Dear Diary May 5, 2009Posted by Janet & Hich in : SANDWHICH musings , comments closed
Dear Diary*, Let me start with something simple: A beverage. I’m thirsty, and that is because of the dentist. I went to Dr. Sturdevant this morning, arguably the very best dentist in all the world, and I was anxious about the appointment – for a filling – and the anxiety made me thirsty. It turned out that Dr. Sturdevant decided that I didn’t need a filling after all and he sent me away after examining my tooth again and scraping at it some and poking at it and having me bite down on a blue stick. He sent me away without charging me because he didn’t want to mess with a perfectly good tooth. All this made me feel very good about Dr. S, but it did nothing for my lingering thirst, so I arrived at the restaurant and grabbed a half-liter of Lurisia sparkling water from the cooler, all icy cold, and I walked past the soup station on my way back to the office. There, by the chilled tomato and eggplant soup, was a container of cucumber st icks — slender slices of cucumber, cut lengthwise. On a whim, I took one and jammed it into the bottle of sparkling water. If you own a restaurant, you are allowed to take the soup garnish and stick it in your bottled water and nobody yells at you because you are the owner.
Both of my brothers-in-law work at the restaurant. Dan is at the front – he’s married to my sister, Elizabeth. And AB is in the kitchen, next to his brother, Hich (our chef and my friend, and if you want to read the rest of that story, go to the website because I cannot abide launching into it right now). So AB is cutting some lemons because Dan asked him to. And I’m standing there by the soups, all proud of my concoction with the cuke and I’m thinking, yes, lemon in here too, so I ask AB to give me a tiny piece from the end of the lemon and I jam that into my water and it makes it very, very good and very refreshing and perfect for after the dentist.
One Hour Later….
I’m hungry and Hich is making a Banh Mi for a customer and I am watching and it looks very juicy. Here’s what I know about our Banh Mi: 1. It is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich that has some French roots to it. 2. The name, “banh mi” means “bread” in Vietnamese and, interestingly, that’s exactly what “panini” means in Italian (actually, panini means “little breads” but close enough).
The Banh Mi at SANDWHICH is something nice. It starts with Niman Ranch (super duper politically correct) pork butt seared with salt and pepper and freshly-ground cumin and the teensiest, almost imperceptible, bit of barbecue sauce. Then it is braised slowly for hours in white wine and chicken stock until it is so tender it falls apart if you just stare at it (but you have to stare at it lovingly). Hich takes a perfect baguette, scooped out mostly, and fills it with shredded carrot and daikon, fresh mint and cilantro, thin-sliced cucumbers, thin rounds of fresh jalapeno, a very fine slice or two of Country Pate’ from Les Trois Petits Cochons**, and then he piles the juiciest oven-braised pork on top of it all. The baguette is then closed as much as it can close and and sliced in half and that’s the Banh Mi.
Today, Maureen came in all happy because at last we have a Banh Mi for her to order. Maureen is a customer who e-mailed us asking us to make a Banh Mi and little did she know that, at that very moment when we got her e-mail, we were digging through the New York Times and the Washington Post in search of Banh Mi ideas. Maureen introduced herself to me and I was pleased because what the hell am I doing in this difficult line of work if not to feed people and enjoy connecting with them? I might go so far as to say that the sense of community created by my experiences here is 100% of the reason I do this. I can cook at home. I can feed my friends. But having a restaurant like ours enables us to connect with a larger group of people. We trade you delicious food for your money, but there is more to that exchange than simple commerce. It means a whole dang lot to me, and I know it does to Hich too. Thank you!
– Janet, Hich and Crew
*When I wrote “Dear Diary” it reminded me of one of my favorite websites – very funny and it takes about 3 minutes: http://www.angryalien.com/amys_diary.html
**Les Trois Petits Cochons (http://www.3pigs.com) is a wonderful pate’ company founded by French people and based in Brooklyn, NY (the best borough). Here’s how cool I am (never missing out on an opportunity to brag): I won a recipe contest with Les Trois Petits Cochons and my recipe was served at the James Beard House, so how cool is that? Very cool. It was a very long time ago and nobody remembers but me. And now all of you know. Hich is the big chef around here but every so often I get to brag a little. One more thing, I know I’m supposed to put a special little accent over the a in pate’. So you Francophiles are just going to have to live with the fact that I didn’t. I’m just glad Alex Trebec isn’t reading this since he’s so perfect about French, being a Canadian and all.