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Vanity Fair July 13, 2009

Posted by Janet & Hich in : SANDWHICH musings , comments closed

Dear Friends — a very cool and exciting thing happened!!!  We got mentioned in Vanity Fair magazine — the current one with Heath Ledger on the cover.  We’re in the little section where they list their favorite things — favorite honeymoon spot, etc.  We’re in the “Our Favorite Sandwiches Across America” part.  They said our meatloaf sandwich has a “cult following,” so now I know what all those pagan rituals happening outside our door at midnight were all about.  No no!!!  Just kidding.  The only thing that could qualify as a ritual is when Hich is in the kitchen making the meatloaf and I can smell it and it is early in the morning and I am drinking coffee and trying to enter, say, payroll in our accounting program, and I’m feeling all not-so-thrilled about the slightly tedious work, and then — mmmmm —  I smell the meatloaf cooking and sometimes I have to spring out of my chair and do a little celebratory modern dance.  But usually I just try to concentrate on my work knowing full well that our kitchen, with Hich at the helm, is in good hands, literally (since we make almost everything by hand) and figuratively (since we have such an awesome staff).

It is a good thing to smell food cooking and want to jump out of your seat about it.  I remember when I was living with a family in Italy and it would be about 10:45am and already I could smell lunch cooking and this would be while I was drinking coffee so the savory tomato/onion smells would mix with my coffee and milk smells, and the slightly crispy sugar on the outside of that brioche I might be eating (10:45am notwithstanding) would mix with the olive-oily smells in the air.  I can smell it right now as I am writing.  That’s the thing about microwaved foods — there is no aroma that fills your house, unless it is from the accidentally overheated plastic.  Sure, I have eaten my fair share of Amy’s Indian Entrees, and Trader Joe’s “Chicken Empanaditas” straight from the freezer to the warming device, but still — there is something really special about that long-cooked-food smell and I am so lucky to be able to enter accounting information while smelling really good aromas at our restaurant.

I often get asked by people who have never been to Sandwhich if we are like some really cool Italian Deli.  I never know quite what to answer.  In Brooklyn, where I used to live, there was a really cool Italian Deli that could make the killer-est Prosciutto di Parma sandwich.  One time when I went there, Steve Buscemi opened the door for me.  Nice.  (But now we’re in Vanity Fair so we are just as cool, if not cooler, than he is).  The thing is, we aren’t a really cool deli — we’re a really weird sandwich shop.  We toast and grind aromatic cumin seeds before we add them to our meatloaf.  We can’t even serve ketchup straight up (unless you ask).  Instead, we have to mix a crazy traditional Tunisian spicy sauce into it.  We soak our cut potatoes in turmeric water before making them into fries.  I know this must sound like bragging, and that’s appropriate, because that’s exactly what I am doing:  bragging.  I’m really proud of what we have done at Sandwhich, pushing the envelope in so many areas and still ending up with a line out our door most days. 

Thank you, then, for standing in that line.  Vanity Fair was flattering, but the real flattery is there — that you’d wait for our food.  Dang.  That means so much to us.  We just hope you find interesting things to look at, clever people to talk to, and interesting smells to smell while you wait…



People We Like July 13, 2009

Posted by Janet & Hich in : SANDWHICH musings , comments closed

Dear Friends,

It is not a short e-mail this. I thought I could, but I can’t. So if you need, for purposes of time and mental energy, to cut to the chase, scroll to the bottom and click on the link and vote for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

We recently got a nice e-mail from our friend, Sarah Blacklin, who manages the sublimely wonderful Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Here at Sandwhich, we are very proud to use local produce in the foods we make. I know that sounds a little bit smarmy and sentimental. That’s fine with me, really. I don’t mind being overly sentimental about the whole reason civilization exists. I also don’t mind being sentimental about the people — some of them quirky, some of them very cool and smart, some of them eccentric, some of them incredibly normal, and all of them lovely — who keep North Carolina farms growing, and who particularly make an effort at producing really special foods. Take Don Lunsford, for example, who grows our Bibb lettuce. That lettuce is so sweet and velvety, we use it in all our sandwiches and salads. And David from Sunny Slope who provides us wit h juicy, juicy tomatoes. David drives a Toyota Yaris just like me, and one day when he was delivering our tomatoes, we each bragged about our gas mileage, competing on who gets better mileage — exact same model, exact same year, but somehow he gets better mileage, unless he was fudging the numbers in order to win the competition (he won). Last week, when Brit Pfann from Celebrity Dairy was dropping off our cheese order, we talked about Todd Rundgren and how cool it is that Brit’s grandson knows Todd (I love Todd Rundgren’s music. You probably have to be just about my age to even know who I am talking about, so just humor me here). We get our free-range eggs from Latta’s Egg Ranch in Hillsborough and when Mark Latta or his son Ray delivers our weekly supply, we always find time to chat. I could go on and on — I am leaving plenty of people out, in my fruitless effort to be brief here, but I am grateful to them all.

There is something that happens when people get together and do business face to face. Honestly, we feel a connection with all our vendors, even those selling not-so-local stuff (as you might imagine, the extra virgin olive oil we use is not particularly local). Jerry, the driver who delivers the olive oil to us, along with other delicious imported foods we use, is a fun guy to visit with and we always joke around while he’s waiting for me to cut him a check.

There are lots of people in our smaller and larger communities who work with us to make Sandwhich what it is. I find that I am often expressing gratitude in these e-mails and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me say it again: we are grateful. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is a fine example of excellence and teamwork and community. We support them and encourage you to as well. Check out their website listed at the bottom of Sarah’s letter to gather more information about the market’s times and locations.

Finally, while I’m on the subject of gratitude, we wouldn’t be here without you, dear customer. Thank you, so much (so much!) for your continued support. You don’t know how much it means to us to see a happy line of hungry people patiently waiting inside, and sometimes outside, our door.

Janet Elbetri
June 23, 2009

P.S. Onthe subject of gratitude: a shout out to Dr. Sturdevant, the best and nicest dentist ever, for not hurting me AT ALL yesterday. Toothy smile. :)

P.P.S. I’m so engrossed in a book, I have to thank Thomas Hardy for being such a brilliant visionary writer so long ago (Tess, if you’re curious).

Here’s Sarah’s letter:

Hi Hich,

Would you be willing to ask any customers on your listserv or mention in your newsletter to support the Carrboro Farmers’ Market by voting in the Love Your Farmers’ Market contest?? The winning reward is $5000! I think we have a great chance but we need to catch up on a lot of votes since the Durham Farmers’ Market is currently in the lead. I really think the Carrboro Farmers’ Market could and should win this contest! We could go a long way with a $5000 reward! Please, if you can do whatever you can to spread the word electronically that would be fantastic! www.care2.com/farmersmarket Please help us spread the word if possible and cast your vote right now. It only takes one second. As always, thank you for being such a fantastic supporter of our Market!

Thanks Hich,

Sarah Blacklin, Market manager
Carrboro Farmers’ Market

407 West Franklin Street - Chapel Hill, NC 27516 - (919) 929 2114

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