More on the British Sandwich Association, which remains a real thing

The existence of the British Sandwich Association came up here back in 2011. This morning, Twitterer @Andrew_J_Carter passed along an article from The Guardian about this year’s British Sandwich Association awards. 

It’s a good read, but significantly less so if you’re hungry and your home smells like pork and the pork isn’t ready yet. Man, I really hope this pork is done soon. I’m actually salivating.

Yo!

Hello, people who are still checking this site occasionally. Thanks for your faith and your patience, or, if you’re my wife, for setting TedQuarters as one of your default Firefox tabs and not bothering to change it. I appreciate it. I never meant to let it sit dormant this long, but I’ve spent the last couple of months pretty busy while learning everything I have to learn at USA Today (a work in progress), plus traveling a lot and getting over the post-Asia jetlag that lingered for weeks.

If you’re interested, the best way to find things I’ve written for USA Today is to search the site for my name. As I understand it, there should be an RSS feed for most of my stuff available soon. If you’re going to the site, check out the other sports and baseball content while you’re there. It’s good.

I got an article about the Brewers’ stolen racing sausage on the front page of the sports section a few weeks back, and I interviewed Geddy Lee of Rush about baseball. Things are off to a solid start.

After a week and a half in Florida and a week and a half in Phoenix, I should now have some more defined time away from the work computer (even despite the start of the baseball season) and I hope to post here more regularly. I can be kinda lazy, though, plus I don’t love spending more time hunched over keyboards than I need to, and my various musical instruments are right here next to the home computer begging to be noodled with.

Also: I’m sort of trying to eat healthier, so I’ve been less inclined to write about food — the likeliest lifeblood of this site if I’m not writing about the Mets here. My waistline and general health have followed something of a sine-curve pattern for about 15 years now, and I felt myself surfing a particularly long crest. It is, I’m sure, partly because I ate a whole lot of fatty food in the pursuit of fatty food worth writing about here. Boo hoo, I know. The cross I bear is made of bacon. Could be worse.

But while writing about sports is an unspeakably awesome profession, I do miss writing about things that aren’t sports. And I miss interacting with the people who regularly read this site. Plus, I’m hardly going whole-hog with a diet and I’m allowing myself an occasional cheat meal, so I should still occasionally have food fodder to blog about here.

For example: The few weeks I spent at spring training provided ample opportunity to eat fast food, even as I tried not to.

On the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco: A hearty meh. The most impressive part of the experience was the Port St. Lucie Taco Bell, which was absolutely packed at 7 p.m. on a Monday night. At one point, I counted 17 people on line. There were whole families, packs of teenagers, strung-out looking Florida meth people, and old couples who knew each other’s Taco Bell order by heart. Weird, awesome scene. It was like Taco Bell was functioning as the town square. I support that.

The taco itself was just OK. I expected to like it more than the Nacho Cheese variety, but that wasn’t the case. The Cool Ranch flavor was less assertive than its cheesy cousin, so it added the dry powdery factor that plagued the original but without the benefit of much added Doritos taste. I like Cool Ranch Doritos chips way better than Nacho Cheese, but that didn’t translate to tacos. Tiny sample size, though.

I also ate a couple of fast food burgers I’d like to compare at some point soon, so check back.

Lastly: If you haven’t heard by now, consider this a public service announcement regarding the most important news of the season: Baseball started this week, and David Wright’s 2013 at-bat song is the Luniz’ “I Got 5 On It.”

It’s not merely one of his songs, either. It’s his only song. This is a tremendous development, as I’m sure you realize. I’ve long campaigned for more funky West Coast beats at baseball games.

There was some debate in the press box over what song it was, even as I insisted I knew the song well and that it was definitely the Luniz’ “I Got 5 On It.” So a reporter asked Wright to confirm after the game, and Wright said he didn’t know the name of the band but knew the song was called “I Got 5 On It.” The reporter turned to me and acknowledged I was correct, so I nodded and said, “It’s Luniz. The Luniz.”

“Old school, right?” Wright asked.

“Yeah, West Coast,” I said.

“West Coast,” he repeated, nodding.

So David Wright asked me a question about his own at-bat music, which is the exact opposite of my typical interaction with ballplayers.

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. 1: Baseball stuff

If you’re not on Twitter, you missed the announcement: Starting Monday, I’ll be writing about baseball for USA Today Sports. I’m very excited.

