What you see before you is the sandwich that I have been getting from Bay Cities since freshman year of high school, about 8 years ago. Though the other sandwiches from Bay Cities are phenomenal, this sandwich is my go to when I want something more refreshing, which, in Santa Monica, is very often. Who am I kidding: this sandwich is always my go to. The warmth of the bread combined with the cool crunch of cucumbers and shredded lettuce, added to the sweetness of maple turkey, the savory flavors of the swiss cheese and olives, plus, of course, the all important mayonnaise creates, in my opinion, a perfect sandwich.
Bay Cities Italian Deli has been a part of the Santa Monica food culture since 1925, providing delicious gourmet sandwiches and groceries from all over the world. From their cheese cases to the wine and liquor section, the olive oil aisle to the deli, Bay Cities offers some of the finest foods on the westside, or anywhere for that matter.
The idea of food as a way of creating social boundaries can be seen extremely well in this case: Bay Cities is a place that locals frequent: if you are new in town or visiting, there is little chance that you will find Bay Cities on your own. Thus, the people who eat and shop there are those that form an exclusive, elite group. This is not to say that “the other” (people who don’t know of Bay Cities or have never been there) cannot cross the boundary, but there is a hierarchy within the Bay Cities group based on the commitment of the individual in terms of the frequency of visits and how long they have been going there. Anthropologically, the “cult” of Bay Cities is a very interesting example of food forming an exclusive cultural identity founded in consumption.
On my trip to Santa Cruz a couple of weekends ago, Jess, Alex, and I decided to make a trip to The Counter, a burger restaurant founded in Santa Monica. Jess actually worked at the original Counter, before it was a chain, so it’s always fun to go with her because she’s tried everything on the menu. The menu itself is fun, as it is simply a clipboard with a checklist. Pick your meat, your bun (or lack thereof: the burger bowl), your toppings, your sauce…The Counter serves a seriously customizable burger.
Even though this burger is in a bowl, it still qualifies as a sandwich because the hamburger is probably among the most American of sandwiches. America is often criticized or demeaned for its lack of a national cuisine, but the hamburger as we know it has become a very American foodstuff. Thus, the hamburger is one of the most important sandwiches America has to offer, and it is almost impossible to find a burger outside of the States that could compete. Furthermore, The Counter is an embodiment of a very American eating characterization: customization. Outside of the US, changing a dish is very uncommon. Rarely does one hear “can you add cucumbers?” or “without mushrooms” or “can I have the sauce on the side?” Making a dish suited to the individual is something not often found in other countries, and so The Counter bases itself on one of the most American ideals.
Looking for a late bite to eat one night, I decided to take Jess to Fu Rai Bo, a Japanese restaurant I had been to once before. Serving tapas-like dishes, Fu Rai Bo is a great place to share food (something I am a huge fan of) and try traditional Japanese cuisine.
The hanpen cheese is one of Fu Rai Bo’s specialties: fish cake folded over American cheese, all wrapped in seaweed then breaded and fried. Everything about it is absolutely wrong, and yet there is no denying the amazingness that is the hanpen cheese. The second photo is also a hanpen cheese from a Japanese restaurant in London, called Cocoro. I decided to include this on AOAS because of Jess’s perfect description: “it’s like a fish grilled cheese.” And it does actually taste more like a fish sandwich, providing a unique experience at a japanese restaurant. This is, just like the previous post on tacos, why I love sandwiches. Every culture has their own version of the sandwich, creating endless culinary opportunities. Japanese cuisine has many sandwich variations, from this dish to sushi, one of the reasons it’s one of my favorite.