Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

Man, I haven’t even thought about it yet. Actually, I haven’t even thought about the Super Bowl much at all. I’ve spent most of my days wrapping things up at the office, and most of my nights struggling with jetlag and trying to sleep. Joe Flacco favors Haribo Gold-Bears, as I do. That’s about all I’ve got, Super Bowl wise. I pretty much missed the NFL Playoffs.

I’ll probably have wings. That’s unoriginal, I know, but I haven’t had much time to plan a menu, I certainly haven’t ordered ahead, and I’m totally sweet at making wings. So I’ll get to Fairway and buy up some wings (assuming they’re not already sold out) and Buffalo those suckers up. Maybe I’ll talk my wife into making guacamole, and probably she’ll be excited enough for her first Super Bowl in years without any looming obligations that she’ll do it. So I’ll have wings and guacamole, like everyone else. And then I’ll fall asleep in my easy chair before halftime, because this jetlag.

Yes! We ate incredibly well in Southeast Asia. A lot of that meant stuff we already knew about — pad prik king, pho, banh mi and the like. But some popular regional foods were new to us, especially khao soi in Northern Thailand and cao lau in Hoi An, Vietnam. They’re both noodle dishes, and, interestingly, they both include both boiled and fried noodles. But the similarities end there: The khao soi noodles are swimming in a yellow curry broth with vegetables, the cao lau are served with fresh pork, lime and an array of fresh herbs. They’re both amazing, and I’ve used Menupages.com‘s find-a-food search to figure out where I’m going to try both in New York.

I’m not sure it counts as cultural, but the most eye-opening thing was definitely the difference in traffic patterns and roads. I think Americans — at least this one — tend to take our infrastructure for granted, but it’s pretty amazing the way so much of the contiguous part of this country is linked by our interstate system, and how you can drive in a reasonably direct path from anyplace to anyplace mostly via huge, well-paved two- and three-lane highways. In Ho Chi Minh City, a bustling, modern metropolis of over nine million people, we needed to take all sorts of odd sidestreets and alleys to get from the airport to our hotel — and our hotel was close to the center of town. I don’t know if it was something the driver was doing to skirt traffic or what, but it was enough to make a lifelong New Yorker appreciate the Van Wyck. And the traffic inside Ho Chi Minh City is unlike any I’ve seen anywhere: thousands upon thousands of mopeds and seemingly far, far fewer traffic lights per intersection than we’re accustomed to, creating an oddly ordered chaos expertly and somewhat patiently negotiated by the locals but appearing completely overwhelming to tourists. Check out some of the videos on YouTube. It’s mesmerizing.

And all that’s to say nothing of the grueling songthaew trips we took in Southern Laos, which were amazing and confusing enough to make for their own blog post sometime when I’m not charged with cleaning out my desk before getting out of here.

Friday Q&A, pt.3: Food stuff and randos

Top 10? Gil! What am I, Zagat? Here are the Top 5: 5) Adobo torta, 4) No. 7 Sub Club, 3) Fry bread taco, 2) P.B.L.T., 1) Jibarito.

Also, for what it’s worth: I’ve seen so many year-end top-sandwiches list, and almost all of them contain multiple sandwiches that I’ve tried and don’t think belong anywhere near a top sandwiches list. I suspect some of it is flavor-of-the-month stuff and some of it is sample-size issues.

My wife and I enjoyed some leftover Chinese food and watched old episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Netflix. Pretty good way to celebrate your birthday, actually.

Notably, the Chinese food was fish, and I enjoyed it very much. It tasted more like the delicious sauce it came in than it did fish, but this is a huge step for me. My goal is to have as few dietary restrictions as possible, so I’d like to like fish, and I never really have before.

Wait, is anyone against ice cream sandwiches? Like, anyone in the world? The only possible problem I can think of with an ice cream sandwich is that sometimes if you get a freshly made ice-cream sandwich and squeeze the cookies too hard, the ice cream pushes out of the side and you have to scramble to lick up all the ice cream before it drips all over your hands and you get brain freeze. But that’s just really not so bad.

I welcome ice cream sandwiches of all varieties. I think the classic, store-brand, rectangular ice-cream sandwich is a massively underrated dessert treat. I like how you get the weird, delicious cookie sludge all over your hands while you eat it.