For Edgin: Why not? It’s difficult to predict which relievers will ultimately earn closer jobs and the elusive “proven closer” label, but Edgin seems to have as good a shot as any. He throws hard, he’s got pretty good control, and he strikes out lots of batters. His ERA wasn’t great in his tiny-sample first Major League stint, but his peripherals (besides his home-run rate) look strong. I’d say the biggest thing working against him is his handedness, as unless the Mets have one or two more viable lefty options for middle-inning specialty work, they’re probably going to want Edgin there.

Also, I’m not ready to write off the idea of Bobby Parnell eventually emerging as the Mets’  closer. I know he has struggled in limited opportunities in the role, but Parnell’s been a good big-league reliever for three seasons. Now that he seems to be settled on the knuckle-curve as a second pitch, I don’t know why he couldn’t succeed in a ninth-inning job.

As for the fat sandwich: Yes. I wrote about it here, back before I reviewed sandwiches proper.

I don’t really want to troll on my way out the door here, but I’d say this seems like LOLMetsing of the highest order. Especially the caption on the bottom photo. I mean… c’mon. But then I clicked it, so the joke’s on me.

UPDATE: Actually, on second thought I’ll amend that. Clicking through the rest of the Daily News’ website after reading that story, it seems like they’re blowing out every possible angle of the A-Rod/PED/Miami thing. So that’s probably just one of them, and hey, a Mets connection. Only the caption is LOLMetsy.

That’s a tough question. My natural inclination is to pick the five worst players on the Mets so the team can stay competitive throughout the Mars project. But since that doesn’t seem like the spirit of the question, I’ll say David Wright for leadership and interstellar diplomacy, Lucas Duda for brute strength, Dillon Gee for guile, Daniel Murphy for determination, and Johan Santana for general awesomeness.

https://twitter.com/RandomOrlando/status/297389635724787712

Hey, I’m still a member of the baseball media, and I’m still going to be based out of New York. If there’s one of those tasting events this year, I’m going to do everything in my power to go. Obviously.

Honestly, if they can get the draft pick protected I don’t think signing Michael Bourn is such a terrible idea for the Mets. It depends on the deal, of course, but it sure seems like Bourn’s price tag has fallen far, far below the $100 million figure he was reportedly seeking at the offseason’s outset. We keep hearing about how the Mets will have money to spend in the coming years, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to do so with a protected first-round pick again anytime soon. Plus, watching Bourn play center field is a thrill. Guy gets to everything.

Sandwich of the Week

So this site looks a bit different today. Welcome to the new and far less active TedQuarters, I suppose. There are still some kinks to work out, all of which will take me way longer to figure out on my own than they would have with the support of my men Adam Rotter and Matt Cerrone at SNY, so be patient. And because I’m now using a stock WordPress theme, I had to make some concessions in the navigation and sidebars.

Most notably: The “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels” section of the blog is now just a “Cole Hamels” tab on the sidebar to the left, as spelling out the full title made the text wrap to two lines and look awful. So it goes. Know that “Cole Hamels,” here, is an abbreviation for “Embarrassing Things about Cole Hamels,” always.

Also: The Sandwich Hall of Fame list is currently a sub-category in the sandwich tab, but it’s too long for the format and you can’t access most of the sandwich reviews from many browsers. Soon, perhaps later this afternoon, I’ll create a new Sandwich Hall of Fame archive page with links to all the Hall of Fame sandwich reviews. So fear not.

Because of the theme switch, the site again uses WordPress comments instead of Disqus, meaning that two full years’ worth of awesome, hilarious, insightful comments are sort of lost to the ether. And it makes every post on this site from 2011-2012 look pretty lonely, so if you stumble upon one you like and want to leave some love, please do.

And thanks so much for all the flattering and supportive comments left on the going-away post from earlier this month. It feels incredible to know that my efforts on this site for the last several years were apparently so thoroughly appreciated. I love you, too.

The sandwich: Banh mi thit nuong, Banh Mi Cart 37, 37 Nguyen Trai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The construction: Grilled pork meatballs, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, chili paste and some sort of brownish sauce on a baguette.

Important background information: I spent six days in Vietnam and tried seven different banh mi. This was the best, and it wasn’t all that close. Most of the sandwiches came from street carts or slightly glorified street carts, and in Ho Chi Minh City — where I ate the large majority of my banh mi on vacation — most of the street carts sell banh mi filled with various cold cuts, familiar and otherwise. They were all delicious, but once I tried this style, all I wanted were more like this. In fact, about an hour after I had my first, I went back for a second.

Also: Throughout our vacation, my wife and I struggled to convince locals to serve us spicy food. Many European and Australian tourists (and perhaps Americans, too, but we didn’t meet nearly so many), it seems, want no part of typically spicy Thai, Lao or Vietnamese cuisine — something we witnessed to a hilarious extent in a cooking class with some British couples who were put off by the spiciness of ginger and garlic.

