Monthly Archives: August 2010

Blue Plate’s California Wrap

  • Blue Plate #1
  • Blue Plate #2

 

The wrap.  A sandwich variant now considered to be just as good as a sandwich, but with less carbs.  This wrap, from Blue Platein Santa Monica, was good, but nothing to write home about.  The California wrap was stuffed with chicken breast, avocado, jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and buttermilk ranch.  This wrap looks good on paper, but in practice was rather boring.  I thought about not including this sandwich for that reason, but figured it would be a good introduction to the wrap construct.

As seen before in the last sushi post, the wrap fits legitimately into the sandwich category.  Using the California wrap above as an example, it is apparent that all of the sandwich components are present: main meat, fixings such as lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados, the all-important cheese, and condiments. Put all together in a tortilla or other similar casing, the wrap takes the convenience of the sandwich to a whole new level.  Wraps can be eaten on the go more easily, as often only one hand is necessary, and there is little fear of ingredients falling apart or out the bottom.  Though many Americans choose the wrap for health reasons, eliminating carbs, this “convenience construct” as I will call it from now on, is a truly American value.  Our culture esteems convenience and ease, resulting in the etic idea that Americans are lazy (sorry everyone).  The wrap, therefore, takes the sandwich and transforms it to embody our culture’s values, while taking the concept to a new level.

Sushi at Nagao

  • Nagao Moonlight #3
  • Nagao TNT Roll
  • Nagao Crab Wrapped in Tuna and Halibut
  • Nagao Salmon Sushi
  • Nagao Scallop Sushi
  • Nagao Soybean Paper Roll with Salmon
  • Nagao Toro Sushi
  • Nagao Uni Sushi

For those of you who have been following AOAS, I’m sure that once you saw the tacos you must have been waiting for the sushi post.  Well, here it is.  My brother, Ethan, is leaving for college tomorrow, so my family went to Nagao for his last family meal.  Nagao is a wonderful sushi restaurant in Brentwood owned by sushi chef Nagao.  My family has been going there basically since the restaurant opened, so we love to sit in Nagao’s section at the bar.

But the real question is, why does sushi qualify as a sandwich?  Using the same logic that applied to the tacos, we can see that sushi can be deemed a conceptual sandwich.  Let’s take the TNT roll (photo #2) as an example, since it is the most common form of sushi roll: seaweed and rice wrapped around yellowtail, smelt eggs, green onion, cucumber, and avocado.  Immediately, similarities arise: the rice taking the place of the bread, the yellowtail as the main “meat” and the same fixings: cucumber, avocado, and green onion.  Basically, a sushi roll is like a wrap.  If you’re still skeptical, consider a handroll.

So then, how do the other sushi dishes pictured above fit in to the framework?  The soybean paper roll (photo #6) follows the same idea as the TNT.  As for the rest, let’s consider sandwiches from a different perspective than just the ingredients.  What else makes a sandwich?  Much of this answer comes from what a sandwich offers the eater: a meal that can take infinite forms, yet is simple to make and even easier to eat: no utensils required.  The ease of eating, or rather, the convenience of being able to eat this type of food with your hands, is a part of why sandwiches are often the most appealing choice for a meal.  This idea, that eating with your hands is the right way to eat, can also be seen in sushi.  Yes, chopsticks are involved when it comes to sushi, but often, fingers are the way to go.  In a similar vein, bread doesn’t always have to be the force holding the sandwich or wrap together, as seen in this post about In N Out.  Therefore, photo #3, crab wrapped in tuna and halibut, can be seen as little mini wraps.

Obviously, some of these photos really are a stretch in terms of arguing that sushi is like a sandwich, but they looked so good I just had to include them.

 

Reddi Chick

  • Reddi Chick Teriyaki Steak #1
  • Reddi Chick Teriyaki Steak #2

The Brentwood Country Mart is a great place for shopping and eating: located on 26th St just before San Vicente, the Country Mart hosts a food court-esque area as well as high end stores.  One of these eateries, Reddi Chick, has been there since 1979 serving up some of the best rotisserie chicken around.  They also delve into the barbeque side of things with ribs, coleslaw, and a full baked potato menu that has over 30 different options.