Typically it’s wildly overrated. What’s worse than New Year’s Eve? Until you’re old and crotchety, you wind up pressured by someone to spend $100 on some stupid open-bar thing that’s going to be a nightmare and packed with people but because you’ve invested in it you can’t even leave if it sucks.

This year, I’ll eat fancy cheese in my apartment then go watch the fireworks in Central Park. Maybe old-person New Year’s Eve is actually underrated.

Yikes. I really hope I’m never in any type of disaster that requires robots to uncover me, and I really, really, really, really, really hope that if I ever am, they don’t send f-ing cyborg cockroaches to root me out. Trauma on trauma.

Beats me. I usually eat my fill at Citi Field, and I almost never get pizza there. I know that if you go west along Roosevelt Avenue from the park, there are a bunch of little storefront eateries and a few of them always smelled pretty good when I would go out that way for a car service ride home at my old job. And obviously if you go east on Roosevelt into Flushing, there’s pretty much all you can handle in terms of Asian food (except Laotian food, incidentally. As far as I understand it, there’s no readily available Laotian food to be purchased in New York City. Luckily I should be getting plenty of Laotian food in Laos soon). Anyone? Good pizza near (but presumably not inside) Citi Field?

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

I’m tempted to say the Breaded Steak from Ricobene’s, the highest rated sandwich ever reviewed on this site, but I’m pretty sure I’d go with the Full Bird, the sandwich that made me love sandwiches. I think I’d want something comforting in my final hours on earth, and that’s a sandwich that makes me feel like I’m at peace with everything, and home.

No disrespect to the bankers out there, but no. I do often dream of having much more money, though, and banking would probably be a good way to get about that. But I really don’t have the head for the particulars; I’d start thinking about how much money changes hands, and how that money rarely takes physical form and is instead just this weird ethereal wealth-cloud zipping through wires and how serious everyone’s being about this formless thing that seems six steps removed from anything of real, tangible value, and then I’d giggle a lot and lose focus on whatever banking stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Also, I don’t even really know what bankers do.

I think the only way I could actually do it would be as concept art. I’m not even sure if it’s true, but I read one time about David Byrne scheduling business meetings with executives, then showing up and putting on bizarre Powerpoint art presentations. I think I could do that type of banking.

Thin, definitely. No one wants a steak-sized portion of deli ham. Thinner slices allow for better ribboning, and better ribboning makes for better sandwiches. That’s proven.

One issue I’ve had though is it feels like people go so crazy with requesting their deli meat sliced thin that everyone’s always trying to one up each other, like, “Sliced extra thin!” First off, the deli man at anyplace worth its salt knows that you probably want your meats sliced thin, so even if you don’t say anything you’re going to get reasonably thin slices of meat. Second, there’s no “extra thin,” at least not that you want. When you specify you want your meat sliced thin, the guy’s going to set the slicer to make it about as thin as it can be without shredding the meat. Extra thin is a big (delicious) pile of shredded meat that’s impossible to do anything with after it’s wrapped up and it basically reconstitutes.

At good New York pizza places, they’re largely unnecessary. A good, well-proportioned slice of New York cheese pizza is like a perfect thing. There’s no need to upset the balance. Sometimes I’ll order one slice of cheese and one slice of something meaty (buffalo chicken, perhaps) for the sake of having protein, but chicken works better than pork on pizzas — and no disrespect to pork here, obviously — because pork is crazy greasy and so is pizza.

Also: Pepperoni pizza is wildly overrated. It’s fine, and I’m not going to turn down a slice if you hand me one. But I would way rather you give me a small stack of thinly sliced cold pepperoni and a slice of cheese pizza than watch bake that pepperoni onto the pizza. Not a synergistic relationship. Once the pepperoni heats up, the fat drips out and the pizza becomes unreasonably greasy.

Do you eat seafood and shellfish, or no? This sushi sandwich was awesome. And if I could eat lobster rolls without getting sick from them, I would do so as often as my budget would allow. Plus, I’ve recently decided to learn to like fish, so I’ll get back to you with more ideas if you’re open to fish.

