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The Underground Gourmet

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Sandwich of the Week: Special Holiday Reuben!

The Underground Gourmet has nothing against sending a mail-order fruitcake to the gastronome on your holiday gift list (provided, of course, that the fruitcake is made by Berkeley preserves specialist June Taylor). But who in their right mind wouldn't rather receive a nice Reuben sandwich in the mail? Zingerman's, the excellent Ann Arbor–based purveyor of everything from Hungarian Liptauer cheese to sour-cream coffee cake, has practically made Reuben-giving a sacred holiday tradition — at least that's how it is chez UG. And although you will find no reference to corned beef, sauerkraut, or Swiss cheese in any of the works of Charles Dickens, according to Brad in the Zingerman's mail-order department, the company ships approximately 3,000 Reuben kits every year, 1,000 of which are ordered in the month of December. That may not approach national fruitcake numbers, but you have to consider the fruitcake regifting factor — no one, as far as the UG knows, has ever regifted a Zingerman's Reuben. s

Sandwich of the Week: Philly Slim's Cheesesteak Widowmaker

It's hard enough for the Underground Gourmet to maintain his svelte and soigné figure given the gluttonous nature of the profession. When devious restaurateurs clearly in defiance of the proposed trans-fat ban tempt him with subtle and sophisticated marketing ploys, the challenge becomes immeasurably greater. Such was the case the other day, as the UG gamboled along University Place on his way to the Union Square Greenmarket for some healthful burdock root and lamb's quarters when a chalkboard sign outside Philly Slim's Cheesesteak shop froze him in his tracks. "Come in and try a Widowmaker — steak, Whiz, bacon, onion rings, BBQ sauce" it read in a Helter-Skelterlike scrawl. "Why would someone want to eat a sandwich that claimed that it would kill him?" wondered the UG, his mouth beginning to drool and his limbs starting to twitch, as if he'd accidentally stepped on an electric Con Edison plate. Within seconds, having regained his composure, he entered the brightly lit shack and decided to find out. A few minutes later, the sandwich in question — a kind of saucy supersized cross between a Manwich and a traditional cheesesteak — appeared before him. Although the foot-long monstrosity did not kill the UG, it might have scratched a year or two off his life. At the very least, it is the type of sandwich that should you finish it in a single sitting, the management, in deference to your stamina, should offer it free of charge. Either that or commemorate the event with an engraved bronze plaque mounted prominently on the wall. Philly Slim's Cheesesteak, 106 University Pl., nr. 12th St.; 212-989-8281 — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld

Sandwich of the Week: Sausage on ... a Pretzel Roll?

Like old, happily married couples, certain sandwich fillings and certain sandwich breads seem made for each other. Consider a Hellmann's-laced lobster salad and the top-loading Pepperidge Farm hot-dog bun, for instance. Where would one component be without the other? For that matter, where would corned beef be without its turtle dove, rye? And who can imagine a sloppy gray blob of greasy chopped beef and fried onions swimming in a sea of Cheez Whiz separated from its squishy but beloved Philly-style roll?

Sandwich of the Week: Egg's Amazing Breakfast Treat

While the humble egg — gently poached at low temperatures and served in creative ways once reserved for hunks of meat or fish — is having its moment on dinner menus across the city, so too is the even humbler egg sandwich. Witness City Bakery's new fried-egg-bacon-and-Cato-Corner-cheese brunch biscuit, the "Egg on a Roll" on Prune's just-debuted lunch menu, and Starbucks's McDonald's-inspired line of breakfast sandwiches available throughout the day.

The Ham That Drives Men Mad

New York Magazine has gone Spain-crazy this week. Adam Platt sates his bottomless hunger at Boqueria, and Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld interview Spain's most illustrious chef, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. Let Grub Street pile on, then, with talk of the secret society of Spanish pork. This society may be unofficial, but we belong to it. It is made of men and women who have tasted the meat of the celebrated pata negra, or black-foot pig, and will do anything for more. "Once you taste ibérico, you can't compare it to anything else," Bar Jamón chef Andy Nusser has said. The society's holy grail, though, remains tantalizingly out of reach for Americans — even ones with a deep affinity for Spain.

Sandwich of the Week: Like Dragging Bacon Through a Car Wash With a Marmalade Spray Gun

The Underground Gourmet expects nothing less than divine sandwich inspiration from Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune. After all, this is the woman who introduced Triscuits with sardines and Dijon mustard to fine dining — to say nothing of a brunch that's like a cross between Barney Greengrass and H.R. Pufnstuf. Now Hamilton has added a lunch menu to her superb repertoire, and the centerpiece is a bacon-and-marmalade-on-pumpernickel sandwich. Hamilton says it's an old suburban-Jersey-family favorite, but its roots may in fact be British — something an eccentric grouse hunter might bring along with him for sustenance on the shoot.

