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The Underground Gourmet

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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.