If not, it’s pretty much falafel. The upside is that falafel’s amazing. Also, I’ve heard really good things about the broccoli sandwich at No. 7 Sub, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to order it when there are so many meatier options.

Our man Ceetar’s referring to a weird recent Twitter thing wherein I have been accused (by many people, multiple times) of Tweeting as @JedSmed, a now defunct account known for making jokes about the Mets. It’s just not true. I don’t particularly care if people think it’s true, but I don’t want to take credit for the guy’s material either. Also, I can’t understand why anyone thinks I’d do that. I make jokes about the Mets on Twitter under my own name, both for sad pathetic Twitter validation and because it increases my exposure and helps me promote this site. Why would I put effort into making other jokes about the Mets on a second, anonymous account? Also, I write thousands of words here every day and manage all the real-job parts of my job, to boot. How much time do people think I have?

I started a fake Twitter once. I’m not going to tell you what it is. It was a stupid meta-joke about fake Twitters, no one seemed to get it, and it lasted about two weeks. That was the only time I’ve been moved to do so. Have I mentioned that I’m incredibly vain? I like having my jokes attributed to me.

Friday Q&A, pt. 3: The randos

Brief note: I am shocked, horrified and generally miserable after what happened in Connecticut this morning. It’s a shocking, horrifying and miserable thing. I’ve got nothing insightful to say about the subject.

I’ve seen several people suggest that anything written about anything else today is unnecessary and/or unimportant, and I certainly hear that. But nothing I ever write about here is necessary or important, and I don’t really know what else to do this afternoon but answer some silly questions about silly topics in a silly fashion. Is this the time for that? Of course not. But if you think about it that way, it’s never the time for that.

In other words: Please don’t take this stupid blog post as a lack of respect for the awful gravity of a shooting that killed 27 innocent people, 18 of them children. It’s not meant that way; it’s just a stupid blog post. I don’t blame you if you don’t feel like reading stupid blog posts today, so if that’s the case just click away. There’ll be plenty of stupid blog posts here whenever you feel up to returning.

Meggings, Rob has explained to me, are leggings for men. I don’t know why they need their own distinct name, since the term “leggings” is not at all gendered to begin with.

Regardless, they’re not for me. Maybe they’re comfortable, but my issue with pants isn’t their name but how constricting and unventilated they are, and that doesn’t seem likely to change with meggings.

Also, you guys can’t see my lower half on the web videos, but I’ve got disproportionately large legs. It’s a weird family thing. My brother held our high school’s squat record until I broke it eight years later. It’s a useful body type for pushing stuff around, but it’s decidedly the wrong build for tight pants of any sort. What I’m looking for is more of a toga or muumuu.

That is an outstanding article about a $26 chicken sandwich, and I’m far too vain to callously recommend lengthy sandwich reviews besides my own. This one’s funny and well written, and it demonstrates a very strong understanding of the nature of sandwiches. Kudos to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, whose Food Lab posts are also consistently interesting.

These sentiments should sound familiar to TedQuarters faithful:

…the First Rule of Sandwich-Making: a sandwich must be greater than the sum of its parts.

There are implications to this statement. In order to achieve sandwich greatness, you don’t necessarily need to start with great ingredients—so long as when you add those ingredients together and put them between bread, if they are thus improved, then you have succeeded at the art of sandwich-making.

I didn’t watch the whole thing; I got home late and fast forwarded through most of it, breaking when I saw Adam Sandler, when I noticed that Kanye was wearing a skirt, and then when I caught up with the DVR during Billy Joel’s set. As a Long Islander, I am oddly comforted by the music of Billy Joel and found myself getting a cup of warm milk and taking out my contact lenses during his performance — Billy Joel was literally putting me to sleep.

I don’t particularly like Coldplay and I thought Chris Martin sounded like he might have had a cold or something, but Michael Stipe’s appearance was great. It made me think of what other R.E.M. songs I would have liked to hear, which made me think of “Stand,” which made me realize “Stand” is probably too cheery for the occasion, which ultimately made me turn down the volume during Chris Martin’s last song so I could see if there was a way to sing a sad version of “Stand.” It’s not really possible. If you slow it down a lot you can make it sound sort of wistful, but without changing the melody you’re not really going to make it full-out sad.