So before I carry on, a plea to the Australian dude we met on a boat in Thailand and others like him: Give spicy food a chance, please. You told us you were miffed at all the restrictions they had at the place where they let you in a cage with a tiger. I promise no pepper used in common cooking anywhere presents nearly so much danger, and that developing a taste for more spice will ultimately broaden your culinary horizons and enrich your eating life. I’m not here to tell you what to do; I’m just sayin’s all.

Also, if it catches on, it’ll mean a lot less work on my end in Asia attempting to locate every vendor’s peppers or hot sauces, pointing at them, smiling, nodding vigorously and giving thumbs up. Luckily for us, the woman at the banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai held up a spoonful of chili paste as she constructed the sandwich and shot us a quizzical look, so we were able to point at it, smile, nod vigorously and give thumbs up.

What it looks like:

How it tastes: Awesome. Just… awesome. Everything I could imagine wanting in a banh mi.

The banh mi cart at 37 Nguyen Trai grills tiny pork patties — think seasoned ground-pork sliders — over charcoal on a small barbecue, and there’s enough turnover that every sandwich comes with pork patties hot from the grill. They’re tender and porky, juicy but not greasy, with just a hint of black pepper flavor.

We read somewhere that much of Vietnamese cuisine is fueled by contrasting textures and flavors, a concept that should sound familiar to any loyal readers of these sandwich reviews.

This banh mi seemed the perfect embodiment of that idea: The warm pork and toasty baguette (they threw the baguette on the grill right before they put together the sandwich, a very appreciated touch) complemented the coolness of the vegetables. The intense spiciness of the chili paste matched up with the sweetness of the brown sauce. The sharpness of the cilantro complemented the acidity of the pickled vegetables.

It was crunchy and soft, spicy and sweet, hot and cold, comforting and adventurous, everything. Just an explosion of flavors and textures and general greatness. Damn. I have to go back.

What it’s worth: Oh, that’s the other thing. It cost 14,000 Dong, or about 67 cents. Plus the cost of airfare, of course, unless you’re already in Ho Chi Minh City.

How it rates: 97 out of 100. Inner circle Hall of Famer.

My Taco Bell expertise finally legitimized

Yesterday, the Internet heralded the coming of the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco as if it’s a newly verified thing even though this site and many others have been all over that news for nearly half a year. Longtime friend of the program Gina Pace at the New York Daily News took time off from her diligent work on the Tom Brady moat beat to report and clarify the Taco Bell news, citing the research of one well-coiffed “sports writer and Taco Bell aficionado.”

Pack my bag and let’s get movin’

This I’ve mentioned before: Tomorrow I’m leaving for vacation. I’ll be out of the country for a few weeks, visiting various points of interest in Southeast Asia and ideally eating all sorts of delicious food that I will tell you about when I return. I may check in here a couple of times, but I’m not really planning on it and I don’t know how often I’ll have access to the Internet.

thailandThis I haven’t mentioned: After I get back, I’m leaving my job at SNY and this blog will no longer update with anything like the frequency it has for the past three and a half years. It will still exist in some fashion, and I hope to continue discussing sandwiches and Taco Bell and nearly everything else here when I’m so moved. But it will live outside the SNY umbrella, and it will not even nominally be a sports blog.

You definitely haven’t heard the last of me, and, in fact, I hope you’ve only heard the first of me. But I’ll discuss that more once I’m back from my trip and stuffed to the gills with banh mi. For now, in lieu of anything more creative, I wanted to use this post to express some gratitude.

Maintaining this blog is awesome. So is working at SNY. I became a Mets fan sometime in the winter after the 1986 World Series, and went to my first game at Shea Stadium on Opening Day of 1987. Bob Ojeda won the game and Darryl Strawberry hit a home run. Thanks to this job, I get to chat about baseball with Bob all the time. And one time Darryl Strawberry bought me a sandwich. That’s so unspeakably crazy to me. I hauled soda and hot dogs around Shea Stadium in the summer heat in 2000 and it seemed nuts then that they’d pay me to go to Mets games. Now they pay me to go and I don’t even have to lift anything. Please don’t take that as bragging. It’s just… how is that real?

I have this forum here in which I can write about nearly anything I want, from the fringes of the Mets’ roster to the far reaches of outer space. And actual human people read it regularly, and comment on it and email me with links to other things to write about or sandwiches to try. It’s so amazingly flattering, and it makes me feel awesome, and I love it.

