Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm Hook'd On You

Greetings, Readers!

This past week, I was able to get out to one place that I've always wanted to get to in southern California. It didn't have sandwiches, but it did have some of my favorite beers on record. This magical land of science was The Bruery.

The beer was magical, but the sandwich that Bryan (@818NewGuy) and I had between brewery tour tastings and our taster flights was nearly forgettable. So let's not talk about it and allow it to sully the delicious beer we tasted.

If you'v never tried their beer, you should. I had this amazing one named Windowsill which had raspberry, rhubarb and biscuit notes, made to emulate a raspberry rhubarb pie. Delicious.

The following day though, I visited Hook Burger in Burbank. I had previously visited Hook Burger with Bryan while touring Burbank for burgers. It had come on a day where we had done 3 prior to arriving at Hook, so I didn't actually have a burger then, but just had a beer and tried to digest.

This time around I changed that.

Feeling the need for bacon, I ordered the Hickory Burger, a patty of lean beef is topped with thick cut bacon, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, homemade crispy onion strips, lettuce, tomato, onions and my choice of blue cheese.

As you can see in the photo, the burger is fairly tall, and required pressing it down in order to get your first bite. Despite this though, the burger patty itself is relatively small. It tastes great, but I would definitely have preferred something thicker.

The funky blue cheese and smoky bacon worked very well together, and I can highly recommend this combination. The added smoke and tang of the BBQ sauce only adds to the flavor sensations. The lettuce and grilled onions added a crispness to contrast the burger and the soft bun.

Speaking of the bun though, while it did have a nice light flavor to contribute to the sandwich, it fell apart fairly quickly. Halfway through this sandwich and I was mostly gripping lettuce shreds and bacon.

Combined with a pint of Green Flash IPA, this was definitely an enjoyable burger for a cool Sunday afternoon. While not my favorite burger in Burbank, it definitely has its plus side. If you happen to be around a Hook Burger, you wouldn't be disappointed with this quality go-to.

Until next week, Readers!

P.S. - I'll be tweeting progress on my National Novel Writing Month experience throughout November, but you can get a quick glance of my progress off in the right hand column here on the blog. Here's to my first novel!

Hickory Burger
*** 1/2 Stars
Hook Burger
1731 N. Victory Place
Burbank, CA 91506

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Big Bear, Big Sandwiches

Greetings, Readers!

As much as I love sandwiching here in Los Angeles, it is always fantastic to get out of the city and enjoy sandwiches in other locales.

Mostly, I've sandwiched in other major metropolitan areas but this past weekend I was lucky enough to not only enjoy the clean air of the mountains near Big Bear, but also enjoy a sandwich from a local deli nearby.

Heading up to Big Bear with friends for their annual Oktoberfest celebration, I wanted to do a bit of research beforehand so that I could find a highly rated local sandwich shop to visit. After reviewing quite a few, and needing to find one that was dog friendly, Bear Belly Deli and Cafe immediately shone through as a standout.

Off the main road that runs through Big Bear, this shop has a wide selection of classic deli sandwiches as well as create-your-own options. While the Reuben originally caught my eye, the John sandwich quickly took center stage and became my choice.

The John is stacked high with pastrami, and is topped with pepper jack cheese, Dijon mustard, pickle chips, chopped pepperoncinis and grilled onions on a grilled sourdough.

The sandwich, as well as the ingredients list, is quite the mouthful, but the combination works.

And works incredibly well.

To start, the pastrami is tender, juicy, well seasoned, and at no point was it chewy or fatty. This is some of the best prepared pastrami I have had in quite a long time. The pepper jack cheese was only on the top of the ingredients, but was melted so thoroughly that it permeated the entire sandwich.

The added pickle chips, pepperoncinis and grilled onions complemented the meat and cheese excellently. While the pastrami had the tender bite and smoky flavor, the added vegetables brought the crunch and tangy heat. As much as I love the flavor of pickles and peppers, there was just enough on this sandwich as it avoided becoming too overpowering compared to the other ingredients.

The sourdough bread was lightly grilled and gave a bit of a crunch without becoming too much like toasted bread. The sour flavor of the bread with the smoke added by grilling fit in perfectly. Even with all of these ingredients, it stayed together until the end as well.

Overall, this was an excellent stop for anyone to make if you're in the vicinity of Big Bear Lake, and is a place that will definitely become a yearly stop of my own every year that I return.

Until next week, Readers...

The John Sandwich
**** 1/2 Stars
Bear Belly Deli and Cafe
42530 Moonridge Rd.
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Three Little Pigs...Made Up A Sandwich

Greetings, Readers!

Having visitors come to Los Angeles is always a great excuse to use for actively seeking a new sandwich shop.

My sister was in town recently, and after a visit to the Rose Bowl Flea Market we all headed to Alhambra to the 38 Degrees Alehouse and Grill.

Besides having an incredibly tantalizing menu, the other reason for visiting 38 Degrees was their nearly overwhelming list of beers on tap and in bottles. Having visited near the end of one of their tap cycles, a few beers that I had originally picked were actually out of stock, but eventually I was able to get my lips on a glass of Stone Brewing Co.'s Grapefruit Slam. It's a delicious, highly-hopped beer with a taste of grapefruit that complements the hops perfectly. If you like IPAs, this is a beer you must try.