I thought Paul McCartney sounded pretty great, and the pyrotechnics during “Live and Let Die” were amazing. I wish he did more Beatles songs and I wish he played more than one song with Nirvana, though. And I need to go back and watch Roger Waters’ set.

Maybe. The operative part of this question is “if you were a monkey.” If I’m a monkey, I’m not into the same things that the human me is into. What do we know about monkeys? Monkeys like eating things, climbing things and throwing feces at people. You can do all of those things at Ikea!

Plus, presumably the monkey version of me wouldn’t be holding a lot of cash, both because I don’t often hold a lot of cash as a human and because monkeys are more or less unemployable. And say what you will about the food at Ikea, it’s reliably a pretty great deal. Don’t sleep on those Swedish meatballs.

Problem is, you need something that you could stomach for breakfast and something that you wouldn’t get sick of too quickly. My instinct is to say it’d be my mom’s ravioli, but I don’t know that I could handle eating it for breakfast. So it’s probably a cheeseburger, preferably one with lettuce and tomato so I get my vegetables. I could pretty much always go for a cheeseburger.

Oh, ahh… this is going to be sadder than it should be. Growing up, my family had one ornament that was a really tacky gold metallic bird with bendable legs that clamped on to the top of a branch — like a bird, get it? — instead of dangling from the branch. Everyone thought it was pretty ugly, but my brother always thought the bird was the neatest thing. The original got lost or broken or thrown out at some point before he died, but after he died, I got my parents and sister similar birds at a Christmas market in France. After I got married and started getting my own tree, my wife got me one of my own. It’s great; the bird clamps on top of the branch like real birds do. Very neat.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff and randos

Via email, Carl writes:

Ted, I just ate a sandwich where the bread was too hard and all the softer stuff inside the sandwich squeezed out to  the sides every time I took a bite. It kinda ruined the sandwich for me. Do you know of any ways to stop this from happening so an otherwise good sandwich doesn’t lose its sandwichy goodness?

I’d have to see the bread to know if this will work, but you can try “scooping it out,” the common carb-cutting technique. If the crust is strong enough to hold up, pulling out some of the bready middle should create open spaces to contain the sandwich stuff, allowing it to essentially replace the part of the roll you’ve removed rather than trying to crush it between two sides of a roll.

Also, I don’t know what you’ve got inside the sandwich, but maybe try piling all the ingredients on one half, topping it with cheese, and toasting it in a toaster oven for a minute to let the cheese melt and act to bind the rest of the sandwich stuff.

What about pheasant stuffed with squab stuffed with quail? Squab is a massively underrated meat, for what it’s worth. Really good stuff.

Alternately, what about pork stuffed with lamb stuffed with beef? Obviously the cow is the biggest of these animals, but I figure you’re not going to want the beef on the outside because you’d have to dry it out to get the pork cooked. But pork on the outside means maybe you can cook the lamb and beef to medium rare, with the added benefit of the delicious pork fat seeping into the interior meats. Actually, I can’t believe I’ve never considered this before. Somebody get John Madden on the phone. We’re past due for the Porlambeef.

The Jets in a baseball game against the Mets, definitely. Who’s your offensive line, if you’re the Mets? Just based on size alone, and picking from the Mets’ whole 40-man roster, you’d probably have to go with Lucas Duda and Robert Carson at the tackles, Jeurys Familia and Anthony Recker at guards and Frank Francisco at center. Those guys would get trounced by the Jets’ defensive line. No matter how good Kirk Nieuwenhuis is in the backfield, the Mets aren’t getting a single play off against the Jets’ D. Also, the Jets have way more dudes, and for the Mets to field a full football team with everyone playing only one way, they’re going to have to field some guys who will be absolutely torn apart by NFL players.

The Jets’ ace in the hole, also, is that Jeremy Kerley can supposedly throw fastballs in the mid 90s. And every guy in their receiving corps and defensive backfield is probably fast enough and coordinated enough to lay down an occasional bunt hit then steal some bases, and cover a lot of territory defensively. The Mets would obviously still kick the crap out of them in baseball, but I think it’d be a closer game.

