Thursday, December 30, 2010

Investing in Pastrami Futures at the Deli Duel and the Stockyards

What's the capital of Jewish India?  New Deli

Even before Tom Davis opened his now famous "Stockyards" Restaurant on St Clair West, I began following his progress thanks to a Chowhound post and a link to his catering blog.

The Stockyards bills itself as a "modern day interpretation of the family diner/ BBQ joint". It features the city's BEST Fried Chicken, fantastic ribs available only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays (and get there quick b/c these things sell like perfectly smoked hotcakes) and a couple of fantastic Sandwiches. 

The Deli Duel

While I had been there several times already, my first exposure to The Stockyards Pastrami (which was sold out during my first four visits), was at The Stop's Deli Duel, pitting three of Toronto's best Smoked Meat Sandwiches:

First up was likely favourite and Rye-Toast of the Deli-Town, Caplansky's

For my impression of Caplansky's, see volume 2 of my deli guide

Next up was Goldin's Smoked Meat.  I first heard of Goldin Smoked Meat from some wowed reviewers on chowhound. Originally, the Goldin brothers sold their meats only via a mail-order system where you could purchase the meat cryo-vacuumed, and you would be instructed to re-steam it yourself. 

(Source: user duckdown on

More recently, Goldin's smoked meat has been available at the thematically-Jewish but far from Kosher Free Times Cafe. Free times is a bar and eatery mostly famous for their "Bella did ya Eat?" Klezmer Brunch, as well as a live music venue. 

I ordered the Goldin's Smoked Meat Sandwich at Free Times and was very disappointed. While the meat had great flavour and spice, it was very poorlycut and clearly hadn't been properly resteamed. While I wanted to love the Sandwich, I found myself very put-off my chunks of meat that were so dry they tasted like Smoked Meat Slim-Jim:


When I got to the Duel, I noticed that the Goldin Bros themselves were manning the stand and I found myself eating an entirely different product:  You can tell just how much jucier this Sandwich was then at free times: 

When properly cut (by hand, with good thickness and a nice balance of meat to fat) , Goldin's Meat was meltingly tender with the same great spicing and flavour profile that reminded me a lot of Snowdon Deli in Montreal.  Like most other Toronto Delis, it was served on Silverstein's Rye 

Overall Impressions: 

Free Times Version - 4/10 Opas 
Smoked Meat Duel Version - 8.5/10 Opas

The Final Stop at the Deli Duel was at The Stockyards

The Pastrami had a strong sense of smokiness and had some excellent spicing but unfortunately there was simply not enough of this delicious pastrami for me to really sink my teeth into it. 

So a couple of days later I rounded up my Sandwich-friends Jeremy and Natalie and headed out to the Stockyards with Pastrami on my mind. I should note that I called ahead to ensure that they had pastrami in stock as I have been disappointed in the past. 

Jeremy and myself ordered the Pastrami while Natalie skillfully went with porchetta and a sauteed rabe add-on (From the website - "Fennel and garlic scented pork loin, belly and cracklings served on a baguette with garlic aioli"...)

The Pastrami featured the same rich smokey taste and reminded me of the smokiness in some of Zane's earlier briskets. It had a great texture with sufficient amounts of both tender and chew in each bite. Occasionally some bites felt a bit overpowering in terms of spice but overall a very good Sandwich.

What really blew me away at The Stockyards was the Porchetta. The Porchetta sandwich, which is seemingly experience a renaissance (due to Porchetta-only Sandwich shops in NYC and Toronto). 

Every single aspect of this Sandwich worked elegantly together: 
- the Pork was extremely tender. Using different parts of the pig (loin, belly, cracklings) gave a fantastic layered taste. 
- the rabe was an amazing addition. The rabe added some much needed garlic (despite its presence in the aioli) and just a hint of bitterness that really paired well with the creamy aioli. Also the rabe gave a good snap/crunch to the Sandwich
- this was a rare case where I felt a Baugette served its roll (get it) prefectly as a Sandwich Conduit, it was soft on the inside with a nice crust too it. Very little Sandwich spill off was observed. 

While I was mowing down on the Sandwiches, a photographer from Toronto Life asked my group if we were willing to be in some picutres for the magazine's guide to St. Clair W. When she asked, I immeadietly was struck by the notion of Canwiches getting some shine in a traditional media source. 

Unfortunately we didn't make the final cut, but after some emails, to Jessica Darmin the extremely talented photographer, I managed to get some copies to share with you all. I think they truly give a sense of the full-body experience I give in reviewing all these deli-licious Sandwiches: 

Overall Impression of the Stockyards: 9.5/10 extremely smoky Opas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Law-Wiches Volume 2: Amici Sandwichicius (friend of the Sandwich)

As I stated in volume 1 of this post, throughout my initial forays into the legal profession, I am CONSTANTLY asked about my favourite Sandwiches in Toronto's Financial District. As such, here are the rest of my Sandwich reviews in the general vicinity (e.g. walking distance from King & Bay where I worked this summer) of the Financial District. 

