Monday, June 25, 2012

David vs. Goliath - It's a Sammie Smackdown ....

These shoes were made for talking.... and that's just what I'll do. So the word on the street was that one of the Goliath's of the Canadian food community, Mark McEwan, was going to do a Saturday Sammie Smackdown against the golden boy of the pop-up street set, the soon to be on the road in his own food truck, the small but mighty, Fidel Gastro's.  Whoa, the Crown Prince of the Top Chef Canada panel, owner of the restos Bymark and North 44 and purveyor of McEwan Foods, this dude is a gastronaut of epic proportions.  This kinda feels like Yoda taking on Luke Skywalker for bragging rights on who kicks up the best sammie.  Ain't no way MamaCoop is gonna miss out on this sammie goodness so I traded in my red pumps for my go get 'em sneakers. After all there were sammies to be had!  So let's break it down and see whose sammies were King this past weekend.  

Let's start with the menus.  

Fidel Gastro's was sizzling out one of his classic faves, the Sgt. Slather, which is pulled pork topped with a squeeze of Guacamole and a sprinkle of tortilla chips.  Then he decided to take a risk, which you have to give props for, by premiering a brand new sammie that they called the Loco Buco.  So essentially this was pulled apart Osso Buco meat that sat atop green beans that were braised in a tomato sauce and splashed with some marrow butter. Go big or go home I say! 

As for the McEwan team, they opted for Beef Brisket topped with caramelized onions & a big squirt of Horseradish Aioli.  Their second offering was a straight up play on the Banh Mi craze with Asian styled pulled pork and the fresh toppings that have become synonymous to Banh Mi sammies. 

Let the Tastings Begin!

With only so much space in my tummy and since I was flying solo I opted to chose one sammie off each menu.  I went with the Beef Brisket from McEwan's and from Fidel Gastro's I chose the new sammie on the block, the Loco Buco.  I did luck out though with a couple of extra mouthfuls of the other sammies.  It's great when you hang out with people who love to share a bite of of this and that.    

So now it's time for a little sammie deconstruction.  

Let's start with what holds all this meat goodness together, the bun.  The McEwan bun was much larger and very soft.  As I said earlier it was very much in keeping with the Banh Mi styled roll.  There was absolutely no crunch to this bun, which for some might work, but for me, it just felt like it was too much bread.  It was very fresh though and you knew that right away.

Fidel Gastro's trademark bun is made by Cob's Bakery and is smaller than the McEwan's bun.  FG puts his sammies on a griddle and then leans a weighted flat top on them resulting in a more pancaked sammie but it's definitely got a crunch and carmelized factor to it.  I think the heat is also a trigger for a melding of flavours and textures. Bun to bun my choice leans towards FG's.  For me bigger is not always better.

From a filling standpoint McEwan's Beef Brisket is fantastic.  It's soft, it's moist, it's not stringy or fatty.  It's got some beautiful beef flavour going on and it's been cut thick, not pulled like many meat sammies.  I'm a beef chuffing chick so I gotta love this brisket.  With that being said, here's the downside.  Caramelized Onions?  I know caramelized onions and this ain't them. These onions are just basically sauteed and braised.  Now I'm gonna go all Top Chef critical and call out the Horseradish Aioli.  So basically you got mayonnaise with way too much horseradish in it and some grainy mustard tossed in for good measure.  From a guy like Mark McEwan I would have expected something a little more top shelf and way more outside of the box.  The aioli completely overpowered that gorgeous beef and my sammie was top heavy in oozing with the mayo. After a while it becomes cloying and annoying. 
Moving on to Fidel Gastro's Loco Buco.  Well I gotta give the boy some props for going completely outside the comfort zone because Matt Basile could have just mailed this one in by bringing in my personal fave, the Sloppy Jose.  Osso Buco has a very distinct flavour to it.  Like most of his meat sammies, he pulls the Osso Buco meat so he can keep it in a steam table.  The highlight on this sammie and pure stroke of creative brilliance is demonstrated by the making of a Marrow Butter that they squirt on to the meat.  This just raises the bar on the Osso Buco flavour and adds a true uniqueness. 

The downside was the green beans.  Don't get me wrong, they were damn tasty and had some attitude & heat in the tomato sauce but green beans being what they are tend to look a bit gray and soggy when they are simmered or cooked for any length of time.  This was where the only true short coming was evident to me. From a visual standpoint it just didn't deliver but I just gotta say this one more time, the Marrow Butter was just the deal breaker between the two sammies.  If Mark is a smart guy that we all know he is, he'll ask Matt for the recipe. :)

From an aesthetic stand point the pretty boy of the day had to go to McEwan's Asian Pulled Pork sammie with the Yuzu Mayo and the fresh slaw and toppings. I was sort of surprised that McEwan's went with something that I would consider a bench mark sammie by the Banh Mi Boys down on Queen Street.  This was an attractive sandwich but flavour wise it just left me wanting.  It just didn't quite deliver on the Asian theme.  It was a wannabe Banh Mi that I didn't want. 

 At the end of the day, all sammies aside, it was really just a lot of fun being on this scene.   There was so much smack talking between the two sammie camps and being in the middle of all of it just added to the whole experience.  I really enjoyed the chance to meet Chef McEwan and his crew.  Of course, as most who know me know I'm partial to the Fidel Gastro crew and all the Ole craziness that goes down with hanging around them. After all, I'm one of the original Army members.  While it was a neck and neck, and a bite to bite decision, I'm gonna lean towards Fidel Gastro's because of the crunch factor and of course the Marrow Butter.
 Riding with the King!

A word of advice to the McEwan team.  You guys need to get yourselves a lucky charm.  In this case, for the FG crew, their lucky charm is always the King.  Oh Elvis, love me tender and bring on the sammies!  Elvis has left the Shops at Don Mills no doubt with a Sgt. Slather in tow.  

1 comment:

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