Not this week, sorry. I was kind of hoping no one would notice. On average, I wind up eating probably three or four sandwiches for every one that gets reviewed, and I’m planning a vacation for January and trying to be healthy and save money until then. I’m not intentionally avoiding sandwiches or anything, I just haven’t been eating sandwiches with the frequency I typically need to find a sandwich worthy of review. If I happen upon one, I’ll write it up here. More on the vacation certainly to follow, but I expect it will provide much fodder for food porn here.

It’s cool that there’s going to be some sort of professional sport on Hempstead Turnpike once the Islanders leave, but unless the Cosmos bring back Pele they’re not going to recapture the magic of having Pele on your soccer team.

I’m for it. Heartily. One of the best perks at my last job was that the soda machines had cans of Yoo-hoo for 50 cents. This office has free soda, but no Yoo-hoo. It’s good because it’s both a beverage and a dessert.

I don’t know. Wikipedia says it doesn’t even necessarily have meat in it anymore, which is about the most flagrant type of false-advertising. You can’t name a food item for another, more established type of food item when it has no relationship to that thing.

“Hey have you tried lingonbacon?”
“No, but it sounds amazing.”
“Sorry, it’s a vegetable, and it sucks.”

Friday Q&A, pt. 3: Food stuff

Via email, Nick writes:

I am a sandwich enthusiast not unlike you. But one component you do net seem to delve into as much as you should is Ssuce. Not Sriracha or Cholula, I’m talking a sauce with many components that can turn a regular sandwich into… well I will let you finish that. Come on Ted, I am disappointed.

I followed up with Nick to ask what sort of sauce he meant, if not Sriracha or Cholula — two of the saucier hot sauces, for what it’s worth. He added:

I’m talking a house sauce. There’s a couple places in my home town that I go just to buy some sauce to keep in my fridge (picante, ranch). I put them on any sandwich to change the dynamic or to dip sandwich in. It is nearly impossible to replicate these sauces in your own kitchen and not your standard store bought. A good sauce is like the bloodline of good food.

I didn’t realize I have given sauces the short shrift here, so I apologize to anyone else disappointed or in some way offended. It’s always a case by case thing, but typically I feel sauces are best as a complement to the rest of the ingredients, not the dominant flavor. So I usually discuss sauces when they are incorporated in good sandwiches and rarely otherwise.

Here are three sauces I very much enjoy:

- Green sauce from Pio Pio: The green sauce from Pio Pio is pretty much the best thing. It’s spicy, but in a different way than most spicy things, and it’s creamy and tangy and somehow fresh tasting. There are a bunch of Pio Pios around the city. No sandwiches there, but the chicken is delicious. Get some, then take home as much of the green sauce as they’ll let you have. It’s good on everything.

- Honey mustard from Chili’s: Judge away. The honey mustard from Chili’s has to be at least 90 percent pure fat, with the remaining ten percent contributing to a pleasant honey-mustardy mix of sweetness and tang. It’s amazing. You guys.

- Barbecue sauce from Rocklands: Rocklands is a four-location barbecue restaurant in the DC area. One of the locations happens to be right near the now-closed bar where my band used to play every week, which led to a lot of Rocklands. Really good barbecue, really good barbecue sauce. It’s the more liquidy type of barbecue sauce, served hot with a ladle from a cauldron. And you have to work around the onions if you don’t particularly like onions. But it’s great: Very vinegary, a little bit sweet.

Obviously various breads are useful for various sandwiches, but for a straightforward deli sandwich I like a straightforward Kaiser roll. It’s got a nice crunchiness to the crust, it’s sturdy enough to handle a good saucing, and it’s airy enough on the inside to get out of the way of the sandwich stuff.

For what it’s worth, I generally prefer a Kaiser roll even to its larger cousin, the hero. No disrespect to heroes, but a hero is usually slightly more food and more bread than I’m looking to eat. Often I eat it all anyway, though.

Apparently, the Kaiser roll is thought to be named for Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. It was invented in Vienna while bakers there were experimenting with new leavening methods.

My method is to go to Fairway, hang around the cheese counter until the redheaded guy who kind of looks like Bill Burr shows up, then ask him what cheeses I should get so he tells me all about their cheese selection and gives me a bunch of free samples.