My usual order from Reddi Chick is a chicken basket: about half a chicken covered in great french fries.  This time, however, I decided to try one of their sandwiches, partially because I needed a sandwich for AOAS and partially because my brother had tried the teriyaki steak and I thought I would too.  My brother had told me that in terms of easy eating, this sandwich was no picnic: huge chunks of steak stuffed into a french roll does not make the most secure of sandwiches.  This, sadly, was the least of my problems with this sandwich.  The meat was very dry, possibly because it was the end of the day and just before closing, but regardless, it should have been juicier.  The sandwich also needed more stuff on it; I ended up adding barbeque sauce, and after still not being satisfied, had to pile coleslaw on it to help with the flavors.

Ultimately, I was rather disappointed with this sandwich.  I will, however, be giving Reddi Chick sandwiches another chance and will try the chicken sandwich, since I know the chicken is good.  Considering how much I love this place, I was expecting much more.

R + D Kitchen’s Special Tuna Burger

  • R + D Tuna Burger #1
  • R + D Tuna Burger #2

R+D Kitchen in Santa Monica has a relatively small menu, but every item is interesting and delicious.  To supplement the menu, they have multiple specials every day, including a sandwich of the day.  This tuna burger is a recurring special sandwich and was actually the first thing I ever ate from R + D.  It’s practically bigger than my head and almost impossible to eat, which means I generally end up resorting to a fork and knife.

What I like about this sandwich is that it furthers R + D’s style: American dishes at first glance, yet with enough of an interesting twist that the restaurant is always packed.  The tuna burger, for example, is constructed much more like a classic American hamburger than the usual Japanese influenced ahi tuna burger.  There is no sign of wasabi or anything remotely Asian on this sandwich, just good old-fashioned lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a nice mayo. In addition, the tuna was not a rare steak, but instead a patty, served on the rare side.  All in all, it almost felt like I was eating a regular hamburger, but with the added bonus that instead of red meat, I was indulging in sashimi grade tuna.  It is sandwiches like this, ones that combine familiar flavors into interesting combinations, that continue my love for food.

In N Out

  • In N Out #1
    In N Out #1
  • In N Out #2
    In N Out #2

The infamous In N Out.  With locations limited to California and Arizona, In N Out has become a must for visitors.  Though many may naysay and claim that fast food is fast food, In N Out is actually California’s first drive thru, and maintains a simple menu, unlike many other chains.  In addition, all of the ingredients used are fresh and much better quality than other fast food places: for example, their fries are made with vegetable oil.  The double double is In N Out’s signature burger, consisting of double meat, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and the establishment’s special spread, all between toasted buns.

Another interesting thing about In N Out is their secret menu, or as they call it, their “not so secret menu”.  This figures in to the idea I brought up in my last post about food defining social groups.  As you can see, my double double has no bun.  Instead it is “protein style”: wrapped in lettuce with no bread.  In N Out also offers to make the items on the menu “animal style,” or with extra spread, pickles, and grilled onions.  Furthermore, if the two patties and two cheese of the double double isn’t enough for you, In N Out offers a 3×3 or a 4×4.  In fact, when I was in high school, I witnessed a friend take down a 20×20.  That’s right, 20 meat and 20 cheese, and they had to serve it lying down in two to-go boxes.

What is interesting, however, is what In N Out has to say about their secret menu:

In N Out acknowledges the fact that the concept of a secret menu leads to exclusion, and chooses to negate the whole idea. Thus, there becomes a contradiction between what the customer wants, being a part of an exclusive group that knows the secret, and what In N Out wants, for everyone to feel like they are a part of the exclusive group, making it the exact opposite of exclusive.  This contradiction, however, does not alienate customers; instead, it makes In N Out accessible to more people, while still making the individual feel special.

The Casey Special

  • The Casey Special #1
    The Casey Special #1
  • The Casey Special #2
    The Casey Special #2
  • The Casey Special #3
    The Casey Special #3

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.

