#71: Non Ti Scordar Di Me, Via Quadronno

73 down. 28 to go.

It was Saturday, and I had been rolling around in bed ever since my wife left for the airport at five am. Not even a deli coffee — you know, the kind where you just ask for milk and sugar, and then look the other way so you don’t see how much of each they actually put in — could wake me up. I needed something more. I desperately needed a sandwich.

I was meeting the Italian Stallions, Elena and Elia, on the Atlantic/Pacific 4-train platform to trek all the way to the Upper East Side for the AIPAD Photo Show at the Park Avenue Armory. It’s one of the most important international photography art events in the world, showcasing work by legends such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and the famous John Cyr. I’m on the Upper East Side less often than the gym, so not taking advantage of this rare event, and getting the only remaining sandwich in this otherwise barren area, would be silly. Cody met us just in the nick of time to get in on the action.

The Non Ti Scordar Di Me was different than every other sandwich I normally eat, and not just because of it’s complicated foreign name. It had speck. I wasn’t even sure what speck was before today. I thought it was a type of bird because that’s what it sounds like. It turns out that it’s ham, an awesome Italian ham. The sandwich had brie, which I know is a kind of cheese, but I can’t tell you the last time I bought or ordered something containing it. Personally, I’m a cheddar guy. Lastly, it had pâté, which I think I tried two years ago at some Jewish holiday. The three of these ingredients on a sandwich would be the last three ingredients I would have ever imagined.

Yet, it was amazing. The brie and pâté oozed together creating this rich, tasty, gooey substance. The speck was fresh, light and salty. And baguette was perfectly crispy and helped balance out the decadent sandwich. It was almost as good as John Cyr’s photographs.

As we were leaving the photo show, six-time Oscar nominee Glen Close, and the lover of all sandwiches, walked out behind me. I was speechless, though we made eye contact for a split second. And in that short time, I could tell she was thinking about same thing I was… as she walked off in the direction of her next sandwich.

Via Quadronno | 25 East 73rd Street between Madison and 5th Avenue

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#73: Oyster Po’ Boy, Cheeky Sandwiches

72 down. 29 to go.

It was a Saturday and unusually beautiful outside. My wife Jamie left the apartment early to go visit our friend’s, Degan and Aaron’s, newborn baby in the hospital near Union Square. I was stuck inside doing work, but could feel that it was going to be a special day.

It only took a short phone call (and the prospect of a sandwich) to pull me away from my computer and into Manhattan. Armed with my list of potential sandwich options, I met Jamie and R. Stein, still glowing and teary eyed from seeing the baby, outside of the hospital. I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional as well.

While waiting for Rachel’s boyfriend, Matt, we walked downtown in the general direction of Cheeky Sandwiches. Before long, stomachs started growling, feet were aching, people were getting cold and the Matt was taking forever. The chance of a sandwich was rapidly decreasing, but I urged them on and eventually we all made it to Cheeky’s. Actually, first we walked right by it, but eventually found it. This little Chinatown hole in the wall is easy to miss.

We ordered at the counter, secured the only real table in the unique, but cozy, restaurant, and anxiously awaited for our Po’ Boys to arrive. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a true N’awlin Po’ Boy, but if they taste anything like this guy, then I get what all the hype’s about. The modestly-sized oysters tasted salty like the ocean, and were perfectly fried. In New Orleans they apparently call it “dressed” — but in NYC, we call it shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, pickles, and not enough hot sauce. Possibly the highlight of the sandwich (besides the Zapp’s BBQ chips) was the light, crunchy bread specially flown in from the dirty south. The large roll potentially overpowered the deliciously under appreciated innards of the sandwich.

The day did turn out to be special, and not just because I got a sandwich out of it. Actually, I had a hard time fully concentrating on my meal. I was distracted, my mind was elsewhere. I think it had to do with that fact that I just picked up my wife from a hospital where her friend just had a baby. And that in less than six months, I’ll be back, at that exact same hospital — only this time it’ll be us in there.

That’s right folks, I’m eating for two!

Cheeky Sandwiches | 35 Orchard Street & Hester

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#61: Le Focaccine, Sant Ambroeus

71 down. 30 to go.

I have no idea how I could be so careless. For more than a year and a half, I’ve lived and breathed sandwiches. I’ve studied New York Magazine’s list of the 101 best like the SATs. I’ve read over it more times than Calvin and Hobbes Something Under the Bed Is Drooling. I’ve carefully planned out each and every sandwich to the tee. I’ve traveled to the outer banks of Queens, Brooklyn and even the Upper East Side! Let’s put it this way: I HAD A SANDWICH PARTY FOR MY 30TH BIRTHDAY!!!

Therefore, I have no idea how I missed it. A sandwich right in my backyard, a measly ten-minute walk from where I work. What should have been accomplished months ago, an easy slam dunk, is only now, finally being accomplished.

It was a beautiful day outside, way too warm for the middle of January. I meandered through the beautiful streets of the West Village with my buddy Shayna, who after months of hard work, was soon to be only one sandwich short of making her way onto the leader board.