We brought something called Young Farmer’s Gouda to my parents’ house on Thanksgiving and it was excellent. I also very much like a cheese they have at Fairway called Midnight Moon.

I think a good method for a cheese platter is to mix up your cheeses. Maybe go with one from cow milk, one from sheep’s milk and one from goat’s milk, or one sharp, one mild and one stinky.

Can 1-year-olds eat deli meat? If you’re entertaining, you’re going to want a couple of things everyone likes. Turkey is always a safe bet, maybe honey-maple turkey if you want to be fancy about it. Maybe roast beef for that, too, but roast beef is tricky because good roast beef typically comes in huge slices that aren’t as easily manageable. Ham’s also fine, but I feel like people who are into ham would also be down with trying the soppressata and hot coppa that you should also buy, so it might be unnecessary. A lot of this depends on who’s coming over. If your friends are lame they’re not going to want to try exotic Italian meats, and you might want to consider making new friends.

Well, a sandwich on a croissant is fine. In that case, the croissant’s basically just acting as a soft roll and it’s plenty delicious.

A burger on a doughnut is another thing entirely. I haven’t tried one and I haven’t had the opportunity to try one. It’s a bit like bungee jumping, in that it’s something I will always maintain and actually believe that I’m willing to do until I’m faced with actually being able to do it, at which point I grow timid. Burger on a doughnut. It’s obviously gimmicky, and I think it might be taking everything way too far. It’s hard for me to figure out how a doughnut would improve a burger.

Friday Q&A, Wednesday edition pt. 2: Food stuff

Dark meat and it’s not even close. The myth of white-meat superiority in poultry is one of our nation’s most persistent, but I’m fine with people perpetuating it as long as it means more (and less expensive) dark meat for distinguishing carnivores. Dark meat is moister and tastier. And as an added bonus, turkey legs are the obvious best for eating with your hands like you’re Genghis Khan in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Well, it’s all about proportions and structure, and you sort of need to eyeball it as best you can and trust your instincts because everyone’s working with a slightly different arsenal of ingredients. Heartier breads and rolls are obviously going to be better for holding the sandwich together, but using them means you’re going to want to go easy on the stuffing — an integral element of the leftover sandwich.

I will say this: Turkey — especially white-meat turkey — can be pretty dry, and cranberry sauce packs a very powerful flavor. You’re going to need some condiments to moisten up that turkey, and it’s going to be tempting to just slather on enough cranberry sauce to do the whole job. But unless you want to eat a sandwich that just tastes like cranberry sauce, you’re making a mistake. I’d probably use mayo on one side of the bread and cranberry sauce on the other, to keep things moist but moderate the cranberry flavor.

It’s very flattering. Same thing any time I get an email from a reader who has just enjoyed a sandwich somewhere.

Part of the appeal of sandwiches, I think, is that they’re practically universal. So many people eat sandwiches. Many of us have eaten, in our lives, a ton of sandwiches. Nearly every culture has its own version of protein wrapped in starch. They’re often inexpensive, they’re (at their best) unpretentious, and in many cases they can be eaten almost anywhere.

When someone is excited after eating a delicious sandwich, he could email just about anybody he knows to tip them off and elicit some sort of response. Think about it: Say you got a random, unsolicited email from a former colleague at an old job that you hadn’t spoken to in years, and the subject line said, “great sandwich!” You’d open that email, right? And even though you might think it weird that he thought to share the details of his great sandwich with you of all people, you’d ultimately be pretty happy that he did because now you know about it and who doesn’t want more great sandwiches on their radars?

So every time someone emails me with a sandwich tip or asks for my opinion about sandwich construction, it feels pretty great. Thanks for choosing me as a source of sandwich information or as a comrade in sandwich passion. I mean it.

You know? It’s a novel idea but your question suggests you know the reason why it doesn’t exist: I don’t think turkey presents enough value over chicken to make it worth dealing with on a more regular basis. Turkeys are huge and cooking them is a pain. What’re you getting in a turkey taco that you can’t get in a chicken taco? Slight turkey flavor. Not worth the trouble, I don’t think.

Sandwich of the Week

The sandwich: Milano Special from Milano Market, 89th and 3rd in Manhattan.

