Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Foodie Life, Or Life As I Know It...Part I

What a dilemma. I've got about an hour to get across town to 1st Ave to try this new sandwich place that I've heard is amazing. It's 95 degrees outside and I'm wearing dress shoes. A Roast Beef sandwich with Fresh Mozzarella, and drizzled with Au Jus, awaits me at a place called This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef. Honestly what is the dilemma? Nothing is out of the realm of possibility when it comes to eating the next best thing, you see this is what I set out for each and every day. Of course it doesn't always happen...there are lots of swings and misses. Really, that's what keeps me going because I believe that theres always something better, something new that will become my favorite whatever it is.  The sun is relentless in it's pursuit of my nearly bald head, I wish I was wearing shorts, and one of those safari hats with the built in fan. Sweat is pouring down my back, do I already look ridiculous? Maybe, but this is the life. I arrive just as I am about to burst into flames, a fate only reserved for vampires and construction workers. Of course the shop has no air conditioning...figures. That no longer matters. The trek is part of the experience even if I almost died, ok that's a bit of a stretch, but this is not for the everyman I tell you. Most people wouldn't do this. Most people wouldn't spend their first few hours of work deciding what is too far to walk for a delicious once in a lifetime sandwich.
I think I'm nuts. It borders on torture really. To walk halfway across town to a tiny whole of a shop where the ac is on the fritz, to try a sandwich that might just be a let down. How could it be a let down? I think. No way.
My attitude borders on blind faith assuming that no matter what I choose will be good, no in fact, great. Fried Chicken from Texas near Madison Square Park. Ice Cream sandwiches from a food truck in midtown. A Vietnamese sandwich on Broome Street. Whatever it is, it's going to be delicious. That's what I have to believe because I'm taking a huge chunk of my day to go and find the place. Honestly the excursion is part of the experience, it wouldn't be as exciting if all the places were right around the corner, it would just be easier. I'm not sure everyone understands my plight or gets my motivation. Who cares.

A little more than ten years ago I moved away from New York City, all the way across the country to Arizona. It was for work...well it was more than that. I wanted to experience something new, not in a food sense, I'd always been drawn to the Southwest...I don't know why. First it was Phoenix, a place where I felt like I was on vacation everyday. It was only for 9 months, but those were the most memorable 9 months I'd ever had, seeing a part of the country that I somehow always knew that I'd see. The brown landscape littered with the silhouettes of cactus and palm trees. Sunsets so vivd that I'd pull my car over because I couldn't imagine missing it. Was I the only one? Then promotion came and I was asked to leave a place I didn't want to leave, to go to Houston, a place I didn't want to go. This is where it all started.
Houston is an interesting city and I don't mean that in a good way. The best way to describe it is that it's all over the place. What do I mean by that? There is no rhyme or reason to how anything is laid out, there are no zoning laws and certainly no planning. Hey let's build an apartment complex next to this power plant, that seems like a good idea. OK, I'm exaggerating, but for a New Yorker it was like someone was playing SIM City that didn't really know how to play. What I will say about Houston was that it had a ton of great restaurants and one of my favorite grocery stores, Central Market. We lived in an apartment complex just down the street from the store, so we spent a lot of time there. Central Market was truly a gourmet store that offered top quality products in an absolutely gorgeous environment. And that was the draw for me. My favorite section of the store was the sandwich bar where several people stood creating made to order sandwiches. You could choose whatever you wanted or they had a list of some of their signature creations. Two of them were my favorites: The Cuban Sandwich and the Californian.
What makes a good sandwich is the bread, and at Central Market they had some of the best breads you could find in Texas, probably in the whole country. Up until that point I had been a spoiled New Yorker never having to worry about what kind of bread would be used for my sandwich since it was almost always good. Moving out west made me realize quickly that the bread quality wasn't nearly the same. Some say it's the water. I don't know, it's just better.
Back to the sandwiches...the Cuban was a delicious version of the traditional Cubano with it's pressed, crispy panini bread. It was my first true love at the store and I'd say that for the first few months in Houston that's was about all I ever ate. That was until I saw someone with the Californian Sandwich. I'm not a Wheat Bread guy and I would never have ever asked for any sandwich of mine to be made with it, but the day I first saw one of my colleagues eating that sandwich I was hooked. It had Fresh Sliced Turkey, Sliced Avocado, Sprouts, Chives, Cranberry Sauce, Mayo and the kicker, Bacon. All I could say was wow. Up until that point I had been pretty basic in my sandwich choices. Ham, Lettuce, Tomato and Mayo on a roll. Turkey, Lettuce, Tomato and Mayo. Breaded Chicken Cutlet, Lettuce, Tomato and Mayo. I never realized how boring I was. That was the moment I became a foodie.

To be continued...

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