Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Going Viral

Here’s the email I got last week:



My name is L[redacted] and I am with [redacted], a viral marketing agency in the Pittsburgh area. For the past year we have been working with [redacted] to help their online presence. I came across your blog, Clubs Are Trump, and love how you tour PIttsburgh [sic] through our club sandwiches, and I think we should partner up for a fun giveaway.

[Redacted] features an ever evolving menu focused on using the freshest local, sustainable and organic ingredients with a [redacted] cuisine influence. They are also known for their unmatchable wine selection.

Here [sic] how the partnership works, first, we'd like to set up a complimentary tasting for you at the restaurant. We want you to experience the dining first hand so you can write about it for your readers. Then when you post your blog article we have a $25 gift card for you to giveaway [sic] to your readers!

This would be a great way to reward your readers and get more interaction on your blog, as well as benefit us by getting the word out about this affordable fine dining experience.

If this is something you think you would be interested in, please let me know as soon as you can so we can explain the details. Deadline for participation is the end of November.

Look forward to hearing from you!

I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I was healthily skeptical. So I looked up the viral marketing agency. It had a very nice website where it mentioned names of Pittsburgh area clients I recognized. I looked up the restaurant with the ever-evolving menu of fresh local dishes. It also seemed to be for real; although, there was no sustainable organic club sandwich listed on its online menu.

Nevertheless, I thought it might be worth a try. I could expand the club tour horizons and pass on a gift lunch to some nice reader. I emailed L, and we set up an appointment for me and a friend to come in and experience a tasting course.

Sure that's great - they know you are coming. But just so you aware you two will have to share the 1 tasting course.

That was fine. The tasting course was sure to be sumptuous, plenty to share. And if it wasn’t, we could always drop by the Subway for a sustaining (if not sustainable) sandwich before heading back to work.

I got there a couple of minutes ahead of my friend. (She had texted me to say she’d be about 10 minutes late.) The pretty hostess smiled at me in welcome. I smiled back. I gave her my name and explained that L, from the viral marketing firm [redacted] had set up a tasting for me.

The hostess was sorry. She didn’t know anything about a tasting, and the manager wasn’t in.
I did not wish to make a scene. Neither did I wish to pay for lunch here. I stepped outside. I snapped a photo of the scarlet begonias growing outside the restaurant.

My friend arrived. How good to see her, yet how embarrassing to tell her there would be no tasting course. No complimentary lunch. No gift certificate giveaway on the blog.

“Okay. Want to go have lunch at Right by Nature?”

My friend is a genius.

That’s where we went. There was a plethora of sensational sandwiches piled high with fresh, local, natural, sustainable ingredients. None of them was a club, though, so I ordered pizza.

It was fantastic.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Murray Avenue Grill

"It tastes turkey-ish."
"Well, it's a turkey club. How is it supposed to taste?"
"Like turkey, I guess, but it tastes, like, extra turkey-y."
"That's good, right? You like turkey."
I do like turkey. That's why I ordered the turkey club in the first place. But I just didn't expect it to be so turkeyful. There's a lot of turkey here, and it's turkey flavored. Exceptionally so.
There's a nugget of bacon in the center, too. See it?
It does come in two generous layers on three slices of fresh sourdough toast. And the toothpicks in this sandwich are really something special. Little black sandwich-lances.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

1889 Cafe

The club sandwich at 1889 Cafe makes a delicious, surprising, and deeply satisfying breakfast.

I have no idea how it tastes fresh and hot on the plate at the restuarant, because the Zuccini 1889 was the appetizer, and it was so good, that two orders of Zucchini 1889 became the appetizer, and then they became the whole meal, and the club sandwich was taken home, all but untouched, with its French fry attendants, in a styrofoam box.

That's the Zucchini 1889 there in the upper right of the picture. See the sauces? That's a creamy horseradish and a mellow marinara. And the breading is some kind of magic-trick of a crispy-sweet but not greasy envelope around the just-thick-enough slices of zucchini.

When the club sandwich arrived on the scene, I was sort of like, oh, yeah, and that.

Which wasn't fair, because it was a really good sandwich, as I found out a breakfast the next day. This club features a thick and prominent layer of salty pink ham, which made turning it into a breakfast food seem perfectly appropriate. And it turns out that turkey as a breakfast food is totally underrated. The turkey and the rest of the snadwich ingredients must have started out very fresh, because even by the next day's breakfast--this was not an early breakfast--everything was still fresh. The toast still had a nice crunch, and the lettuce held up pretty well, too. You know what it was?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Breadworks Black Olive, Bacon and Cheddar Focaccia

This is a bit of a departure for the club tour. After all, the Black Olive Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Focaccia bread at The Breadworks is not a club sandwich.
But it oughtta be.
And it can be, if you get there on a Wednesday. The Breadworks offers specialty focaccia every business day, but the one with olives, bacon, and cheese is only on Wednesday.
How conterintuitive that a bread covered in bacon and cheese, studded with olives, and saturated with olive oil should be best described as light. But it is. Inside, the focaccia is open and airy, with plenty of bubbles to cushion sandwich fillings.
In this case, the sandiwch filling was pretty ordinary--whatever turkey, lettuce, and cheese I happened to have in the fridge. But it didn't matter. I could have made a sandwich of rusty lettuce and leftover fast-food chix nuggets; this bread would have elevated it to become a sandwich supreme.
This focaccia turns ordinary sandwich stuff into a delicious inside-out club. The tender crust is coated in delectable bacon-dust as well as crunchy morsels of bacon. The cheese is sharp and salty and all over the place. (I really didn't need that sad slice of American I added.)
My club on Breadworks focaccia was a wonderful lunch, but it was not sublime. After my sandwich was finished, I sliced off a wedge of focaccia and ate it. Just the olive-bacon-cheddar bread, no turkey, no lettuce, no mayo--no club, really. And that was sublime.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kazansky's Delicatessen