The construction: Ham, salami, ham capicola, mortadella, lettuce, tomato, and roasted peppers with oil & vinegar on semolina bread. On the menu, the Milano Special comes with provolone cheese, but I substituted fresh mozzarella.

This is important: If you’re getting a sandwich from an Italian deli boasting homemade mozzarella, always get the mozzarella on the sandwich. That’s no knock on delicious provolone, it’s just that fresh mozzarella is pretty much the creamiest, tastiest, best thing. And chances are whatever sandwich you’re ordering already has all the saltiness you need and then some, so while the provolone might be a bit more assertive, it’s probably unnecessary.

Important background information: Milano Market gets its second Sandwich of the Week due mostly to its proximity to my apartment. My since-revived car died in a parking spot right outside Milano Market, so a visit became inevitable as soon as it was clear I’d have to spend time waiting by the car for roadside assistance.

Also: I worked in an Italian deli for three years and made countless Italian heroes. But though it’s entirely possible the deli had some set list of ingredients for an Italian hero specified somewhere, I never, ever followed it. To me, a request for an Italian hero meant an invitation for improvisation. The sandwich created depended on my levels of energy and enthusiasm that day, the customer’s friendliness while ordering, and the meats we had at our disposal.

For the uninitiated, the following is a brief primer on select Italian deli meats less common than Genoa salami and pepperoni:

Capicola: Not to be confused with Ham Capicola or Cappy Ham — ham seasoned in the style of capicola — legit capicola (or coppa) might be the most underrated and underutilized Italian cold cut. It’s cured ham that packs a ton of salty flavor, and the hot variety adds a lot of peppery spice. Capicola needs to be sliced thin or it will be too chewy for sandwich purposes, but it can be a fine, less-expensive substitute for prosciutto.

Mortadella: Basically the Italian version of baloney and, in fact, the Bologna-based product from which every first grader’s favorite lunchmeat derives its name. Mortadella brings a slightly porkier taste than baloney and perhaps even more grease, as evidenced by the visible hunks of lard in its constitution. Mortadella is most useful to add bulk to a sandwich, and can be avoided on Italian heroes aimed at finer palates. For some reason, some mortadellas contain pistachios. No one knows why.

Pancetta: Rarely incorporated on sandwiches despite extraordinary awesomeness, pancetta is a fatty Italian jowl bacon that complicates the sandwich-making process by being better cooked. A great option for an Italian take on the classic chicken cutlet with bacon and cheese.

Prosciutto: Extremely expensive and difficult to work with, prosciutto is awesome on its own or wrapped around appetizers but often suboptimal on sandwiches. Prosciutto sliced thicker than transparently thin becomes unwieldy on a sandwich, so its inclusion requires an expert deli person and a well sharpened slicer. It boasts so much flavor and is so costly that you’ll rarely see more than a thin layer on a sandwich. Due to its delicate nature, prosciutto is often at its best on simpler sandwiches, perhaps just with some mozzarella and roasted peppers.

Soppressata: For my money, soppressata is the best deli meat. It’s a more coarsely ground cousin to the common salami with a heartier, spicier flavor. Salamis are by their nature both very airy and very easy to slice thin, so ordering a half pound of soppressata yields a much higher stack of meat than the same weight in ham.

If I’m putting together an optimized Italian hero and I’ve got everything available, I’m probably using ham cappy for some meaty bulk, coppa and soppressata for flavor, maybe a thin layer of pepperoni for spice and color, fresh mozzarella, oil and balsamic vinegar, and roasted red peppers.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Like a solid Italian hero. Which is to say: unspectacular, but delicious.

The dominant texture comes from the bread, a crunchy, crusty enclosure for the hunk of meatstuff inside. The lettuce provides crispiness too, and helps give the thing a pleasant, familiar party-hero feel. But since the slipperiness of the lettuce also made the sandwich more difficult to hold together while eating, I’d quibble that its added value in texture did not compensate for the hassle of negotiating it. But that’s often the case with lettuce on sandwiches.

Though, as is typical, many of my favorite Italian deli meats are not on this particular Italian hero, the meat flavors here all blend together into a tasty, salty, greasy, porky combination, all complemented by the sweetness and tang from the roasted red peppers.

