.

When we arrived I was cheered by the hand-written request outside the door to take a menu and hop in line. I do love an orderly system. The decor is spare brick and concrete with gleaming glass butcher cases full of delectable looking meat products, as well as shelves of accompanying condiments that tempt you while you wait to order.

Around noon the spot was hopping busy, but the line moved quickly. There’s a marble counter in the back with about five stools overlooking the kitchen, if you’re lucky enough to grab a spot you can watch the action. Sadly, were not.

Hungry as usual, we decided to each get a full sandwich of our own and share. Being a roast-beef lover, I opted for the Romesco: chevre, house-made beef, arugula, goat cheese, and of course, that wonderful spicy sauce.

jwaiting.jpg
Enjoying a refreshing celery soda and checkin’ out the meat!

The hubs went with my second favorite-sounding option, the Rain Shadow Press, a combination of homemade mortadella (is there anything they don’t make here?), roast beef, sopprasata, Mama Lil’s peppers, provolone, cucumber and arugula, all served panini-style on ciabatta.

Given our newfound love of fermented beverages (I’m talkin’ to you, kombucha) we decided to accompany our meal with an intriguing-sounding celery soda. Effervescent and vegetal, it turned out to be a perfectly tangy accompaniment to all that rich meat and cheese.

After ordering, we were given a number and found a couple of open seats at a communal table, only to be quickly whisked away to a just-opened two-top by a very efficient server, who astutely observed that we were feeling a little hemmed in. Our sandwiches arrived quickly, and they were a pleasure to behold.

Romesco Sandwich
The Romesco: a saucy meat and cheese delight.

Starting with mine, I enjoyed that although the Romesco’s flavors were huge, the sandwich was decently, even delicately, proportioned. I particularly loved the use of goat cheese accompanied with the nuttiness of the romesco sauce, and thought the roast beef was beyond delicious. My only (minor) complaint would be the baguette. While it was perfectly toasted, that made it a little too pointy and pokey.

Rain Shadow Press
The Rain Shadow Press: a beautifully appointed panini.

Moving on to the Rain Shadow Press, the ciabatta was a whole lot softer, and the flavors of the mortadella, provolone, and beef blended perfectly. Overall, I thought it was delicious, and at $12 per sandwich, we felt we got our money’s worth. I will definitely be back to try the Parisian (three words: double-smoked ham) and the Morty: house-made mortadella, provolone, olive tapenade and Mama Lil’s pepper again on (yes!) sourdough.

romescopress.jpg
I can’t wait to come back!

Rain Shadow even serves a couple of french inspired sandwiches the traditional way, avec butter. Although I’ve previously noted that adding butter to a sandwich is one of my biggest personal pet peeves, it is a new year, which might make this the time to come out of the shadows and start enjoying new sandwich styles. I am all for getting my mind changed.

Rain Shadow Meats Squared
404 Occidental Avenue South
(between King & Jackson)
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 467-4854
Mon – Fri 11am – 6pm
Sat – Sun 11am – 5pm

Honey Ain’t Always Sweet

Honey Hole SignOne of the best parts of living in Seattle is that if you happen to be a bit of a lazypuss like myself, and you already live in a pretty good neighborhood, like I like to think I do, you’re really not required to travel much. Add our lousy traffic and complicated topography filled with bridges and water at every turn, and leaving one’s cozy little hamlet begins to seem less and less attractive. Which is why you can easily say things like, “Capitol Hill, I haven’t been there in months.” And it will be true.

I used to live on Capitol Hill. A hundred years ago I might even have passed as a hipster. Probably not, but I’d like to think so. I definitely had little black glasses and wore lots of plaid. Today, venturing there usually means I’m having dinner or drinks with other middle-aged folks. We have confirmed reservations, we’re probably paying for parking, and we’re all safely tucked into our beds by midnight.

Promising not to be lame in the pursuit of sandwich perfection, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone to the Hill for what had been described as a delicious sandwich experience: the Honey Hole. I do love the name, and the menu promised some great looking stuff. Cleverly named sandwiches like The Corleone (Painted Hills pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss) and the Buford T. Justice (pulled pork, house-made bbq sauce, coleslaw) successfully beckoned me forward.

ChachiOnce “in the club”, so to speak, I decided it was my duty as a die-hard Scott Baio fan to hone in on Chachi’s Favorite. I was excited about the ranch sauce, as well as the natural turkey breast roasted in-house.

Truth be told, I was pretty disappointed by a few things. First, the ambiance of Honey Hole. I get that you’re a divey Capitol Hill space and that’s your jam, but I’m just going to say, you are not very clean. Sticky floors, dirty tables, and the restroom scared me. If I see stuff like that in the front of the house, I’m very much wondering what’s going on behind the counter.

Second, my friend and I seemed to get an extra side of attitude with our sandwiches that I don’t recall ordering. This is not a coffee shop. You are not a barista. You sling sandwiches for a living, and while I’m sure you’re much wittier, smarter and more erudite than your current gig would lead us to believe, all you really have to do with sandwiches is get the order right and try to be nice. Easy!

Chachi's FavoriteSadly, my biggest issue with the Hole was with the sandwich itself. It’s kind of odd to heat up chunks of white-meat turkey breast with a bunch of white sauce and serve the whole thing with white cheese on white bread. If you’re going to do that, at least make the mixture more of a “salad” situation, throw in some celery, onion, black pepper, pickles?  It desperately needed something to jazz it up. The ranch – which I think I already mentioned I was so excited for – had no tang or kick to it at all. This is a crime.

All in all, it wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t great. I’ll definitely give it another try, because I’m hoping this visit was just an odd combo of ordering the wrong thing and a grumpy staff day. Honey, you probably deserve a second look.