A Relaxing Sandwich

  • Relaxing Sandwich #1
    Relaxing Sandwich #1
  • Relaxing Sandwich #2
    Relaxing Sandwich #2

When we broke for lunch, I felt like I had to make a second sandwich.  I went with a sandwich on a baguette based on salami and pepper jack that was along the lines of what I usually make (cucumbers, lettuce, mayo) but spiced it up a little bit in honor of the earlier sandwich (tabasco, no avocado),.

Making this sandwich was revealing about food on a very different level than anything I have discussed so far.  Yes, what you eat can say a lot about who you are.  Yes, food helps define social groups and boundaries.  But food can be so much more: today, I turned to making a sandwich to help me relax and focus on a difficult decision that I have to make.  Everyone has a way to take a step back from their problems, and mine happens to produce sandwiches.  So even though my first sandwich of the day gave me the desire for a second one, it was the need for calm and to take my mind off the stress that led me into the crafty truck at lunchtime.

Experimenting

  • Experimenting #1
    Experimenting #1
  • Experimenting #2
    Experimenting #2

I managed to get into the craft services truck on the early side today, which meant that I had more options and was therefore undecided about what i wanted to make.  I am very indecisive when it comes to food, mostly because I’m generally alright with anything.  Luckily, someone recommended Hawaiian bread to me, and thus a starting point was found.  The roast beef is usually one of the first things to go, so I figured I would take advantage of it still being there, and obviously, cheddar is the appropriate choice for this sandwich meat.

When I make a sandwich at work, I always give half of it to Tony.  This is great for me because he gives me his critique on the sandwich, and great for him because he gets half of an awesome sandwich.  Even though (as previously mentioned) I am a big fan of mayo, Tony isn’t, so today I used mustard and no mayo, which meant I had yet another decision to make: what kind of mustard?  The Jack Daniels southwest spicy mustard appealed to me because I felt that it went well with not only the roast beef, but also with the Hawaiian bread.  This is another advantage of sharing my sandwich: it helps me understand how to make sandwiches that appeal to other people.  Knowing that the condiment will be different means that the other sandwich fixings have to be compatible in a different way.  On the other hand, I have a very hard time letting go of my other two favorite ingredients, lettuce and cucumber, so those were included as well.

It is this practice of substitution and experimentation that makes sandwiches so intriguing.  There are an infinite number of sandwiches possible…and I want all of them.

The Counter

  • The Counter
    The Counter

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.

Bay Cities Italian Deli

  • Bay Cities Pastrami #1
    Bay Cities Pastrami #1
  • Bay Cities Pastrami #2
    Bay Cities Pastrami #2
  • Bay Cities Pastrami #3
    Bay Cities Pastrami #3


Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica, CA makes, without a doubt, the best sandwiches I have ever tasted.  Everything about these sandwiches is perfect.  They are made meticulously, a quality I value quite highly, with the perfect amount of each ingredient, be it the delicious meats and cheeses, the finely shredded lettuce, or the homemade pepper salads, which is all topped off by the fact that they are made with the most amazing bread EVER.  Cripsy and flaky on the outside and warm on the inside, Bay Cities churns out fresh bread all day long.  It is also worth noting that these sandwiches are made in a deli that is actually a diverse and well stocked market selling high end products from all over the world.  Bay Cities is such an amazing place that from the minute it becomes reasonable to start thinking about lunch until almost dinner time, the market is jam packed.  At peak hours, you can wait an hour or more to order a sandwich.  Bay Cities is not just a deli or a market…it is an EXPERIENCE.  There is no other way to describe it.

The Godmother is the sandwich that Bay Cities is known for, but unfortunately, that post will have to come another day.  Today I chose the hot pastrami, with the works (mayo, mustard, onion, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, italian dressing, hot peppers).  This sandwich is melt-in-your-mouth good, with a great kick from the hot peppers.  The bread sops up all the great juices from the meat, plus the mustard and mayonnaise, which is great when eaten promptly, but if eating is delayed runs the risk of going soggy, one of the most horrible things that could happen to a sandwich.  Even with this peril, the sandwich is amazing and worth taking the chance.