Connor's Turkey Club at Kazansky's is a work of art. Every element of this sandwich inidcates the care and thought of the sandwich-creator.
First the bread. Ah, the bread. It is toasted challah--fresh, airy, and sliced thick. Only two pieces, alas. The only way to improve this lovely club would have been to make it a double-decker, in the traditional club style.
The bacon was amazing. crisp and all doubled over in crunchy bubbles. Too often, crisp bacon means charred bacon, but not this time. It was the perfect complement to the thinly-sliced turkey. I've never had such tender turkey.
This club is generous with the vegetables, too. Lots of fresh, high-quality veggies on a club indicates a confidence in the meat. The turkey and bacon on this sandwich are so outstanding, there is no way they could possibly be overwhelmed by the tomato and lettuce, so let's go ahead and include plenty of them. That seems to be a theme of Connor's Club.
But the meta-message of the club at Kazansky's is the beauty of the sandwich, the exquisite versatility of the form, and the tansendance that may be acheived, brieflly, in the experience of persuing the ideal.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Apple Cleanse

Since Clubs Are Trump is about eating sandwiches covered in bacon, I thought it might not be a bad idea to interrupt the Club Sandwich Tour of Pittsburgh for a one-day cleanse.

Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford describes this treatment as the Gall Bladder Flush, and recommends that it "be done with the guidance of an experienced health practitioner." But mine wasn't.

Pitchford's flush entails eating nothing but apples all day long. As many apples as you want, with water or herbal tea to drink. The final touch is a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice, drunk just before bed.

I've been aware lately of an increased feeling of biliousness, figuratively speaking. So, when I saw that simply eating lots of apples (and nothing else) might help, I thought it might be worth a try. Besides, it's apple season.

I got my apples at the farmers market. Pink Lady, Winesap, and Granny Smith, from Paul's Orchard, Joffre PA. All of them were crisp, juicy, sweet-tart and delectable.
I had two big Pink Ladies for breakfast, and I wasn't hungry again until lunchtime, at 1:00. (I'm frequently hungry way before lunchtime. That didn't happen after a breakfast of apples.) At lunch I had apple slices, about 2.5 apples' worth. By late afternoon, I wasn't exactly hungry, but I was tired. And kind of spacey. And when I saw others eating bread and butter, or fried rice, or corn chips, I did feel a certain longing.

Dinner was a large dish of sliced apples--four or five apples, several varieties. By evening I was tired, and I didn't feel especially focused, but that's not all that unusual after a hard day of work, so who's to say the nothing-but-apples diet was to blame?

The lemon juice and olive oil mixture was a pretty chartreuse color, and not too yucky. It tasted like salad dressing. Two or three spoonsful were nice. By the fourth or fifth spoonful I was getting tired of it. After eight or nine spoonsful, I said the hell with it and didn't drink the rest.

But I drizzled some of it on my toast the next morning. It was good, and I was happy to be back on regular food again. Also coffee. I had missed coffee.

I ate my toast, drank my coffee, went for a walk, and concluded that the apple cleanse didn't really make a difference. Eating nothing but apples was just that, nothing more nothing less. I got to enjoy an abundance of farm-fresh local apples, but well, it didn't exactly revoluntionize my life.

Until later that afternoon. Twenty-four hours past my three-apple-lunch, I felt cleansed. I felt light. I felt like I'd been living my life filthy and bloated for so long that I'd come to think of filthy and bloated as a normal state, and now that I knew the difference, I would never let myself get so sludgy and sluggish ever again.
That is not to say I am giving up club sandwiches. Perish the thought. The Club Tour must, and will, go on. But we'll stop for apples every so often.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bloomfield Sandwich Shop

Warm, welcoming, generous.

That is the Bloomfield Sandwich Shop, and that is the delicious sandwich I had there.

There is no club per se on the Bloomfield Sandwich Shop's menu, but there is a grilled chicken sandwich. And when you order the grilled-chicken sandwich, you can ask for it on toast, with bacon. And they'll offer you lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise. So, even though they may eschew pretentious labels, they do make a sandwich very much like a club.

Very much like the ideal club. The grilled chicken was a juicy, flavorful delight. And it was a nice big piece. No stinting on the chicken. Or on the bacon. There was so much bacon, I almost felt guilty. I expect the bacon to be more like a topping, but in this sandwich, it was a filling. There was almost as much bacon as there was chicken. And there was almost as much tomato and lettuce as there was bacon--a lovely, wavy wedge of lettuce and a thick slice of tomato were right there beneath the top slice of crispy white toast.

Everything about this sandwich said, enjoy.

And I really, really did.