Outrageously Simple, Extravagantly Expensive, and Totally Worth-It Sandwich

Although the Underground Gourmet makes it a practice never to go grocery shopping when beset by a ravenous, goatlike hunger — lest he return home with a king-size bag of Screaming Yellow Zonkers and some Geno's pizza rolls — whenever he's starved for a good sandwich, he ambles over to his friendly neighborhood imported-foods or cheese shop. Some of the best places to get a good sandwich in this town, after all, are where you wouldn't necessarily expect to find one.

Flatbush Farm Takes Haute Barnyard to the Next Level

Flatbush Farm 76-78 St. Marks Ave., nr. Sixth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-622-3276 With the possible exception of the Bay Area, Brooklyn may be the world epicenter of so-called local, seasonal, and — in the prevailing menu-speak — "organic whenever possible" cooking. In the past, it's been enough to cite farm sources (360, Franny's) or host farmer dinners (Applewood). Now, Kings County Haute Barnyard restaurants are confusing matters by naming themselves as if they were, in fact, produce-purveying competition for the Park Slope Coop. First came the Farm on Adderley, in Ditmas Park, and now there's Flatbush Farm, a bar and restaurant in the old Bistro St. Mark's space that started serving small plates over the summer and launched its dining-room menu late last month. Chef Eric Lind, late of Bayard's, has the right rural connections: His former boss, chef Eberhard Müller, co-owns Satur Farms on the North Fork and supplies Lind with locally grown produce. Aside from a few artfully displayed farm implements and staid portraits, the long, high-ceilinged space is more urban chic than country quaint; paper napkins and juice glasses for wine are the most notable signs of the restaurant's commitment to the Simple Life. But Lind's menu lives up to its rustic promise with hearty dishes like spaetzle with mushroom ragout and lamb shoulder with bubble and squeak. One night's pork goulash was a tough, chewy disappointment, but the special salmon-cake appetizer was a textural triumph, moist and meaty over a bed of leeks and grainy mustard. One of those and a Pinkus Organic Ur Pils in the Indian-summer-worthy garden is about as bucolic as Brooklyn gets. — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld Read Adam Platt's Haute Barnyard top ten.

Sandwich Purists, Prepare to Swallow Your Indignation

Introducing the Underground Gourmet's Sandwich of the Week, a special contribution to Grub Street. Nothing rankles peevish sandwich purists more than the compulsion among today's freewheeling chefs to improve upon a classic by substituting brazenly nontraditional upmarket ingredients for the tried and true (witness the Wagyu cheesesteak). Said purists, though, should swallow their indignation along with the spectacular "Three-Terrine Sandwich" that recently debuted on the late-night menu at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. The toothsome concoction is crafted from shards of succulent ham, chicken pâté, and a particularly heady veal-head cheese, all made in house and topped with pickled cucumbers, carrot, daikon, Kewpie mayo, and hot sauce. A gourmet bánh mì, for sure, but a bánh mì just the same, even if co-chef Tien Ho, its humble creator, abstained from using the name since he serves it on a Sullivan Street Bakery ciabatta instead of the traditional rice-flour-enhanced baguette. If only all sandwich maestros were such sticklers. — Rob Patronite & Robin Raisfeld

The Underground Gourmet Contemplates Panini, Head Injuries

In their guise as the Underground Gourmet, dynamic duo Rob and Robin weigh in this week with an enthusiastic review of Brooklyn 'ino-homage Bocca Lupo (translation: wolf's mouth). They single out the panini, calling it "perfect finger food, sparingly filled with sharp complementary flavors," but not before answering the Big Question: Do they ever see themselves opening their own restaurant? (Answer: Yes, if they were somehow left with "severely diminished mental faculties.")

The Latest Gourmet Food Cart Is Here

There are two types of New Yorkers, the Underground Gourmet has always thought. There are those for whom eating a street-vendor hot dog (a.k.a. dirty-water dog) is an urban rite of passage, not to mention a show of defiance in this age of culinary correctness. And then there are those for whom it is an indication of mental incapacity, a deviant act that should best be left to ne'er-do-wells and unsuspecting tourists or healthy adults caught up in an emergency situation — like being locked overnight in a bank vault with a cache of Sabretts. Jeremy Spector, the chef of Employees Only, falls into the latter camp.