Lately I’ve had sandwiches on my mind, seems like every meal includes a sandwich! While all of the sources of these delicious meals are very unique and different, I wanted to share a few of them, as they all showcase several food trends that are happening right now in the industry.
First up, Way South Philly’s in Austin, TX.
Everyone knows my addiction and obsession with food trailers, and this one serves up a delicious and AUTHENTIC Philly steak sandwich. Owner Willy Pearce, who mans the trailer every day, starts with a perfect Amoroso roll. The Amoroso roll is one of the reasons Philly steaks have become famous. These are the traditional, Philadelphia-made bakery rolls that are used by all the great Philly steak shops on the East coast. Way South Philly’s menu is varied (even offering options for vegetarians), and the sandwiches are named after Rocky movie references (the Balboa, the Paulie, Tommy Gunn, etc). My favorite is the Clubber Lang, juicy meat cooked to perfection and tossed with hot sauce and then topped with Provolone cheese and jalapenos. The traditional sandwich calls for Cheez Whiz, but “Whiz” is not for me, so I opt for the real thing, creamy Provolone cheese. It is a perfectly balanced sandwich with just the right amount of heat. Not a traditional Philly cheesesteak flavor but delicious. If you want traditional Philly, they have that too. Nice to have options! You can also finish your meal with Tasty Kakes, an East coast cult food, and a real Mexican coke. Like with any restaurant, the friendly service and unique personality that Willy has really makes this a spot to return to. Check out Way South Philly’s trailer at 6th Street and Waller, in East Austin Texas.
Next, I journeyed up to north Austin to check out a place I had read about, and heard lots of great foodie chatter around, the Noble Pig. I’m pretty sure I would visit this place just for the name, but the food will make me come back over and over again. Locally owned, the owners of the Noble Pig are clearly dedicated to perfection and all things pig. They are not just chefs, but true artisans, the type of people that live, breathe, and eat all things food. My toughest choice was deciding what to eat, I love that problem! Their menu included some traditional flavors as well as some unique builds. The Noble Pig namesake sandwich includes spicy ham, pulled pork, Provolone and house made bacon. I decided to sample a couple sandwiches, as I just couldn’t decide, and I love leftovers! I settled on the Smoked Duck Pastrami with Russian Dressing on Rye and the Pressed Cauliflower and 3-Cheese sandwich. Amazing is the only word for the duck pastrami, tender, juicy and so flavorful I could hardly put the sandwich down. The cauliflower sandwich was a really unique sandwich, but a strange combination to me. That said, it was also hard to stop eating, it was so delicious! The sandwiches are served with house pickles and fresh potato chips with a sprinkle of seasoning, all delicious accompaniments. I ventured next door to the market the owners recently opened, they sell house made cured meat, charcuterie, bread, pickles and accompaniments. I brought home a pork country pate that was delicious, perfectly seasoned, amazing on its own, and even better with a smear of country mustard. You can really see and taste the passion they put into their food, I’ll be back! Check them out in North Austin at 11815 North Hwy 620
Lastly, one of my favorite chefs, Rick Bayless, has brought the flavors of his restaurant Xoco (mentioned in a previous blog) to the Chicago O’Hare airport. I am automatically skeptical of airport food and for good reason. Typical airport food is eaten out of necessity and serious hunger that can’t wait, rather than destination dining. As a frequent traveler, I’ve sampled some of the most horrific examples of airport dining, all at a premium cost. Tortas Frontera is a true exception. Rick Bayless is a master of educating consumers about authentic Mexican cuisine in a friendly way. He does not dumb down the food to make it approachable, rather he showcases the best ingredients and flavor combinations to let consumers discover the cuisine. The menu includes: Tortas (griddled Mexican sandwiches), warm open-faced sandwiches called Molletes, a fresh guacamole bar with freshly cooked tortilla chips and house made salsas, amazing soups, and many breakfast selections, all partnered with premium drink offerings. I started with fresh squeezed orange juice; it was like drinking liquid gold. Then I moved onto the Cochinita Pibil Torta, made with Yucatan pulled pork, black beans, pickled red onions, and a fiery roasted habanero salsa.
The salsa was over the top hot but had beautiful fruit flavors and was more than just heat. I like very spicy foods, so this was amazing to me, but may be a little hot for the faint at heart. All the ingredients were pressed and grilled in bread with a soft but chewy interior and a crisp toasted exterior. A friendly neighbor at the bar also swapped a piece of my sandwich for a sampling of his chicken tortilla soup, I love food sharers! The soup was delicious and authentic in flavor. At Tortas Frontera, they also list where their ingredients are sourced from, listing many local farmers. Finally, I will have a little relief when the inevitable O’Hare flight delays occur!
Authenticity, regional flavors, ethnic flavors, artisan products, and fresh, quality and local ingredients are all showcased in these sandwich examples. Just a few of the food trends that I think will continue for 2012 and beyond.