A small upside to Beltranzaa beginning on the West Coast last night was that, thanks to time zones DVR, I was able to take in the band CAKE in Connecticut and still catch the entire Mets game without first finding out what happened.
The show was at a gorgeous outdoor venue called the Ives, so the wife and I packed sandwiches and got there a little early to sit outside and enjoy them, the pleasant weather, and the bevy of hippies performing in various styles of equilibristics.
The sandwich I ordered: A modified version of the Berg’s Pepper Barge, my signature sandwich at the deli where I used to work: Pepper ham, pepper turkey, hot soppresata, fresh mozzarella, and oil and balsamic vinegar dressing on a hard roll. While the O.G. Berg’s Pepper Barge came from DeBono’s in Rockville Centre, I ordered this one from an A&S, which has various locations in the New York Metro area.
The sandwich I received: Pepper turkey, hot soppresata and fresh mozzarella on a whole wheat roll (they were out of regular rolls).
Important background information: Last night made me realize how important the human element is in sandwich rating. Unless you’re frequenting an eatery pretty often, there’s no way to know if you’re getting a true sandwich artist or a poser, or even some guy just working there for the paycheck with no distinct love of sandwiches. And heck, maybe the dude who made my sandwich at A&S last night is generally excellent and just had a bad day — or maybe made one anomalously bad sandwich. Even Albert Pujols strikes out sometimes.
I like to think I was a great and consistent deli man back in my day, but for all I know I screwed up people’s sandwiches with some regularity and never found out about it. How many times have you gotten the slightly wrong order someplace, and how many times have you actually taken it back? I was a half hour away by the time I realized I got the wrong sandwich last night.
What it looks like:
How it tastes: Too dry. As you can see from the photo, there’s a ton of meat on there. And I know the instinct is to say that a ton of meat is necessarily a good thing, but again, I can’t stress the importance of sandwich balance enough. And that the bulk of the meat was turkey left this sandwich begging for moisture.
That’s why the sandwich, as conceived, had oil and vinegar on it, not to mention pepper ham. Ham is a moister, fattier deli meat than turkey, so it alone would have cut the dryness by replacing some of the turkey’s volume. Also, pepper ham is a wildly underrated deli meat — it’s crusted in black pepper, which looks almost ridiculous and too peppery from the outside but works perfectly when it’s sliced nice and thin.
The mozzarella and soppresata ensured that the sandwich was still decent. Fresh mozzarella, if it’s good, is straight-up unbelievable on just about anything, and A&S makes it as well as anywhere. And hot soppresata is a spicy, fatty, flavorful meat that guarantees a sandwich will not be bland.
But as I ate it, I yearned for some sort of sauce, something to dip it in so it wouldn’t parch my mouth. Even without the ham a little oil and vinegar would have added a ton of flavor and much-needed wetness to the thing. But alas, it was not to be.
What it’s worth: $9 is steep for a sandwich that’s not what you wanted. Since the A&S is extremely close to my house and was essentially on the way to the concert venue, there wasn’t a lot of other costs though. Still, if I didn’t want the pepper ham I could have gone elsewhere and gotten a sandwich for less.
The rating: 42 out of 100. Above replacement level, but not what I hoped for and nowhere close to matching its potential. Elements of an excellent sandwich, but missing too many crucial aspects of greatness. Jeff Francoeur.