Best thing I ate this week: Italian beef from Sammich and treats from the “Gastro Obscura” vending machine
There is one sandwich at the aptly named Sammich (2137 E Burnside St) that catches the eye: the pastrami. Granted, I haven’t tried it yet. But as someone who briefly lived in Chicago, the city that Sammich’s owner Melissa McMillan proudly hails from (with Cubs flags hanging all over the facility), I was desperate to try their Italian beef. It’s one of those sandwiches that make me dream of a city where I miss food deeply, despite the place blowing me up with a -20 degree wind chill.
I’ve heard a lot of people compare Italian beef to French dip, but for me the end result couldn’t be more different. I find French dip sandwiches a note and heavy – why dip fatty beef and cheese in more beef gravy? But Italian beef, for me, is all about balance: fatty beef, simple bread soaked in beef gravy, vinegared giardinera to bring warmth and cut through the richness, and sweet peppers that entice you. to eat another bite.
It’s also a balance which in my opinion is easily upset when you add cheese (as Sammich gives you the option), or when you add sausage (not an option at Sammich, but often seen in Chicago). . I love my soaked sandwich, which means the bread is soaked in beef gravy before serving, although that makes the dining experience messy. Most of the best things you’ll eat will make your fingers greasy, anyway. Sammich’s bread is crispier than most I’ve found in Chicago, so it holds up well to beef gravy and can even take extra juice poured on top.
After lunch I walked a few doors to (2225 E Burnside St) to visit the Gastro Obscura vending machine, which is tucked away next to the 24-hour Pix-O-Matic pastry vending machine, and will be in town over Thanksgiving weekend. Gastro Obscura, as you may recall, is a follow-up to Dark Atlas, co-written by Portlander Cecily Wong.
The machine is organized by regions of the world, focusing on their culinary traditions, stories, recipes, and quirks. It’s loads of stuff you’ll find in the book, a lot of which I haven’t seen in other specialty food stores. (Yes, I’m one of those folks who like to shop for fun.) Among the offerings: Musk stick candies, made from the same deer musk found in fragrances to smell of old lady; Korean aloe marmalade; Japanese black garlic; canned haggis; Moroccan almond butter with argan oil; miracle berries that give a sweet taste to sour things.
I opted for Lavi, a spicy Haitian peanut butter brand made from scotch bonnet peppers, a jar of Bradford watermelon pickles (the Bradford variety is an ancient Southern melon, super soft and thin-skinned), and a small jar of Tupelo honey from Georgia. But I’ll probably be going back this weekend, because the gift ideas immediately started to spring to mind: miracle berries for a foodie friend, Tupelo honey to accompany a cheese plate and garlic. black for my friend who always makes instant ramen. . I have other gift ideas here– because, as you may know, I maintain that food gifts are always the best gifts.