As for the sandwich, let's face facts here, how could I not pick something called Menage a Pork?

I know, I've mentioned recently about doing an entire month of just vegan or vegetarian sandwiches, and I promise that's still on track. I just have more planning and research to do. So for the time being...pork.

Did I mention this sandwich was also called Menage a Pork? I think I did, but I wanted to say that again. Composed of ground pork and chorizo, the thick patty is topped with pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, baby arugula, and bacon jam.


There are a variety of different flavors going on in each bite of this sandwich. The  chorizo and pork patty is delicious and juicy, with the chorizo adding a bit of spice to the sandwich. The chipotle aioli adds more of a mild spicy flavor to the mix while the baby arugula adds the contrast of greens with a peppery bite.

The bacon jam is delicious but also an interesting experience. It's a little sweet, but at the same time you get the crunch from bacon bits and the usual smoky bite of bacon. It's an amazing, and surprising, addition to the sandwich and makes me wonder what other sandwiches it would serve as a good match for.

Regardless of bacon jam's other applications, it works wonderfully well with this sandwich and elevates the Menage a Pork to one of my favorite pork sandwiches. Ever.

If you happen to be out in Alhambra to visit 38 Degrees, it might be worth your time to stop by Banh Mi My Tho which is only a few minutes away. I reviewed their Banh Mi back in September of 2010, and it is still ranked as one of my favorite Banh Mi sandwiches. Though you could always try 38 Degrees' Boar Banh Mi, which will be my next sandwich here.

Alhambra is now easily shaping up to be one of my favorite sandwich areas in all of Los Angeles. So make sure you take the time to visit this area for its delicious sandwich offerings.

Before I wrap up this week's blog, I'd also like to mention a new addition to the blog for the time being. In the right hand column of the blog I've not only added my twitter feed (Follow me for frequent sandwich updates) but I've also added a widget tracking my National Novel Writing Month progress. Whether it is about sandwiches or not, check out my progress each week and keep the high fives coming so I make it to the 50,000 word count goal.

Until next week, Readers...

Menage a Pork
***** Stars
38 Degrees Ale House and Grill
100 W. Main Street
Alhambra, CA 91801

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Strawberry Sunday

Greetings, Readers!

I write this while anxiously awaiting the first rain of the season here in Los Angeles. Thoughts of tomato soup, a hearty grilled cheese sandwich, and a heavy porter are already swimming in my head.

Hello, Fall.

This past weekend was gorgeous though. Still a little warm, but significantly cooler than previous weeks, I headed out to the Glendale Americana and tucked behind a fancy, high-end restaurant I found an excellent sandwiching stop: Deluca's Italian Deli.

Deluca's has a number of delicious sandwiches listed on their ceiling-high chalkboard menu just inside the door. While the pastrami sandwich really caught my eye at first, I soon changed directions completely and settled on a lighter, more refreshing sounding, special menu option: The Strawberry Blondie.

Between two slices of toasted whole wheat bread, the Blondie is made up of baby spinach, balsamic marinated strawberries, truffle cheese, and sliced turkey breast with a side of balsamic honey dipping sauce.

A refreshing change from the hearty burgers and meaty sandwiches I've been having lately.

The roasted turkey breast and thick layer of truffle cheese lent a smoky quality to the sandwich which contrasted with the sweet strawberries on top. While the strawberries did keep most of their natural flavor and sweetness, having been marinated in a balsamic helps cut the strawberries short of being too sweet. A definite bonus.

The spinach didn't come through on every bite of the sandwich, but that's not exactly a negative. While it's always good to have some delicious greens added, the competing flavors of smoky and sweet were enjoyable enough that the spinach flavor wasn't entirely missed.

Overall, this sandwich was an excellent find, and one that I hope is still on the menu the next time I'm near the Americana. Check it out if you're in the area.

On another note, thank you all for your suggestions recently on vegetarian and vegan sandwich ideas. Keep them coming, as I'm still trying to put together a meat-free sandwich list to try to take on in the coming months.

Until next time, Readers...

Strawberry Blondie
**** 1/2 Stars
Deluca's Italian Deli
889 Americana Way
Glendale, CA

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Heading Off On A No-Meat Journey

Greetings, Readers!

As I mentioned on Twitter lately (if you're not following me, click here) I'm really looking to plan an entire month where I delve into vegan and vegetarian sandwiches.

It's not just a health thing (although I'm sure my bacon drenched arteries wouldn't mind a break) but it's really about exploring all of the options available to sandwich loves like me.

Plus, apparently quite a few of you follow the vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and despite my descriptions of meat-filled sandwiches, you still have not wavered in your dedication. To that, I applaud you.

To start, I love the earthy flavor of sprouts (usually on a burger) and of course I love any type of mushroom, especially portabella, but I haven't really grasped onto tofu. Maybe it's because I haven't tried your favorite spot which makes it best, or maybe it's because we'll never get along like I do with meat. This is the way I'm going to figure that out.

This is not to say that I've never eaten a sandwich without some sort of animal product, it's just that It hasn't happened lately, and if I have it's because I'm looking for something different, not something in particular.

So, because of that, I am reaching out to you this week. Let's start a conversation below about your favorite vegetarian or vegan sandwiches, or even restaurants, so that I can add them to my massive list of places to try, and send me on my way on this no-meat journey.

Until next week, Readers.