Jersey City has been getting some love from New Yorkers lately. A new sweets truck appeared outside of the Whitney Biennial, Robert Sietsema recently praised South Indian restaurant Sapthagiri, and now we’re told Bobby Flay paid a visit to Newport Cuban joint Azucar for a Cuban-sandwich Throwdown that airs on the Food Network next Wednesday. So why cubanos in Jersey City and not Miami?
Azucar’s chef-owner, Cuban-born Nick Vazquez, tells us that indeed, Flay originally wanted to fly his crew to Miami, but a Food Network producer who happened to be a regular at Azucar convinced him to keep it local. According to Vazquez, film crews taped him over the course of a dozen hours for an unnamed project, and then asked if they could return for a live taping in front of an audience. “Half an hour into it I see this guy walking through the door and I look at him and go, ‘Jesus, that’s Bobby Flay!’ My first reaction was ‘Look at this, a celebrity from the Food Network is coming to see my show.’”
Over the course of the next couple of hours, Flay’s five chefs helped prepare his version of a Cuban, which Vazquez says wasn’t exactly authentic — “he uses pork shoulder and pulls it in a southern kind of way.” Vazquez’s sandwich, meanwhile, is made with Nieman Ranch pork loin, fresh Virginia-baked ham with molasses, Swiss cheese with very small holes, and a soft water-based bread that’s heavily coated in butter before it goes under a big press (Vazquez shuns panini presses).
You can taste it for yourself (and find out who wins) during a viewing party at Azucar next Wednesday night, when free samples will be doled out along with free wine to match.