The best sandwich I ever had was not one of the overstuffed monstrosities from Katz’s Deli in New York. It wasn’t even the Chicken Parm Hero from Hero Boy that I would get at least weekly when I worked for a dotcom in the Garment District. And no, it certainly wasn’t one of a million Banh Mi from a truck somewhere. My favorite sandwich of all time is widely available, at least on the West Coast. My favorite sandwich ever comes from the “Signature Cafe” deli found inside every single Vons supermarket.
I believe in complexity when it comes to ingredients in a sandwich. The best sandwiches combine insane ingredients into entirely new flavors, and nestle them in between two thick, starchy pieces of bread, for balance. I don’t want the meat from 10 sandwiches stuffed in between two pieces of rye, and I don’t want the flavorless, variety-in-texture-only creations from the sandwich artists at Subway.
A properly constructed sandwich takes its proportions seriously, and often won’t let you pick out individual ingredients; it creates something new and wonderful in the subtlety of its combinations.
The best sandwich I ever had can be purchased at Vons for a measly six bucks, or, for East-Coasters, can just as easily be assembled at home. Slice a freshly baked Italian loaf lengthwise. Spread the top slice with Allouette, or similar herbed-cheese spread. Add a layer of jarred green olive tapenade. Add another layer of chopped jalapenos, pepperoncinis, or other pickled pepper salad. On the bottom slice, combine some good ham, Genoa salami, a few slices of provolone, some leafy Romaine, and a few slices of tomato.
In the correct proportions, this sandwich is transcendent. The saltiness of the ham combines with the sharpness of the green olives; the spiciness of the salami gets enhanced by the pickled peppers. The smokiness of the provolone piles on top of the tomato layer, and the bold flavors of the peppers are all mellowed by the light, fluffy, herbed cheese spread.
Within one sandwich, intensely flavored ingredients pair off. Those pairings then form a cohesive whole. The resulting sandwich is the best I’ve ever had.