Entry #4: Petit Four Bakery 

Petit Four is the sister restaurant of Four Bistro and is located in Commerce Court. The main attraction of these Sandwiches are the freshly baked and occasionally-eccentric Foccacia breads that serve as a conduit for Sandwich deliciousness. 

The first Sandwich I sampled from them was the California Turkey Sandwich: 

The Sandwich featured tender roast turkey, avocado, tomato and lettuce. What really piqued my interest on this Sandwich was that it was served on Bacon Foccacia. I wondered what this meant: was bacon going to be ground in and baked in? Was the flour bacon flavored? or was the foccacia simply inspired by Bacon's salty deliciousness. Turns out it was NONE OF THE ABOVE. It had large strips of bacon laid on top of the loaf:

Keeping the Bacon separate and above the Sandwich fillings was actually a little bit of genius. It kept the bacon crisp and prevented mushiness from setting in (which definitely would have happened with the mayo and avocado in the sandwich)

This Sandwich came with a mixed salad and was around $10 bucks, a very reasonable price for Bay Street.

I also sampled a terrific Smoked Salmon and Egg sandwich with shoestring onions on a more conventional whole-wheat Foccacia. The boiled eggs were perfect degree of well-done (just a shade below hard boiled) for a Sandwich. The Smoked Salmon was fresh but lacked the wow factor of say Russ & Daughters Salmon


Overall  Judgment: 
8.5 Opas/10 

Definitely one my favourite Sandwiches in the district. 

Entry #5: Mustachio's

Mustachio's is the well-known Veal Sandwichery in the basement of the St Lawrence Market. 

Some of my older readers may recall I made a passing reference to it in the Great Back-Bacon Bonanza Post  , where I sacrificied my body in the name of ascertaining the best Peameal on a Kaiser @ SLM. 

Mustachio has its crew of fans who constantly harangue me about missing it my 2 volume Veal Sandwich treatise (volume 1  and volume 2). It also has its haters. 

In my opinions it has some notable advantages over other Veal shops and some areas where it is lacking: 

  • They offer the option of the Veal/Eggplant Combo
  • Free carmelized onions (... I think)
  • Nice crispness

  • Bland tomato sauce (can't compare with California Sandwiches, Vinny Panini and the rest of the top of the pack)
  • My eggplant seemed a bit dried out

Overall Impressions: 

I think that it was a solid Sandwich, but clearly I am biased towards this type of Sandwich (as I've already reviewed like 6 other veal Sandwiches in the city). I think that it probably ranks closest to San Francesco in the Veal Sandwich pantheon. 

As such, it deserves 7 Opas/10

As Canada's premier (and possibly only) Sandwich blogger, I would be remiss to avoid any place with the word Sandwich featured prominently in the title. However, when it comes to the Sandwich Box, I was a little bit shy about reviewing it.

 Why you ask? 

I have always found it hard to review D.I.Y Sandwiches. If you gets a bad Sandwich where you get to pick your choice of meat, bread, toppings, is it truly the restaurant's fault or does the blame lie on the Sandwich eater? 

As such, I resolved to review the Sandwich Box by trying their "Sandwich of the day". 

The Sandwich featured chopped Bacon, roast Chicken, Swiss Cheese and if I recall correctly some sort of flavoured Aioli. 

It was alright. The bread was fresh and the meats were perfectly serviceable but not otherwise noteworthy. 

While around the same amount of food/$ as Petit Four, I felt that I got a much better value at Petit Four. 

Overall Judgment: 6.5 Opas/10

To close, some Sandwich humor for you all: 

A Sandwich walks into a bar in a seedy neighborhood bar and tries to order a drink. 
The bartender replies "I'm sorry we don't serve food in this bar". 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sandwich Times - Volume 10

1. Dear Mayor Ford:


I know you have a heavily anti-gravy train. As such, I can imagine that the thought of an open-faced Hot Turkey Sandwich MUST be repugnant to you. But the $48,000 you will save from cutting Sandwiches from the board is a drip in the Sandwich Ocean of City Councillor expenses.

2. If you are going to a shop to get a Sandwich, DON'T lose your 1.2 million pound Stradivarius violin in the process

3. Recently Zachary Garcia googled himself, something all of us can identify with. He found out that he was mistakingly wanted for murder. When asked to comment on it, Garcia  noted false accusations of murder ≠  screwing up someone's :

Everybody makes mistakes, I mean I work at Publix and I might get somebody's sub wrong. But for somebody to get, you know, that wrong? It's not a sandwich, you know, it's somebody's life you're playing with."