In my head, I pictured Sant Ambroeus to be more of a café. However, I was mistaken as were seated at the elegantly charming, picturesque-looking restaurant. Our sandwiches didn’t take long to come out, though there wasn’t really anything to cook. On the menu it’s listed as focaccine, but who are they kidding? It’s a croissant — a square croissant. And it’s probably one of the best croissants you’ve ever tasted. It’s super light, moist and buttery. And in between the two halves of flaky goodness, lies thinly sliced pieces of salty proscuitto di Parma and thick, slabs of fresh mozz. If I ever visited Italy, this is exactly what I imagine myself doing.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel all the way to Italy for that authentic proscuitto sandwich. It was just a short stroll from work to knock another one off the list. I got lucky this time — the rest won’t be so easy.

Sant Ambroeus | 259 West 4th Street and Perry

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#26: Country Ham Biscuit, Egg

70 down. 31 to go.

gregcation [gregg·kay·shun]
1. a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for eating sandwiches and going to Phish shows.

We all need one every so often. Now just happened to be my time. The year was coming to an end, work was slow, and I needed a break. So I took off from work Thursday and Friday. I feel like I did nothing and everything at the same time.

The Phish show the night before was a rager. My buddy Frankey, taking a babycation, crashed at my place after the concert. Getting up was not so easy, but we eventually gathered our stuff, hopped on the G-train and headed up to Williamsburg for brunch. We were met at the restaurant by two other friends, Jiggles and Wassel. While this was Jiggles eighth sandwich on the Quest, Frankey and Wassel were both first timers.

Egg was unsurprisingly packed. The line was out the door and the waiting list spanned on to a second page. So we waited — and by waited I mean had a much needed bloody mary at the restaurant next door. Before long though, our table was ready and it was our turn to see what all the fuss was about.

What it was about was about the Country Ham Biscuit sandwich. It’s ironic that quite possibly the best dish at a restaurant called Egg, doesn’t have egg in it. Don’t ya think? The ingredients of sandwich came together beautifully, as the crumbly biscuit fell apart in my hands with each bite. It’s as if the salty, buttery biscuit was intentionally trying to get out of the way so I could taste the sweet, thinly sliced Kentucky ham. This was smothered in a rich Grafton Cheddar and a layer of sweet fig jam that helped lighten up and balance the deliciously dense sandwich.

It was an excellent start to what was shaping up to be an amazing day. A day that I would otherwise be sitting at my desk working, I got spend with great friends trekking aimlessly around the city enjoying life. Well, that and eating breakfast sandwiches and seeing Phish. Man, I wish everyday was a Gregcation.

Egg | 135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn

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#28: Chicken Shawarma, Karam

69 down. 32 to go.

My friends are starting to move farther away into the depths of Brooklyn. South Slope is one thing. Even Kensington I’ve learned to deal with. But Sunset Park? This is getting out of control. Once a twenty minute walk or short bus ride to my friend Cyr’s apartment, is now a much longer trip, and my motivation for long, inconsistent subway rides isn’t what it used to be. Tonight, however, it didn’t take much to convince me to make the trek deep into the heart of Brooklyn. Just the promise of a sandwich, Phish, and some great company.

Phish is playing a four-night run at the Garden starting tonight. Instead of actually going to the show, which is expensive, exhausting and crowded with hippies (I’m geting old), we decided to stream it from the comfort of our own (my friends Cyr’s) couch. Make fun all you want, but aside from the constant webpage freezing and reloading, it was a great plan.

With over an hour until showtime, we hopped in the Cyrmobile and drove to Karam, a Middle Eastern joint in Bay Ridge. The tiny restaurant wasn’t crowded, and for some apparent reason we still had to wait 45 minutes for our food, but we were feeling good about this one. The food smelled delicious as we raced to get back to the apartment. Cyr (#6 on the leaderboard), Becky (her first sandwich!), Finn (a dog) and I anxiously awaited for the lights to go down. And BOOM! It’s show time.

12.28.2011    |    Karam, Brooklyn, NY
Spinach Pie, Zaatar Pie* > Baba Gahanouj, Tabouleh, Grape Leaves, Chicken Shawarma**

Encore: Lentil Soup

* First time eaten
** Hot Sauce teases

The chicken shawarma was clearly the highlight of the show. The sandwich was overflowing with slices of juicy chicken and tons of bright vegetables including tomatoes, lettuce and pickled turnips. Everything was doused with a deliciously potent garlic sauce and wrapped in a warm, grilled flatbread. For those who went to Conn College, it tasted like a Middle Eastern Sammy the Bull and it brought back fond memories of many nights spent at John’s Brick Oven.

It turned out, not going to the show wasn’t so bad after all. We got to see and hear everything that was played. The subway ride that I whined about earlier was much more convenient than exiting the Garden after a Phish show. Beer was cheaper, dancing room more spacious, and bathroom lines much shorter. Most importantly, the lot food was much tastier. And we’re going to see Phish live the next two nights anyway.

Karam | 8519 4th Avenue, Brooklyn

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