And fresh mozzarella… man. It’s a weird thing the way something so subtle on its own can so strongly improve any sandwich, but it’s undeniable. Its hint of flavor powers through, and it provides a sort of fluffy creaminess that both thickens and moistens the sandwich from the inside. Outstanding.

What it’s worth: $9.50, but it’s probably enough for two meals if you’re not hungry from sitting by your car looking at the delicious hanging meats and piled breads in the windows of Milano Market.

How it rates: 72 out of 100. Not something I’d go out of my way for and not close to the best sandwich I’ve had at the Milano Market, but a strong neighborhood Italian hero.

Friday Q&A, pt. 2: Food stuff

What kind of vile hypothetical is this? Are we counting just traditional American-style belly bacon, or does this extend to jowl bacon and back bacon as well? And do I get to choose which pinky?

Depends on the deal, but I’m probably severing the pinky. I might ask for a grace period to try life without bacon for a year or so to consider how frequently I use my pinky versus how often I want bacon.

But outside of typing, I really don’t have much all that use for my right pinky. I need the left for playing the guitar even though I don’t use it as much as I should when I do. The right one is sometimes useful for little grace-note flourishes on the bass, but those are hardly worth bacon. I bat and throw right-handed in baseball, but I’m pretty certain I could do both just as terribly with one fewer digit.

I’m glad someone asked about Hostess. This can’t really be it for the Hostess line of products, right? The way I figure, the Twinkie and HoHo are too valuable for those products to disappear entirely. So we just need to hope whatever company purchases the brands maintains the same standards that Hostess did, and, ideally, the same bakeries. I also suspect that there are probably enough extant Twinkies to keep the world well-stocked until long after oil production peaks and society crumbles, at which point the lack of Twinkies will be the least of our problems. Though I suppose they’d be at their most useful then, since they’ll never, ever go bad.

All that said, it’s Hostess Cupcakes. So good. One time, for some occasion or another, I gave my wife a kit to make homemade Hostess-style cupcakes. They were delicious, but not as good as the Hostess Cupcakes we could have purchased at the supermarket with far less hassle.

Seems that way, huh? I’ve had, to date, three food items that I know of “named” for me, mostly due to my own prodding. The first was an ice cream sandwich on cookies at the freshman cafeteria in college, “The Berg.” People would argue that ice cream sandwiches existed long before I arrived on campus, but I countered that the idea to construct ice cream sandwiches from the cafeteria’s cookies and ice cream — which were, for whatever reason, pretty far from each other — was my original concept. Oh, the naivete of youth! Some of my friends took to calling it that, but I think only when I was around to humor me.

The second was “Berg’s Pepper Barge” at the deli where I worked. Pepper ham, pepper turkey and fresh mozzarella with optional roasted red peppers and oil and balsamic vinegar on a hero. It’s delicious.

The third is “The Ted Berg,” a drink inspired by the green tea and whiskey combination I enjoyed in China and, of course, the Arnold Palmer. It’s roughly three parts unsweetened green tea, one part lemonade and one part whiskey. It’s delicious and refreshing and it gets you drunk. Order it by name at your favorite local watering hole. Be prepared to then explain what it is and be disappointed when they don’t have unsweetened green tea. But keep ordering it by name anyway. I’d really like this to catch on. The Ted Berg.

As for the “OG” in my Twitter handle, I never expected it to remain there this long. I ripped it off from Chad Johnson (ne Ochocinco), who was @OGOchocinco until whoever had @ochocinco relinquished it. But I do keep it real on there, and the construction’s still pretty funny to me.

What would be on The OGTedBerger, though? That’s the important thing. I don’t like my burgers too buried in toppings, so some degree of topping austerity is paramount. I’ll have to think on this more, but it might be bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce and fresh jalapenos.

You’re blowing my mind right now, Michael. Oreos are by far my favorite mass-produced dessert, nuts to the Hostess products discussed above. But on a sandwich? I don’t know. I’d try anything once, but I’d be concerned you’re ruining a good sandwich or ruining some good Oreos? It’s aesthetically unsettling, for sure.

Follow the two-fold path: Is the sandwich appreciably better for having the Oreos? Are the Oreos better on the sandwich than they would be on their own? Tell me.