4. I have a Desert Sandwich beef with ColdStone Creamery. Why can't I purchase a single Ice Cream Sandwich. 


5. Wilco popped into one of  Canwiches' favourites Sky Blue Sky. Way to go Chad!

6.  While more of a quasi-Sandwich, a few months back, Buddha Dog shuttered its Roncesvalles' windows.  It featured homemade smoky dogs, with all sorts of fantastic sides and cheese (below we can see guacamole and swiss, pepper jack w/ chilli and sweet chili and mayo:

7. A little Sandwich Youtube Love:

8. I've been thinking a lot today about Sandwich underdogs. The kind of Sandwich that comes with limited exceptions that wow you nonetheless?

Tongue on Bread at Au Pied de Cochon

This was my "light appetizer" at one of the most epic, foie-gras stuffed meals I've ever had. As a result of my deli infuenced habits, the tongue is by no means at exotic choice of meat. What was different about this tongue was that it wasn't sliced like at Pancer's. It was just a cross section of a tongue, that still looked like a tongue. So much so that when our tongue's first met, I questioned if I was being over-eager on a first date and should have just started with a kiss on the beef cheek.

Still , it won me over with its deliciousness. It was incredibly tender and the rustic bread was just perfect for it.  Once I had a few bites, and it looked less like a tongue, I was extremely happy I ordered it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Dutch Sandwich

Once again, I have gone absentia from my blog. Unfortunately, the only Sandwich I've really engaged with due to the exam crunch is the old Dutch Sandwich tax evasion shelter.

As well, as a result of a micro-USB crash on my Sandwich Phone, I lost a bunch of Sandwich pics. As such I thought that this would serve as an opportunity to clear out some of my archives for some long overdue Sandwich reviews.

When I found out my dad was driving to Buffalo to pick up my sister, I figured it would be a great opportunity to enjoy near parity exchange rates and pick up a much-lauded Beef on Weck at Schwabl's. The Beef on Weck is a Buffalo super-regional Sandwich featuring thinly hand-carved roast beef on a special caraway seed and coarse pretzel salt bun called a Kummelweck. This joint has been serving for so long that it's entirely possible that William Lyon Mackenzie could have eaten one of these after he fled to Rochester in 1839 (I ain't Lyon!). It

I had to borrow Buffalo Chow's picture to try and make up for my lost pics, all credit due:

I thought the Roll was fantastic but frankly wasn't overly impressed with the Roast Beef. If this was typical Sunday brunch Roast Beef, I'd imagine I would be satisfied but for a place that's supposedly famous for the product I thought rare would be much more tender and flavourful. The Au Jus gave a great chewy soft contrast to the already delicious and very salty roll. The Saltiness also led to 2 very quickly downed Black & Tan's. Also the 1 hour wait kind of killed it.

Overall Impressions 7.5/10 Opas.

Ba Le 2

Ba Le is an unassuming Banh Mi shop on Dundas just West of Spadina.

Banh Mi is by far my favourite culinary by-product of Colonialism (but then again Curry isn't too bad either)
With a crusty baguette and a combination of fresh tastes like cilantro, thai chilis, cucumbers daikon and all sorts of delicious deli meats, pates and roast meat, the Banh Mi can hit just about any taste you want it to.

This time I ordered a Mixed Sub (featuring sliced pork, chicken roll and head cheese

And a classic Roast Pork:

Overall Impressions:

  • Great crusty roll made for excellent even bites throughout. 
  • Nice dressing 
  • Very fresh ingredients 
  • Very tender roast pork. 
  • Relatively expensive (but within the extremely cheap and affordable Banh Mi ballbark of under $3.00 after tax)

Overall 8.5/10 Opas and my favourite Banh Mi in downtown China town (stay tuned for a Banh Mi ho-down in Chinatown East)

My final review for the day comes from one of my all time favourite watering holes, the Victory Cafe.  

The Victory has one of the best patios in the summertime, a delicious beer list with a running roster of delicious cask ales and way above average pub food. 

Sometime ago, I went for their Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The Victory's version featured three very convetional ingredients (thick cut French Loaf bread, cheddar and gruyere) and one innovative ingredient (red pesto). 

To me, this sort of felt like reinventing the Sandwich wheel. The Sandwich would have worked perfectly without the pesto, as the cheese was perfectly melted and the Bread was near idyllic for a grilled cheese. However, the red pesto added an almost jarring aftertaste to a hitherto excellent grilled cheese.

Overall Judgment:

Bites that had the pesto: 6/10

Bites without pesto 8.75/10.

That's it for now folks. Stay tuned for the 2nd entry of Lawwiches, a guide to Bay Street's best Sandwich offerings as well as my pictures from this summer's Smoked Meat Battle and the Sandwich Pics that were almost published in Toronto Life.

FA LA LA LA LA LA FA LA LA Great Canadian Sandwich Fraiche!