Building a better sandwich2/19/2014
Ralph Waldo Emerson supposedly said, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” That hasn’t been good advice. In “the Discipline of Innovation,” Tim Kastelle writes that the U.S. Patent Office has granted 4,400 mousetrap patents, still about 40 new ones every year, yet none sell as well as W.C. Hooker’s from 1896. In the restaurant scene, the world beats a path to the reliable consistency of McDonald’s hamburgers, KFC’s fried chicken and Pizza Hut pies. I have never met anyone who believed those represented the best of their kinds. After recently comparing sandwiches from Subway, Jimmy John’s and Casey’s, some readers told me the role of a critic should be “to seek out excellence and pimp for it.” Others sent me ideas about sandwiches they rated as best of their kinds. I sought two of them out.
Most food court operators complain about the long hours that malls require. Lambert and Ewers, the newest player in Kaleidoscope at the Hub’s food court, stays open several hours after all other joints there have closed, even after some escalators have stopped running. After smoking hams in the metro for decades, its owners recently opened this sandwich shop. I tried sandwiches made with L and E corned beef, turkey and roast beef. The first of those was made with rounds instead of briskets and lacked the usual fat one expects in meat that is slow cooked. It was served with good Irish cheddar, peppers and onions on a bagel. My turkey sandwich featured smoked breast meat, smoked cheddar and honey mustard on delightfully fresh seven-grain bread. Roast beef was cooked longer than the advertised “medium” and served on a baguette with cheese spread and an onion confit. None of those represented the reason I “beat a path” to The Hub.
The reputation of this little company rests on a bed of honey-glazed, spiral-sliced, bone-in hams. Spiral slicing allows easy removal of slices, with a horizontal slice along the bone. Thus, my ham sandwich came sliced much thicker than is customary in local delis. Unlike prosciutto or salami, smoked ham is best appreciated in thicker slices. My sandwich was served on fresh marble rye with Amish Swiss cheese. A ham salad sandwich, made with the same ham, was served on a croissant. Despite using breads that don’t compare well with those at La Mie, City Deli, Keller’s and South Union, I will not argue with anyone who insists these are the best ham sandwiches in town. Hams, bacon, racks of pork loin, ribs, turkeys, link sausage and other smoked treats were also available for carryout.
We last wrote about Taste of Italy when its meatball sandwich reached the final four of Cityview’s Ultimate Sandwich contest three years ago. It’s also been a longtime favorite for grinders, made with Graziano’s sausage. My recent mission was to check out two other sandwiches that readers tout as best in town. I have been looking for a great Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich since Tommy’s Italian Beef closed and Gas Lamp quit serving them. Taste Of Italy’s version was served French dip-style, with good beef stock on the side for dipping. Generous beef and peppers (not really giardiniera) were included in an Amodeo’s hoagie bun. Also touted, its Jack Ass was a revelation in simplicity. Mortadella was thin sliced and piled high with a delightful, sharply flavored aged Provolone on a choice of several breads. It was the best bologna sandwich I ever tasted in Iowa.
Side Dishes Cyd Koehn of Catering by Cyd won a Food Network contest. Some of her recipes will be featured at the network’s South Beach Food Fest in Miami… Namaste India has moved its supermarket a block west and expanded its restaurant in the old location on University Avenue. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.Taste of Italy 8421 University Ave., Clive, 221-0743 Monday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lambert and Ewers 555 Walnut St., 270-2404 Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.