I should say, also, that this blog would never have been possible if it weren’t for my excellent colleagues here. In making the real-job aspects of my job easier, the entire SNY.tv team afforded me time to write from the office. So thanks to Jeff, Jay, Adam, Fred, Jaime and Gil, Tom at MLBAM, and to Matt Cerrone for encouraging me to start this site and getting it set up in the first place. All the bloggers whose sites are, for now, linked in the left column here are excellent people producing good stuff and far less demanding of my time than they could have been, so thanks to them too. Really, thanks to most everyone here for being cool.

And thanks, of course, to the larger Mets blogosphere for hooking up the traffic, especially my friends at MetsBlog, and Eric Simon and the folks at Amazin’ Avenue.

When I spell it all out like this, it makes me wonder why I’m leaving. But I’ve been here five years, and new frontiers await, and it’s time. The Mets’ front office seems to be in good hands, and all your yelling isn’t going to convince me otherwise. Increasingly, I find myself explaining the team’s decisions rather than berating them. Hell, not only did the Mets just actually sign the Minor League outfielder I clamored for, but Paul DePodesta then tweeted Andrew Brown’s Minor League slash line against lefties immediately following the announcement. This is fantasy-land stuff for the True SABR among us who were blogging during the Omar Minaya era.

Plus, when you get to interview Keith Hernandez on stage immediately after he publicly shaves his mustache, you drop the mic and walk away. I started writing about the Mets for SNY.tv in Oct. 2006, when I was an MLBAM employee, a couple weeks after Carlos Beltran struck out to end Game 7 of the NLCS. At the last Mets game I attended for SNY.tv, Keith Hernandez shaved his mustache on stage and R.A. Dickey won his 20th game. Those seem like as good a way to bookend this phase of my career as any I can think of. And I got to witness the Mets’ first no-hitter as part of it.

I’m straying from the point, which is this: Thank you so much. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for emailing. I have put a lot of thought, a lot of effort, a lot of words, and, occasionally, a lot of emotion into this site over the past few years. On the whole I’m proud of the output, and it’s led me to the next step in my career. And there’s no chance I’d have done any of it if I didn’t know there were people out there enjoying it.

Like I said, I’ll be back — both here and elsewhere. But it’s 2013, so you can also get at me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or via email at dtedberg-at-gmail.com.

Since I expect this post will sit here at the top of the site for a while, here are some links to select past posts to entertain you while I’m gone. Some of these were popular, some of these I just kind of liked and remembered this morning when putting this together. For lack of a better system, I categorized them the same way they are in the tabs up top:

Baseball

Feb. 2, 2009: Moving out, moving on
Oct. 15, 2009: Embarrassing Photos of Cole Hamels
March 1, 2011: Beltran selfishly punishing Digital Domain Park scoreboard
June 15, 2011: What we carry
March 7, 2012: The lobster pot

Other sports

June 12, 2010: For the Internet
Sept. 24, 2012: Is anyone really ready for some football?

Taco Bell

Aug. 31, 2011: Dear Taco Bell
Sept. 14, 2011: Mets as Taco Bell menu items

Other stuff

March 18, 2010: From the Wikipedia: The Great Auk
Feb. 25, 2011: Spaced out

Sandwiches

June 30, 2010: The sandwich that made me love sandwiches
Sept. 8, 2010: Sandwich of the decade

Video
2008ish: Matt and Ted go to Philly, Mets Weekly vendor piece
March 18, 2009: The Nooner
Oct. 5, 2012: Requiem for a mustache

What wouldn’t you trade for Giancarlo Stanton?

Look: The Mets aren’t trading for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s just a fun thing to think about, because Giancarlo Stanton is a fun thing to think about. And with speculation about potential Stanton trades pummeling the Internet, I polled Mets fans on Twitter to see what they wouldn’t be willing to trade for Stanton.

Most, understandably, said they’d give up practically anything. A few said they wouldn’t trade Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Travis d’Arnaud, which is… well, I think any deal for Stanton would have to start with at least one if not two of Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud.

Think about it: The Mets just got d’Arnaud and fellow top prospect Travis Syndergaard in a package for one year’s worth of R.A. Dickey, plus the negotiating window in which the Blue Jays signed Dickey to an extension. It’s hard to draw a clear parallel because it’s hard to determine the value of the exclusive negotiating window, but trading for Stanton would mean acquiring four seasons’ worth of his cost-controlled services — plenty of time, of course, for an acquiring team to lock him up to a longer-term contract extension.

Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud have a combined 10 games’ worth of Major League experience. Stanton has been unspeakably awesome for almost three full seasons. And Stanton’s younger than both Harvey and d’Arnaud, and only six months older than Wheeler.